Got a Quarantine Pet This Year? These First Time Dog Owner Tips Are for You
Since March 2020, shelters, pet stores and breeders have seen an incredible increase in demand for canine companions to help alleviate the stress and struggle that has come along with the Covid-19 pandemic. Even foster-turned-adopter conversions have spiked from a typical 10% to 25% in these unprecedented times. With so many first-time dog owners out there today, many are looking for advice for care and training of their new best friend. If you are bringing a puppy (or an older dog) to a new home for the first time, you probably have a lot of questions when it comes to pet care.
While things like vaccinations, check-ups, and picking the best dog food are key points of dog ownership, your local vet will be the best resource for all of that information. When it comes to creating a dog home where your pet feels like a family member, here are some tips for new dog parents bringing a new pet home for the first time.
Build a Relationship
Whether you’ve got a new puppy who is only a few weeks old with a lot of house training to do or have adopted an adult dog, creating a strong bond with your new dog should come first.
Just like people, dogs have their own unique personalities. Some are more playful and energetic than others, and they all have their own little quirks. Although you might have some expectations for your dog based on their breeding, make sure that you are open to allowing them to develop into their own personality.
Take the time to get to know them, understand what they like and don’t like. Don’t get frustrated if they aren’t into the funny tricks or specific commands that you were hoping to teach them, or if they totally ignore the dog treats that you thought they would love.
Being a good dog parent is a continual learning process as you develop a growing relationship with your new dog. It takes patience. As a first time dog owner, focus on building a strong foundation to help give your new best friend the best doggy life that they could ask for.
Teach Thoughtful Tricks
When it comes to dog training and teaching commands and tricks, like many people, the first ones I thought of were the cute and funny ones. Now in his later years, I’ve focused on teaching my dog “tricks” that make him easier for me to manage and keep him safe.
Though watching them sit up on their hind legs or fall over when you say “bang” is hilarious and adorable, it doesn’t hurt to be practical with your tricks as well. Truly, it can keep your dog safe and out of harm’s way to teach them thoughtful tricks with practical applications.
Teaching your dog not to wander away while off leash, to sit on the sidewalk and wait for a command before crossing the street, or to run for a toy to present to a guest when the doorbell rings (to stop them from barking or jumping) are all great examples of “gamifying” your dog’s life. If you are unsure of what to teach your pooch or if they are struggling in some way, investing in a dog trainer is well worth it.
Dogs are intelligent beings, and they will enjoy learning and pleasing you with these “tricks” just as much as you will appreciate their utility. As a first time dog owner, a great tip is to think up handy tricks for them to learn that will make your lives together more pleasant.
Tips for First Time Dog Owners: Engage Their Intelligence
When I was a first time dog owner, I used to become frustrated with the energizer bunny that I had for a new pup. No matter how long you spent throwing the ball, he wanted more. After waiting years for him to mellow out, I finally realized that he just wasn’t going to lose that energetic streak.
Eventually, I started to recognize that oftentimes this hyper-active energy at playtime actually came from boredom during the rest of the day. The connection came from the fact that the only toy that he wouldn’t destroy was a feeder ball, combined with the fact that he would often only eat food that fell from it (leaving his dog dish full and untouched). It turns out that the feeder ball was mentally stimulating for him, and that was something that he, like many dogs, craves and needs.
Endlessly throwing the tennis ball was never going to wear him out (though it often wore me out and chewed into my busy schedule). The real problem was that he was often bored the rest of the day when we weren’t outside playing fetch. Dog puzzles like the feeder turned out to be the best thing to tire him out mentally and reduce his need to burn off physical energy.
As a first time dog owner, you might have a lot of time to dedicate to playing with your dog or you might have less than you expected in the beginning. Either way, if your dog is left to entertain himself for a short or long period of time, it’s important to recognize that resulting hyper-active energy, destructive acts, or other behavior issues often point to boredom.
The good news is, even if you don’t have time for a five mile hike, keeping them engaged with puzzles or chew toys can keep your dog entertained and happy.
Consider the Long Term Impact of Today’s Habits
Thanks to the “new normal” caused by the pandemic, everyone in the world has been spending more time at home over the past year.
However, it is important to keep in mind that things will not always be like this. Although your day-to-day routine might be ideal for house training a puppy or acclimating a new dog to your home, think about how it may impact them when your routine changes.
A dog who has grown up with or gotten used to having you around basically all the time may struggle with separation anxiety, especially if that suddenly changes when the world opens back up. Dogs don’t understand why you would suddenly trade Zoom meetings for going into the office five days a week, and that can come as a shock to them.
In a similar vein, it’s important for puppies to spend plenty of time exploring on their own and experiencing some freedom. As nice as it is to cuddle with them, they can’t always be in your arms as they start to grow up, particularly if it is a larger breed.
Practice Leaving Your Dog Alone
Make sure that you do allow your dog to have some alone time, even if you could keep them by your side 24 hours a day for the time being. Practice leaving them in the house as you would for a day of work, teaching them that it isn’t a punishment for something that they did, it’s just a part of life.
Give them a special treat during this trial period. Make your departure something they could even look forward to by giving them a super high-value treat. Your pup will eventually associate you leaving with a super tasty reward.
Teaching your dog that their kennel or dog bed is a safe place for them to sleep and relax any time will make it easier for them to stay there during the day if needed. You might also consider utilizing a dog walker, pet sitter, or doggy daycare facility for potty breaks and a little playtime (especially if they are not fully house-trained yet).
You should find these services before you need to rely on one to make sure that your dog will be comfortable with these new people and environments. This kind of socialization is better to do sooner rather than later.
You Got This
As a new dog owner who is actively seeking out tips and advice, you are already on your way to being an excellent fur-parent who understands what a dog needs. Continue to learn along with your pet and enjoy the journey together.
For more tips for first time dog owners (and veterans), check out: How to Keep Your Dog Busy When You Work From Home