30 Things to Do Before Getting a Dog
There is nothing better than adding a four-legged best friend to your home. Dogs give us a reason to exercise, provide companionship and teach kids responsibility and empathy toward others, among several other benefits.
But before adding a dog to your home, it’s good to make sure you and the family are prepared. Doing so will make the transition to a new home easier on everyone, especially that confused pooch.
Need a little help on how to get started, though? Here are 30 things to do before getting a dog.
Have a Family Discussion
The first thing you should do before getting a dog is make sure the whole family is on board. This is especially important if kids are involved. Do you expect your kids to take responsibility for the dog’s care? Are they old enough to help?
Even if they are, all adults in the house should expect to end up doing the lion’s share of the work. Be sure you are prepared for the time a dog takes.
Decide: Puppy vs. Adult?
Once you’re ready to get a dog, it’s time to make some important decisions. Everyone loves a puppy, but they are a lot of work. If the adults are gone all day at work, it can be hard to housetrain a puppy and give it the stimulation it needs.
Adult dogs usually come housebroken, are less likely to chew, and you can see temperament better. There are pros and cons to both, so make a list and think it through before deciding.
Decide: Male vs. Female?
This really is just a personal preference for the most part. Fixed male and female dogs act pretty much the same — though some will tell you they prefer fixed males because they are happier or females because they think they create stronger bonds.
If you are not planning on getting your dog spayed or neutered, then there are definitely some differences to think about. Unfixed males will most likely mark, and unfixed females will need to wear diapers when they are in heat. Both will want to wander to find a mate. (Note: Fixing makes for a better pet all around!)
Decide: Registered or Not?
Deciding on whether you want a purebred dog that is registered with a registry like the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club is, again, mostly preference. If you plan to breed, having registered dogs can make your puppies more desirable. Or, if you want to show in certain classes, such as conformation, then you would need a registered dog.
If you are just looking for a best friend, registration doesn’t matter.
Once you are set on getting a dog and have decided on age and gender, it’s time to think about the type of dog you want to add to your home. Take the time to really learn about the breed(s) you like — including mixes! — to make sure they will fit your lifestyle.
For example, a Siberian Husky is not a good choice for someone in a downtown apartment who is a couch potato, but if you live in an urban setting with a nice sized yard and are looking for a buddy to run with, they just might be the perfect breed for you.
Adopt or Work With a Breeder?
This is a hot topic. There are many dogs in shelters looking for homes, so adopting is always a good idea. But maybe you are looking for a dog to raise as a service dog or to compete in dog shows. Or you like a breed that is not found in rescue. In those cases, you may need to go through a breeder.
If so, then be sure to thoroughly check out the breeder and make sure they are not a puppy mill. Responsible breeders pay for health tests, have healthy breeding dogs that are part of their family, usually have a low number of litters a year and will allow you to visit their kennel.
Decide on Responsibilities
It’s important to know who is going to be taking care of the dog before bringing them home. Make a chart and put the person’s name next to each chore.
This is great for families with kids, but even adults are often caught with the, “I thought you were going to feed him!” scenario. A chart will make sure the dog gets taken care of every day.
Visit Breeders and Shelters
Don’t just bring home the first dog you see — it’s tempting, we know, especially with cute puppies. Instead, visit the breeders and shelters. Talk to them about your family and what you are looking for in your next pet.
Both the breeder and the shelters or rescues should know enough about their dogs to help you find a good match.
Find a Veterinarian
Don’t wait until something is wrong to frantically try and find a vet. Ask friends with dogs who they recommend in your area. You can also ask the breeder or shelter for recommendations on good vets.
Plus, if you have questions before bringing your dog home, you can ask the vet.
Find a Trainer
It’s also good to have a trainer lined up or at least watch a few dog training videos online. Some trainers actually offer their services when it comes to selecting a dog or puppy.
They can give advice on the type of dog that would be best for your family and can conduct temperament tests on any potential dogs.
Find a Pet Sitter
At some point, you will have to leave your dog at home while you travel. Having a trusted pet sitter can take the anxiety out of leaving your dog at home. Definitely ask for recommendations of people your friends have used, or ask your new trainer or vet for people they trust. You can even find one on Rover, which will set you up with a house sitter online.
No matter where you find your pet sitter, get references from past clients and do a thorough interview before entrusting your best friend to their care.
Find a Groomer
Whether you are getting a dog that needs routine grooming, like a Poodle, or will just need nail trims done, having a good groomer lined up is smart. Again, ask for recommendations and get references.
If you are rescuing, you may want to arrange a time for the groomer to meet the dog before their first appointment, to help them be less nervous.
Research Health Insurance
Vet bills can add up quickly. There are many companies, such as Pets Best or Spot Pet Insurance, that now offer health insurance for dogs to help offset some of those costs.
It’s a good idea to look into them and see if they make sense for you and your new dog. They can sometimes save you a lot of money!
Put Away Some Money
As mentioned, vet bills can add up quickly and suddenly. Before getting a dog, save up some money for an emergency fund. That way you are covered in case something does come up.
It takes the stress out of those sudden bills so you can focus on getting your dog healthy again.
Invest in a Good Crate
Crates are invaluable when it comes to dog ownership. If you are getting a puppy, start crate training right away. When done properly, they learn to love their crate, which is helpful for car trips or visits to the vet or groomer.
It’s also useful at home to keep them out of trouble when you can’t watch them. Adult dogs can also be taught to love their crate as well, it just may take a bit longer. There are hundreds of dog crates to choose from on sites like Chewy or Petco, but we especially love these ones from Tractor Supply Co.
Put Baby Locks on Cupboards
You may not have thought about it, but dogs are pretty crafty at getting into things, much like a toddler.
Keep them safe by putting baby locks on cupboards that contain garbage cans, medicines and anything else you don’t want your dog getting into.
Install Baby Gates
Like a crate, baby or pet gates are a must for dog owners. They are an easy way to temporarily section off your house, whether it’s for potty training (assume any dog you get is not house broken, even an adult dog, as they often have accidents in new places) or just to keep your dog out of somewhere.
This affordable one from Chewy is super easy to install and a personal Always Pets favorite.
Put Dangerous Items Out of Reach
Do you have a lot of breakable vases at tail or nose height? Maybe you have always kept your medicines in an open cabinet because it’s an adult-only house. Do a thorough walkthrough of your house, and make sure anything your dog may get into that’s dangerous is removed.
If you are getting a puppy, they will probably put everything in their mouth so secure wires off the ground, put your shoes away and look for choking hazards.
If you have a yard, make sure it’s dog-safe. This includes a tall fence your new dog can’t jump over, no holes and a secure gate. Also make sure you don’t have any plants that are poisonous, in case your dog ends up being a plant-eater (some are!).
If you are worried about digging, bury the fence a couple feet into the ground.
Do Any Necessary House Repairs
Do you have flooring that needs to be replaced or maybe a wall socket that is broken? Getting repairs done before you bring your new dog home can be a good idea, especially if you are getting a rescue.
Rescues are often stressed when they come to a new place. Having strangers and loud noises going on while they are trying to settle in will just make their anxiety worse.
Plan on When to Bring Your Dog Home
It’s a good idea to think out when you want to bring your new dog home. Are you planning on being gone for a month shortly after? You may want to wait until after your long vacation.
Planning a time when you are going to be around will help them settle in faster.
Decide on a Routine
Now, it’s time to think about your routine! Dogs thrive on routines and schedules. This is especially important for potty training.
Create a schedule for everything from feeding to walking to bedtime at night.
Decide on House Rules
Consistency is key when it comes to a well-trained dog. Before you even bring your dog home, decide on what you are going to allow and not allow. Will the dog be allowed on the couch? On the bed? What about feeding scraps from the table?
Make sure everyone is on the same page. In households with kids, printing up the list of house rules and putting it on the fridge can help them remember.
Buy Essential Supplies
Make sure you have everything you need before getting a dog. This includes bowls, beds, food, treats, collars, harnesses and leashes, etc. Most breeders and shelters will give you a checklist to make sure you have everything.
Be sure to ask what food the dog is currently on, so you don’t upset their stomach with a sudden switch.
Buy a Few Toys
It’s good to buy a few dog toys to have on hand before bringing your dog home, but don’t buy a ton. Most dogs have a preference for a type of toy — soft, hard, squeaky, you get the gist. So, just buy one or two of several different types until you’ve learned what your dog likes.
If you’re getting a puppy, then chew toys will be a must. Note: No-hide sticks are better for their digestion when they’re younger.
Get Dog ID Tags
Be sure you have ID Tags made for your new best friend. Get them made up before so you can put them on as soon as you get your new dog. This is important, as new dogs will sometimes try and run away, and if they get lost, you want to make sure whoever finds them knows how to get a hold of you.
Once you get your dog, be sure to update their microchip, if they have one, as soon as possible as well.
Make a Vet Appointment
It’s good to make a vet appointment for a couple weeks after you bring your dog home. For a puppy, it may be time for their puppy shots.
For an older dog, it might just be a wellness exam to make sure they are healthy and for the vet to answer any questions you may have now that you’ve gotten to know your dog a bit.
Talk to Kids About Dog Safety
Before getting a dog, be sure to talk to your kids about dog safety, especially if they have not been around a lot of dogs before. Teach them how to pet a dog safely as well as things not to do (like sneak up behind them or pull their ears or tail).
Having this conversation before you bring your new dog home can help avoid a bad situation.
Get Current Pets Ready
If you already have pets at home, another dog or maybe a cat or other small animal, prepare them as best as you can. For other dogs, it can be helpful to bring something home that smells like the new dog.
If you have small animals, be sure they have a safe place they can go where your new dog cannot get them (some pet gates have cat doors for this very purpose!).
Create a Calm Environment
Going to a new home can be stressful on any dog, regardless of age. Creating a calming environment can help them feel more at ease. For older dogs, it can help reduce the likelihood of potty accidents, fear biting and separation anxiety.
A calming environment includes a den area for the dog in a quiet place with beds and a crate. The use of calming music and calming pheromones can also help reduce anxiety in a new dog.