If you are thinking about adopting a new dog, you must be absolutely certain that you can properly care for him or her. Owning a dog can be one of the most rewarding things you do in your life, but it is also a lot harder than most people assume. This is because dogs, like human children, need to be given constant attention and care. You cannot simply adopt a dog and then expect it to take care of itself. A dog cannot get its own food, walk itself, let itself out or train itself—these are all things that you need to do for it. In addition to providing your pup with basic care, you must give it the love and protection every dog deserves.
Before Taking a Dog Home
Before bringing home your new friend, think about these following things you must provide for your dog to ensure it has the best possible life.
A Warm Place to Call Home
Many people buy a dog with the mindset that it will be “an outdoor dog.” While it is okay to let your pooch play outdoors and run around, dogs should never be strictly “outdoor dogs.” This is not only dangerous as outdoor dogs get stolen, but it is also inhumane. Dogs, like humans, need warmth and comfort too. Just like you have your own bed to sleep in at night, your dog should have her own bed with blankets to snuggle up with. She should have a designated eating station, an area where she can play without damaging any of your belongings and access to the outdoors when she needs to exercise or go to the bathroom.
A Good Diet
Too many people adopt a dog assuming that generic dog food will suffice, no matter the type of breed they choose. These assumptions are guaranteed to set your dog up for an unhealthy life. Talk to your vet about the type of food your dog should eat and how much, then cater her diet to that. Some general guidelines to consider, however, are as follows:
- Puppies between eight and 12 weeks need four small meals a day.
- Puppies between three and six months need three meals a day.
- Puppies six months to one year need two solid meals a day.
- When your dog reaches his first birthday, she’ll typically only need one meal a day.
- Larger canines are prone to bloating, so if you buy a large breed dog, they may require two small meals a day.
Cheaper is not better! Buy your dog the premium blend; if you cannot afford to feed your dog well, now may not be the best time in your life to bring home a new pet. Mix dry food with wet food or water for easier chewing. Some dogs enjoy eggs, fruits and veggies, and cottage cheese with their meals, though these ingredients should only account for a small portion of their overall meal.
Though you may be tempted to feed your dog table scraps or to reward him with a few bites of your own meal, try to refrain from doing so, as “people food” can cause vitamin and mineral imbalances in your pup, and can lead to bad eating habits and obesity.
Your pup should have access to fresh, clean water all day, every day (so keep those toilet lids down!).
Routine Veterinary Care
Before bringing your pup home, you should already know which veterinarian you want to use and have scheduled your dog’s first appointment. It is important that you get your pooch into the vet right away—preferably the day you bring her home—to get her checked out for any existing conditions or problems. If you have other dogs or pets at home, this is especially important to do, as some dogs—especially those from the shelter—have diseases or parasites that they can pass on to your other animals.
During the first year of your dog’s life, expect to take him to the vet at least four times, and then twice yearly thereafter. At each checkup, your vet will assess the health of your dog, make recommendations to help you improve their health if necessary, and give your dog any necessary medications or vaccinations. At your pup’s six month checkup, they will recommend spaying or neutering, which you should have done unless you plan to enter your dog into a breeding program.
If you cannot afford to give your pet the veterinary care she needs to live a long, happy and healthy life, reconsider adopting a dog until you’re financially able to care for her.
Training and Exercise
All dogs will require a some training when they’re in their new homes, but how much your new pooch will require all depends on her age and how much training she had before coming home with you. Puppies generally require the most work, as they have almost no prior training. They need to be taken out at least once every two hours to relieve themselves (or a half hour after drinking or eating) and guided to the same spot where they relieved themselves last. Once they do their business, make a big deal of it! Puppies need positive reinforcement to understand that going outside is good and is what you expect of them. Despite popular belief, crate training does not help speed up the house training process, as puppies cannot fully control their bladder until they are at least six months old.
Once your pooch hits adulthood, take her out at least four times a day. If you can, use that time to take her on a walk or to let her run around the park. If you cannot make it home during your lunch hour, ask a neighbor to come over and let your pup out for a few minutes at least once during the workday.
In addition to housetraining your new pet, you will also have to teach her what is and is not acceptable to chew on. During her training period, keep all of your belongings out of her reach if you don’t want them ruined. Put your shoes, clothes and other valuables up, and block off any furniture you don’t want ruined (think, Grandma’s antique table). Get her some chew toys, and if you start to see her go for one of your shoes or other items, quickly replace it with a toy. Tell her no, but don’t yell, and don’t slap her nose with it; doing so is unproductive and mean.
Finally, you will need to leash train your pup if you hope to take your dog on walks (as you need to), to the dog park or out in public. This is another time consuming task, but it will be well worth it when you’re able to walk your dog instead of them walking you.
Dogs are social creatures and want to play with other dogs. Take your pup to the dog park at a young age and teach them how to play nice with other dogs. This is not only beneficial for their mental health, but also, it will benefit you in the long run, as you’ll be able to take your pet out in public without fear of them acting up.
If you decide to adopt a dog, the number one reason that you should do so is because you truly want a furry companion. Don’t just adopt a dog because “everyone else is doing it,” because you “think you should have one” or because “the kids want one.” Dogs need love and attention, and want a human that they can be forever loyal to. If you can be that human, then you shouldn’t have any trouble caring for your new pet. If you cannot, however, reconsider taking home a dog and think about adopting a fish or maybe a turtle.
Set Up the Veterinary Care You Need Today
If you believe that you have what it takes to care for a canine, and if you can comfortably afford to provide your new pet with the veterinary care, diet and necessities that every pooch deserves, reach out to the United Veterinary Center to schedule your new pooch’s first appointment before bringing them home. We are dedicated to helping pet owners in Connecticut help their pets live full and healthy lives. To learn more about our veterinary services and how we can serve you, visit us online today!