Millions of people love the idea of having a dog – a warm, fluffy, cute companion who can keep you from feeling lonely, remind you to exercise, and even play with your kids. But many of those people underestimate what it takes to be a responsible dog owner.
If you want to maximize your chances of keeping a dog safe, healthy, and happy (while keeping your own family happy), you’ll need to prepare before getting a dog.
How to Prepare Before Getting a Dog
These are some of the most important ways to prepare your house – and yourself – for a new dog:
1. Spend some time with other dogs. If you and your family don’t have much experience with dog ownership, consider spending time with other dogs before committing to getting one yourself. Get a feel for their body language, types of behavior, and methods of training and control. Preferably, you’ll get a chance to interact with many different breeds, so you can learn to distinguish their temperaments and unique abilities.
2. Set the right expectations. Before getting a dog, make sure you set the right expectations. Owning a dog should be treated as a lifelong commitment – and it’s not always an easy one. Puppies can be difficult to train, older dogs may develop health issues, and all dogs will have some behavioral issues and personality quirks. Are you prepared to deal with that?
3. Prepare your budget (and an emergency fund). One of the most important ways to prepare for a dog is with your budget. It’s a good idea to save up an emergency fund of at least a few hundred, if not a few thousand dollars in case the dog needs emergency care. You also need to outline your monthly budget to ensure you can afford the costs of food, supplies, and medical care; dogs are more expensive than you might think.
4. Get the right cleaning equipment. Between housebreaking, shedding, and wading in mud while outside, dogs have a tendency to make messes in the house. You need to be prepared for this. The Bissell CrossWave®️ is ideal for cleaning a variety of surfaces, such as sealed wood floors, linoleum, laminate flooring, and even area rugs – it can make it easy to keep the house clean. It’s also a good idea to get the right vacuum if you have carpeted areas of the home.
5. Familiarize yourself with training basics. You may not like the idea of training your dog to do tricks, but every dog should have some basic obedience training. Good training will lead to better behavior, greater discipline, and more control for the owner. Learn the basics from an expert before bringing a dog home.
6. Consider your other pets. Do you have other pets in the house? Consider the potential interactions. If you have another dog or a cat already, it’s advisable to introduce the new dog gradually so each pet has time to adjust to the other. Smaller, prey-like animals may also be in danger, depending on the dog.
7. Review dangers to dogs within your home. There are many things in your house that could be hazardous to dogs. For example, exotic plants can sometimes be poisonous. Exposed nails and other building issues can be hard for dogs to avoid. Certain chemicals are toxic. Review the potential dangers and put measures in place to mitigate the risks.
8. Get toys, beds, and other supplies. It’s a good idea to have everything you need for the dog before you actually bring the dog home; this can make the adjustment period shorter and more comfortable for everyone. For example, stock up on food and treats, purchase a bed, get a handful of different toys, and make sure you get a collar and a leash.
9. Decide the rules, limitations, and expectations for the dog. Within your home, you’ll need to decide where the dog is and isn’t allowed to go, and limitations for certain behaviors; for example, is the dog allowed to jump on the couch in the living room?
10. Discuss dog-related matters with your family. Make sure you discuss rules, expectations, and proper care with your entire family before bringing the dog home. This is also a good opportunity to assign different responsibilities to different people, and emphasize that this is a shared pet.
Your First Week
The first week of bringing a new dog into your family home can be stressful, even if it’s mostly exciting. Be prepared for an adjustment period, where you learn and adjust to your dog’s behavior and begin shaping the dog’s behavior to better suit your environment. As long as you remain patient, kind, and adaptable, you can turn this into a powerful, long-lasting companionship.