Wisdom for New Dog Owners from the Experts
As you prepare to bring a dog into your home — be it a squirmy, eight-week-old pup or a wiser, eight-year-old rescue — there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind from the moment you decide to adopt. We’ve asked an expert share some tips and wisdom for new dog owners that’ll have you ready for your new addition in no time.
Do Your Prep
Becoming a first class dog owner begins before you even set foot in a shelter. Most people don’t consider the prep work they’ll need to do before picking out an animal, said Kristen Collins, a behaviorist with the ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team. Pick up supplies you’ll need in advance and be sure to set up a cozy area for your dog before they come home. This place will be where they’ll go to relax when you’re not at home and should include some durable toys, edible chews and items that’ll be safe for your dog to play with by herself. Put their bed and crate in the area and pick up a baby gate to section it off when you’re away, Collins said.
It’s also important to discuss some basic house rules for training your pup with your partner or family members before bringing one home. Will she be allowed on the furniture? Where will she sleep? You’ll want to control your dog’s behavior from the start, Collins said, so make sure you agree on what is acceptable and what isn’t from day one.
Look into obedience classes before you bring your pup home so that once you have her, you’ll be ready to train from the start. If you’re interested in getting a puppy, socialization will be especially important during your first few weeks together, Collins said.
The First Few Weeks
As exciting as the first few days can be, many new dog owners set their dogs up for separation anxiety, something they may not even realize. People usually decide to adopt a pet over the weekend, Collins said, and spend every moment of their first few days showering their new animal with affection. When they resume their normal schedules, their dogs are faced with a sudden change in routine and can become very anxious. Prevent this anxiety by leaving your dog alone with a fun toy for a few minutes from the first day you bring her home.
Some people also believe that a new dog should only spend time with its family so that it gets used to being with you. While it's true that you shouldn’t have large groups of people over all at once, you don’t need to keep visitors away until you’ve formed a new bond, Collins said. The best thing you can do is have a few friends or family members visit early on and allow your dog to socialize with them.
As mentioned, you’ll want to have consistency with training from the beginning, but its important to focus on positive training. There should be no need for yelling or physical punishment, Collins said, and you should set yourself up as a leader by asking for good behavior when doing even the simplest things like preparing to go outside or eat dinner.
Finally, the best thing you can do with dogs of every age is start from square one with training. Some new pet parents think bringing home an older dog will mean they’ve already been house trained, which could be very far from the truth. Shelter dogs come from very different backgrounds with a variety of histories, and the places they’ve been staying prior to coming home with you may not have had the resources to keep up house training, Collins said.
“Take your dog out a lot at the beginning and treat them for going outside. This sets your dog up to succeed,” she said. “If you assume or pretend like they don’t know, you’re likely to avoid mistakes that might become habits.”
Dog Training Tips to Keep in Mind
If you’ve got your heart set on bringing home a puppy, remember that they’ll require much more work than an adult dog, Collins said. No matter where you get them from, they’ll take a significant amount of time and energy to house train and socialize properly. Where an older dog may need a refresher on the basics, a puppy will need to learn everything from scratch.
Providing your dog with lots of physical and mental exercise is a must-do for new owners as they begin to feel out their dog’s personality. A tired dog is a good dog, Collins said, so be sure to provide them with lots of mental and physical stimulation throughout the day.
Keep yourself educated about your animal so that you’re able to head off behavioral issues from the get-go, Collins said. Pick up a few books on puppy training or participate in a variety of training and agility classes to strengthen the bond with your pet and teach you both some extremely useful lessons. The most important thing you can do, though? Enjoy yourself!
“Make memories, take pictures, and find new things to do together,” Collins said. “There’s a reason why dogs are called man’s best friend.”
Photo courtesy of the ASPCA
Hennessy is a 9-year-old pit bull mix who loves spending time snuggling with her favorite people. She knows a whole bunch of tricks already, and she should be the only dog in the home. For more information on Hennessy, visit the ASPCA or call (212) 876-7700 ext 4900.