There is something special about dogs. They become a loving member of your family, always eager to greet you at the door or snuggle with you at the end of a long day. Dogs are special friends that will be happy to sit with you throughout the day or accompany you on a long hike through the woods. Although there are several positives associated with having a dog, ownership is a big responsibility that takes time, patience, and understanding. Below, we have put together the ultimate guide to getting a new dog.
Table of Contents
Are You Prepared to Own a Dog?
The first step to ask yourself before even considering a new four-legged family member is to ask yourself, “Am I prepared to own a dog?” At its face value, it seems a dog is nothing but a bundle of furry love and attention, and honestly, at its core, it is. However, dogs take a great deal of resources, including time, money, and patience. Before inviting a dog to live with you, it is important to weigh and consider all aspects of owning a dog.
Where Should You Get a New Dog?
The first step is to determine where your new dog should come from. There are plenty of dogs of all ages available at both breeders and animal shelters. Further, there are several animal rescue teams around the country that are breed specific.
From a Shelter
One of the best places to find a new companion is at the local humane society, shelter or animal rescue. Dogs find themselves in the shelter for a number of reasons, including lost pets or pets that were surrendered by their previous owner.
Pros and Cos of Adopting From the Shelter
Possibly the largest benefit associated with shelter adoptions is that it gives an otherwise homeless dog a place to live. Most of the dogs that end up at the shelter have been displaced by family or unfortunate circumstance. By giving a dog from the shelter a place to call home, you are essentially able to free up another cage or kennel for a similarly lost or unwanted animal.
Plus, adoption fees at the shelter are usually minimal. Dogs typically come with an inexpensive fee for adoption that is contributed toward the care and wellbeing of other animals residing in the shelter. Additionally, there can be some pretty cool dogs at the shelter! What I love most about shelter dogs is that there are some great breed mixes that turn into some of the absolute best personalities and looks. Further, it is possible to find dogs of all ages, so if you want to skip the puppy phase and go straight to adulthood, you’ll have plenty of options.
Shelters typically do not have purebred dogs (although it is possible!) This means that you will sometimes adopt a dog that has an unknown medical history or background, which can be troublesome for training or medical issues that may arise. Further, dogs from the shelter may have bad habits or behavior traits that were acquired in their past home. Although perfectly trainable, it can take extra time and patience to break bad habits.
Questions to Ask the Shelter
Before adopting a new dog from the shelter, you should ask some important questions. Learn about the dog’s history and how the dog came to live in the shelter. Does the dog have any fun personality traits? Does he or she like to play or relax? Further, ask if the dog has had any behavioral concerns with the staff or other animals. Ask about medical history while living in the shelter. If you have other animals in the home, be sure to learn how the dog does with other dogs or possibly cats before introducing both pets to each other.
From a Reputable Breeder
Of course, if you have your heart set on a specific breed of dog, finding a reputable breeder is a great option for brining a new family member home. Breeders work to specifically breed certain looks and personality traits into dogs to get a puppy that best resembles the breed.
Pros and Cons of Adopting From a Breeder
One of the biggest benefits of finding a dog at a breeder is that you know exactly what type of dog you will be getting. You have the information ahead of time about the looks, health, size, and personality of that specific breed of dog. Further, a breeder will have all the family medical history, usually for several generations. You will have a chance to meet the mother and father of the dog, as well as have your pick of a dog that best suits your personality and tastes.
Alternatively, breeders do have a downside to them as well. While you certainly know the medical history of your new puppy, purebred dogs can be prone to certain genetic disorders and conditions passed along through the breed. Also, puppies from breeders can be expensive, even costing thousands of dollars to purchase. Lastly, purchasing a dog from a breeder excludes the chance of giving a dog a home from the shelter that desperately needs a place to call home.
Questions to Ask the Breeder
Before bringing a new puppy home from the breeder, there are plenty of questions you should ask. First, try to understand the personalities of both the parents and the new litter of puppies. Often, the mother’s personality will have the biggest impact on the puppies. Also, learn about any medical issues the breeder may have noticed or experienced with the puppies.
If it is possible, try to visit the breeder you choose in person. You want to be able to see the area where the puppies live and ensure that the puppies are being bred in a loving and safe environment. Ask about the veterinary care the puppies have received up to this point, and learn about any training the breeder may have started with the puppies.
Lastly, if it is important to you, understand the heritage and lineage of the puppies. Were the parents AKC registered? Do they have a prominent bloodline? If you are purchasing a sporting or working dog, do the puppy’s parents have a history of success in these areas? Often, if the parents were good at hunting or working, they will pass these traits on to their offspring.
How to Avoid Puppy Mills
Unfortunately, people in the world have realized they can make a great deal of money selling designer puppies to people at a high cost. These puppies are raised in what is known as a puppy mill. In a puppy mill, parent dogs and puppies alike are kept in confined, deplorable conditions. Parent dogs are often forced to have puppies at too young an age, or too frequently, which is extremely dangerous. Puppy mills should be avoided at all costs to help prevent the spread of this type of operation.
Do Not Buy From Pet Stores
One way to avoid giving money to unscrupulous puppy mills is to avoid buying puppies from pet stores. Because the puppies are kept in the pet store, it is impossible to know where the puppies come from. This means that the pet stores can be filling their kennels with puppies that have originated from mills. Often, but not always, pet stores will turn to puppy mills because they have a steady stream of breeder quality dogs at an affordable price.
Do Not Buy From Online Kennels
Online kennels are another common source for puppy mill puppies. These kennels simply have an online website and provide little to no detail about the dog’s living conditions or parents. Online kennels will allow people to purchase the puppies with limited background screenings and will often discourage buyers from coming to a physical location.
This can be confusing, because many reputable breeders have an online presence. Before purchasing a puppy from a breeder, do your homework. Fully research the kennel, the breeders, and the parent dogs to know that you are dealing with a reputable breeder. A reputable breeder will be proud of his or her puppies and will welcome a kennel visit from potential buyers.
How to Choose a Dog That is Right For You
The wonderful things about dogs is that they come in all sizes, shapes, personalities, and abilities. As a self-proclaimed dog lover, I’m the first to admit that there is no such thing as a “wrong” dog. However, there are dogs that can be wrong for your particular lifestyle. It is important to think about several factors before choosing the right dog for you. Below, we list several traits to consider before making a selection.
- Size – Think about the final size of the dog after the puppy has reached adulthood. It is one thing to fall in love with a 10 pound puppy St. Bernard, but understand that puppy will grow to be over 150 pounds. Think about your current living conditions. Do you have room for a large dog? Do you have the ability to transport a large dog? Also think about what will happen as the dog ages or if the dog becomes injured. Your dog may need you to lift him or her into a car or onto a bed. Will you be able to lift that much weight?
- Energy – For many people, this is a big consideration. Think about your current lifestyle and what you would like your dog to do with you. Are you an avid hiker and would like a trail buddy? Then a high-energy dog is right for you. Are you more prone to relaxing on a Sunday morning with your favorite Netflix binge? Then a low-energy, couch-potato dog will be better fit for your lifestyle. Remember too that if high-energy dogs are kept with little exercise, they can quickly become destructive.
- Temperament – Every temperament in a dog is different, but think about how you want your dog to interact with friends, family, and other animals. Are you looking for a guard dog or family pet? A dog that is good with children, or a dog that does best with one owner?
- Intelligence – How important is dog training to you? Do you want a dog that is easy to train and picks up on new skills and behaviors quickly? Or are you alright with a simple but good companion? While an intelligent dog is great to have, be cautious of the fact that many intelligent dogs can also have a strong independent streak, often believing they know better than their owner.
- Health needs – Fluffy, long-haired dogs are beautiful, but they need a great deal of upkeep and grooming. Large breed dogs are fun to have, but can often develop joint conditions later in life. Certain dogs can be prone to systemic diseases, tooth disease, or even eyesight problems. Fully research the breed of dog and understand what conditions are common with your type of dog.
How to Prepare Your Home For a Dog
You’ve done it! You’ve finally found your perfect companion to love and bond with. Now the next step is to prepare your home for the arrival of Fido. Be sure to have your supplies ahead of time so that you are fully prepared once your new dog enters your life.
What Dog Care Supplies Do You Need?
Just like any other member of the family, dogs take a great deal of care. Below, we have put together a list of items necessary for the arrival of your new furry friend.
- Dog bed & crate – Your dog needs a safe space to call his own. Think about and researching crate training ahead of time and how to properly size a kennel to see if this training technique makes sense for your beliefs and lifestyle. Be sure to find a bed that can easily be laundered.
- Food & water bowls – Your pet will need a place to eat and drink. Select food and water bowls that can be easily washed, and are non porous. Plastic materials can trap dirt and bacteria.
- Toys – All dogs, young and old, love to play. Select age-appropriate and safe toys for your pet. Some dogs love to have a stuffed toy to snuggle with, while others prefer a strong and tough rope to tug. Make sure you are extra cautious with powerful chewers that can be destroyed and accidentally ingested.
- Dog food – You’ll want to select a high-quality dog food that has the necessary ingredients to keep your dog strong and healthy. Be sure to ask the breeder or shelter about the type of food your dog is used to.
- Collar, ID tag, and leash – It is absolutely vital to have your pet properly identified should he or she become lost. Make sure the collar and ID is visible with the right information. Many shelters and veterinarians will also put a microchip into your pet to help further with identification. Have a strong and solid leash for your pet, especially for large and strong dogs.
- Veterinary records – You will want to have all existing veterinary records for your dog, regardless if your dog comes from the shelter or a breeder. Turn these records over to your own veterinarian so he or she can understand your pet’s past medical history and learn about the necessary vaccines your dog may have already received.
- Dog-proofing your home – Think what you would do if you were bringing a toddler into your home, and repeat these steps with for your own dog. Puppies can be prone to chewing on corners and cords, while dogs may be interested at digging or scratching. Pick up anything that you don’t want your dog to have access to, and put these items high enough so they are out of reach.
Bringing Your Dog Home
You have found the perfect friend and have everything prepared to bring your dog home. Now, you just need to work with your dog so that he or she can transition into a new family.
- Transition their food – Chances are the food your dog was eating at the shelter or breeder is not the same kind of food you want to give, and that’s OK! Be sure to slowly transition their old food to the new food by adding small amounts of the food to the mixture, until it is 100% new food. Too drastic a shift can cause stomach aches and intestinal distress.
- Bond with your dog – You are new to your dog, just like your dog is new to you. Take time to bond with your dog. Spend as much time as possible together, and make sure the interactions are positive and fun.
- Give the dog ample space – When your dog needs time to get away, be respectful of his or her space. Coming into a new home can be overwhelming for a dog, and sometimes your dog just needs a moment to regroup. This is where the crate or dog bed comes in handy. These spaces can be a safe place for your dog to relax and adjust.
- Begin training immediately – No matter how young or old your dog is, new training can start immediately. It is important for your new furry friend to understand your expectations. Keep training sessions short and positive, and be sure to offer plenty of praise for a job well done.
- Schedule a vet visit – Even if your dog appears to be in good health, take your dog to the vet so that he or she is able to get a solid baseline. This is important for understanding how your pet’s health will change over time.
- Give your dog time to adjust – The most important thing to remember is that your dog will not be perfect overnight. These things take time—for both you and your new dog. Give your dog plenty of time to adjust to his or her surroundings and new home. There are plenty of new sounds, smells, and sights for your dog to become accustom to.
A dog is a great way to bring love and enjoyment into any home. A dog can sit with you when you are having a tough day or is happy to go on a trail run with you to get some exercise. Dogs are rewarding and special, but they take a great deal of planning before coming home. By following our ultimate guide to getting a new dog, we are sure that you will not only be prepared, but will enjoy a lifetime of love with your new best friend.