Invest in a Collar
As a general rule, your dog should have a collar on at all times, and that collar should display your dog’s I.D. tags, which should include its name, as well as your name, address and phone number.
As collars go, the traditional style is usually nylon, although a leather dog collar is acceptable, too. You should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck, and it should sit comfortably near the top of the shoulder blades. Be sure to check the fit frequently with puppies, as they can grow quickly! Also, it’s a good idea to remove the collar when placing the dog in its crate, as the collar can snag on the bars and pose a chocking hazard.
While choke collars can be effective training tools, it’s important to have a professional trainer show you how to use it properly. They should only be used during training and they should not be used on dogs with sensitive tracheas.
The first step to owning a dog is to Know Thyself. It’s important to match a breed of dog to your level of activity, cleanliness, personality, schedule, etc. A couch potato isn’t going to be a good fit for a working dog, just as the OCD neat-freak won’t do well with a big shedder. Similarly, the urban life may not be suitable for a big dog that is happiest with space/land to roam. A healthy dose of realism will go a long way here.
So make a list of your own attributes and lifestyle notables. Then make a similar list for what you are looking for in a dog. Are you looking for a purse-dog or a guard dog? Take into consideration size, training needs, personality, grooming, energy/athleticism, etc. If you have — or plan to have — kids, it is extremely important to select a breed that is compatible with small children.
Get your checkbooks ready! Dogs are an expense, no doubt about it. Here’s a short list of the “things” that you should have on the ready for the Big Arrival:
The pet store, breeder or veterinarian can advise you on the best type of food for the breed and age of the dog.
No one said owning a dog was going to be cheap!
Make the Bed
Dogs are master sleepers, averaging around 13 hours of shut-eye a day. They deserve a proper place to do so, don’t you think?
In some cases, selecting the right bed for your dog will be a matter of trial and error. This is because not every dog sleeps alike. Some dogs prefer to curl up, while others go full stretch extension. For the former, an oval or round-shaped bed with a “nest” or bolster feature may be the best bet. For the latter, consider a rectangular, flat bed – you can even find memory foam versions! Of course it may take some time to figure out what style of sleeper your new dog is, so it might be a good idea to go with an inexpensive solution first. Then observe!
Durability should be factored in to any bed purchasing decision. Dogs will push, paw and chew at their beds to position them just right. Look for a dog bed that will put up with this abuse over the years.
Crates must not be forgotten, either! Don’t think of crates as inhumane, either. Crates appeal to that natural dog instinct to live in a den. They are also powerful house training tools, since a dog generally does not want to relieve itself in its den. If your dogs crate is intended as a house training tool and also a way to keep the dog (and house!) safe when you are away for short periods of time, do not use the crate as a form of punishment or your dog will come to fear it.
Dog-Proof the Home
Unlike with toddlers, “proofing” the home for a dog is done as much for the home’s sake as it is for the dog’s. With that in mind, here are some of the dog-proofing moves you need to make ASAP:
Remember, an ounce of prevention and preparation will pave the way for a long and fruitful relationship with your new companion.
On the dog’s first day in your home, it’s a good idea to take this slow. This will be unfamiliar territory for the animal, so the best thing to do is introduce it to the crate/bed as well as food and water and then let it roam on its own. If it’s a puppy, resist the urge to allow a free-for-all petting/playing session, as this may over-frighten an already uncomfortable animal.
Once the dog is adjusted to the new surroundings, you can show him around the neighborhood or have friends over for a visit. This will help the dog get a sense of who you trust and allow close to you, which will increase your dog’s comfort level with those same folks.
Training and Rules
Establishing house rules and deciding on a consistent house training method is critical to ensuring a well-behaved dog. The earlier you can denote boundaries and behavior that are “no’s,” the better it’s going to be for everyone.
With regards to training your dog, there are a number of “philosophies” out there, but they’d all agree on one maxim: Be Consistent. It will do you and the dog no good to have one family member saying “down” when the other one says “sit.” In this way, it’s almost as important to train all family members as it is to train the dog!
Here are a couple resources that will help you in deciding a training method and sticking to it:
Vet a Vet
In a way, veterinarians are like lawyers — you should have one picked out before you need one. And you will, pretty quickly. In fact, it’s a good idea to bring your new dog to the vet a few days after it comes home so you can establish a schedule for vaccinations and check-ups.
If you have friends with dogs, ask them for veterinarian recommendations. This person should be more than the phone call you make in an emergency. A good vet is a valuable resource and a trove of information on raising and training a dog. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions on that first visit!
U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Veronica Pierce