Ten Things To Consider Before Getting a New Dog

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What’s better than surprising your family with the warm, silky-soft fuzz of a brand new puppy, or even the irresistible friendly wet snoot of a new adult dog? Nothing… nothing is more exciting than getting a new dog!

With the holidays approaching, it’s not uncommon for pet-lovers to bring home a new puppy as a gift for their loved ones. Before you do, however, please read this article about some of the considerations of holiday pet-giving. If you are still interested in getting a puppy or dog for the holidays, read on…

Getting your first dog, or a new dog, is an extremely emotional journey. Owning a dog for the long haul (10+ years) can be even more emotional – and sometimes not the good kind of emotions – if not handled properly, or if you’re not prepared for dog ownership.

It’s worth mentioning, first and foremost, that everyone in your household must be on-board for a new dog. And I don’t just mean the human members of the family either. It’s imperative for any existing dogs – and other household pets – to be accepting of a new addition, too.


So, in case you’re teetering on the fence about getting a dog, here are ten things that you might want to consider before taking the plunge:

1)      The Initial Cost – Toys, a good quality food, a crate for sleeping and potty-training, food and water dishes, a leash and collar are all things you’ll need to purchase. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the cost of purchasing or adopting your new best friend. Depending on the cost of the puppy or dog, you’ll be looking at an initial cost somewhere around $150 to $850… and that’s just Day One.
2)      Veterinary Care – Your 8-week old puppy will need to visit the veterinarian for its introductory visit. While there, your pup will receive one in a series of DHPP immunization shots required for new puppies. (That stands for Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo and Parainfluenza.) Puppies’ immune systems can’t handle the normal size vaccination that of an adult dog, so be prepared to visit the vet with your pup up to 4 times in the first couple of months and spend a minimum of $200 on vaccinations and office visit fees. An older dog, however, would likely need just one annual visit to the vet for their required vaccinations and preventative medication, assuming they are in normal health. The American Veterinary Medical Association has advice for how to find the right vet, click here.
3)      Puppy Socialization – Socialization is such a vital part of your puppy’s life. Did you know that puppies should be safely and positively exposed to as many new people and things as possible within the first 3 to 4 months of life? Puppies must interact with lots of people and other puppies to learn appropriate play styles and social behavior for adulthood, and early and adequate socialization can improve the bond between puppies and owners. But on the flipside, non-existent or incomplete socialization during this time could potentially increase risk of behavioral problems, like fear and aggression. To read more about the necessity for puppy socialization and what to look for in a puppy socialization class from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, click here. Renowned animal behaviorist, Dr. Sophia Yin, also shares her checklist for early socialization of your puppy, which can be viewed here.

4)      Continuing Socialization – So after the first 3-4 months, you’re done with socialization, right? The answer is no… Although that is the prime time to prep your dog for becoming comfortable with new things, the process doesn’t end there. Your puppy is still developing, both physically and socially. According to Operation Socialization, between 4 and 6 months you need to work on strengthening your puppy’s positive association to strangers. Otherwise, this might be when your puppy begins to shy away from people he doesn’t know. Between 6 months and 2 years they suggest continuing with socialization, stating that the most common age for previously social dogs to become wary of children is around eight months. Of course, they caution that if any problems arise, to stop exposing your dog to children – or to other things that are of concern – and consult a professional trainer.

5)      Continuing Class – Attending a group obedience class or classes would help you with socializing your dog, plus help you to teach your dog basic manners, like sit, stay and come when called. This does not mean that it is encouraged for dogs to interact with each other in class, necessarily. It simply means that your dog will be exposed to new people and situations, and hopefully in a positive manner. If you enjoy training with your dog and are feeling ambitious, you might want to work with your dog towards earning a Canine Good Citizen award or a Canine Life and Social Skills (C.L.A.S.S.) degree. Or if you’re looking for a bit of structured fun, there is a plethora of activities you can do with your dog. It creates a great bond between you and your dog, but inevitably, your dog will learn good foundation skills and social behaviors as you progress within your chosen activity. What better way to learn new things than through a bit of fun! Just be sure to educate yourself on how to choose a trainer, and be sure to choose a trainer that uses positive training methods.
6)      Exercise – Depending on size, breed and other health characteristics, your adult dog might need anywhere between 20 minutes of daily exercise for a small Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, or longer like an hour plus for your over-the-top Golden or Labrador Retriever. Exercise, in my opinion, is not optional. It is a necessity for a well-adjusted dog, and nothing feels better than a good old-fashioned walk. It’s not bad for you either! – Forget the Treadmill, Get a Dog. I know it’s difficult sometimes, but resist the temptation to take your dog for a walk only when its nice outside. If you’re willing to invest in some cold weather gear like Under Armour, North Face, Columbia or some long underwear and clingy layers, then you won’t even notice when it’s a little chilly outside. It is possible for a dog to become frost-bitten in the winter and overheated in the summer, though, so use good judgment when outside with your dog in extreme temperatures. Remember, a tired dog is a good dog, but it’s also important to follow your vet’s recommendation on the amount and type of exercise appropriate for your dog’s breed and age.
7)      Spay and Neuter – If you rescued your dog from a shelter, chances are very likely that your dog may have already been spayed or neutered before leaving the facility. If not, please don’t put this off. If left un-spayed or un-neutered, a dog and their mate could yield 65,000 puppies in about 6 years. If that’s not enough reason, click on the link for more reasons why to spay and neuter. Unless you are a professional, responsible dog breeder, you should definitely have this procedure done. Thankfully, there are facilities and organizations that can offset the cost for low-income families, if needed, and if they do not already have a veterinarian. Why contribute to the shelter overpopulation, public health and euthanasia problems if you can help it? Just do it…. Here is a list of St. Louis spay/neuter resources, or if you live in other parts of the country, here’s an online resource from the ASPCA. Consult with a veterinary professional on the right time to spay or neuter your dog.
8)      Ongoing Healthcare – Whew! So you made it through all those puppyhood vet visits. What’s next? Well, you’ll need to remember to provide heartworm and flea and tick prevention on a year-round monthly basis. Because there are so many different product options available, it’s best to consult with your vet on what’s best for your dog. Rabies and DHPP vaccinations should be administered on a vet-recommended basis, too. Other inoculations items like Leptospirosis may also be necessary, depending on if your dog is ever exposed to standing water, like lakes or ponds, and you will want to consider the Bordetella vaccination to prevent kennel cough if your dog ever gets boarded, attends training class or interacts with other unknown dogs. Depending on your vet’s rates and what you mutually decide is best for your dog, you may spend between $100 to $250 at the annual checkup for your healthy adult dog.
9)      Grooming – If you have a breed that needs to be professionally groomed, then it’s off to the groomer on a regular basis for “The Works.” If you have one of my favorite breed, the good old-fashioned short-coated mutt, then it’s likely that a good bath, as needed, will do the trick. But it doesn’t end there… No matter what the breed, the nails, ears and teeth and, yes, the anal glands, all need proper and regular attention. If you aren’t willing or able to perform these tasks yourself, be prepared to pay the groomer for nail-trimming and ear-cleaning, or the vet for procedures like professional teeth cleaning, to keep your dog healthy and looking good.
10)  Consistency – Dogs are simply the most wonderful, forgiving and adaptable creatures on earth, aren’t they? And they conveniently come in all shapes and sizes, too. No matter what type or size of dog you have, most dogs can adapt and thrive in an environment where they receive consistent, kind care and communication. It will be important for all household members to agree on house rules for your dog to understand his role in your family. For example, couch or no couch? Bed or no bed? Jump to greet or no jump? There isn’t a right or wrong answer to these questions… It’s your job to decide what’s right and wrong in your house. But it is a good idea to decide on these things before you even bring the dog home, and then stick to the plan! A regular routine, daily structure, proper veterinary care and a positive training plan should help your new puppy or dog adapt to its new environment quickly.

Well, can you do it? Are you up for the challenge? If the answer is “Yes,” then congratulations, let’s start looking for your new pup today! PetFinder and AdoptAPet.com are good places to start, and often include available animals from local shelters and rescue organizations.

Be mindful of which breed(s) are best for you and your lifestyle. Here is a good web resource for researching if a particular breed is right for you and your family. Personalities and temperaments within breeds can vary greatly, however, so remember that these breed descriptions are simply generalizations, and you’ll want to evaluate any potential new dog or puppy on an individual basis.

I sincerely wish you the happiest of holidays, and whatever your heart desires. My own heart yearns for a puppy, but current situations dictate an alternative scenario for me. (I fall into the “not everyone in the household is on board” category. Boo.)

But I’d love to meet you and your puppy or dog sometime soon. Share a picture of your special pup or pups on The Persuaded Pooch’s Facebook wall … And tell me, how will you celebrate the holidays with your pet this year?

Additional Resources:

So You’re Thinking About Getting A Dog
Loose Leash Walking: Part 1
Dog Containment May Be Key To Calmer Behavior

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