12 Tips for First-Time Dog Owners

American humourist Josh Billings, once famously said, “A dog is the only thing on Earth that loves you more than he loves himself”. Almost any dog owner has shared that quote at least once in his life. True, owning a dog is a gift from heaven. But it takes time to get to the finish line where you have a well-behaved and amazing dog.

I often like to say that nature gives you a puppy, but nurture gives you a companion dog. Owning a dog is a huge commitment. And before you become a pet parent, you have to think twice about whether you are ready for the challenge.

With that in mind, I am here to help you and share some secrets and tips that will help you in the beginning. Dog ownership is lots of love and licks, but also midnight potty breaks and vet bills. Are you ready? Let’s talk about some tips that will make your life easier.

Do a proper research

If you have not yet gotten a dog, but you are thinking about it, start by doing thorough research. Consider the time and space you might spend, factor in members of the household, and think about what you want from your dog.

There are different breeds, ranging from low-maintenance breeds that need little to no activity and grooming, to higher-maintenance breeds. Or you might want an apartment dog like a French Bulldog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, or Great Dane. There are also highly active breeds like Poodles, Retrievers, Labradors, and so on.

Choose the breed that suits your lifestyle and needs.

1. Start Training the Moment You Bring the Puppy Home

A lot of new owners make the mistake of thinking they can begin training once the puppy is 16 weeks old, 20 weeks old, or anything in between. You might get a 10-week-old puppy, what happens then? Are you going to wait 6 weeks without any training?

No! Training begins the moment you bring your new puppy home. And it doesn’t stop. From the moment you bring the puppy home, set boundaries and work on simple things like where is the food, where is the water bowl, jumping on the couch, and similar basic rules around the house.

2. Be Careful with Treats

If you give treats at the wrong time, you are not doing any training. A second earlier or a second later might be too early or too late. Make sure you give treats at the right time.

Here is a perfect example. Say, you are trying to teach your dog its name. Once you call your puppy by its name, mark and give a treat the second your puppy looks at you. That means you are rewarding your puppy for shifting the focus onto you. If you already bring a treat out and call the puppy, you are bribing, you are not teaching.

3. Create a Designated Area

Yes, some families allow their pets to roam around the entire house. But if you want to make your life easier, decide where you want the dog to spend most time. And where do you want your pooch to spend its alone time?

This could be a room or a section of the home. Make the area as comfy and secure as possible. Reward your dog for spending time in the area anytime you can.

4. Reward Even Simple Things

I tell this to all my friends and people who want to listen. If you want a well-mannered puppy, do not let good things go unnoticed. That means rewarding your puppy just for being calm at home. Do not expect that to be normal. It will become normal if you reinforce that good behavior.

Here is another example. Reward your puppy outside after sniffing another dog without an incident. That tells your dog he did a good job and that is how he should communicate and greet other animals.

5. Remove Unnecessary Items

If you have shoes, cords, or other chewable items within reach, make sure to remove them. At least in the beginning, when you have a pet in a puppy phase. Young puppies will chew and bite on everything they find around the house. Do not leave your precious items on the menu. Put them in the closet. It will save you and your dog a lot of nerves.

Also, you can lock up the trashcans. The trash is the heaven of temptations for most dogs. It is full of food scraps and chewable debris. Young puppies are curious and will want to see what is inside.

6. Learn How to Communicate

The big secret to dog training and communicating with your dog is patience, and then some more patience. Take time to learn body language and how your dog communicates with you. If you are willing to listen, your dog will always have something to say. And yes, sometimes, barking is a form of communication.

7. Be Consistent Within the Household

There is a funny meme on the Internet with a young baby, saying, “I do not care what mom says, grandma said I can have it”. You get the idea, right?

If you set rules around the house, but other members of the household do not respect those rules with your puppy, you are in trouble. Dogs do not understand whether there are different rules when you are home and when the children are at home. Or whether your house is different from your parent’s house.

Communicate the basic rules with all members of the household and make sure they all comply with them.

8. Establish a Routine

You have probably heard this before. Dogs are creatures of habit. Daily routine is quite important for them. And you can set the routine however you like. As long as you stick with the routine, dogs can handle everything.

Yes, it will take them a few days or for some dogs, even weeks to get to know the routine. But go back to tip No.6, and stick to it. Patience is a virtue. Be patient and consistent, and you will have an amazing pet.

9. Supervise Play Between Your Dog and Children

One of the biggest reasons why dogs end up in shelters is incidents with children. But I am here to tell you, the dog is not always to blame. You, as a dog owner, failed to set ground rules and teach your pet and your children how to communicate.

Children are naturally curious. They wave their hands around and try to grab everything. Yes, dogs like Labradors and Golden Retrievers will allow this type of play. But not every dog will allow your children to poke its nose, touch its ears, grab its tail, and so on.

You get the point, right? Teach your kids to play gently with the dog. One way you can improve the bond is by allowing kids to feed the dog. But do it in your presence. Help your child learn how to do it carefully, patiently, and without hurting the dog.

10. Hand Feed

The best way to improve the bond between you and your new pooch is to hand feed. Why? Because you satisfy your dog’s main instinct, to survive. Food is survival for animals.

And by hand feeding, you teach your pet that food comes from you, and that is the bond you set up. You can also do some basic training while hand feeding and reward your dog for good behavior.

11. Get Your Dog Comfortable With Grooming

With positive reinforcement, you can do anything you like. And you can teach your dog to love everything. That includes grooming. Keep some treats by hand, and reward when you are brushing your dog.

Brushing and grooming are even more opportunities for improving the bond with your pet. Be gentle and reward with praise and treats. That will make your dog enthusiastic about the experience.

12. Always Be Training

The acronym ABT stands for always be training. What does it mean? Use every daily opportunity to train your puppy and improve his/her behavior. Instead of setting an isolated 10 to 15-minute training session, train consistently throughout the day.

For example, as I mentioned before, reward your dog for good behavior around the house. Or when they come when called at home. Or when they react to their name. Every single time your dog does something good, praise and reward. That is how you get a well-mannered pet.

Know Your Dog’s Needs

In the end, I have to note that you should always be aware of your dog’s physical, mental, and biological needs. That means daily exercise, active playtime, mental stimulation play, social interaction, enrichment toys, food, and potty breaks.

Take time to learn your dog’s needs, and it will make your life easier.

Brenda Thompson

Brenda Thompson is an expert in dog behavior with over a decade of experience, and she is also passionate about working with cats and birds. In addition to contributing pet content to petdogplanet.com, she is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. Brenda received her Bachelor of Science in Biological and Biomedical Sciences & Philosophy from Colorado College in 2014. She has taken classes in writing and remote animal behavior consulting, as well as courses on how to manage aggressive dogs and litter box issues. In 2016, she obtained her dog behavior consulting certification and joined the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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