The Ultimate First-Time Dog Owner Checklist

No gift is cuter than a new puppy or dog sitting under the tree, but it’s important to remember that pets are not presents. This is an especially important reminder for people who have never owned a pooch before. A dog is a member of the family and a long-term commitment. If you’re considering bringing home a fur child this holiday season, Hounds Lounge has got the first- time dog owner checklist for you!

Keep reading for the fur-one-one on owning a dog, from the prep work to the early days of pet parenthood.

Before Welcoming Your New Furry Family Member

1. Think It Over
2. Do Your Research
3. Find a Veterinarian
4. Puppy-Proof Your Pad
5. Hit the Pet Store With Our New Dog Shopping List

Puppy In Front of Christmas Tree

1. Think It Over

Dog ownership is a huge commitment. Before you become a pet parent, you have to consider whether or not you’re ready for this life change. Hounds Lounge owner and dog mom Mandy sums it up nicely:

“Dogs are a wonderful gift to our lives that come with lots of sacrifice too.”

Do you have the time, patience and financial stability to support a dog? Can you give them the best life possible? According to a 2013 study by the American Humane Association referenced by Hill’s, “one in ten pets adopted from a shelter were no longer in the home six months later.” You don’t want to fall under that statistic.

If you’re on the fence about owning a dog, Mandy suggests trying on pet parenthood for size:

“If you’re considering getting a puppy but are unsure if you can commit to a lifetime of love, long walks or the financial commitment – I suggest fostering for a bit to see if you and your family are ready for the responsibility.”

Dog ownership means lots of love and licks as well as midnight potty breaks and vet bills. You have to be ready for all of it – and, if you are ready, we promise that it’s worth it

Puppy and Staff Member

2. Do Your Research

Once you’ve decided you can handle the responsibilities of owning a dog, you have to decide which type of dog best fits your lifestyle. Consider how much time and space you have, and factor in the other members of your household – both hoomans and pets.

We’ve listed out a handful of dog types, and, because canines are complex creatures, you may see some overlap!

Low-Maintenance Dogs

Contrary to pupular belief, busy people can have dogs – but they should look into dog breeds that are considered “low-maintenance.”

Although every dog deserves all the love and attention their hooman can give, some breeds are more predictable than others. If you’re looking for a pooch that’s easier to care for than most, The Spruce Pets suggests one that needs “minimal exercise, grooming, training or infrequent health care needs.” They list the following breeds as “low-maintenance”:

1. Dachshund
2. Greyhound
3. French Bulldog
4. Chihuahua
5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
6. West Highland White Terrier
7. Brussels Griffon
8. Mastiff
9. Bullmastiff
10. Poodle

Apartment Dogs

If your home is on the smaller side, you might worry that you don’t have room for a dog. Lucky for you, there are breeds that thrive in tight spaces – many of them being low-maintenance doggos. Reader’s Digest lists a paw-ful of the best apartment dogs:

  1. Pug
  2. Yorkshire Terrier
  3. English Bulldog
  4. Shih Tzu
  5. Chihuahua
  6. Greyhound
  7. French Bulldog
  8. Great Dane
  9. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  10. Dachshund
  11. Miniature Pinscher
  12. Basenji
  13. Boston Terrier

Active Dogs

Maybe you want a dog who can double as your workout buddy. The American Kennel Club lists ten breeds who enjoy activities like “walking, jogging, biking, hiking, swimming and playing Frisbee.”

1. American Staffordshire Terrier
2. Border Collie
3. Brittany
4. Belgian Malinois
5. Dalmatian
6. Doberman Pinscher
7. German Shorthaired Pointer
8. Greyhound
9. Redbone Coonhound
10. Vizsla

Family Dogs

If you have kids in the house, you’ll want a dog that’s safe for the whole family. PetMD recommends the following breeds:

Beagle
  1. Mutts
  2. Golden Retriever
  3. Labrador Retriever
  4. Poodle
  5. Irish Setter
  6. Vizsla
  7. Newfoundland
  8. Bull Terrier
  9. Beagle
  10. Bulldog

Shelter Dogs

At Hounds Lounge, we are big supporters of pet adoption. In fact, 50% of our frequent guests are rescues! The perfect dog for you could be sitting in a shelter right now, just waiting for their new mom or dad.

If you opt to adopt, we recommend going to a shelter and meeting dogs you are interested in rescuing. Usually, you will be able to play and spend quiet time with these dogs to get an idea of their personality. You can also talk with the shelter employees to get the scoop on a dog’s temperament.

There are lots of grrreat dog rescues in Arkansas. In a previous blog, we compiled a list of shelters by region. Check it out now!

Shelter Pup

3. Find a Veterinarian

Before you bring your new puppy or dog home, you will want to find a veterinarian you trust and schedule an appointment for after your fur child’s arrival. Your pooch will need to go in for a visit to get vaccinations and medications sorted out. This is an easy way to get started out on the right – and healthiest – paw!

4. Puppy-Proof Your Pad

If you’ve never had a dog before, chances are your home is not puppy-proof! However, in a few quick steps, you’ll be ready for a new puppy or dog to cohabitate your space.

1. Create a designated area for your dog.

To make your life a little easier, you can decide where your dog will spend most of their alone time. It could be a room, a section of the house or an enclosure. Make this area as comfy and secure as possible! While you should still puppy-proof the rest of your house, Fido’s zone should be puppy-perfect.

A designated doggie area is an especially good idea during the holidays, when you might have decorations and gifts out. It’s best to keep your unsupervised pooch away from the glass ornaments and carefully wrapped presents.

Sleepy Pup

2. Pick up all unnecessary items.

Don’t leave any shoes, cords or other chewable items within your doggo’s reach. If you do, you’re asking for trouble.

3. Move poisonous houseplants.

You don’t want your dog taking a bite out of a seemingly innocent houseplant and ending up at the emergency vet. Rover provides a list of houseplants that should stay far away from snouts.

4. Lock up the trashcans.

For dogs, a trash can is the motherlode of temptations, full of food scraps and chewable debris. It’s also full of tummy churners and choking hazards. Keep trash cans in rooms or closets that your dog can’t access.

5. Hit the Pet Store With Our New Dog Shopping List

If you’ve never owned a dog before, there are quite a few items you’re going to need to make Fido feel at home. In the spirit of the holidays, you get to play Santa Paws!

Items you will definitely need are:

  • Food

To avoid tummy troubles, you will probably want to buy the food your pooch is currently being fed by the breeder or shelter. If you want to change their food, you can mix the old and new, slowly phasing out the old.

  • Collar
  • Name Tag
  • Leash
  • Kennel
  • Bed
  • Toys
  • Food and Water Dishes
  • Treats

Since your dog will consume a lot of treats during their early days of training, buy a low-calorie option for daily consumption. You can splurge on the more fattening treats for special occasions – or if you need a really enticing training incentive.

Items you might need are:

  • Puppy Pads

If your new puppy has to spend time indoors alone, they’re likely to have an accident. Puppy pads aren’t a long-term solution, but they can help protect your carpet and minimize messes before your puppy is fully potty trained.

  • Poop Bags
  • Cleaning Supplies

Some cleaning supplies are specifically formulated to clean up after and around pets!

  • Dog Brush
  • Dog Shampoo

Download our new dog shopping list HERE and check it off as you shop!

Once you’ve purchased everything you need, you are ready to welcome your new woof! However, you still need to review the first-time dog owner checklist for after your pooch comes home.

Cute Dog

After Bringing Your New Fur Child Home

1. Establish a Routine
2. Start Training
3. Create a Safe Space
4. Introduce Treats
5. Remember to Play
6. Get Your Fur Childcare in Order
7. Don’t Give Up

After Bringing Your New Fur Child Home

The tips for new dog owners don’t end when you bring your pooch home. There’s still so much to learn! Let’s continue digging into the first-time dog owner checklist.

1. Establish a Routine

Dogs are creatures of habit, so it’s important to give them a daily routine. It might take a few days to get the hang of it, but try to feed them, play with them, and take them out for potty breaks at set times every day.

You might want to spend as much time as possible with your new pup, but alone time should also be part of their routine. This will help prepare them for the periods you can’t be with them!

2. Start Training

Solid obedience training is key to your dog’s safety and happiness. Start training as soon as possible, whether your dog is a puppy or an adult!

On Cesar Millan’s website, the five essential dog commands listed are:

  1. Sit
  2. Come
  3. Down
  4. Stay
  5. Leave it

“Come” might be the most important command to teach your dog, as it can make your dog turn around if they’re headed towards danger. In our previous blog, How to Teach Your Dog to Come: Reliable Recall Training, we quote the American Kennel Club’s overview of teaching reliable recall:

Start your training in a slow, low-distraction environment, like inside your house. First, show your dog a toy or a treat, praise them as they are coming to you, then reward them. After a few repetitions, whenever your dog looks at you and starts to move towards you, add in your chosen verbal cue (come, here, etc.). Make sure to only add in the cue when you are confident your dog is moving towards you.

You can slowly up the ante by asking your dog to come before showing them the treat. But, be sure to reward with a high-value treat like chicken, cheese, or beef liver, when they get to you. Also, try slowly adding distance within your low-distraction environment.

It’s important to keep training sessions short, sweet and calm. However, you should train your dog frequently so they don’t lose progress – a few sessions a day will do. For all commands, we recommend positive reinforcement training, which means rewarding your dog’s good behaviors rather than punishing their bad behaviors.

The same method applies to potty training. When your puppy or dog uses the bathroom outside like they should, praise them verbally and/or give them a little training treat.

3. Create a Safe Space

When you were prepping your home for Fido’s arrival, you might have already created this space. If not, now’s the time to create a little doggie oasis.

Your dog needs a comfort zone that serves as a place to sleep and feel secure. It could be a bed, kennel or a cozy corner. This space helps them feel safe whether their hoomans are home or away.

During colder months, you might want to make the safe space extra warm. In our Guide to Keeping Your Dog Warm & Safe This Winter, we write:

We all know the comfort that comes with nestling into our hooman beds with ample blankets during the winter. Let your fur babe enjoy a nice cozy bed with extra layers this winter as well. The ground in your home can be cooler in the winter, so be sure Fido has something especially cozy to snuggle up on during these chilly months.

Labrador Snoot

4. Introduce Treats

Treats are crucial to positive reinforcement training. Plus, on special occasions, nothing’s sweeter than seeing your woof scarf down a tasty dog biscuit. Simply put, treats are a regular item on a dog owner’s shopping list – so they definitely need to be on that new dog shopping list!

To figure out your pooch’s palate, let them sample various treats here and there. Land on a drool-worthy and low-calorie option to use for daily training. If you want to dish out hooman food as a big – and somewhat rare – reward, we recommend the following as described in our blog: Can Dogs Eat Table Food?

  • Healthy, whole foods that are either served raw or cooked without any additives can make for a tasty doggie delicacy. They include:
  • Skinless and boneless cooked turkey, beef, pork or chicken
  • Plain canned pumpkin
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Peanut butter – make sure it does not contain xylitol, a sweetener in some peanut butters that is toxic to dogs
  • Veggies including baby carrots, green beans and sweet potatoes
  • Plain yogurt

Remember, these human foods should be served in small amounts so they don’t throw off your dog’s already balanced diet. Treats – including dog-safe human food – should only make up a small percentage of your dog’s daily caloric intake.

5. Remember to Play

Just like new dogs, new dog owners have a lot of lessons to learn, and they aren’t all technical. Through all the training and obstacles you and your dog might experience, we encourage you to remember to play. The games of tug-o-war and the never ending belly rubs are what you signed up for in the furrrst place! Plus, playing helps your dog burn energy and stay fit.

Dog ownership takes work, but it should be a joy! Make sure to include laidback play time as part of you and your dog’s daily routine.

6. Get Your Fur Childcare in Order

If your fur child is coming home during the holiday season, you might get to spend all day with them for a while. However, life and work will start rolling again, and your woof will have to be without you at some point. Luckily, there are ways you can check on them throughout the day!

Lunch Visits
If you have time on your lunch break, spend it at home with your pooch! This gives you a good opportunity to let them out for a potty break.

Pet Sitters
For pet parents who can’t leave work in the middle of the day, pet sitters are an option! You can hire a professional to check in on your fur baby – or you can ask a neighbor, friend or family member to do the job.

Doggie Daycare
Doggie daycare is a great place for pooches to spend their days, offering them socialization, exercise and routine! At Hounds Lounge, we pride ourselves in putting safety first while we pawty hard. All of our staff are CPR and Pet First Aid certified. All of our campers are required to have completed their adult vaccinations two weeks prior to their visit.

If doggie daycare sounds like a good option for your fur fam, check out our information for new pack members!

7. Don’t Give Up

Cesar Millan once said “I have never met a dog I couldn’t help; however, I have met humans who weren’t willing to change.” If you are having trouble with your new dog, they may not be the problem. Adjust your outlook and remember that it will take time for your dog to learn to obey you.

Good dogs are often the product of good dog owners. So, stay consistent with training and play. Follow this first-time dog owner checklist. Take advice from your friends who have raised well-behaved pooches. If you want amazing results, you have to put in the effort.

Happy Howlidays

It’s absolutely true that dogs are not presents. However, if you get a dog or puppy this holiday season, and you work to treat and train them right, Fido will become the gift that keeps on giving.

Dogs provide their owners with unconditional love – you can’t buy that in a store. Therefurr, you should give your pooch the best life pawsible. Man’s best friend deserves nothing less.