August 11, 2023 5 min read

You’ve decided to adopt a dog! Congratulations! Before you drive down to the shelter to go pick up your new furry friend, there are a few things you should consider. A dog is a big responsibility, and you need to make sure you’re ready, for your sake and your dog’s sake. We’ve gathered some helpful tips to consider when you are thinking about adopting a new dog.


Consider the Following Before Getting a Dog

Before you commit to getting a dog, you need to really consider if you are prepared for the responsibility that comes with a dog. Dogs are a big commitment. The commitment is financial, emotional, and time-consuming. You need to ask yourself some questions about whether you are ready to bring home a dog. Do you have time for a dog? Dogs need training and socialization, they need care every day including exercise, and they live on average for 12-16 years. Can you afford a dog? Dogs are expensive. They need food, regular checkups, unexpected medical expenses, supplies like a dog bed, dog toys, collar and leash, regular grooming sessions, and possibly a dog walker or doggie daycare. Can you live with mess and destruction? Dogs can be messy, have accidents, and destroy furniture. Do you have space for a dog? Different dogs breeds need different amounts of space to run around in. You need to make sure you have enough space for a dog to be comfortable in your home.

If you have seriously considered all these questions and think “yes, I am ready for a dog” then you can begin to figure out the type of dog you want to adopt! Consider the size of the dog (small, medium, large, or giant), the age (puppy, adult, or senior), activity level (high energy, low energy, somewhere in-between), grooming needs, health concerns, personality traits, ease of training and more. Many shelter and rescue groups have a selection of dogs of all sizes, ages, breeds, and personalities. You can meet the dogs and work with the shelter to find the dog that’s right for you.


Prepare Your Home

Once you have your dog picked out and are ready to bring them home, you need to prepare your home for their arrival. Determine where the dog will be spending most of their time. Dog proof the area: tape or remove loose electrical cords, put household chemicals out of reach, remove plants, rugs, and breakable items. Chemicals like detergent, bleach, chemicals, and medicines, along with plants such as amaryllis, mistletoe, holly, and poinsettias are poisonous and should be kept out of reach. If you are crate training, set up the crate. Place dog gates in any areas you don’t want the dog to explore.

When you go to pick up your new dog, bring an ID tag with your contact information on it. You should also consider getting your dog microchipped in case they ever get lost. Check with the shelter to see if the dog is already microchipped or not and make sure your contact information is on it. On the drive home, you should secure your dog in the car. The new experience may be anxious for them. Make sure they feel as safe as possible for the drive home.

One of the first things you should do once you get a dog is find a veterinarian both you and your dog trust. The veterinarian can help you schedule vaccines and tick, flea, and heartworm prevention. Your veterinarian can help to guide you through the new world of dog ownership.


Get Supplies

When getting your first dog you should purchase all the supplies you might need: dog collar, leash, ID tag with contact info, food and water bowls, high quality dry or wet dog food, dog toothbrush, dog toothpaste (people toothpaste can contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs), dog brushes and combs, dog nail clippers, dog first-aid kit, tick and flea prevention supplies, dog-safe shampoo, dog crate, dog bed, dog gates (if sections of the house are off limits), dog toys, dog treats, dog safety harness for car, biodegradable dog waste pick-up bags, dog-safe household cleaning supplies.


Establish a Routine

It’s important to establish a routine with your dog early on and stick to it. This will help get your new dog settled and feel more secure in what to expect from their new life. Begin training your new dog immediately. Puppies obviously need training but even some adult dogs may have behavior issues that require remediation.

Set a schedule for feeding, toileting, and play and exercise. A set schedule will help your dog feel more secure. Your dog should have time with people and brief periods of solitary confinement, so they do not develop an attachment problem. It’s important to remain calm while your dog gets adjusted to their new situation. The new environment and new people may be overwhelming for your new dog, be sure to keep calm and let them get acclimated.

You should take time every day to train your dog. This will help you and your dog bond and establish set commands to make sure your dog is well behaved. You should train them to follow commands, crate train them, and potty train them. It’s also important to socialize your dog with people and other dogs. Take them to a group training class or a dog park. Be sure to keep an eye on their body language for any signs they are feeling anxious or aggressive.

Always watch any interactions your dog has with a child. While children and dogs can get along fine, it’s important to monitor the interactions to make sure no one is playing too rough and the dog does not accidentally hurt the child.


Proper Nutrition

A dog’s diet is the foundation of their health. It’s important to research what nutrients your dog needs and the best dog food to give them. Your veterinarian can help you find a high-quality dog food that’s best for your dog’s age and breed.

Find out what food your dog was eating before you adopted them and start with that. Once you figure out which food you want to switch too, gradually add the new food to the old food over the course of several weeks, until you can switch completely. This will help avoid any gastric distress.

Puppies typically need more calories to help them grow. If you adopt a puppy, begin feeding them with puppy food and check to ensure they are getting the right amount of servings. Your veterinarian can help you figure out when to switch from puppy food to adult dog food.


Prepare for Health and Behavior Problems

When adopting a new dog, you should be prepared for unexpected health problems or behavioral problems. You can help to prevent some of these issues by becoming informed of common health issues and behavioral problems and working to proactively protect against them. Your veterinarian can help you stay up to date on vaccines, flea and tick prevention, and heartworm prevention. Learning how to properly train your dog can help prevent some behavioral issues like excessive barking, destructive chewing, separation anxiety, and aggression. Even with proactive measures, you should still be prepared to deal with unexpected health emergencies.

Being a new dog owner is a big responsibility. You need to be responsible for your dog and their actions. You need to respect your community by taking care of and picking up after your dog. While there might be a lot you need to do to be ready to adopt a dog, it will definitely be worth it when you get a lifelong friend.

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