We can all agree: Dogs are great, and welcoming one into your family is a decision that will pay off for years to come. But every first-time dog owner has had questions about how to prepare for a dog.
Welcoming a furry new family member into your household is a major, life-altering decision. It can’t be made lightly, and then there’s a lot of work you have to do to ensure you’re providing a safe and comfortable home for your new pet.
If you’re wondering how to prepare for a dog, we have the three most important things you must do. Read on to learn everything every new dog owner needs to know.
How to Prepare for a Dog: 3 Areas of Preparation
Before you bring a new dog into your home, there are three main areas you need to address with preparation to make sure your home is safe and comfortable, your lifestyle is a good fit for your dog, and your new pet has everything he or she needs.
Preparing To Adopt a Dog
Research Dog Ownership
Dog ownership isn’t for everyone, and before you commit to caring for a newly adopted pup, you have to do your research and ensure that it’s the right fit for your home, lifestyle, and finances.
This means reading up on everything that’s required to care for a dog, including the needs they have every, single day. You’ll need to make sure daily walks fit into your schedule. That you can take time off work for an emergency vet visit if needed. That you’re home enough to spend quality time with your dog and he or she won’t be confined to the backyard or a crate for hours of each day.
It also means learning about the financial commitment of owning a dog. Between paying for supplies, dog food, a dog sitter or boarding any time you leave town, and regular vet checkups, dogs can easily cost thousands of dollars per year. And should your pup ever need medical care in an emergency, that alone can cost thousands.
The best dog owners are the ones who recognize the gravity of the responsibility before they commit, and it’s a vital part of how to prepare for a dog.
Research Dog Breeds
If you’ve done your research and decided that a dog is, in fact, the right pet for you, then it’s time to decide what kinds of dogs would best fit your lifestyle. Your dog’s breed (or mix of breeds) can play a huge role in determining things like how much exercise he or she needs, how much noise he or she makes, and how he or she will fit into different types of families (for example, some breeds tend to be better with small children than others).
It’s a good plan to have an idea of some breeds you’d like to keep an eye out, but if you’re adopting from a shelter, you may not be able to choose a specific breed. So in addition to different breeds, think about sizes, temperaments, and activity levels you think would be the best fit for your new family member.
Research Shelters and Adoption Organizations
Choosing where you’ll get your new dog is one of the most important decisions you’ll make while preparing to welcome your furry new family member.
Your area is likely to have a number of animal shelters, and it may also have breed-specific rescue organizations, if you’re very interested in a specific breed of dog.
It’s a good idea to visit a number of shelters and rescues, and pay close attention to their practices. Some signs of a reputable animal shelter are:
- Cleanliness, both in the dog kennels and in all other areas.
- Staff who can answer questions about the personalities and backgrounds of specific dogs.
- Opportunities to interact with dogs in a variety of different environments: In a meeting room, outside in a play area, and on a walk, for example.
- Thorough paperwork with each adoptable dog, including as much information as is available about their background (this may be missing if the dog was a stray before entering the shelter), and any vet information from their time at the shelter.
Find a Vet
Look into vets in your area, and find one you like who is accepting new patients. It’s a good idea to meet with your vet before you bring your dog home. Look for a vet that has an office that’s convenient for you to get to, and has clean, modern facilities.
Dog-Proofing Your Home
Once you’ve chosen your dog, the preparation can really begin. It’s time to get your home ready to welcome a new family member! Here’s what you need to do next.
Prepare Every Member of Your Household
Welcoming a dog is a decision that everyone who lives in your home should be a part of. Whether that’s just members of your family, or roommates, make sure everyone is on board with having a pup join the household.
If anyone is going to be helping with responsibilities related to caring for the dog, now is the time to make sure roles and duties are clear for everyone. It’s also a good time to set expectations for your new dog’s first few days at home — everyone will likely be excited about their new pup, but he or she will need some time to settle in.
Create a Dog-Safe Space
That said, your dog will appreciate having a quiet, safe space that’s just theirs when they arrive. Decide on one room or area that will be just for the dog. It’s a good idea to set up a crate in that area, as well as blankets and beds to make it nice and comfortable. This should, ideally, be a spot that’s away from the busiest parts of your home so it becomes somewhere your dog can go to get away from excitement if he or she gets overwhelmed.
Use Baby Gates to Block Off-Limits Areas
If your dog isn’t going to be allowed in certain parts of the house (say, kids’ rooms or a home office), now is the time to set up baby gates or some other kind of barrier to ensure those places aren’t accessible to your dog. It’s important to do this before the dog arrives at your home, so those areas are off limits from the beginning.
Check Each Room for Potential Dangers
One of the most important parts of dog proofing is removing potential dangers from every part of your home.
This even goes for rooms you don’t plan to let your dog into, because you never know when your dog might sneak into a part of the house he or she isn’t supposed to be in, and it’s up to you to make sure there’s nothing dangerous there.
One at a time, sweep each room of your home. Check for anything that could be hazardous to a pet. Some common dangers to watch out for are:
- Fragile items;
- Houseplants that may be toxic to animals;
- Cleaning supplies and other chemicals;
- Wires and cords for electronics.
You can’t completely remove all these things from your home, but make sure they’re out of your new dog’s reach. Put fragile items and toxic houseplants up high, far out of reach. Bundle cords and use hooks or tape to keep them organized, preferably behind furniture where your dog can’t get to them. And store cleaning supplies and chemicals in a closed closet or cabinet where they won’t be accessible to a curious pup.
Check the Yard, Too
If you have a yard where your dog will be able to spend time outside, be extra vigilant in making sure it’s secure. Check for any weak spots or damage to the fence. And once you bring your new dog home, don’t leave him or her unsupervised in the yard until you’re absolutely certain it’s a safe place that they can’t escape from.
Outfitting Your Home for a New Pet
You’re now well on your way to being prepared for your new home. But there’s one big step left: Shopping. Before your new pup comes home, make sure you have all the supplies you need to give him or her a happy, comfortable life in your home.
Keep in mind that the supplies you need will vary depending on your dog’s specific needs. But these are some of the basics that every dog owner should have.
- Collar or harness
- Dog bed and blankets
- Dog food and treats
- Food and water bowls
- Training treats
- Baby gates
- Training resources
- Dog shampoo
- Flea and tick medication
- Nail clippers
- Grooming supplies like brushes and combs
Play Time Supplies
- Chew toys
- Chase toys and balls
- Puzzle toys
- Foldable, portable food and water bowls
- Poop bags