Getting a dog is an exciting time for everyone in the family. But first-time dog owners are often not aware of what is ahead. Taking care of a dog is very similar to taking care of a child – it is a multi-year commitment, you have to ensure proper education (training) and also anticipate any health issues. It will often seem too much but the end result is always beautiful! 🙂
Too many people fall into the trap of getting a dog after watching cute YouTube puppy videos. Then, once they have the dog in their house – they realize the work involved and that life is not simply a highlight reel of fun and love. Many others gift puppies to their children or loved ones without discussing who will take care of the pet. It is not surprising that maximum abandonment of dogs happens after the holiday season (Christmas & New Year) 🙁
So here are some insights and tips for first-time dog owners
Before you get a dog, ask yourself some key questions
Firstly, do you have time to take care of your dog? If you are working a full-time job with frequent overtimes or are traveling a lot – you need to make sure that there is someone else in your family who can take care of your dog while you are away. Do not buy a dog and plan on leaving it alone locked/tied in. Not only will this be cruel, but you will also raise an aggressive and anxious dog. Puppies have a way of getting into trouble. I know someone (a working couple) who got a Great Dane puppy. Since they were out all day, they arranged for someone to come to the house once in the afternoon, and make sure all is well. Well, guess what? This was simply not enough. One day, the puppy broke into a cupboard and drank some of cleaning liquid. The pup was saved but this was anyway a disaster waiting to happen.
Do not get a dog if you are already short on time in your daily life and there is no one else to share your burden.
Who are you getting the dog for? If it is for someone else (your kids, your partner) – are you sure they can and want to take care of a pet? Just because someone likes to laugh at cute puppy videos, it doesn’t mean that they will also like cleaning up its poo and waking in the middle of the night to take it outside.
What kind of a dog are you getting? Dogs are lovely but every breed has its own characteristics. Some are very tolerant and patient with kids while others are aloof. Some are good guard dogs and some are awesome with families. Some do well with more people around and some only bond with a single owner. Not knowing about the breed will ensure a needless frustration once the dog is in your home. Talk to people who have similar breeds, research in forums and ask questions, go to your neighborhood vet to ask any questions – know as much as you can about the breed and then take an informed decision.
Certain dogs are straight away not recommended for first time owners – these are dogs with a strong personality, often huge and capable of being aggressive. Do not get such dogs if you have not had a dog before. The worst thing that people do is to get a dog just to show off their toughness.
So now that you actually have a dog at home (hopefully, after going through the above points) here are some tips to get you started on a happy journey with your best friend.
Make the dog comfortable in the new place
The first day/week is tough for your pup – it is getting into a new surrounding with so many strangers. Suddenly, it can find neither his mom nor his littermates. The sights and sounds that provided him comfort are nowhere to be seen. Needless to say, your pup is anxious and scared.
Provide it a comfortable place to rest
Get a blanket or a dog bed ready for the puppy to rest. Make sure the place is not extreme (too hot/too cold), noisy or crowded. There shouldn’t be any hazards around like electrical wirings, choking items, medicines or similar. Do not leave your pup alone – make sure that the initial days, it is somewhere near you. This is not only important for the pup but will also strengthen your bond.
Keep the dog well fed and ensure a water supply
Talk to your vet about the dog’s food needs. Very young puppies have different food/water needs than grown dogs. Whatever it is, make sure that the dog is not hungry or thirsty. If you are introducing new food – make sure it is gradually introduced. A sudden change of food will make your dog sick.
Start house training immediately
Obviously, puppies will not know where to pee and poo, the whole house is new to them. A lot of people get frustrated by this and start doing all the wrong things by scolding the pup. Remember, it is an animal and just needs your support to get trained. How to potty train is a detailed article (coming soon) but research about it. Try keeping consistent meal timings and frequently take your dog to the elimination spot. Use positive reinforcement and praise whenever the puppy gets it right.
Love your dog
This is so simple that we all forget it.
You are your dog’s whole life
You need to show loads of love to the new member of your family. Talk to it, play with it, use a kind tone, praise it for simple things. Sure, keep your boundaries as you wish (maybe you do not want the dog on the bed and so on) – but show your love.
And finally, be patient. As I said in the beginning, this is not a short-term project. But, if you do it right in the beginning the results are amazing! Be patient, if things go wrong – use love to solve them.
It might be your first dog, but for your dog – you will be the only human ever.