So, you’re a new dog parent. Congratulations! Adding a new pet to your home is such an exciting experience.
From puppies to adopted, adult dogs, there are some important things you should know about owning a new puppy.
This guide covers the basics of dog ownership, including 15 tips for pet parents and a complete new puppy checklist.
How to be a dog owner
It may not be possible to list everything a new dog owner needs to know. But this new dog owner guide will help you start off on the right foot.
New dog owners require time, patience, and a lot of love. Whether you’re a first-time owner or a seasoned parent, taking care of a new pet can be overwhelming.
15 tips for new dog owners
Here are 15 tips to help you welcome your puppy home.
1. Learn about your new dog.
A new dog can take many shapes and forms. Every pet is unique and many factors play into how you’ll train and care for your new puppy. Consider starting a journal to keep track of your dog’s:
- Age or birthday (estimated)
- Size and weight
- Past experiences
- Health issues
If you’ve adopted an older dog, you may want to consider the behaviors they learned from a previous owner. And puppies are learning, growing, and changing all the time.
2. Seek out a good veterinarian.#
A credible veterinarian will help you ensure your dog lives a long and healthy life. Here are a few steps for choosing the right vet.
- First, take note of your own guidelines for pet care. Do you prefer to prevent issues before they start? Are you looking for more natural or holistic solutions? Do you plan to order medicine or food from the vet or search on your own?
- Then, ask trusted friends or family members for recommendations. Make sure your preferences align with theirs and ask questions about how they handle emergencies, prescriptions, and even nutrition.
- Finally, meet with the veterinarian and their staff. Tour the office, ask questions, and bring your new pup for a visit.
3. Ensure their vaccinations are current.
When dogs are young puppies, they will need a few different vaccinations within their first year. If you’ve adopted, fostered, or rescued a dog you might need to meet with your vet to find out what they need.
Some common vaccinations for dogs include:
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- Canine distemper
- DHPP (covers distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus)
4. Check for health concerns.
Beyond vaccines, your vet can also help determine a plan for:
- Neutering or spaying your dog
- Choosing the right flea and tick prevention
- Recommending local dog trainers and groomers
They can also administer certain tests to determine if your pet has any current or existing health conditions or allergies.
5. Prepare your home and yard.
Like a newborn baby, a new pet is a big responsibility. Old or young, most dogs will spend a good amount of time getting used to their new environment. So, before adopting or purchasing a new pet, make sure your house (and yard) are puppy-proof.
- Remove clutter on floors and furniture that your dog could get into.
- Put food away in cabinets or far enough away to not be in reach of your pup.
- Secure electrical cords, appliances, and trash cans.
- Choose houseplants that are non-toxic to pets.
- Make sure to fence your yard and trim grass and shrubs.
6. Create a dedicated “dog zone”.
To ensure your dog feels comfortable in your new home, create a designated space just for them. This area will be great for training, sleeping, feeding, and playing.
Use baby gates to secure your pet in a clean, open area. Place potty pads down if your new puppy is still potty training or a soft bed and blankets to keep them comfortable. Be cautious about leaving chew toys with your dog unattended.
7. Pick nutritional dog food.
There are many options when it comes to dog food today. From kibble to freeze-dried, it’s important to ensure your pet maintains a healthy appetite. But, the right dog food depends on your pup’s life stage and past experiences.
New puppies go through a lot of change in their first few months. If you have a young puppy, your vet may suggest a diet just for them. These are packed with the right nutrients for growing into a big, strong, and healthy dog.
But, if your dog is familiar with food it’s a good idea to slowly transition to one that’s right for them.
8. Gather toys, treats, and supplies.
There are a few essentials that you’ll need to collect before bringing your dog home. These include a dog bed, kennel or dog crate, and food and water bowls. But, dogs need lots of activity and stimulation.
As you begin training, there are a few things you need for your new pup. Here’s a quick list:
- Chew toy(s) for teething puppies
- Interactive dog toy(s) puzzles and balls
- Lots of training treats on hand
- Sturdy leash and harness for walking
- Adjustable collar for your dog's tags
- Brush for combing / removing dog hair
- Trimmers for your dog's nails
- Toothbrush and gel
- Enzyme cleaner for accidents
- Anti-chew spray
- Water bottle or clicker for training
- Poop bags for pet messes
9. Know how to groom your pet.
Each breed has unique requirements for grooming. Most breeds can last about 6-8 weeks in between groomings. But, you may need a quick bath or damp washcloth after muddy adventures.
Consistent grooming ensures your dog stays healthy and free of pests, infections, and more. Pay close attention to your dog's skin, eyes, ears, fur coat, nails, and paw pads.
While you’re grooming your puppy each month, be sure to check for fleas and ticks. These creepy crawlers can infect your dog and cause severe irritation. Learn how to remove a tick from a dog the right way.
10. Select the right pet care products.
As pets age from puppies to older dogs, their pet care will also evolve. Great pet parents stay up on their pet’s medications and daily routine. Here are a few necessary pet care products for new dogs.
Flea and tick protection
Your furry friend can pick up all kinds of pests from other pets, doggy daycare, and more. The right flea and tick treatment includes certain active ingredients. Look for a formula that kills and repels ticks, mosquitoes, lice, and all life cycle stages of fleas.
Heartworm prevention requires a prescription from a vet in addition to some blood work. There are lots of options out there, but the best cover all life cycle stages of roundworms and hookworms.
Multivitamins and supplements
Your dog deserves the best, but they might not be getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Many dogs (especially bigger dogs) need help in a few different areas.
Dog supplements are a convenient way to pack in the vitamins and minerals your pup needs. Find one that covers indications like skin and coat health, hip and joint support, gut and digestive support, and general immunity.
One common misconception about dogs is that if they are good chewers then their teeth are good to go. But dogs need help with their teeth to prevent dental disease just like people. There are a variety of dental products out there, so find one that works for your dog and be consistent!
11. Start training your dog.
You've heard the phrase, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks." But that isn't always true. Dogs are smart animals who are capable of learning and developing their brains throughout their lives. Here are a few tips for each life stage:
|1 to 6 months
|6 months to 1 year
|1 year or more
|House & crate training
12. Enroll in dog training.
If you’re a first-time dog owner, it’s okay to ask for help with training. Even seasoned pet parents can use help training their dogs.
Dog trainers can provide tips and tricks for building confidence and improving their social life and skills.
Private training sessions
These are great for dogs who need 1:1 attention and minimal distractions.
Group training sessions
These may be a good fit for introducing your dog to unfamiliar people and pets.
13. Protect your pet.
Like other valuable possessions, pets are a big part of your life. Pet insurance is a responsible way to ensure they get the care they need to keep your pet safe. Most policies cover illnesses, injuries, and can help you offset the cost of expensive prescriptions.
Some companies may offer pet insurance plans in a bundle with your other policies (like home or car). There are also lots of specialized pet insurance companies that even offer coverage for:
- Prescription food
- Microchip implantation
- Alternative therapies
- Behavioral issues
14. License and microchip your pet.
Bringing a new adopted dog home is exciting. But not everyone in your neighborhood is a pet parent — or is responsible for your dog. Pet licensing varies by state. But, you can usually find the requirements for your area with a quick Google search.
Pet licensing is inexpensive and paid for annually. Your dog receives a unique number (placed on your dog's collar) for quick identification. The same goes for microchips. Typically, vets can implant these tiny chips in a quick visit for around $50.
Both options help local shelters scan the microchip or look up the license number to identify them and their owner. Most importantly, it’ll ensure your dog gets home safe and sound.
15. Socialize and set boundaries.
Once you’ve created a safe place for your new dog to roam at home, it’s important to expand their habitats. This includes new people, pets, locations, activities, and experiences.
Socialization means introducing your dog to new things. Puppies need to socialize most, but all dogs can benefit from continuous training. This helps them with their interactions with strangers and strange environments.
With an adult dog, setting boundaries is a great way to ensure your dog knows who’s boss. Establish those guidelines early for:
- How you approach new people and vice versa
- Who can interact with your dog (e.g., young children)
- Where you take your dog and when
New dog checklist#
This checklist is just a starting point. But if you're new to owning a dog, it's a great way for new pet parents to get started. Here are some essential supplies and steps for your dog's life:
Learn about your new dog
Start a journal
Ask the shelter, breeder, etc. for info
Try a doggy DNA test
Find a veterinarian
Write down your own guidelines
Do your research
Schedule a tour
Check on their health
Ensure their vaccinations are current
Schedule a pet health check-up
Prepare your home
Put away food
Choose non-toxic houseplants
Fence your yard
Trim grass and shrubs
Buy a household flea spray
Create a dedicated “dog zone”
Clean floors and remove clutter
Block with baby gates
Put down potty pads (as needed)
Make it cozy with dog beds & blankets
Choose the right pet care
Pick a nutritional dog food
Research breed-specific grooming
Flea and tick prevention
Start training your dog
Take a puppy class
Enroll in a group class
Jot down your dog boundaries
Protect your pet
Buy pet insurance
License your pet
Get a microchip
Stock up on supplies
Nutritional food (puppy food, if needed)
Kennel or dog crate
Dog bed, blankets, towels
Potty or pee pads
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Grooming tools (dog brush or comb)
Grooming supplies (like wipes)
Clicker for training
Collar & ID tags
Harness & leash
Baby monitor or camera
Enzyme cleaner for accidents
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