Welcoming a new dog into the family is an incredibly exciting time. No matter whether it is your first dog or your tenth, the thrill of bringing a new family member home never gets old. But there is nothing that beats the joy of bringing your first dog home.
It is easy to assume that owning a dog is a piece of cake, but this really isn’t the case. There is a lot of work that goes into owning a dog, and a lot of things that you may not have realized. That is why becoming a dog owner for the first time can be a little overwhelming.
You should also be aware of the foods that your dog can safely eat, as well as the foods that are poisonous to your dog.
It is also good to make yourself aware of the best training programs for you and your dog because training really is key for the happiness of both you and your dog.
But worry not, in this guide, we’re taking a look at absolutely everything you need to know about owning a dog for beginners. By the end of this guide, you’ll have all the confidence that you need to go out and add a new canine friend to the family.
Before we dive into the guide, we would just like to extend a very warm welcome to all the dog lovers joining us from MyAssistanceDogInc.org. We have recently acquired the site and we’re very excited to welcome new readers into the fold!
Choosing Your Perfect Dog
The first step that you will take in dog ownership is choosing the perfect dog for your family. Choosing a dog is never a decision that should be rushed as this could lead to the dog not being compatible with your family and your lifestyle.
Instead, you should do a lot of research before choosing a dog to ensure that the one that you pick is perfect for you.
There are so many different things that you need to consider when choosing a dog, and there are likely a lot of things that you may not have considered. You’ll have to decide if you want to rescue a dog or buy a puppy from a breeder.
Then you will have to consider what rescue centers you want to explore or do the research into finding a legitimate breeder, depending on what route you choose.
Once you have decided what type of dog you want to add to the family, there are a ton of other things you will need to consider before choosing a dog. Below are some of the main things you need to consider.
When choosing a pet dog, the first thing that you need to consider is the breed of dog that you want.
Most people will have a breed of dog that they specifically gravitate towards, and generally, this will stem from dogs that they had in their childhood or breeds that they have fallen in love with throughout their lives.
All breeds of dogs are different, and there are more than 300 breeds recognized across the globe. So, you have a lot of options when it comes to choosing a breed.
Before you simply choose a breed that you find cute, you should do your research to find out if the breed is appropriate for you.
Generally, there are a number of things that you should consider in relation to the breed of dog, including their size, life expectancy, and if they are suitable for your lifestyle. You also need to consider whether you want a pedigree dog or a cross-breed.
There are plenty of different breeds to choose from, including golden retrievers, vizslas, poodles, and collies to name a few. If you would prefer a cross-breed, then a jug is a good option, while some people opt for wolf-mixed dog breeds.
As well as considering the appearance of the dog that you are interested in, you should also consider its temperament.
Pedigree breeds are a great choice if you need a specific temperament of dog as you can get a good idea of how a pedigree dog will behave based on how its bloodline has behaved.
While you can never guarantee how a dog will behave, you can get a rough idea of how friendly a dog will be based on its breed and temperament. Likewise, you can get a good idea of how much a dog will bark based on its breed too.
So, looking at different breeds is a great place to start if you are buying a dog. Likewise, it can give you a good idea of the price of different breeds.
One factor that will likely influence the breeds of dogs that you look at is the size of those breeds. Most people will gravitate towards either small, medium, or large breeds, and people will generally have a preference over the size of the dog that they buy.
When considering the size of the dog that you will add to your family, it is important to consider things such as your age, if you have any children in your family (or visiting children), and if you have any health issues that might prevent you from walking a large dog.
All dogs can be incredibly strong, and most of the time with good training you will be able to tame their strength when out on a walk. But, big dogs will always be more powerful than smaller dogs, so this is something to consider when looking at dogs for your home.
Likewise, a large dog is going to be able to knock a young child over a lot easier than a small dog to a medium dog.
If you are looking for a very small dog, then you can get toy breeds that weigh less than 5 pounds. If you are looking for something slightly larger, then most small breeds of dogs – such as Yorkies, French Bulldogs, and Jugs – will weigh less than 20 pounds.
While medium dogs – including Australian shepherds, bulldogs, and collies – weigh between 25 and 60 pounds.
If you are interested in a larger breed, then breeds such as the German shepherd, rottweiler, and golden retriever will weigh between 60 and 99 pounds. While giant breeds, including the Great Dane, will be over 100 pounds in size.
When you consider the weights of these dogs, it is easy to see why considering the size of the breed before you buy is incredibly important.
By this point, most people will have heard of the saying “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas”, and this saying is incredibly important when considering the life expectancy of a dog.
Most dog breeds will have an average lifespan, so you should always consider the average lifespan, and if you will be able to look after the dog for its whole life before buying a dog.
While the average lifespan isn’t a guarantee that the dog will live for that long, it can give you a good idea of how long you should expect to have that dog in your life.
In particular, the life expectancy of a dog is important if you are an older person looking to buy a dog, as if the dog is likely to outlive you, you will need provisions in place for that dog after your death.
Most of the time, smaller dogs will have a longer life expectancy than larger breeds as larger breeds age more rapidly than smaller breeds.
In addition, mixed-breed dogs tend to have a longer lifespan than pedigrees due to breed-specific health issues that can affect pedigree dogs (we’ll take a deeper look at this later on).
One thing that prevents many families from adding a dog to their family is allergies. If a family member is allergic to dogs – and this is a very common allergy – then it might prevent you from having a pet dog. However, there are some ways around this.
In addition to speaking to your doctor and exploring allergy treatment options, it is also worth exploring the possibility of a hypoallergenic dog.
Hypoallergenic breeds are breeds of dogs that don’t shed, so the risk of having an allergic reaction from these breeds is far smaller.
While these dogs still produce dander, the amount is so small that it generally will not trigger allergic reactions.
Dog breeders have made huge steps toward breeding totally hypoallergenic breeds, and there are now a large number of dogs that shed very little. There is also a wide range of dogs that don’t drool that much which are a good choice for those struggling with allergies too.
There are even some dog breeds that are great for those who suffer from eczema, so it is always a good idea to consider allergies before buying a pet dog.
One of the things that you may not have considered in relation to owning a pet dog is the law. In countries across the globe, certain breeds of dogs have been banned, or have heavier restrictions on them, based on aggression, dog attacks including that breed, etc.
Most breeds of dogs are not banned or restricted, but it is always a good idea to check the law before buying a pet dog. There are dogs that are banned in the US, and breeds that are banned in the UK. So, don’t forget to research any laws surrounding owning a dog before you buy one.
Another thing that many people don’t consider when buying a dog – that they absolutely should consider – is their lifestyle.
Most rescue centers will ask you questions about your lifestyle to check that you are a good fit for that dog and its breed, but this isn’t something that some breeders do.
That is why many people end up with puppies that aren’t best suited to their lifestyle.
There are all sorts of things that you should consider about your lifestyle when looking for a dog. For example, if you are retired or a senior citizen, then a smaller dog may be more suitable for you.
Likewise, if you have a busy lifestyle, then a low maintenance dog breed might be better suited for you.
You should also consider where you live in relation to the perfect dog for you. If you live in an apartment and don’t have much space for a dog, then you should consider a smaller, less-energetic dog breed.
Likewise, if you live in a van and travel a lot, this is something you should consider when choosing a breed. If you are looking for a family dog, then you should also consider breeds that are particularly good around children, rather than breeds that are typically used for protection.
Recently, it has become increasingly common for people to take their dogs on adventures with them. So, if you want your dog to go swimming or rock climbing with you, you need to find a dog breed that likes adventure.
Likewise, if you are looking for a dog that enjoys hunting, there are certain breeds you should consider.
Your lifestyle is really one of the most important things to consider when looking for a pet dog as you will either have to change your lifestyle to fit your dog or choose a dog that compliments your lifestyle.
Many people fall into the trap of choosing a dog for its breed, without considering if that breed is suitable for their lifestyle. So you must think about this before buying a pet dog.
Any Other Pets You Have
Finally before you decide which breed of dog you are going to add to your family, you need to think about this in relation to any existing pets that you have in your family.
Adding a new pet to the family really can change the dynamic in your home, so it is essential to think about your existing pet when expanding your family.
There are some breeds of dogs that aren’t best suited to live with cats, simply because these breeds are bred to hunt. Dogs that are bred to hunt tend to have a very intense prey drive, so they will chase cats when given the opportunity.
It is possible to socialize them out of this behavior, but this is generally only possible if you have the dog from when it was a puppy. So, if you have a pet cat, you should look for a dog breed that is good at living with cats.
Of course, it isn’t only cats that you may have in your home. You may already have a pet dog in your house. Likewise, you could have other pets that you need your dog to behave around so you should bear this in mind when considering a breed.
This is particularly important if you live on a farm, and could have goats, sheep, or horses that your dog may encounter in its day-to-day life.
Managing Your Dog’s Health
Once you have chosen your pet dog, one of the things you will have to manage as their owner is their health. Dogs cannot say that they are unwell in the same way that humans can.
So it is very important to make yourself aware of what is considered “normal” behavior for your dog so that you can spot any strange behavior.
If your dog is unwell or injured, you will generally be able to tell by its behavior. If your usually active dog is suddenly quiet and sleeping a lot, it could be a sign that they are under the weather.
Likewise, if your dog is exhibiting very strange behavior – such as eating its own poop – this could be a cause for concern.
Below are some of the main things to consider when it comes to managing your dog’s health.
Breed-Specific Health Issues
Pedigree dog breeds will come with a genetic predisposition to certain health issues. This is one of the things that contribute to pedigree dogs generally living shorter lives than mixed-breed dogs.
But, thankfully, if you are aware of these health issues, you can catch them early on, and some of them will be treatable.
When you are researching different breeds of dogs, it is important to pay attention to breed-specific health issues for that breed. A lot of these health issues will be linked to the size of the dog, or the way that they have historically been bred.
For example, larger breeds of dogs – including the German shepherd dog and the border collie – have a genetic predisposition to a condition called hip dysplasia.
This condition affects their hips and mobility, and can only be eased with surgery. Joint problems and back pain are particularly common in larger breeds.
If you are interested in a pedigree dog, then you will struggle to find any breeds that haven’t got a genetic predisposition to certain health issues.
But, some breeds are healthier than others, which is why it is critical to research a dog’s breed before you buy it.
Common Health Issues In Dogs
Of course, there are some health issues in dogs that aren’t tied to the dog’s breed. Instead, these health issues are simply common across all dogs.
The vast majority of these conditions will be easily treatable after a visit to the vet and can be prevented by keeping up with your dog’s vaccinations and regularly giving them flea and tick-preventative treatments.
A lot of these health issues are minor as long as they are spotted early, but if you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior, you should consult your vet.
It is normal for dogs to become constipated occasionally, just like humans do, however, this could also be a sign of an underlying health issue.
So, it is always best to speak to your vet if you are concerned. The same principle applies if your dog is suffering from diarrhea.
Dogs with floppy ears tend to experience a higher number of ear infections than dogs with ears that stick up, so it is important to monitor your dog’s earwax to keep on top of any potential infections.
Likewise, regularly giving your dog flea, worm, and tick-preventative treatments are essential to avoid more deadly health issues, such as heartworm.
The easiest way to manage your dog’s health is to become familiar with what is normal for them. That way, if their behavior changes slightly, or they have issues with going to the toilet, you will be able to catch it early when it is likely still treatable.
Conditions That Come With Age
Like all living beings, as dogs get older they will become frailer. With this, come a lot of common health conditions that impact senior dogs.
Watching your dog grow old can be bittersweet because you know that you are running out of time with them. But, as long as you manage their health issues, they can still live happy and fulfilling lives in their later years.
One of the most common health issues that impact dogs in their later years is arthritis. This painful condition impacts their joints and might explain why your dog seems stiffer than they did when they were younger.
Other conditions that affect certain breeds in later life include hind leg weakness, dementia, and rotting teeth. While these conditions are not curable, they are conditions that your dog can live with for a certain amount of time.
As your dog grows older, it is important to be open and honest with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is not in pain.
The Importance Of Spaying/Neutering Your Dog
If you are not planning on breeding your dog – and this is something that isn’t advised unless you are a registered and experienced breeder – then you should arrange for your dog to be spayed or neutered.
This is critical as it removes the risk of accidental litters and reduces the risk of your dog developing any conditions associated with its reproductive system.
While there is some debate regarding when you should neuter or spay your dog, it is generally accepted that this is something you should do if you do not plan on breeding them.
Spaying is the operation that is completed on female dogs, while neutering is the name of the operation that is completed on male dogs.
When intact, female dogs will go into heat once they have matured. Their first heat will generally happen at any point after they reach 6 months of age, and it will last for around 1.5-2 weeks.
Unless they are spayed, your female dog will continue to go into heat every year until she passes away. This can cause stress on her body, which is why it is recommended that you have her spayed.
A spay operation is a simple operation that involves cutting an incision in your dog’s skin and removing her reproductive system.
Generally, your female dog will recover quickly from her spay operation, but she might need to wear a cone for a week or two after being neutered.
The neutering operation completed on male dogs is even more simple than the spay operation on female dogs. This operation removes the dog’s testicles to stop him from being able to reproduce.
Some owners worry about how their male dog will look after neutering, as he will no longer have testicles. However, most people agree that it is worth it for the benefits after he has been neutered.
Behaviors That Could Point To Hidden Health Issues
Being familiar with what is considered “normal” behavior for your dog is incredibly important as it allows you to spot any health issues before they worsen.
If you notice your dog behaving strangely, there is a good chance that there is an underlying issue causing their behavior. So it is very important that you get to know your dog once they join the family.
Likely, there isn’t a serious issue behind these behaviors, but consulting with your veterinarian will let you know for sure. The same goes for other odd behaviors such as shivering, having particularly smelly gas, or feet that smell bad.
Feeding Your Dog
If you want your dog to live a happy and healthy lifestyle, then feeding them a good, nutritious diet is essential. The saying “you are what you eat” is true for dogs as well as humans, so if you want your dog to be healthy, you need to feed them healthy food.
There are lots of different options when it comes to feeding your dog. Some people choose a diet that consists entirely of kibble, while others choose a mixture of wet and dry food for their dogs, and others choose to mix kibble with fresh meat to give their dogs more nutrients.
As long as your dog is eating enough every day to sustain their lifestyle, it will be healthy.
Foods That Your Dog Can Eat
There are a number of foods that your dog can eat. It is recommended that you always base their diet around a mixture of dog food, then supplement their diet with meat. Rather than feeding your dog human foods, and not feeding them a sufficient amount.
When it comes to feeding your dog meat, you should always feed them plain meat that has been cooked unseasoned. You should avoid meats that have been cooked in oil, and if the meat has any seasoning on it, you shouldn’t feed it to your dog as it may be poisonous to them.
If you are feeding your dog meat, you should buy the meat yourself and cook it yourself. If you are worried about the ingredients, consider using a butcher to source the meat as they will be able to tell you exactly what has come into contact with the meat before you bought it.
The meat that you feed your dog should be cooked and cool when you feed them. Dogs cannot process hot food in the same way as humans, and it can upset their stomachs and cause them to be sick.
So, if you are feeding your dog meat, ensure it is cool before you feed it to them.
Foods That Your Dog Shouldn’t Eat
While there are quite a lot of foods that your dog can eat, there are also a lot that your dog shouldn’t eat.
While these dogs aren’t necessarily poisonous, they aren’t beneficial to your dog and can be rather fattening, so you should avoid feeding them these foods.
Foods included in this category will be the majority of foods that we eat as humans. Any junk food should not be fed to your dog, as well as any food that is particularly high in fat or sugar.
Your dog shouldn’t be fed any food that has been seasoned, and any food that they are fed should only be given in moderation.
It is okay to feed your dog most meats, and you can treat them with a small amount of cheese, but other than this, you should avoid feeding your dog any food that isn’t specifically designed for dogs.
Foods That Are Poisonous To Dogs
The main reason why you should avoid feeding your dog food that isn’t designed for dogs is because a lot of human foods are poisonous to dogs.
Some of the most popular foods that humans eat can be incredibly dangerous to dogs, even if they only eat a small amount of these foods.
A great example of this is grapes. Humans can eat grapes without any issues, but even just one or two grapes can be detrimental to your dog’s health.
Grapes are poisonous to dogs, as are raisins, sultanas, and any other types of dried fruit. If your dog eats grapes, you should take them to the vet immediately for treatment.
Grapes are just one example of human foods that are poisonous to dogs. Other examples include chocolate, onions, garlic, chewing gums, and nuts.
This is why you have to be cautious when feeding your dog any foods that aren’t specifically designed for dogs.
Training Your Dog
When you welcome a dog into the family, you must work hard at training them. Untrained dogs can be incredibly dangerous and unpredictable, so you must train your dog so that you can keep them under control.
Behavioral issues in dogs generally stem from one of two things – poor training or lack of exercise.
Dogs are incredibly high-energy and very intelligent, so when they are exercised, and their brains are not challenged, they can become incredibly naughty.
Training your dog will not only help you control your dog better, but it will also be incredibly beneficial for your dog’s health.
One of the best ways to train your dog is to take them to training classes. While you can teach them a lot of tricks at home by yourself, taking them to training classes will allow you and your dog to learn new things.
Training classes will generally be run by experts, so it is a great opportunity for you to gain expert knowledge about your dog.
While you can do a lot of training yourself at home, training classes will likely be incredibly beneficial for both you and your dog.
Socialize With Other Dogs
Another great way to train your dog is to socialize them with other dogs. A lot of behavioral issues with dogs are traced back to nervous energy, so if your dog is not socialized with other dogs, they are likely to become scared of them, and then become aggressive towards them.
Socializing your pet dog with other dogs from a very early age is essential if you want your dog to behave well. They will find it beneficial to get to know other dogs, and it will help them further down the line when it comes to training.
Use Training Apps
In the modern age, a lot of training advice is available online, and in particular, there are a lot of dog training apps that you can download on your phone. If you cannot make it to training classes, then these apps are the perfect alternative.
If you have experience with training dogs, then you may find these apps less beneficial. But if your new dog is your first dog, these apps will be incredibly useful.
They will give you all the information you need about training your dog, with lots of tips and tricks to help you along the way.
Work With Your Dog
Finally, when it comes to training you really need to work with your dog. Especially if your dog is a puppy.
Puppies and young dogs will still be growing, and for this reason, they can struggle with energy levels.
They may listen really well for a couple of hours of training, but as soon as you see their focus slipping and them becoming irritable, you should stop training for a little while and let them rest.
Training your dog can be a very intense experience. So it is important to take regular breaks to give both you and your dog a well-deserved rest.
Grooming Your Dog
Grooming is one thing that many people forget about when it comes to purchasing a new dog. Not all dog breeds need an intense grooming routine, however, all dogs will need to be washed and brushed to keep their fur and skin healthy.
Some breeds of dogs will need an intense, and regular, grooming routine. Breeds, such as the poodle and any poodle mixed breeds, will need to be trimmed regularly to manage their fur and ensure they remain hypoallergenic.
Likewise, breeds such as cocker spaniels may require grooming to keep their fur out of their faces and to ensure that it remains in good condition.
With some breeds, you will be able to manage their grooming routine yourself. However, for a lot of breeds, you will need to take your dog to the groomer for their grooming treatment.
It is important to factor this cost into the affordability of adding a pet dog to the family, and it is something that you should consider before choosing a specific breed of dog.
Brushing Your Dog
Something that you should do regularly is brush your dog. This can help prevent tangles, and it can really help improve your dog’s coat as you remove dead hair from its coat.
Regardless of the size of your dog, or the length of its fur, you should brush your dog regularly. Even short-haired dogs will shed hair, so brushing is critical to ensure that their fur remains in good condition.
A good deshedding brush will help remove dead fur from your dog’s coat, and improve its appearance significantly. To ensure that your dog is comfortable being brushed, you should brush them regularly from when they are a pup to when they are fully grown.
Washing Your Dog
Another part of your dog’s grooming routine that you will often be able to do yourself is washing your dog. Most dogs will require washing once every 2 to 3 months to remove any dirt from their fur and generally freshen up the way that they smell.
As long as you wash your dog regularly from when they are young, you generally won’t have any issues with washing them. Make sure that you wash your dog regularly as a pup to make them comfortable with the feeling of water on their coat, and just the entire washing experience.
There are tons of different pet-safe dog shampoos to choose from, including options designed for senior dogs and puppies too. As long as your dog is comfortable with water, washing them will be a piece of cake.
When You Should Take Your Dog To The Groomers
Not all dogs will have to go to the groomers, but quite a lot of pedigree breeds will. If you are struggling to manage your dog’s coat yourself, then it might be a sign that you need to take them to the groomer.
If you are purchasing a pedigree breed, then you will generally be aware of whether, or not, they need to be groomed when you choose your dog.
After your dog has visited the groomer once, you will be able to get a recommendation from them as to how often your dog requires grooming. From there, you will easily be able to create a grooming plan for your dog.
Don’t Forget Their Nails
Finally, one part of dog grooming that many people forget about is their dog’s nails. While many dog breeds will wear down their nails as they walk and exercise, the majority of breeds will still require their nails to be clipped once every month.
Clipping your dog’s nails is probably the worst part of grooming your dog yourself, that is why many people take their dog to the groomer for this task. It can be tricky to tell when your dog needs its nails trimmed, but the groomer will be able to tell easily.
You can clip your dog’s nails yourself, and if you do this from when your dog is young, it likely won’t be too tricky. When cutting your dog’s nails it is incredibly important that you do not cut past the quick.
As long as you do not do this, then cutting your dog’s nails will be painless for your dog, and it will make them a lot more comfortable than having overgrown nails.
With all the information in this guide we are sure that you’ll be able to find the perfect dog breed for you with ease and confidence. In addition, once you’ve found your perfect dog, caring for them will be simple with all the information in this guide.
You may be a beginner, but you are well-equipped to look after your new canine friend, and raise them in a happy and caring home.
Thanks for reading!