We Asked, You Answered: What's Your Best Advice You'd Give First-Time Dog Owners?

Dog in grassy field
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Vetstreet readers say you should really make sure you want a dog before committing to one. They're a big responsibility.

Those of us who grew up with dogs might have trouble imagining life without a canine companion by our sides (or dog fur on our pants). Knowing what traits we'd like to look for in a dog or how to prep the house for a puppy might even feel like second nature to some of us.

But, for someone deciding to get their very first dog, there can be quite a learning curve. Now, we have some pretty great resources for new dog owners right here on Vetstreet, covering things like how to dog proof your house, how to survive the first 24 hours with a new dog and what to feed your new pup, for starters. However, we also know that many of our readers are experienced dog owners, so we took to Facebook to ask, "What's the one piece of advice you would offer a first-time dog owner?" They delivered some great tips that you won't want to miss!

Make Sure You Really Want a Dog

Even the biggest dog lovers will likely admit that owning a dog is not always the easiest thing on earth. "Dogs are expensive, long-lasting, energetic, mess-making, wily, strong-willed, noisy, hairy beings that hopefully will steal your heart and your bed; but, if you are unsure if you are up for the long-term commitment... then don't commit," said Debra DiTolla.

Other readers agreed, like D. Mark Thompson, who said, "Once you get the dog or cat you never give them up. It's a for-life thing, just like children." And, it's not just that adorable little ball of fluff you need to really want, but a grown (and possibly large) dog, too. "Cute puppies grow to be dogs. You need to have the time now and then," said Kat Garden.

Do Lots of Research (and Be Honest)

Of course, you can prepare for much of what's to come with proper planning, and our readers encouraged new dog owners to know as much about the dog they're bringing home as possible. "Read up on everything you need to buy/do for a dog INCLUDING vet bills, training and breed type!" said Nancy Ulf Woolever. Lots of other readers echoed her sentiments, like Donna Glick, who said, "Get educated on the needs and types of [ dogs]... then adopt!"

You should also be ready to say no if a particular dog is not the right fit for you, your family or your home — if you're a couch potato, for example, don't set your heart on a high-energy dog breed who needs intense exercise for an hour every day. "Be honest about your lifestyle," said Wade Shaw. "...Choose a dog for what it is, not how it looks."

Be Patient, Kind and Loving

A new dog will almost certainly present some challenges. Sometimes, those challenges are simply in the form of carving out time to take him on walks or finding a dog sitter when you go out of town, but sometimes they're more tangible. For example, Ronald M. Klotzer suggested, "Be prepared to have your good stuff chewed on!"

But, it's all well worth it, according to Karen Duncan, who said, "Use much patience and love and you will be greatly rewarded beyond your greatest expectations!"

Know What Proper Care Entails

From vet appointments to obedience classes and more, our readers know that there's more to getting a new dog than just buying dog food and a collar. "Get all the shots and keep them up to date," said Deborah Watts. " Puppy classes are super helpful; you both learn how to have a great life together."

Heather Verran agreed, saying, "If you're bringing home a puppy, socialization should be a top priority! And, make sure to research the energy level of the breed you're getting."

Jennifer Harris urged new dog owners to realize that they can't always plan for everything, suggesting, "Have insurance or an emergency medical fund."

Consider Fostering and Adopting

"Foster first to see if the pet fits into your lifestyle, then adopt," said Emc Matlock, and plenty of other readers agreed with that advice. And remember, even if you're set on a specific breed, adopting from a rescue is still an option!


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