Welcoming a dog into your life is a huge event, and a big part of that is bringing a dog into your home – that is, into your actual house. You’ll have to commit a lot of time, effort, and even money, but it’ll be worth it to consider the following steps and welcome your new pup home.
1. Find the right dog for your home and lifestyle
This may seem like an obvious one, but I’ve worked at an animal shelter a long time, and it amazes me how many people fail to consider how a furry friend fits into their lifestyles. Beyond just the breed of dog, you should have a much more holistic concept of what you want in a canine friend. Given their genetics, dogs like Akitas, huskies, or St. Bernards thrive in colder temperatures and are often uncomfortable in warmer climates. So, if you live in a studio apartment in Miami, owning an Alaskan Malamute might not make the right dog fit for your lifestyle.
And, if you’re renting, you should consider that not every landlord will accept every breed of dog. It may surprise you, but some landlords prohibit some of the most popular breeds in your apartment. Check with your landlord before falling in love with a specific dog or find an apartment that doesn’t discriminate based on breed.
Moreover, you should also consider the fact that not every trait you might associate with a breed is breed-specific. Things like personality, temperament, or activity level vary among and within breeds. We recommend evaluating your lifestyle thoroughly and then visiting your local animal shelter to find the right fit for you. Consider your own activity level (and thus your desired dog’s activity level), the size of your home, and things like how much time you would spend away from your home.
2. Socialize early, often, and continuously
You are responsible for your dog’s behavior, and thus you are legally responsible if your dog hurts another person or damages someone else’s property. Socializing your dog is one way to help ensure your dog will act appropriately towards other people and animals and not get you into any trouble.
This is especially true with puppies. Introducing your puppy to the world early helps ensure they are well adjusted to new things such as strangers, unknown pets, and busy environments as they age.
Lots of local dog training facilities and even pet stores like Petsmart and Petco offer puppy training schools for your pup to help familiarize them with other dogs and strangers. Outside of this, we recommend taking your (vaccinated) young pup to pet-friendly restaurants, stores, and parks to get them acquainted with the outside world. Just know that even if you socialize your pup, another pet owner in your neighborhood might not, so always keep an eye on your furry friend to help keep them safe and out of trouble.
3. Vaccinate and keep up to date with rabies, heartworm, flea, and tick medications
Just like humans need vaccinations in order to stay healthy, your dog does too. Within the first year of your dog’s life, you should get vaccines for distemper, parainfluenza, parvovirus, rabies, and hepatitis. And on a monthly basis, you should give your pet monthly heartworm, flea, and tick medications.
Fleas are not solely an animal problem either! Humans can suffer just as horribly from flea bites as dogs do. In fact, fleas can live in your carpet and furniture quite happily and as long as they keep biting you or your pooch, they will survive. So, if you don’t want your home infested with fleas or your dog to suffer from other preventable diseases, stay on top of their medical needs.
4. Spay or neuter
Spaying or neutering your pet is crucial, not only for the medical and behavioral benefits to your pet, but for keeping the animal population as a whole in check.
Medically, studies have shown that spaying your female dog can help her live a longer and healthier life. Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast tumors. Furthermore, having a lady dog go into heat isn’t exactly a fun or clean process. While cycles can vary, female dogs can be in heat for two to three weeks during which she will most likely need to wear a dog diaper.
For your male dog, neutering helps prevent testicular cancer and some prostate problems.
Behaviorally, spaying and neutering have benefits as well – especially for male dogs. Unaltered male dogs are more likely to wander away from the home in order to find a mate. Once he is out and about, your pup is more susceptible to being picked up by animal control, getting into a fight with another animal, or hit by a car. Moreover, neutered males are thought to be better behaved. They are less likely to “mark” their territory (i.e., on your walls and furniture), mount other dogs or objects, and in some cases, less likely to bite.
Keeping the pet population down:
In addition to the above benefits, spaying and neutering your pet is the first step to keeping pets in homes and out of animal shelters.
5. Microchip your pet
A pet microchip is a small implanted device put in place by a professional beneath your pet’s skin. Microchipping your pet is a critical measure to helping locate and identify lost or stolen pets – even if they wear identification tags on their collar. Collars can be easily removed either by your dog squirming out of it or a human taking it off, but a microchip is much less likely to fall out accidentally. In fact, in the unfortunate scenario that someone steals your dog, a microchip can prove your ownership.
Companies like Petfinder and HomeAgain offer microchipping services for a fee of about $45. But if you adopt from an animal shelter, microchipping will most likely be covered in the pet fees. (Just another reason to look to your local shelters for your furry friend!)
6. Keep up with regular grooming
Unlike humans, dogs only produce sweat in fur-free areas so they don’t need to shower or bathe every day like we do. Still, every dog needs a bath here or there, and any dog with a thick coat or long hair will require regular brushing to avoid matted fur forming on their coat, which can be painful for the animal. Just like socializing your pet with other dogs and humans, introducing them to groomers and baths at an early age will help reduce any potential anxiety they could develop. Plus, having them comfortable with the grooming process could save you from having dog hair all over you and your furniture.
7. Keep them stimulated – physically and mentally
It should go without saying, but dogs need physical stimulus. Taking them on daily walks will help with potty training, staying healthy, and socialization.
The other side of this coin is their mental exercise; giving your dog plenty of attention, toys, and tasks to do is vital for good home behavior. Dogs who are left to their own devices within the home can – just like humans – get bored and become destructive. Things like peanut butter frozen in Kongs, food puzzles, and chew toys are great ways to entertain your dog for a few hours while you’re at work or otherwise out of the house.
8. Feed them healthy foods
You may be tempted to give your dog some food off your plate and, in some cases in small amounts, that’s perfectly fine. But you should be aware of the human food that is poisonous to your dogs.
- Chocolate, coffee, and caffeine
- Coconut oil and coconuts
- Grapes and raisins
- Milk and dairy
- Onions, garlic, chives
- Salt and salty snack foods
- Xylitol (artificial sweetener)
For the most part, you should stick to the same healthy dog food and feeding schedule for the regularity of little Fido. There are lots of healthy dog foods and raw meat options for your dog so do you research to find the one that’s best for your budget and most importantly, your dog.
At the end of the day, the relationship between you and your dog will guide your pup’s behavior and (hopefully) last a long time.