Dog ownership is one of life’s great joys, but it can be a bit intimidating if you have never owned a dog before.  While there is no one set of rules to transform someone into the perfect pet owner and a dog into the perfect pet, following certain principles can increase your chances that your dog will grow up to be safe, healthy, and happy for the long haul.  Here are some ways to feel confident with your new canine companion.

DO YOUR RESEARCH –   Understanding the history of the breed you are considering will help in preparing your home, adjusting to the needs of your dog and future training.  You should first verify if the dog is a high or low energy breed, how big it will get, the need for exercise and are you ready for the commitment of ownership.  The key is getting a dog that fits your lifestyle. 

KNOW YOUR BUDGET – One of the biggest commitments of ownership is the cost of vaccinations, quality food, vet visits for checkups, grooming and supplies.

CREATE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT AT HOME – Dog proof your home to prevent your companion from having access to loose wires and power cords, plants that may be toxic and prevent access to garbage or any household chemicals/cleaners. 

CHOOSE THE RIGHT FOOD – There are many brands of food to choose from.  Some are high quality, some are not.  Your Vet can be a good source of knowledge to determine what foods are best for your dog.  Learning how to read a food label and knowing what ingredients should not be found in their food is important.

LEARN HOW TO COMMUNICATE – Patience is the key to dog training.  Dogs use body language to communicate with their owners, your dog is willing to tell their story if you are willing to listen.  One way to be certain you and your dog are listening and hearing one another is to enroll in puppy training classes.

SOCIALIZE YOUR PUPPY – Safely exposing a puppy to new and varied experiences, such as interactions with new people, other dogs, environments, objects, sounds, scents thru 4 months of age will go a long way to raising a confident puppy that will thrive in many different environments and become a good canine citizen.

TRAIN CONSISTENTLY – It will take time for your new puppy to settle into his new environment and learn to trust you.  Try to develop a consistent, daily routine to make him feel comfortable.  Be patient and practice positive reinforcement to teach your dog the house rules and how he is expected to behave.  Never scold or punish your puppy.

BE PREPARED FOR SETBACKS – At some point, your puppy will have an accident while house training, chew a shoe or the remote or get into the garbage.  Again, be patient, it is a learning curve for both of you.  Raising your voice and punishing your dog will only instill fear in him.

BE RESPONSIBLE – Unfortunately, dogs and puppies do not come with instruction manuals.  Make a commitment to provide your dog with adequate and healthy nutrition, veterinary care, exercise, and training.  Above all, relax, take a deep breath when training and be patient.  Do the best you can and try not to get stressed out.  Dogs are excellent at sensing our emotions and will react accordingly.  Know that if you give your dog love and care, he will return it tenfold.  Remember, your dog is completely reliant on you for everything.

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