Bringing a new dog into your family can (and should!) be an incredibly exciting occasion. However, being the best possible pet parent to a pooch requires some upfront planning. Why? As anyone with a pet knows, the experience isn’t limited to just daily walks and evening cuddles. And you want your dog to feel a sense of love and belonging from day one.
Getting prepared ahead of time isn’t only beneficial to your new best friend, though. Knowing what to expect is just as essential for you. Nothing feels quite so overwhelming as opening your door to a pup and then realizing you aren’t ready for the responsibility.
Where can you start to ensure that your pet parenting skills are “paw-sitively” perfect from the get-go? The following tips, reminders, and nudges should get you thinking about your new, rewarding duties.
1. Set aside monthly funds to cover vet appointments.
You probably already have a vet in mind for your pal. But have you begun budgeting for all those inevitable vet appointments? Many pet parents forget to set aside some funds for routine checkups, emergencies, and everything in between.
The exact amount you’ll want to earmark each year for your dog will vary based on a number of factors. For instance, a puppy will initially need booster shots and maybe spaying or neutering surgery. But puppies and younger dogs tend to need less chronic care than older animals or those with special needs. Talking to your vet will give you a more accurate idea of what you can expect to spend annually.
Wondering if there’s a way to save money on your vet bills? Pet insurance may be right for you. According to Pawlicy Advisor, about two-thirds of pet parents invest in healthcare insurance for their animal companions. Just make sure that you know what a potential pet insurance policy covers—and how to submit claims—before signing any contracts.
2. Take your pet’s food quality seriously.
Years ago, people with dogs didn’t think twice about buying whatever dry or canned food was on sale at the grocery store. Today, though, pet parents have begun to look at dog food with heightened scrutiny. And they should: The adage “you are what you eat” has relevance for pooches, too.
Of course, it can be hard to decide which brand is best for your particular pooch. An easier approach is to find a company that will personalize each meal you feed your pup. For example, Nom Nom leverages its staff of Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists to come up with balanced entrees. The custom-formulated entrees are sent in shipments so your dog never runs out of nutrient-rich food made from wholesome ingredients.
Bottom line: The better your dog eats, the longer you’ll have the pleasure of his or her company. So don’t skimp when it comes to the food that goes in the dog dish.
3. Be cautious when picking pet toys.
It can be too tempting to purchase a plethora of pet toys for your dog. Just be aware that not all toys are safe. Pet toy manufacturers aren’t held to the same standard as manufacturers that make baby toys. Be prepared to do in-depth research on any toy before you hand it to your pal.
As a recent Newsweek article explains, simply buying a “safe” toy isn’t enough. If a safe toy is still too small for your dog, it can become a choking hazard. Additionally, some toys are just too hard. While they might be deemed technically “safe”, they could cause your dog to damage a tooth. (More vet visits!)
Obviously, you want to entertain your pet. That’s a must-have. But always opt for toys you can trust over those that simply tug at your heartstrings. Your dog’s well-being is on the line.
4. Send your dog to school.
Many pet parents assume that they’ll be able to handle obedience training at home. This is usually not the case unless you’re well-versed in the art of training pups. The way to give your pet a good start and future is by going together to dog school.
Plenty of places including PetSmart and Petco locations offer reasonably priced classes for dogs and dog owners. These classes typically focus on basics, such as responding to commands like “sit” and “stay”. Some modules are more specific, like those that concentrate on training a dog to catch discs or navigate agility courses.
Dog training isn’t just for your dog, either. It’s for you as well. You’ll have a much stronger bond with your dog by going through classes side by side. Plus, bog training helps you avoid problems and makes you a more confident pet parent. At the end of the day, nothing feels as good as being able to keep your dog out of danger.
5. Expect each dog to be different.
Like people, dogs have unique personalities. Even if you have experience with dogs, you may realize that your new pet is very different. This means you may have to change the way you approach something like exercise.
Let’s say you had a dog growing up who used to love frolicking on the beach. Your new dog, however, doesn’t like the sand or the water. Once you realize this, you can try to gently bring your dog around. There’s no guarantee you’ll succeed, though. You need to be okay with the fact that your dog may not always respond as you assumed. You also need to be willing to switch up your exercise adventures.
The point is that to understand your dog’s needs, you have to understand your dog. Spend the first few weeks together observing and taking note of your pooch’s likes and dislikes. Over time, you’ll have a better sense of who your dog is and what you can do to motivate, calm, and energize your friend.
Becoming a pet parent is a proud moment. Putting some preparation into the experience ensures that both you and your furry friend start on the right path.