First time dog owners often think that getting a puppy is like getting a puppet; you play with it whenever you feel like it, and then put it on the shelf. These preconceived notions about what it’s like to own a dog are often the reason why many dogs are abandoned in shelters, or even in the streets. Think of getting a dog as welcoming a new member to the family: you need to have enough knowledge and means to satisfy their basic needs.
So what things should you prepare for in advance to satisfy your dog’s needs?
1. Dogs need to be healthy
If you’re getting a puppy, make sure it’s been dewormed and vaccinated.
Worms are very common in newborn and young puppies, especially round worms. Reputable breeders usually give puppies a deworming medicine shortly after they’re born. It’s not uncommon for a 16 week puppy to have been treated for worms at least 4 or 5 times during their puppy life. Adult dogs and older puppies still need to be checked and treated every 3 – 6 months. Some dog worms can actually infect people! Don’t take this lightly for your dog’s sake and for the sake of your family.
As with deworming, the first vaccination is usually handled by the breeder. Some potentially lethal diseases can be prevented by early vaccination. If you want your dog to live a happy life, this is one of the first and most important stepping stones in that direction.
Don’t be shy and ask your breeder or shelter for a written certificate. Although it’s common practice, some breeders may skip the aforementioned steps.
Do a small research around your area to survey for vets that are good at what they do. Your dog, just like any other member of your family, will need to have regular checkups.
Look into pet insurance options, and see if your insurance is accepted by your vet. It’s better to prepare everything in advance before or shortly after you getting your dog. Veterinary care can be very expensive in some cases, and you don’t want to be running around fixing paperwork when your dog had just swallowed big pieces of a shoe.
2. Dogs need to be safe
Do you have a fenced yard? Do you have any potted plants that are potentially poisonous to dogs? Do you have any bare wires? Do you have vases or things that could be easily broken or swallowed?
Dogs, especially puppies, are like little children; they’re always curious about everything and anything. They want to sniff, lick, bite or poke anything that piques their interest. Don’t forget that they also happen to be a big bundle of clumsiness with a tail.
Before you bring a dog into your house, make sure it’s been puppy-proofed. Here are some things to consider
If you have potted plants, raise them out of reach. Some plants have ingredients that happen to be toxic to dogs. Instead of wondering which is harmful and which is not, just put all your potted plants on high surfaces or use hanging pots.
If you are able to hide wires, do so, or be prepared to keep a close eyes on your dog around them; some dogs can chew through wire hurting themselves. If you have any bare wires or any exposed electrical outlets, fix them or temporarily cover them with an insulating material. Not only do these pose a danger to your pet, but they’re also a potential fire starter.
Keep your shoes and socks hidden. In addition to ruining your favorite shoes, your pet might swallow big pieces of leather or fabric which could cause a serious or even lethal obstruction in their digestive tract.
Keep cleaners or any other chemicals safely locked in a cabinet.
Don’t keep canisters and plastic bags where your dog can reach them; some curious dogs may want to stick their heads inside, where they won’t be able to breathe.
If you have swinging doors, make sure to have secure props handy to keep it propped open when your dog is in the room. Swinging door could close on your dog’s tail or neck.
Do you have hobbies that make use of small, sharp or toxic objects? Prepare a secure place for your items. Swallowing a needle or licking glue for example would cause a lot of harm to your dog.
Try to get your hands on a baby gate. It’s very handy when you’re busy and can’t watch your dog.
Keep all your pills and medications in a safe secure place.
If you have a high deck or balcony, consider buying temporary fencing. Puppies in particular are very clumsy and could easily slip and fall.
If you have vases or breakable objects on an insecure surface, a bigger puppy or dog could easily knock them off by running. Even if your coffee table is secure, a wagging tail could be pretty destructive. Put breakable objects out of reach by placing them on high shelves or in the middle of a bigger table where your dog’s tail can’t reach.
If you have an open pool, invest in a safety cover. Even though dogs can swim, the possibility of them drowning is not unheard of, especially if there is no way out of the pool.
In short, having a dog is like having a toddler. Think of what you would do to keep your toddler safe, and do that for your dog.
3. Dogs need to be trained
It’s not about showing off the tricks your dog can do; training is a tool that would set the rules in your house for everyone’s safety and convenience. It could even be the difference between a safe dog and an injured one. When your dog decides to chase a car in a high traffic street, you need the tools stop him and get him to safety without having to put your dog or yourself at risk. You want your dog to spit out bad objects on command, and not to treat your computer mouse as a chew toy.
Decide if you wish to enroll your dog into a training class, invest in a personal trainer, buy a training book or simply do it yourself. Your decision will determine your next course of action, whether it’s looking into classes, buying a book, or researching the subject on the internet. You need to be ready before your dog sets a paw in your house.
Here are some of the basic things you could look into:
Basic obedience commands such as “come”, “sit”, “down”, “leave it”, “drop it”, “wait” and stay.
Crate training, to keep your dog safe when you’re not around.
House training, or teaching your dog where the “bathroom” is.
Leash training, to teach your dog how to walk without pulling the leash.
General house rules like where to sleep, where to eat, what is a toy and what is nor… etc.
4. Dogs need physical activity
A bored dog is a destructive dog. Providing activities for your dog is very important for his physical and mental wellbeing. It also provides an outlet for high energy dogs, which could easily turn destructive if bored.
Decide if you want to invest in a dog walking service or do it yourself. Take a look around doggy parks to see which one you feel more comfortable in. Take a slow walk yourself to survey the safest and most comfortable routes you could be taking with your new four-legged friend.
If you have the time, energy and means, you might want to look into agility courses or dog clubs. It’s a great way to bond with your dog. If you prefer to do that yourself, you can purchase a cheap agility kit or build your own. The possibilities are endless and not all of them require big investments; you can just play catch or Frisbee.
As you can see, owning a dog is far more demanding than owning a puppet. Being prepared in advance will save you and your dog a lot of trouble in the future.