There’s a reason dogs are hailed as man’s best friend. What could be better than constant companionship and unconditional love? But before you take the plunge into dog ownership, there are a few things every prospective pet parent should know. The following are five tips for first-time dog owners.
- Consider Your Options
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “adopt, don’t shop.” It’s true. Adoption is a great way to find a forever friend and give a homeless pet a second chance. However, there are some instances when adoption may not be your best option. If you are looking for a hypoallergenic pet or a service dog, for example, a breeder or agency will likely be your best bet. It’s important you find the right pet for you and your lifestyle, so consider every option before you decide.
- Evaluate Your Space
The size and type of indoor and outdoor living space you have should also play a role in determining what type of dog you welcome into your home. Smaller dogs need less space because they’re, well, smaller. But some breeds (like terriers and pinschers) have more energy to burn than dogs twice their size. In this case, a modest apartment or condo would be fine, but you’ll either need an outdoor space to run and play or a dog park nearby to visit regularly. Another thing to keep in mind are the regulations set by your landlord or homeowners association regarding breed and size restrictions.
- Be Patient
Once you’ve figured out what type of pup is right for you, it may still take some searching before you find “the one.” If you’re adopting, you’ll need to visit local shelters and humane societies to see which dogs are waiting for new homes. If you’re looking for a specific breed, you may want to consider purchasing a pet from a breeder instead. A simple online search can connect you with breeders near you. Either way, you should try to meet your new best friend before you take him or her home. For first-time pet owners, fostering can be a great way to “try out” a dog to see if he’s a good fit without the pressure of a long-term commitment.
- Bond Away
Contrary to what you see in the movies, it’s not always love at first sight when it comes to a pet and an owner. Even if you hit it off, creating a connection with your pet takes a considerable amount of time and effort. From helping him acclimate to your home and neighborhood to gaining your dog’s respect and trust, the key element is always time. The more time you spend with your new pet, the quicker your bond will develop, and the deeper it will be.
- Have a Plan
Incorporating a new pet into your existing schedule can be a challenge. A consistent routine is a great place to start when it comes to adapting to life with a pet. First and foremost, you’ll need to ensure your pet’s basic needs (food, water, and exercise) are met on a regular schedule. For people who work outside the home, this can be particularly challenging. If you don’t have a fenced-in yard, that may mean coming home from work every day at lunch to take him out, dropping him off at doggie day care, or hiring a dog walker to do it for you. You’ll also need to be sure you set aside time to simply cuddle and play. One way to do this is to choose pet-friendly extracurricular activities. Work out in the park instead of the gym, entertain friends at home instead of going out, and book pet-friendly vacations.
You’ll need to stock up on cleaning supplies as well. Many dogs shed, so you’ll most likely need a vacuum that specializes in removing pet hair. And don’t forget about nutrition. The type of food you feed your dog plays a crucial role in their physical and mental well-being. There’s a huge difference in the quality of dog food that’s available. Make sure to do your research. There are many well-known brands of dog food that are of poor quality. Always observe your dog. If you see your pet is lacking energy or is sensitive to certain foods, it may be time to change your dog food brand.
Owning a pet is one of the most rewarding experiences in life, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The good news is, with a little planning and preparation, your decision to invest your time, energy, and money into a furry, four-legged family member might just be one of the best you’ve ever made.
Authored by Jessica Brody
Photo by Unsplash