Top Tips for First-Time Dog Owners
Any dog owner will tell you that owning a dog is truly fulfilling — but few will tell you it’s easy! It’s a lot of responsibility to be the custodian of another living being, and you should make sure you’re ready for it. If you’ve decided that you are, congratulations! With a little planning and effort, you can set yourself up for a long and happy relationship with your new pup. Here’s what you need to do.
Benefits of Getting a Dog
Owning a dog is actually good for you! Dogs bring you companionship, fun, the confidence of knowing you’re taking care of another life — and of course, unconditional love in return. However, the benefits go beyond this — according to Vet Babble, dogs owners have better health than non-pet owners, including a 4 percent reduced risk of heart disease.
Dogs are also helpful for people in recovery from substance abuse disorders. Spending time with dogs is calming, can reduce feelings of loneliness, and your new friend will encourage you to be more physically active. In fact, studies of animal-assisted therapy show that the outcome of therapy for substance abuse is improved when there is an animal present.
Find a Dog with the Right Energy Level
You might fall in love with that spunky little pup in the shelter or store, but when you get her home, you’ll soon realize she has no off switch and will need a lot of exercise and interaction. Do some research into the energy level of dog breeds, and find one that’s a good match for you. Remember, however, that breed isn’t everything, and individual dogs can vary massively. Also, when dogs are kept in cages, it can be hard to get a gauge on their personality and energy level. The “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan has a good tip to get around this problem — ask if you can take the dog for a test walk. A quick spin outside will help the dog shake off the frustration of being in the cage, and give you a better idea of what she’s really like.
Start Training Straight Away
As soon as you get home, take her to her toilet, wherever that might be, and reward her for eliminating. Even dogs who have been house-trained elsewhere might need retraining in a new home. Right from day one, establish rules and boundaries, and be consistent. For example, if you don’t want her on the couch, don’t ever allow her on it. Even though it may be tempting to be “kind” when she first arrives, you will actually cause stress because she won’t understand the rules of the pack, and may disrespect you for your inconsistency. You can start teaching her basic commands like “No,” “Leave,” and “Sit” straight away — the interaction will help you bond, and it will also help establish you as the leader of the pack.
Expect a Period of Adjustment
It will take time for your new dog to settle in and realize her position in the pack. Remain calm and assertive, and give her an area of the house that she can call her own. If she wants to stay in this area for a while, just leave her to it and ignore her. She just wants to observe for a bit — she’ll come to you when she feels comfortable. Feed her the same food she was eating previously for about a week — the stress of moving can cause gastrointestinal disturbances and you don’t want to make that worse. Later, you can gradually switch to your preferred brand.
If you find a dog who’s a good match for your personality and lifestyle and start setting boundaries right away, you’re off to a great start. Your dog will know where she stands in the pack, and this will help minimize bad behavior — reducing stress for you both. Start right now by looking into the energy level of different dog breeds.