The prospect of having a new puppy can be exciting. A constant, loyal companion can bring tremendous amounts of joy and happiness to your life.
But owning a puppy is not a decision to make lightly.
Pet ownership is more than just bringing a puppy home. Pet ownership is comprised of certain emotional and financial commitment. As a new pet owner, bringing a puppy home is just the beginning of the story.
As a first-time dog owner, this is a decision you will want to thoroughly think over. Your new puppy will be a trusted companion for years to come. Barring health complications or unforeseen circumstances, the average lifespan for a healthy dog is 10 to 13 years.
Before deciding to introduce a new puppy to your life, there are several things you’ll need to know.
A new puppy can be a heavy financial responsibility. Whether your new puppy comes from a reputable breeder or an animal shelter, its initial costs are the least of your financial worries. Depending on the breed, the lifetime costs of owning a dog could amount to US$45,000.
These costs don’t factor in potentially expensive and unforeseen veterinarian visits. Costs will vary according to the dog breed and its size. A larger dog will require more financial commitment.
Costs can be broken down into several categories, including one-time expenses, medical, and lifetime ownership costs.
Spaying and neutering, microchipping, and buying a crate are just some examples of one-time capital expenses you must consider. If you have other financial priorities (student debt, mortgage, etc.) these first expenses may put a burden on your budget.
Acquisition costs, another one-time expense, are determined by where your new puppy comes from. If you purchase your dog from a reputable breeder, its breed will typically influence the purchase price. Adoption costs are much lower and will often cover many of the one-time capital expenses.
Your housing situation may also have an impact on one-time expenses.
If you are renting a flat or apartment, your landlord may charge a pet deposit fee. This fee is typically a one-time, non-refundable cost. If you own a house, you may need to build a fence to ensure your new puppy doesn’t go on any unwarranted solo adventures.
Aside from one-time capital costs, there are several lifetime costs associated with owning a dog. Budgeting is key to managing lifetime expenses. Food, equipment, toys and grooming are all essential periodic costs that can be significant if not managed correctly.
Grooming, like food, will be heavily dependent on the breed of your dog.
Long-haired breeds can be a budget-breaking grooming expense. Dog grooming is essential to keeping your new puppy clean, healthy, and comfortable. Bathing costs, visiting the groomer, and nail trimming are grooming costs determined by your dog’s breed.
Besides medical, food will be your largest expense.
You want to ensure you feed your new puppy the healthiest food available to ensure all of its dietary and nutritional needs are being met. Remember, the larger the dog breed, the more food it will require.
While there are several one-time expenses associated with equipment and toys, costs will be dependent on individual circumstances. High-energy puppies with gnawing or inappropriate chewing may go through their toys in short succession.
Arguably the most expensive aspect of owning a dog, medical costs can quickly add up.
Veterinary care will be comprised of several costs such as dental care, annual checkups, and preventative medication. Costs for veterinary services and procedures can vary wildly. Depending on your geographic location, the veterinarian, and the medical care required, costs can vary from US$50 to $400.
Your dog’s breed will also be a determining factor in potential hereditary and congenital conditions that will need to be addressed. These health issues and their treatment costs can run significantly higher. To help manage the costs of medical, consider getting pet insurance.
A monthly cost, pet insurance will be vital in offsetting the expenses of medical care for your dog. This is extremely helpful for unexpected medical emergencies and reducing the costs of vet visits. The best time to buy pet insurance is when you first acquire your new puppy.
Registering with a vet
Selecting the best veterinary clinic for your puppy requires careful research. Your friends, colleagues, neighbors can be good resources to finding the right veterinarian. Visit different offices and ask for a tour before making a decision.
Prepare a checklist of things and questions that matter most to you when meeting with prospective veterinarians. Be sure their philosophy and approach to pet care are similar to yours.
Introducing your puppy to his new home
When you’ve made the decision to introduce a new puppy to your family dynamic, the first week will be a crucial time for all parties. The transition from the breeder or animal shelter to your home can be challenging.
But with a little advanced planning, it can be a smooth and easy transition.
For the first car ride, be sure you have the essentials. Treats, a blanket or towel, leash and collar, some toys to chew on, and cleaning supplies (in case of accidents) will help you and your new puppy survive the car ride home.
Before your new puppy arrives, your home should be prepared. This means stocking up on the right supplies, puppy-proofing your home, and arranging for home care.
The essential new puppy checklist
There are several starter items you should have at home to make your puppy’s transition a smooth one. The essential items to stock up on include:
- A leash and an adjustable collar
- Identification (dog tags, microchip ID)
- Food and water bowl
- Healthy dog food
- Treats for training
- Poop bags and holders
- Cleaning supplies (stain- and odor-removing cleaners)
- Grooming supplies
- Crate or containment (baby gates)
Getting these supplies ahead of time makes your puppy’s homecoming a time for both of you to enjoy each other’s company.
Preparing your house
For a new puppy, your house represents a new environment to explore.
If you’re not careful, this can lead to harmful situations. Puppies are known for getting into things and places they shouldn’t. Couple that with the fact that they’re champion chewers and you could have a dangerous situation on your hands.
Creating a safe environment before your new bundle of joy arrives ensures there’s little that can become a problem.
To start, take a walk around your home and note things that could be irresistible to a puppy. Secure things that a puppy could be tempted to eat, climb, or pull down. Note things like:
- Cords or wires
- Electronics (remote controls, key fobs, electronic toys, etc.)
- Unsecured furniture (lamps, decorations, shoe racks, etc.)
- Cleaning supplies
- Toxic houseplants
If your home features an outdoor space, it must also be secure. Look for weak spots in your fence, toxic plants or trees, or hazardous materials (gasoline, fertilizer, insecticides, etc.). Water features (pool or pond), the barbeque area, and garbage containers may also pose problems.
Until your puppy is properly trained, don’t leave your puppy unsupervised.
Managing the first few days
The first few days are an important time for you and your new puppy to bond. If you can, try to take a few days off of work to help your new puppy settle in. The first few days to a week will be essential in determining your new puppy’s daily routine.
Having those few days off will allow you to fully focus on your new puppy. This will make training a lot easier. It will also give you time to visit the veterinarian for its first vet exam as well as organize a doggy daycare or dog walker once you go back to work.
Raising your puppy right
Training is an essential part of raising a dog. It reinforces good behavior, opens a line of communication between you and your new puppy, and helps build a bond and develop trust.
As a new pet owner, training provides opportunities to learn more about dog behavior. It can also be a good time to learn more about your new puppy. Training consist of many aspects, from house training to obedience classes.
One of the most important steps to being a new dog parent is getting your puppy house trained. A puppy that’s house trained sets your new puppy up for success and ensures you and your new puppy have a long and happy life together.
Potty training must begin immediately. To train your puppy to avoid indoor accidents and eliminate outside, the first thing to do is establish a routine. A consistent feeding schedule results in consist potty breaks.
Frequent trips outdoors, choosing a cue phrase, picking a specific outdoor potty spot allow your puppy to find success. Never punish accidents, particularly if you don’t catch them in the act. This will create confusion and lead to undesirable behavior.
A general rule of thumb when creating a consistent elimination schedule is to add an hour for every month of your puppy’s life. This is how often they will require a potty break.
Crates can be one of the most effective tools to house training your new puppy. Crate training can help prevent indoor accidents. Other benefits of crate training include:
- Makes traveling easier
- Helps your puppy mentally relax
- Gives your dog a place of its own
- Gives peace and quiet (for you and your puppy)
- Reduces your dog’s anxiety when you leave
- Prevents unwanted behaviors (chewing household products, window barking, counter surfing)
To introduce the crate to your puppy, create positive associations. Putting treats and toys in the crate will encourage your puppy to warm up to the crate. This will help your puppy acclimate to the crate.
Like potty training, add one to your puppy’s age in months. This determines how long your puppy can comfortably stay in a crate.
A well-behaved puppy is not something that just happens. While all dogs are good dogs at heart, obedience training is necessary for building a relationship and trust with your new companion. Obedience training is essential to establishing yourself as the pack leader.
Group obedience classes are especially great for new puppies. It creates a safe environment to introduce your puppy to other canines and people. New dog parents are also given the chance to learn how to communicate with their new pup.
A little research is necessary to find the right obedience school for your new puppy.
Your vet and other pet owners at the dog park can often recommend a good obedience course for your puppy. Before you pay for courses, visit the school. Sitting in a class will let you see how dogs interact with other canines in a group setting.
Exercising and walking
New puppies have a lot of excess energy. Every breed will have different exercise requirements, so be sure to inquire with your local vet. Most dogs will require at least one walk a day to not only burn off some of that excess energy but also to keep them fit and healthy.
Like feeding or potty breaks, a consistent daily schedule is necessary. Keeping it as a daily habit will help you control your new puppy’s hyperactivity and excitability and reduce unruly and destructive behaviors like chewing or jumping up.
When it comes to new puppies, pay attention to their individual needs.
Bring plenty of water during your daily exercise if they display signs of being tired. On extremely hot days, if you’re feeling hot, so will your puppy. Walk during the cooler periods of the day to keep your puppy from overheating.
And remember, part of being a responsible dog parent is cleaning up any mess your dog leaves behind. It also means ensuring your dog is wearing a collar and ID tag outdoors at all times.
Start out with the right attitude
Having a new puppy is exciting. It can be fun, but it can also feel a little overwhelming at times. But the more you know, the better prepared you will be to care for your puppy. Properly preparing for your new puppy is a learning process.
While this comprehensive guide may cover everything and provide you the valuable information you need to know as a new pet owner, remember, a little patience will go a long way.
So take your time and enjoy every moment with your new four-legged companion.
Dr. Max Spicer is the Managing Partner and Senior Veterinary Surgeon at The Veterinary Hospital in Dubai. He has taken strides towards providing comprehensive service by hiring veterinarians that are flexible, approachable, and highly specialised in their respective fields.