Getting a new dog is probably the most exciting thing in the world. I really like dogs, so of course I think this. We go through the euphoria state of being in love and how our future is going to look now that we have this new buddy. Then, gradually, the reality starts to seep in. What have I DONE?
Don’t panic new pet parent! I hope you’ve come here before getting a new pet, because you can alleviate the woes of new pet parenthood by preparing, just as you would for a child. There are few things you will absolutely need before proceeding, because this is forever (a 24/7 investment for the next 15 years at least) and you want to give you and the new pet the best shot at making this transition good. Let me share my advice from 30+ years of dog ownership, in a family that bred Shelties, Collies and German Shepherds.
1. Save up those newspapers or spend a lot on piddle pads.
Whichever of these you choose to do, I am behind you all the way. You can clean up messes with Nature’s miracle. So don’t worry. You’re going to need papers to line the area you plan on keeping your puppy. Maybe you’ll choose a kennel or you’ll choose a hall where you can put up baby gates to give them a dedicated den space. Just save the papers and get your piddle pad supply going. You’re going to go through a lot. Change them frequently. Put down enough to be effective.
Papers worked best for me in all cases so far. My dog Max used to tear up the piddle pads and never use them anyway. Personally, I find them counter productive to potty training, as you’re confusing the dog by teaching them to wee in the house on that pad until you can convince them to go outside. It overly complicates the matter. But, if you swear by the technique, you are entitled to use it.
Tip: Those Money Saver papers you get free in your mail box and recycle immediately are a great resource to build up paper reserves.
2. Buy a big supply of Nature’s Miracle.
Those doggy messes are gonna happen throughout the lifetime of your pet. Potty training is 97% effective in most cases. Some breeds are stubborn and take longer (my Jack Russell took 2 years and then rage peed/pooed anyway). Others will train in a flash, and then have a teenage defiance run where they start rage peeing in the house again for a few weeks or months to make it clear they’re unhappy with your rules. This is all normal.
Nature’s miracle was my favorite cleaning brand within months of getting Max, about 13 years ago. I had a townhouse in which the hall could be closed off by baby gates when no one was home and provide him with a den space of his own. I left the bathroom door open in the half bath there, where I placed his crate and bed. He preferred lying on the bed out in the open. He hated crates. HATED them. If you were home, he’d press his wee noggin on the bars of the baby gate and cry. It was pathetic, but he was safe, and not able to mess up the rugs if he was going to have an accident. He was my potty training nightmare, so this was useful.
I mopped the area Max was kept in with the nature’s miracle once a week and used it to clean up any messes in the meantime. There will be soils you miss, so the once a week catches them and makes sure that the cleaner has a shot of killing the stinky enzymes. You can use it to clean their crate. Make sure you isolate your pet away from the space while it dries. You don’t want this stuff getting on them and them licking it off. No. Bad.
Tip: clean the ‘den’ area at least once a week with Nature’s Miracle to catch missed soils and give a boost to the enzymatic cleaning of old soils.
3. Get baby gates.
You’ll need these to either create a space for the puppy to den safely, or block stairs and rooms you don’t want the animal to go in (think about safety–protecting your stuff and your pup). This is true for adult dogs as well. Sadie Sue Shagbottom was crate trained when she came to me from a rescue. She was also virtually potty trained. We had a couple oopsies while we learned how to let each other know it was potty time. Sadie now requires a gate to keep her out of the cat food and liter box. The cats can pass through the small door in the bottom, which is fun to watch Sadie try to push her big old self through in desperation. She’s a very silly girl.
Tip: Your baby is likely to chew the gate. Go for metal, and screw in models. You can repair the holes later with Spackle and paint.
4. Get a crate
If you know the size of your new pet before bringing them home, you can estimate what you will need for a crate. Whether or not your dog likes the crate, my Max was a nutter, so don’t pay his example any mind, you can leave the door open and create a ‘room’ for them all their own. Set up the crate in an area where it is easy to clean. Make sure it has a nice hard plastic or metal slide away pan in the bottom. The pan/tray makes it easy to clean.
Tip: Crate training is tough for a dog who was never introduced to one. They want to be with you. It is up to you to provide them a safe environment and safe zone for when you are away, and that is the biggest reason to do crate training. Be patient with your puppy. They do just really want to be with you, so they express their disappointment of not getting that in creative ways.
5. Crate Pads and Dog Beds.
If you’re going to use a crate, you can get those faux shearling bumper pads to put inside. Remember, this is their den. Don’t put piddle pads there. You want to discourage den soiling as part of proper potty training. Keep the pads outside the crate in a designated piddle pad spot. Don’t move it from that spot until you’re ready to start guiding that dog to the door and outside.
If you’re not using the crate, get whatever dog bed you think is going to work for your new bud. If you have a Great Dane, crib mattresses are an excellent choice. Good luck with that. If I have my way, I’ll be in that boat someday soon.
Tip: Puppies chew everything. Save that expensive puppy bed for adulthood. Go economical. You can use old blankets and towels you won’t miss.
Leash. Check. Collar. Check. Doggy pick up bags. Check. Food Bowls. Check. Water bottle tote and bottle for outings. Check. Gentle Leader for leash training. Check. You really can’t ignore this list. While you’re at it, prep your car with a seat cover. Later, you’ll thank me for mentioning it.
What the heck is Gentle leader? It’s a dog harness or collar that prevents pulling and saves your limbs the strain while gently teaching your dog to walk better. They do a better explanation. A lot of pedestrians think Sadie is wearing a muzzle when she wears her head collar, but it is actually modeled on the horse bridle. It couldn’t stop a bite if it wanted to.
Tip: Speak to your vet or trainer about what would be right for your dog. Don’t survey people on Facebook. Nothing is more dangerous for your dog than armchair trainers.
You want to avoid chewing of shoes, table corners, legs of furniture, cushions and other things you have no idea what compelled them to wrap their teeth around. Try a couple different things if you’re bringing home a puppy or dog you don’t know much about. Nylabones come in different strengths. A gel nylon will be just fine for a puppy, and provide them some great relief for teething. You can throw it in the freezer for an added relief to their gums. For a big chewer, get the harder bones. Remember to keep and eye on them while they’re acclimating to their new toys and spaces, so you can be certain the bone is working out for them. Get size appropriate bones. You don’t want to buy a little Chihuahua bone for a Dane. The Dane could choke on it. Soft toys might be a hazard for rough chewers as well. They like to rip holes and de-stuff the fluffy critters. Sadie has disemboweled as well as trepanned her share. They could choke on the stuffing or squeakers inside, so know your dog and supervise. You can’t always be there and if it makes you nervous to leave a Golden alone with a woobie, get them a Nylabone for their size and all will be well.
Kongs are great for giving them treats, but should be supervised in most cases, especially rough chewers.
Tip: Scout the sales at pet stores. Your dog is going to destroy those toys. Make sure there is nothing about that toy which can be a choking hazard. Hard chewers have to be supervised. Hey, you’re a parent now!
8. Treats and food.
Do your homework. Supermarket bought is the worst thing you can buy your pet. You swear by it? I’m not going to argue. Lots of people have sworn by kibbles and bits. However, knowing what I know about it (the equivalent of eating Captain Crunch 24/7), I will stick to healthier foods. In many cases, it’s a necessity. For instance, Sadie has a gastric sensitivity to almost all foods. I’ve put her on a select and more expensive diet and she’s been able to stop yogurt and cottage cheese dosing to offset the loose stool. The food she’s eating now has pro and pre biotics, is grain free and made with salmon and other fish. She’s been doing great.
Treats are a little different. Some can upset your dog’s system. They’re meant to be rarely given and to be tasty and encouraging. When training, the Bil-jac liver treats are the best. They’re lean and super stinky and tasty. Dogs usually love them. Max did not. I told you he was a weirdo. A friend of mine used Vienna sausages. You want something that is going to be max rewarding with low calorie impact. You don’t want to make your dog fat trying to teach them potty training and basic commands.
Tip: All dogs have different tastes, so don’t expect Fido to love the treats you brought home. The great thing about some pet stores is that they allow you to bring your dog into the store. Bring the puppy and see what they get excited about. Their sense of smell will lead them.
9. A nice pair of comfortable walking shoes.
You’re dog is going to need exercise. They need to get out and run. If you don’t have a fenced yard with ample running space, then you’ll have to walk Fido around a couple blocks a couple times a day. Be careful walking puppies. Their bones and joints are still developing. Dogs prone to join disorders should be given ample time to mature before going on long walks. I was advised by large breed owners to carry large breed dogs up any flights of stairs (looking at you Great Danes). So, be prepared to invest time in your new friend regardless of having any. The walk has to be done.
Tip: You know your feet. Are you due for new trainers?
10. Mentally prepare as if you were bringing home a child.
You’ll go out more frequently than twice a day to relieve the dog’s bladder and let them poop, but they need to walk approximately 20-30 minutes a day for good health–depending on breed and health. They’ll get frightened of lightning storms. They hate being left alone. How would you feel: having to hold your bladder 12 hours? Waiting for someone to feed you all day? Needing attention but getting ignored?
Remember to empathize with your pet. You are all they have. You are their world. 24-7 It’s you and them. They are only here for a few short years before they take off to the rainbow bridge. Make those years the best. They will give you unconditional love and they deserve the same in return. Don’t hit. Punishments are confusing to them, especially hours after they did something you disapprove of. Move on. If you think you can mentally hack it…
Tip: Ask yourself those hard questions about investing time and money. A pet of this caliber is a life investment. It is irresponsible to bring home a dog without understanding what that means. They’re sentient beings and have personality. You might not gel—that was your job to figure out before you brought puppy home. Do your research—extensively. I don’t mind telling you how many people will think you’re a bad person for dumping your dog at a shelter, and in most cases this is simply the human’s fault. Don’t be that person.
Well. You should be all set to bring home that pup. Don’t forget to set your vet visit. You’ll want to get in as soon as possible to start a relationship between you, your dog and vet. Bring the records you were given from the breeder or adoption center. Register them with a license and register them with a tracking service like Home Again. If anything happens, you’ll be glad for the sub-dermal tracker that brings them home to you.
Enjoy your new pet! Fall in love. It’s good for you. Remember: This is forever. If my check list scares you, you might want to reconsider buying/adopting a dog. They’re serious work, not toys. Dogs are sentient beings with a boat load of issues.