Updated Dec 9, 2022
Being a dog owner is one of the most rewarding experiences an animal lover can have.
Whether you want to become a first-time pet parent or add another set of paws to your ever-growing pack, there are a few things to know before leaping into dog ownership. This guide will cover everything from adopting an adult dog at a shelter to buying a new puppy from a breeder to help you make the right choice for your family.
First, we’ll discuss things to consider before getting a new furry friend. Getting a new dog will greatly impact your lifestyle, home, and routine, so making the right choice is crucial.
Before adding a new canine to your family, you’ll need to do some in-depth research on the type of dog you want.
Here are some factors to consider when researching dogs:
|Consideration||Questions To Consider|
|Temperament & Lifestyle||What personality do I want my dog to have?|
Do I want it to be easy-going or high-strung?
What breeds do well with small children?
Will I be able to take my dog on frequent trips, if necessary?
|Energy Level||How much exercise will my dog need, and how much time can I devote to exercising it?|
Is my home better suited to a low or high-energy dog?
What kind of dog could go on runs and hikes with me?
|Health Problems||Does the dog breed I want have predisposed health problems?|
Am I willing to pay for the treatment required for this breed?
Can I afford expensive treatments should they arise?
|Size||Do I have family members who a big dog could knock over?|
What dog size would be most comfortable in my current living space?
Can I handle a large dog on a leash?
|Trainability||How much time and money am I willing to devote to training?|
Is having a well-trained pet important to me?
Can I handle a disobedient dog?
|Breed||Does my living situation allow for all dog breeds?|
Does my neighborhood have any breed restrictions?
What breed is the best fit for my family?
Do I want a purebred dog or a mixed breed? Do I know what comes along with each option?
|Coat Length, Shedding, & Allergens||Do I need a dog that doesn’t shed?|
Will I mind dog hair on my furniture, floor, and clothes?
Do any of my family members need a hypoallergenic dog?
Will I groom a dog or take it in for regular grooming appointments?
Once you’ve answered a few of these questions, you probably have a clearer idea of the type of canine companion you need. The American Kennel Club offers this quick quiz to help narrow your search.
For some potential pet owners, the question comes down to whether they want to adopt an adult dog or buy a new puppy. Reyanne Chavira, a veterinary technician in South Carolina, says potential adopters or buyers should perform in-depth research ahead of time to determine their best choice. She and her husband have purchased two puppies and adopted one adult dog, giving them experience with both options.
“I can say adopting an older dog was much easier than training a new puppy,” Chavira says. “It took a few months for our adopted pug Toby to adjust to our life, but he quickly got the hang of it. However, we’ve had him for four years, and he still has triggers that scare him – even though we’ve done our best to make him feel comfortable.”
Though buying a puppy may eliminate some guesswork about your dog’s background, there are still important things to consider. Some dogs come from puppy mills or irresponsible breeders where unethical, unsafe breeding occurs. For this reason, it’s crucial that you find a reputable seller once you decide on a specific breed.
“About a year after we adopted Toby, he began to have seizures, which were the result of a genetic mutation called Pug Dog Encephalitis that causes seizures and limp legs,” Chavira says. “We’ve found how to manage his seizures, but this condition could have been avoided if he was ethically bred.”
Even ethically-bred dogs from reputable breeders sometimes experience breed-specific health problems. Getting a new dog requires your willingness to care for it, regardless of its breed or background. Consider this high level of responsibility before adding an animal to your family.
If adopting a dog is your calling, kick off the process by contacting a local animal shelter. You may also find rescue groups specializing in certain dog breeds and mixes. These organizations are excellent choices if you’d like to have a specific breed but want to rescue a homeless pet.
Need help finding a reputable shelter nearby? This ASPCA shelter database is a great place to start. You can search for dogs in your zip code by size, age, special needs, and more to find your perfect match.
Once you’ve zeroed in on a shelter or rescue group, schedule a visit to meet adoptable dogs. This is a good way to get one-on-one time with potential companions while giving some love to shelter animals.
When you fall in love with a dog, you’ll be eager to start your new life together. However, you’ll likely have to complete several steps before bringing your buddy home. The process will vary depending on the organization you adopt through.
Expect some of these steps when going through the pet adoption process:
Thinking about adopting a puppy instead of an adult dog? Consider a few things before adding a baby dog to your family.
Puppies are like blank slates. You get to watch them experience many of life’s firsts, and they’ll likely form a deep bond with you. But remember – as fun as it is to watch a puppy grow and learn, you’ll have your work cut out for you.
Puppies typically require a lot more training than older dogs. As your little buddy learns the ins and outs of potty training, you can expect to clean up countless indoor messes. Properly training your puppy requires establishing a daily routine for potty breaks, nap times, and other rules. This means near-constant supervision of the pup as it settles into its new life.
When it comes to upfront and long-term costs, puppies are usually more of a financial commitment, too. Their first year brings many vet checkups, vaccinations, and spay/neuter procedures – all of which will likely cost more than you paid for the dog itself.
Getting a new puppy is an incredibly rewarding experience. However, you should keep these considerations in mind before deciding on your new pet.
There are a few things to do after bringing your new dog home. We’ll discuss setting up vet appointments, creating a welcoming environment, and preparing for training to start you and your buddy off on the right foot.
The first thing you need to do after bringing a new puppy home is schedule a preliminary vet appointment. If your puppy is healthy, getting it started early on preventative care will ensure its long-term well-being. On the other hand, a sick puppy needs medical attention as early as possible to prevent long-term damage and more health problems down the road.
During your puppy’s first clinic visit, the veterinarian will conduct a physical examination for any health issues the breeder or rescue group didn’t catch. This exam will include a weigh-in, respiratory check, and other important measurements. These steps will be repeated at your pup’s first-year checkups, along with vaccinations, fecal tests, and other preventative care steps.
As your dog gets a little older, you’ll need to consider spaying/neutering and microchipping as part of its long-term care plan. Many vets recommend spay/neuter procedures because they can help prevent life-threatening diseases later in your pet’s life. According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, early sterilization lowers the risk of your dog developing uterine infections, breast cancer, prostatic hyperplasia, and testicular cancer.
Microchipping is another step you can take to keep your new pet safe. Once your puppy is several months old, the vet can insert a tiny, scannable chip under its skin. If your dog gets lost, finders can take it to a vet or shelter to get scanned. The chip’s identification number will be in a database along with your contact information to help get your dog home safely.
If you adopt an adult dog from a shelter or rescue group, it will likely be updated on vaccinations, spay/neuter, and microchipping already. Make sure you acquire all medical records and vet information when you pick up your new pet. This documentation will give your dog’s veterinarian a better picture of its medical history.
You’ve chosen your new best friend, and its homecoming date is on the calendar. Now, it’s time to head to the pet store for a few things.
Here are some items your dog needs to start its new life on the right paw:
You might get some of these items after bringing your puppy home. For example, you might wait for a name tag until you’ve experienced your dog’s personality. Likewise, you might hold off on buying a huge bag of dog food until you’ve consulted with the veterinarian.
Otherwise, you can purchase most items like toys, leashes, and food bowls ahead of time. You’ll be better prepared for your dog’s arrival, and your new family member will feel more comfortable as soon as it arrives.
Training your new pet doesn’t just mean teaching it to sit, speak, and fetch; it means helping your dog adjust to its new lifestyle.
If you adopted a shelter dog, it might need a little grace while learning the structure of a forever home. Many rescue dogs have been handed off between multiple owners – sometimes suffering neglect and abuse along the way. These animals usually need extra time to get used to their new routine, family, and living space.
Older dogs might be house-trained and socialized already, making them able to adapt quickly to a new home. On the other hand, puppies require a lot of work to settle in and learn the rules of the roost.
“Puppies are resilient little creatures that learn things quickly and forget just as fast,” Chavira says. “Consistency and routine are most important when bringing home a new puppy or rescue. My biggest advice is to be patient and understand that this sweet creature simply wants to learn and be understood by you.”
If you work long hours and can’t let your puppy out frequently, consider hiring a dog sitter to check in on your pal. This will allow your puppy to relieve itself throughout the day while also establishing a reliable potty break routine. Then, when you get home from a long day at work, remember that being a pet parent is a full-time job. You’ll need to dedicate ample time to playing with and training your new friend.
“Dogs deserve mental stimulation, praise, and authority,” she says. “They live in a pack mentality, so they need a reliable leader. The sooner your dog learns that you’re the leader, the easier training will be.”
House training is one of the first skills to tackle with your new puppy. This video from Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution shares some helpful tips for potty training your new puppy:
Has your little buddy tackled potty training but still needs help with basic skills? Dog training classes can be a great place for your puppy to get some socialization in a safe environment. Puppy obedience classes also focus on leash training and basic commands like sit, come, and down.
You may have heard you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but this isn’t true. Taking your new adult dog to training classes can be an excellent way to give them some structure and simple commands to conquer. Meanwhile, the dog trainer will help you understand your dog’s learning style and how to positively reinforce good behavior.
“Humans and dogs can have beautiful friendships, but just like any relationship, it takes work!” Chavira says. “Patience is a virtue on both sides; if you’re patient with your dog, it will begin to trust you, and you will trust it. It takes time and consistency.”
Getting a new dog can be expensive – especially when you consider the food, training classes, sitter, and new toys it takes to keep your pet happy. Add in the cost of surprise vet visits, and you’ve got one pricey pup.
The best way to prepare for your dog’s medical expenses is to purchase a pet insurance policy. Pet insurance is a financial tool that covers the costs of unexpected veterinary visits. You pay a fixed monthly premium, and the pet insurance company covers a percentage of your vet bills after you meet a deductible.
Pet insurance companies typically won’t cover pre-existing conditions, which are health problems your pet had before the policy started. For this reason, it’s important to enroll your new dog early to ensure it gets the most coverage possible.
Are you adopting an older dog or one with special needs? Consider buying a veterinary discount plan like Pet Assure. Pet Assure members pay a monthly fee in exchange for a discount card to use at the vet’s office. Whenever a health need arises, the card will discount the costs of the vet bill. This is a solid option for senior dogs and rescues because you’ll get a discount regardless of your dog’s medical history or other hidden health problems.
These financial tools allow you to focus less on the bill and more on getting your furry family member back in tip-top shape. It’s best to expect the unexpected when it comes to your pet’s health; proactive planning can save you from breaking the bank or making heartbreaking decisions when emergencies occur.
We hope this guide prepares you for some of the many surprises of owning a new dog. With a little homework, a lot of patience, and a few squeaky toys, you’ll be ready to embark on the companionship of a lifetime.
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