Bringing home a new dog is so much fun, but there’s also a lot to think about. As a first-time dog owner, you probably have a lot of questions! Picking out your new family member is the easy part. But now it’s your job to keep him healthy and happy and to teach him how to be a well-mannered member of your household. There’s so much advice out there, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. Here’s our guide to the basics for new parents, so you can make the most important decisions with confidence.

  1. Choosing the Right Food for Your New Best Friend

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make as a new dog owner is which food you’re going to feed your new best friend. There are a lot of options to choose from, and while most of them are adequate, there’s no question some are better than others.

Let’s start by taking a look at the different kinds of dog food that are available, along with the pros and cons of each one:

  • Dry Kibble: Dry kibble is the most commonly fed kind of dog food, it’s readily available almost anywhere, and prices range from very affordable to expensive, depending on which brand you choose. It stores well even after opening, as long as it’s in an airtight container in a cool dry place.


Be aware that the more affordable brands of dry dog food often contain a lot of cheap fillers and carbohydrates, like corn, other grains, and legumes. Although these fillers are ok for providing energy, many dogs are allergic to grains and legumes, and they’re also a leading cause of canine obesity.


  • Canned Wet Food: Most dogs love canned wet food, and they are usually high in protein and low in carbs, which is great. Canned dog foods are shelf-stable, but once they’re opened, they’ll only stay fresh in the fridge for a few days.


  • Raw Dog Food: Raw dog food can be made at home or purchased premade. It is generally made from uncooked, ground animal protein and bones, and may contain some vegetables and fruit for added nutrition and flavor. Proponents love it because it’s unprocessed and contains live enzymes.


However, there are a lot of questions about the safety of feeding a raw diet. Raw meat may contain parasites or bacteria that can be dangerous for you, your family, and your dog, especially if it’s not handled and prepared correctly


If you decide to make raw dog food yourself, you will need to do your research and take great care to meet all of your new dog’s nutritional requirements. And finally, you should be aware that raw dog food is generally much more expensive than dry kibble or canned food.


When it comes to deciding which food is best for your new buddy, most experts recommend choosing the best food that you can afford. It should work for your lifestyle and your dog, and you may have to do a little experimenting to find the perfect fit.

You’ll know you’ve found the right food because your dog will have a shiny coat, healthy skin, normal stools, and great energy. He’ll eat his food readily and maintain a good weight. If you have any questions about choosing your new dog’s food, booking an online veterinarian appointment is a great way to get advice without having to make a special trip to your vet’s office.

  1. Preventive Care for Your New Dog

Preventive care is also a crucial part of keeping your new buddy healthy. He’ll need regular grooming, dental care, annual checkups, and vaccinations. Your new dog should see the vet for his first checkup as soon as possible after you bring him home.

It’s not unusual for puppies and rescues to have worms, fleas, parasites, dental issues, and other health concerns that need to be addressed right away. After your new buddy gets a clean bill of health, he should be groomed at home or by a professional groomer, including a bath, brushing out his coat, cleaning his ears, trimming his nails, and a haircut as necessary.

A regular routine of preventive care is essential for maintaining your new family member’s health and catching health concerns early, before they become serious.

  1. Helping Your New Dog Become a Well-Mannered Member of Your Household

When it comes to training your new buddy, be wary of out of date advice that tells you to be your dog’s pack leader or “alpha.” Most experts agree that clicker training and positive reinforcement are much more effective than discipline, which only teaches your dog to be anxious and fearful.

Let’s say you catch your new pooch chewing on something that’s not his. Don’t yell. Simply take the object away and offer him one of his toys instead. When he turns his attention to the toy, give him lots of praise. Make sure he has access to lots of stimulating toys and keep other items out of reach while he’s learning what his new boundaries are.

It’s probably a good idea to assume that your new dog is not housebroken until he proves otherwise. Confining him to a crate or other safe area when you can’t be supervising him is probably a good idea while you’re all getting to know each other.

You’ll need to take your new dog out every couple of hours, especially after meals and naps. Anytime he’s not in his crate, watch him closely and take him outside if he starts showing signs he needs to go to the bathroom. Praise him when he potties outside, but never punish him for having an accident in the house. Punishing him will just teach him to hide the behavior.

Final Tips for First Time Dog Owners

Don’t hesitate to consult with the pros whenever you have questions about training or caring for your new pooch. That’s their job, and most trainers, vets, and groomers are happy to help whenever they can. You might also want to consider attending an obedience class with your new pup. It will strengthen your bond and provide socialization, as well as provide some invaluable training tips.

 

By Nicole McCray, Guest Author

Nicole is a die-hard animal lover who has worked in pet care for years. She is a former vet technician, a dog mom to her two rescue pups, and she grew up living and working at her family's pet boarding facility. She loves using her writing talents to share the insight she's learned throughout her career in the hopes that her knowledge can help other pet parents out there!