Why do I feel the need to share these tips for first time dog owner today? According to sources, there has been a noticeable upsurge in pet adoptions in the recent months and there is good reason for that, too. A dog, for example, makes for a great companion and during the recent prolonged restrictions and lockdowns caused by the pandemic, the adoption rate began to increase.
People with dogs tend to be more physically active and this results in an increase in their dopamine levels. Dogs are loving, sensitive and loyal creatures and they are also a lot of fun to be around. And you can have the best of your dog when you know how to take proper care of him, making sure the animal stays in best shape—both physically and emotionally.
Below are 5 vital tips for first time dog owner. Hopefully these will help you to bridge a smoother transition for your pet as he gets used to you and the new environment.
1. Know Your Dog Well to Keep Him Healthy and Happy
The recent pandemic has a lot to do with the somewhat dramatic increase in dog adoption. Earlier, people working at a day job had to spend a lot of time outside home and as such, could not consider bringing a dog home, even if they wanted to. They simply didn’t have enough time to take care of a pet.
Now, however, things have changed since most people are still working from home. Apart from other things, this has also resulted in people feeling a sense of isolation and loneliness since they cannot socialize as before.
Animal shelters have also played their part during this time by either lowering or totally eliminating the pet adoption costs. Therefore, it has also become financially more viable for people to bring a dog home.
The recent worldwide changes have contributed to people suffering from all sorts of different anxieties. At this time, it is a wise choice to adopt a dog. Several studies inform that having a loving dog, or any other pets, around significantly decreases our stress levels and provides comfort.
The first-time dog parents are finding that they have something healthy and productive to focus on when they are taking care of their furkid. While it’s great news that people have become more prone to adopt dogs, it’s essential that one has the right information on his disposal regarding the proper care of a dog.
Proper information and knowledge will firstly make sure that the adoption and the relocation of the pet goes smoothly enough. They will also help prevent any possible injury or ailment to your new companion-to-be during the relocation process. For example, if you’re bringing a puppy home, you’ll need to know in advance how to puppy-proof your home.
Animals, especially the small ones, are naturally inquisitive. Pretty much everything in the world is new to him and he wants to explore and understand things on his own. That’s pretty cute when you look at it from his perspective.
However, we guess you won’t feel too amused if the puppy starts chewing the extension cord of your lamp or topple the garbage bin over in his insatiable passion to explore! So, without proper preparation, it’ll be chaos all over your household before you know it. Not to mention that it’ll be harmful to your furkid if he nibbles on the electrical cord.
Therefore, it is imperative that you know the little tips and tricks that would distract the pet and divert his attention from something that can potentially cause harm. And you don’t want to scold your pet or force him away from whatever activity he’s engaged in as this may cause long-term behavioral problems in your dog.
At the same time, you should be aware of the preventive measures you need to take regarding his health (deworming, vaccination, etc.), especially for young pets. Failure to take these measures may result in serious diseases in the pet later on and additional financial burden for you by way of expensive vet bills.
And in the worst case scenario, lack of proper pet knowledge may even prove fatal to your pet and then something that began as a happy and loving experience will end up causing a lot of devastation and grief to you and your family members. It goes without saying that you’ll want to prevent that by all means.
2. Helping Your Dog Adjust to His New Home
Relocating to a new environment is an emotional and often stressful experience for the dog, regardless of the breed or age. Of course, you’re all upbeat and excited about it and you know that you’ll give him a lot of love and the best care possible. The animal, however, doesn’t know this at this point.
All he perceives right now that something new is taking place. He’s to leave the place he had gotten used to (be it an animal shelter or some other place) and is being thrust into a completely new environment. And he has no say in the matter whatsoever.
As such, the whole process is a stressful one for him. For a shelter animal, it can be even more stressful if the poor creature has been through a past period of neglect or ill treatment. If you are lucky, the dog you bring home may settle right in and feel as if he belongs.
However, most dogs will feel shy initially and will try to slink into corners when you try to interact with him. Depending on the animal, it may take him days, weeks, and in some case, even longer to get used to the new environment. Now, as a loving and understanding pet parent, you can help the dog adjust faster by keeping things low-key and by staying clam yourself. You’ll need to exercise a lot of self-control to remain patient for your new pet.
It is natural for you to feel thrilled and to have a desire to show off your new treasure to others. However, try to see things from the dog’s perspective. All he sees is a host of new, unfamiliar faces and he may feel that too many things are coming his way all at once. So, give him the time he needs to adjust and never try to force anything on him.
If initially he doesn’t seem too keen to socialize with other family members or take part in games, etc., that is fine. Give him time and everything will fall into place soon. Also, make sure to appoint a personal physical space for the dog—one that’ll be all his own.
This could be a dog bed, a spacious canvas dog house, or simply his own designated corner at the sofa. As long as he has his own place, he’ll feel a sense of safety and security and this will help him warm up to you faster.
Realize the simple fact that for all human members of the household, as well as for any existing pets, the bonds are already in place and everybody knows what to expect from others. The new dog, however, does not.
So, often he’ll see others as a threat and it’s possible for him at first to show signs of aggression and/or indifference (baring his teeth if someone tries to move too close, being unsociable, ignoring others).
Now, this is common enough with newly-adopted dogs and especially if it’s an adult dog. You may not get this problem if you’ve adopted a young puppy, which will adjust more quickly and easily to new environment. So, don’t feel discouraged if your dog behaves like this at first. You can make the transition process easier for him by creating a routine.
So, we’re talking about a set schedule like when he is to get up in the morning and take his pee; when it’s time for him to go out for a walk with you; what are the times when he is to have his meals. Once you create and observe this routine day in, day out, the dog feels safe and cared for. He knows that everything in the course of a day will happen as expected and this provides a great deal of comfort to him and he’ll know that he can trust you.
3. Everything You Need To Know About Your New Dog’s Health
Now, as for your dog’s health, you need to have as much information at your disposal as possible right from the start. If the dog comes from a shelter, he’ll have received a basic examination.
However, the information you glean from this exam is patchy at best. Seldom, the shelter staff won’t have enough background information on the animal, such as its exact breed (especially if it’s a mixed breed); whether or not the dog received all of the basic requisite care, etc.
As for vaccinations, shelters normally administer the core vaccines but the latter don’t cover the full range of vaccination requirements of a dog. Often, you won’t know the dog’s exact age as well. However, this last information is important since the feeding routine and other care requirements for a dog vary according to his age.
So, once the dog has been adopted, we suggest you schedule an immediate appointment with a reputed vet. The vet will perform the full spectrum of routine checkups and based on the findings, will create a comprehensive health baseline for the pet. And this will serve as a valuable reference for now and for the future.
You’ll know what you’ll need to do to keep the dog in the best of health. And if something crops up in the future, the baseline will help the vet to guess what might be the issue behind the symptoms.
Know that the routine checkup involves examination of the dog’s eyes, ears, teeth, heart and lungs. The vet will typically begin checking the dog’s eyes to identify any eye injuries or potential diseases that may have remained undiagnosed.
Next up are the ears. Dogs can develop a variety of ear problems and at times, they actually provide valuable clues to an underlying health issue. For instance, allergies in dogs may lead to problems with the ears. Other common ear afflictions are caused by bacterial infections, yeast and wax build up.
Identifying one or more of these problems early enough will help protect the animal’s hearing. As for internal organs, the vet will listen to the dog’s lungs and his heart in order to establish that everything is in order and there are no possible issues such as fluid buildup, labored breathing, etc.
The vet will advise you on your pet’s lifestyle including his feeding and exercise routines. Depending on your dog’s weight, breed and age, the vet will be able to tell you what kind of food is best for him and in what quantities. During this first consultation, you’ll also get to know about some common health issues related to dogs and what you can do to treat or prevent them. Finally, the vet may provide you with some general advice and guideline regarding the pet’s training and socialization routine.
We mentioned the dog’s teeth before. The examination of teeth is important for two reasons. The first obviously is to look for signs of possible dental issues. However, vets can also predict a dog’s age quite accurately by looking at his teeth. This, however, goes mostly for younger dogs. With older dogs, it’s difficult to tell their exact age by examining their teeth but they will be able to provide a rough estimate.
Finally, in case you are not certain about the dog’s breed, we highly recommend that you run a DNA test. You can purchase over the counter DNA test kits at animal drug stores. Determining your dog’s breed will help you understand a number of his common traits. In addition, you’ll get to know about genetic health issues related with the particular breed your dog belongs to.
4. Food – The Most Important Topic to Understand
Once you bring a dog home, it’s vital that you get the right info on what foods are best for him and what to avoid. Dogs, unlike cats for example, are omnivores and will pretty much eat all foods that come their way.
However, it is best to feed your dog with special dog feed from a high-quality brand. These foods are especially designed for the canine population and are rich in all the essential vitamins and fatty acids that your dog needs in order to enjoy optimal health.
That said, it’s still okay for dogs to eat some human food. However, if you feed your dog with homemade food, you need to know exactly what sort of human foods are safe for his health and which types of foods that are strictly no-nos for him.
Take the case of fruits and vegetables, for example. It’s okay to give your dogs watermelons or apples (it’s important to remove the seeds). However, never give them grapes. Certain fruits and veggies are toxic and harmful for dogs and can lead to systemic diseases such as kidney failure.
Similarly, when it comes to vegetables, carrots are okay but raw potatoes can be highly toxic. So, make sure to educate yourself about what human foods are okay to feed your dogs and which are to be strictly avoided. And you must also pass on this knowledge to other family members and to the kids, especially.
You should also see that your dog don’t drink any common beverage, especially those that contain caffeine or cocoa (this also means that chocolate is a no-no, so make sure that the kids know this). In fact, you should be careful enough when you dispose of the coffee grounds. Ingestion of coffee grounds can be fatal for a dog.
There is a common misconception that it’s alright to feed raw meat or fish to dogs. However, this must be avoided at all costs. Uncooked meat will have bacteria in them and the latter are similarly harmful to dogs as they are to humans. One should also avoid feeding his dog the fat from the meat since this can cause pancreatitis.
On the other hand, lean meat is perfectly alright for dogs as long the fat is removed from the meat. Now, on the subject of salt. Know that dogs can get sodium poisoning from eating salty foods and the poisoning, in its turn, can cause kidney damage, build-up of fluid and in worst cases, it may even prove fatal. So, avoid salty stuff.
Also, make sure not to overfeed your dog. Diabetes and heart problems are the most common health issues associated with overweight dogs. But it can also lead to other issues such as high blood pressure, joint problems and more. Finally, excess body fat in a dog significantly increases the risk of cancer.
So, make sure that your dog doesn’t have free access to your foods. Invest in a pet proof can so the doggie cannot raid the trash can for your table scraps. You may also consider fitting a pet strap on the top of the can. It’s equally important to see that your pantry is pet-proof. Any other food that is not put in cabinets must also be off-limits for your dog, for example on shelves that are too high for your dog to reach.
Alternatively, if you may want to consider crate training your dog. Leaving your dog in a crate or playpen is actually safer for your dog to prevent him from chewing on things that may be harmful for him. However, if you’re crate training him, then you’ll have to make sure that you allow him safe time to roam the house.
Safe time refers to pockets of time when you’re with him, so you know what he’s doing. It’s also good for bonding sessions between you and your new pet. You may want to consider bringing him outside for longer periods each day. Going for walks and adventure is not only good exercise for him but the fresh air will do both of you good.
5. Problem Behaviors and Remedies
Once you adopt a dog, you should also brace yourself for some behaviors that may come off as nuisance to you and can also pose some practical problems. Chewing, for example. Dogs, especially younger ones, love to chew. They will chew pretty much anything—shoes, furniture, books and papers, electrical cords, toys and you name it!
The young dogs or puppies chew things for the same reason that babies do. For one thing, they’re teething and for another, they are looking to explore their environment. Older dogs, on the other hand, will normally chew on stuff either because they are feeling stressed for some reason or simply because they are bored.
Chewing, although it can prove a nuisance to you, is not really a sign of a dog misbehaving. Another common issue is barking and dogs bark for a wide variety of reasons.
Remember that dogs have recourse to no other forms of verbal communication. So, sometimes, dogs will bark just to get your attention. They may bark when they are hungry and want you to feed them. At other times, barking is a sign that the dog is all ready to head outside for his daily walk and he is all excited and agog while you keep delaying!
Similarly, dogs will often bark when they are feeling happy, playful and excited. During these times, you may often notice that they will bark, then dart off the room, come back in a jiffy and bark again.
And still there are other times when you may feel that there’s no apparent reason for his barking. However, there always is a reason. Your dog will sometimes resort to barking when he is in pain. He may be hurt or suffering from some sort of physical discomfort.
Barking may also be caused by anxiety, fear or a sense of loneliness (for example, if he feels you’re neglecting him). This is why dogs that are left alone in a house or apartment for extended periods of time often tend to bark excessively because they are suffering from separation anxiety.
Now, whatever the reason maybe, habits like excessive chewing or frequent barking can prove to be a nuisance for you and they can get in the way of your own work and peace. However, the good news is you can always prevent these issues by following proper training methods.
For one thing, try to spend a good amount of time daily playing with him (this is true especially for puppies). Now, you may not have time enough for this. Well, see if you can engage your other family members, small kids especially. Kids normally love dogs and vice-versa. So, when your kids bond with the dog, it’s beneficial for both.
Also, make sure your dog is getting enough exercise during the day. Take him out for a walk in the morning or evening. Taking him to a dog park is an especially good idea since there the dog can run free and can play and enjoy the company of its own kind. And this will keep him healthy and happy.
Finally, if there are some behavioral issues with your dog that you can’t manage by yourself, make sure to contact a licensed dog trainer and the latter will certainly be of help.
You’ll find a lot of joy by becoming a dog parent. No matter whether you adopt one or more dogs, older dogs or young puppies, your experience will become so much the better and a fulfilling one once you understand their behavior and know how to make life happy and comfortable for them.
You may also consider reading some books on this subject. We especially recommend that you get some books that talk about the specific breed that your dog belongs to. This way, you’ll have a better understanding of his traits and behaviors.
Finally, we hope that these 5 tips for first time dog owner have been helpful to you. Do remember that it’s important to apply these tips in your relationship with your dog and have lots of fun bonding with your new pet.