So, you decided you should get yourself a dog. Congratulations, you have just made one of the best decisions in your life. The unconditional love and happiness that your pet will provide you will fulfill your life in oh so many ways, but you must understand that you will take care of a living being, not a stuffed toy.
Don’t worry, this guide will teach you all the things you should pay attention to, so you can give your dog everything he needs.
How to choose between a puppy, an adult dog and a senior dog
No matter what age is your new pet, you won’t regret getting it. However, there are certain differences in caring for your dog, regarding the age.
Puppies – a cuteness overload
Oh, they are the cutest thing ever, and you will forgive them every single mischief they do, but… Puppies need a lot of care and attention, especially because you need to train them for everything, from potty habits to outdoor manners.
Puppies are essentially little chewing machines that produce saliva and poop and lots of barking noises every time of the day and night. Be sure you have enough time, space and resources to properly raise your puppy, or it will become an ill-mannered adult dog, and you don’t want that to happen.
Remember never to buy or adopt a puppy younger than 8 weeks, as it will lack basic discipline lessons from his mum.
Adult dog – a friend for a lifetime
Adult dogs, purebred or stray, are much easier to handle, considering the basic training. Of course, purebred and fully trained dogs are, so to speak, a finished product, but even an untrained stray dog will be easier to train than the puppy.
That’s why adult dogs are the most common choice for the majority of dog owners. Of course, you need to consider your dog’s life expectancy and size when choosing the adult one.
Senior dogs – a faithful companion
Trust me, you can teach an old dog new tricks, even easier than with the puppies. Senior dogs are quite adaptable, just like the adult dogs, and can get really attached to you, but be ready for a real commitment.
They will need extra care and attention regarding their inevitable medical problems, so make sure you can provide them with everything they will need, from medical bills to specialized equipment.
Among the thousands of little details, here is the general list of the things you will need to do before getting a dog:
- prepare your home for a dog
- learn all the important things and information
- get in contact with the veterinarian
- stash tools and supplies
- get ready to train your dog
Preparing your home for a dog
Your dog will need his personal space, proportional to his size. You should choose a quiet location in your house, that has less foot traffic but isn’t secluded from the rest of the house, so your new dog won’t feel left out.
You will need to secure all the electronic parts of the house that are reachable by your dog, like power sockets, cords and switches. You should hide your shoes or anything chewable out of your dog’s reach, too.
When you chose the proper location, it’s time to decorate it and turn it into a dog’s personal haven. There is a decent amount of dog tools and supplies that you will need, but we will give you the details further in this guide.
Be sure to maintain a proper level of hygiene, for both dog’s and your own health. Even if your dog will be mostly outdoor, he still needs a warm and cosy place that will be just his own.
Learning important things about dogs
Preparation is the key to success, and you will be learning new things and pieces of information every day. There is no such thing as too much knowledge, especially when it’s your best friend’s well-being at stake.
Nutrition for your dog is based on his needs, breed, lifestyle, size and age. Here are some general tips regarding the age:
- puppies younger than two months you shouldn’t be having, do not forget that
- puppies that are 2 – 3 months old will require 4 smaller meals per day
- between 3 and 6 months, it’s time for three meals per day
- puppies between 6 months and one year old, two meals per day
- from age one, they need one bigger meal per day, or two smaller, especially for the larger breeds, that have problems with bloating
Don’t forget your dog is mostly carnivore, but unlike the cats, dogs can digest a variety of food, so it’s common to treat your dog with some cheese, fruits or similar things from time to time, but limit that part of his food to ten percent of the daily intake.
Just remember never to feed him just with leftovers or scraps from your meal, as it would lead to a mineral and vitamin disorder, and can cause obesity. Feed your dog with high-quality dog food, that is properly balanced for him, and never buy him cheap, suspicious brands.
If you can’t afford the proper nutrition for your dog, maybe it’s not the best time to get yourself a dog. Clean, fresh water must be always available, especially when the days are warmer because your dog always wears a fur coat and sweats much, much more than we do.
Common behavior problems
It doesn’t matter if you have nerves of steel and your nickname is Gandhi, your dog can drive you crazy with its misbehaving. Here is a list of the usual problems and advice on how to avoid them.
It’s a great way for neighbors to hate you plus sleepless nights guaranteed. The normal amount of barking is natural, but if your dog barks continuously, you should teach them to bark and be silent on your command.
This is going to take some time and patience, but never yell on your dog if it is barking, you will not accomplish anything, rather the opposite.
Chewing all around
All dogs like to chew, especially puppies. The most common causes are boredom, curiosity and excess of energy. If you got yourself a Chewie, you’ll need to remove anything valuable from the reach, for the start.
Then get him a ton of chewable dog toys and encourage him to use it. With a bit of training, you will be able to save your Italian leather sofa from bitemarks and saliva.
It is one of the most common behavior problems and it manifests itself when the owner prepares to leave the house. The dog tries to desperately stop him, and after the owner is gone, the dog becomes destructive, urinates, howls and in extreme cases can injure himself.
After the owner is back, the dog returns to his normal behavior. When you have secluded all the possible health issues for that type of behavior, it is time to treat your anxious dog with proper training, excessive physical activity and in some extreme cases, medicaments.
Awww, who can resist a puppy face with his little paws just begging for a small piece of your lunch? Many owners even encourage this kind of behavior in their dogs, but it is just plain wrong. Dogs love food way too much and will do anything to get their paws on some extra food.
That kind of behavior leads to dog obesity and teaches the dog that begging is an appropriate way to behave. Set some boundaries with your dog, don’t give him permission to get close while you and your family are dining, and feed him just when it’s his feeding time.
Despite the playful pup biting, there are several reasons why dogs tend to bite. Fear, protectiveness, basic instinct or pain, all those reasons seem rational to your dog.
The muzzle will prevent the biting, but won’t cure the source of it. Your relationship with the dog, a bit of socialization with the other dogs and some training tips from the professionals will take care of this problem.
Outdoors – busting the myth
Dogs were domesticated by humans for more than 10 000 years. The descendants of wolves are now our pets and friends, but cannot live fully outdoor on their own.
Although there are many breeds than enjoy spending most of their time outside, especially in rural parts, the dog’s place at the end of the day is under the roof of his own cozy shelter.
Dogs’ ancestors were living in packs and dogs think of us as a part of their pack, and need to be close to us. Furthermore, it is extremely cruel to tie your dog to a chain in your backyard and leave him that way most of the time, at the mercy of the weather conditions.
Dogs rely on us for food, shelter, protection and love, and should always have a place in our home.
Grooming and cleaning
Grooming your dog is not just for aesthetics but very important for his health, and will become one of your many routines when it comes to keeping your pet happy.
Your short hair or medium-haired pet will require weekly brushing the fur, but if you own a dog with a long fur coat, it is advised that you brush him daily.
This process, while removing mats and tangles from your pet’s fur, spreads natural skin oils that make the fur shinier and silkier. Also, take advantage of the brushing time to check your pet for possible traces of fleas, ticks or skin diseases.
The general advice is that you should bathe your dog at least once every three months, and much often if your dog is an outdoor adventurer. First, you need to excessively brush your dog, to get rid of mats, tangles, dead skin and excess fur.
Put your pet in a tub and wet him completely using mild-warm water, but be careful around nose, ears and eyes. Gently apply the dog shampoo, going from head to the tail and rinse. Repeat the process as much time as it needs for your dog to be clean.
Dry your dog with a big, soft towel and the process is over.
Be cautious when applying the shampoo around the sensitive parts of the dog’s body, and always use specialized pet products, as human shampoo can badly irritate your dog’s skin.
If your dog is restless while bathing, surround him with a few floating toys that will distract him long enough for you to finish the bathing. The good idea, especially for time-poor owners and messy pets is to use excellent waterless dog shampoo, which saves time, money and nerves.
The rest of the brooming process includes care for the dog’s ears, toothbrushing, nail trimming and clipping and anal gland expression. If you feel that you can’t make all that on your own, there are many dog grooming salons where you can take your per to make him look pretty and healthy and even ask for some professional advice.
Here is also a great video about how to bathe your dog from Animal Ark Pet Grooming and it is pretty insightful.
Veterinarian – the man on the speed dial
You and your veterinarian will become such good friends, especially if you didn’t have a dog before and didn’t have to deal with all the little things that every dog owner must.
The best time to take your new dog to a veterinarian’s office is now. The sooner the better. The vet will check your dog for any conditions, diseases and parasites that it might carry and guide you on how to take proper care of your new pet.
You will see your veterinarian a couple of times per year, and sometimes even more often. That means regular checkups, diet plans, health issues, decisions about spaying or neutering your pet, vaccinations and much much more.
Vaccination – take care of your dog
As well as humans (despite the anti-vax movement), dogs need to be vaccinated to prevent harmful and potentially deadly diseases. The “core” vaccines, that every dog should get are protection against:
- Canine distemper
- Infectious canine hepatitis
All these diseases are highly infectious, deadly, some even to humans, and can be avoided by simply vaccinating your dog. Besides the core vaccines, other, “non-core” vaccines are issued only in the areas where some other sort of illness or disease appeared or traveling abroad.
Always check with your vet the vaccination schedule for your dog, and don’t miss the single one. The saddest part would be if something happened to your dog and you would have to live with the thought that you could have prevented it.
ID tags are a cheap and convenient gizmo that will help you reunite with your pet, whether he was lost or shouted:” Geronimooooooooooooooo!” and jumped over the fence.
The tag separates your dog from the stray animals and people are keener to help the dog with the ID tag. Although they have limited space, there are few essential information that every ID tag should contain:
- Owner’s address and phone number – so the finder can contact you in no time
- Dog’s name – essential for anxious animals afraid of the strangers
- Microchip status – if it is taken to a shelter
- Any serious medical condition – if urgent medical care is needed
Dog tools and supply
Comfortable dog bed or pillow
A dog bed is his sanctuary, his resting place and his safe place and that’s why it must be great, as your pet will spend a decent amount of his time in it since most dogs sleep 12 hours per day.
Also, the bed gives the dog the feeling of ownership, as he is well aware that the rest of the house belongs to you. The funny part is that dogs tend to sleep where they feel the most comfortable, and by providing him with his own bed, you ruled out the option of the dog appearing in your own bed.
And of course, it’s easier to clean one place that your dog uses for sleep and rest than the whole house. Just make sure that your dog’s bed is comfy enough, so your dog can fit, roll and drool on it.
And for the sake of your senior or movement impaired dog, the best choice would be a waterproof orthopedic dog bed.
A dog crate or a dog carrier
Both choices are great but depend on the purpose of using. A dog crate is sturdier, made from hard materials and will secure your pet in case of sudden crashes or accidents.
However, it can be pretty heavy to carry in hand so is commonly used for home training or road travel. Also, they can be pretty expensive. The dog carriers are pretty affordable, coming from the fact that they are commonly made from fabric.
That makes them easy to carry but very unsuitable for any breed of dogs except for the small ones and puppies. Basically, they are used for short trips and the main advantage is they can be brought as a piece of personal luggage during flight travel.
Dog collar and/or harness
It would be wise to get your dog both collar and the harness, as there are a plethora of choices on the market for every breed, size and behavior of your dog.
Most of the experts recommend using the harness, especially for the smaller breeds of dogs, as the collar can have a negative influence on their neck muscles and bones. But the collar has its advantages when it comes to well-trained dogs, like the simplicity of use and lots of additional features.
It is a standard part of the equipment, and along with the collar or harness, obligated by the law if you are taking your dog outside. You can choose a variety of materials, colors and functions, from standard rope leash to a retractable one, that gets your dog maximum comfort and freedom of movement.
We have a whole article dedicated to durable retractable dog leashes, so check it out for further details.
Dog toys (an assortment)
Dogs need their toys for a variety of reasons, and you should get a couple of them, but try not to hoard a bunch of them. You will probably fail, but that’s life. And you won’t believe all the shapes and sizes they come.
These toys are mainly used for exercise and keeping the shape for both you and your dog. This includes frisbees (throwing discs), variety of balls to play fetch (from tennis balls to squeaky one) and ropes to play tug of war. Of course, you can always play fetch with a wooden stick, but it’s nice to have an alternative.
When your dog is in a playing mood and you simply don’t have the time or energy, occupy his attention with one of these toys.
- Dog puzzles – your dog must use his intellect, paws and mouth to get the treat hidden inside the toy
- Chew toys – for the dental health of your beloved pet or just for excess energy, made from rubber or other pet-safe materials
Usually, a small stuffed toy that your dog can carry around and bond mentally with it. Some dogs will sleep with it and some will try to tear it apart. Surprisingly, an owner’s old t-shirt is still one of the dog’s favorite comfort toys.
Grooming supplies – everything your dog needs
Even though every dog is a different size, breed or weight you should have an essential list of grooming supplies and expand it if there is a need.
Here are the things that you should have for the proper care of your dog’s look and health:
- styptic powder or a pencil – to stop bleeding from smaller wounds
- cotton balls – similar to the ones used in cosmetics
- a brush and a comb adjusted to your pet’s coat length and density
- demating and detangling tools – to keep your dog’s fur healthy and silky
- shampoo and a conditioner – especially for the long-haired dogs
- dog shampoo for dry skin – a must-have to prevent dandruff or skin issues
- toothbrush and a toothpaste – to avoid doggy breath and keep the teeth and gums healthy
- ear cleaner for dogs – visit the link for more details
- handy dog nail grinder – check out our opinion on that subject
All of these products must be pet safe and designed just for pets. Although you can be tempted to use your shampoo on your dog, the chemical imbalance might dry your dog’s skin and remove the essential oils that keep the fur healthy. Remember to always use certified pet products.
Food and water bowls
You thought these are just plain bowls? Well, you thought wrong, my friend. Food and water bowls are made from a variety of materials, and the most common ones are from steel, silicone, plastic or ceramics.
Plastic ones have lost their popularity as they can easily be damaged and can absorb nasty odors. Silicon ones are mainly used as foldable travel bowls, while ceramic and steel water bowls are the most popular right now, due to their increased durability and easiness of cleaning.
Taller dogs will benefit significantly from the elevated food and water bowls, as they will not have to bend to the floor any more.
Read more about the best raised dog bowls in our article. And, of course, if you have a dog that doesn’t chew his food, rather swallows it all in the blink of an eye, get him a slow feeding food bowl, that will save him from bloating problems, and you from all the mess.
And if your dog doesn’t like the water from the bowl, consider purchasing him the perfect dog water fountain.
Dog food storage container
Buying a larger stash of the dog food can save you a pretty penny, especially if you own more than one dog, or you have a larger breed that eats mountains of food.
But you will need a good food storage container so all that food won’t go to waste because of mold, bacteria or insects. So you are going to need a container made of stainless steel or high – quality plastic, airtight capable, the one that can store a large portion of food and is easily manageable, with wheels and extra shelves.
Also, the container must be a dog-proof, so your pet doesn’t get an all-you-can-eat buffet. While buying the big one, consider buying a smaller, portable one too, for road trips or outdoor adventures with your pet.
We just love to give our pets treats, as a reward for good behavior, comfort food or we just feel like to. But don’t go over the top, as treats should have a maximum of 10 percent daily intake of food.
Treats can be some leftovers from your food, you could buy specialized dog treats and you can even make your own with ingredients every household has, but be careful.
Test your dog for any kind of allergies or health issues and consult with your vet about the ingredients of the treats.
Here is a list of food that you can never feed your dog with, as it can be fatal for him:
- grapes, including raisins
- onions and garlic
- artificial sweeteners
- macadamia nuts
- fruit pits and seeds
- any kind of rotten food
Don’t forget that your dog is much smaller than you (except for very large breeds or very small owners) and his digestive tract can be very sensitive when it comes to content and amount of the treats. Yes, the being that can eat his own poop will get sick from a piece of chocolate.
High-quality dog food – the mark of the responsible dog owner
What is the best human food? You see, there is no easy answer to that question. Dog food can be raw, wet, dry, with grain, grain-free, specifically made for puppies, adult dogs or senior dogs etc, you get the picture.
The best thing you can do is talk to your vet and listen to his advice, especially considering the health of your pet regarding any medical issue. That way you can be completely sure that you made the right choice for the sake of your best furry friends.
Moreover, don’t get cheap when it comes to your pet’s food. Feed him with only the finest products from renowned brands, that will keep your dog happy, and more importantly healthy and will save you money on medical bills. Quality products always pay off.
Teaching your dog some basic skills
Training your dog is a neverending process, even if you got yourself an adult or a senior dog. Puppies and untrained dogs must be trained in literary everything, and that requires a lot of time and patience. Your dog will have to manage these skills:
- potty training
- basic commands and tricks
- leash and harness training
- socialization training
The most important part is that you can do it yourself, and you can always ask help or advice from a veterinarian or professional dog trainer. Remember never to yell at your dog or punish it for anything and always reward his training progress with treats and belly rubs.
You can always try with the clicker training as it has proven to be very successful for most of the dogs.
Of course, when your dog has completed the basic training, you can always try to teach him some advanced commands, but the help of the expert might be necessary.
So, there you have it. This comprehensive guide has taught you everything you need to know about keeping your pet happy, healthy and safe, and all you needed was 15 minutes of your precious time.
Feel free to check our other articles regarding any subject you might be interested in, and contact us if you have any questions. With proper care, your mutt will grow into a healthy specimen and a true nemesis for the postman and all the neighborhood cats and squirrels.
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Big pet lover and a dog training and behavior expert who loves to share his knowledge and experience. Happy owner of two amazing dogs Labrador Bela and Jack Russell Terrier Piksi and one cuddly cat Tom.
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