Because every dog is different, the first month of being a new dog owner will test your mettle as you and the latest addition to your household suss each other out. It's particularly challenging if you've never had a puppy before, are trying to learn the quirks of a breed you're not used to, or you've rescued a neglected pooch with trust issues. But hang in there. The first 30 days are rather rewarding, especially if you can get your proverbial ducks in a row beforehand.
If you live with others, establish off-limit areas and responsibilities, including who the primary caretaker is. You'll need to puppy-proof your house by looking for choking hazards like long cords, placing toxic house plants out of reach, moving objects that aren't safe to chew, and latching cupboards you don't want the dog to enter. Set up a confinement room or appropriately-sized crate that can adapt to puppy growth, and pick an outdoor bathroom spot. You might want to put your fancier furnishings in storage for a few months while the new dog is potty training.
Stock up on essential supplies such as a dog bed, eating and drinking utensils, puppy-specific dog food, poop scoop, disposable bags, baby gates or collapsible pens, toys, and incentives for housebreaking. A collar, harness, and leash should also be on your to-buy list. In addition, you should locate the nearest vet and adjacent services and book an initial consultation.
Day 1 is all kinds of exciting. It's doggy pick-up day, and if you've never done this before, your buoyant and hopeful mood will tangle with nervousness. Your new canine friend is a little anxious too, so pay attention to its cues and give it space to process its new abode. If you have a large home, limit access to certain areas on day one to prevent sensory overload, and let the puppy meet each member of the household one-on-one. Call your pup by its name, and it will soon become accustomed to both the moniker and your voice.
Spray the towels and bedding you've assigned to the puppy with pheromones, and they'll calm your current pet dogs, too, if you have some. The first few days set a crucial precedent, so get your tools ready for your pup to learn grooming and other behaviors and basic obedience commands you'll positively reinforce with treats. Be consistent with rules like whether you'll allow eating scraps from the dining table, and acknowledge good behavior.
Dogs love routine, so schedule mealtimes, bathroom breaks shortly after, and naps after playtime. Puppies require three meals per day and need the loo more frequently than their older counterparts. So pick your fur baby up, take it to where it can pee or poop every half hour, say 'go potty!' and reward it for eliminating. Dogs tend to do their business in the same place, and that place is never where they sleep. Accidents are just that, so be stern without yelling if your dog pees or poos where it shouldn't. Clean the spot up quickly to wipe away any encouraging signals for future toilet sessions.
Some pre-sleep playtime can tire lil' Fido out for bedtime. Expect crying, and a potty break in the middle of the night during the first few weeks but don't put your puppy or adopted dog in your bed unless that's where you want it to continue sleeping indefinitely. You're better off placing the crate close to your bed. Dogs don't relieve themselves in their crates unless it's spacious.
Pet your dog, play games with it, and share eye contact. Dogs are people-pleasers—it's their MO in life and the result of thousands of years of interaction with humans. But they take time to learn your preferences and vice versa, so be patient and understanding when they make errors. They're needy, and you'll need to prepare yourself for short runs in the backyard and regular pleas for attention. If your rescue dog was mistreated in the past, carve out time to build trust and work to address triggers. A professional trainer can assist with behavioral problems.
If you already have a dog or cat, present it with an item that smells like the new dog before making introductions. The veteran pets in your home may take a while to warm up to the newbie, and that's okay. Age differences between dogs can hamper the start of relationships, so reward senior hounds for being tolerant if not exactly hospitable. Eventually, oldie and goldie could get along like a house on fire.
Try not to take your dog beyond your home, where other pooches roam, until they've been vaccinated. Monitor pup's poop—your vet will tell you what to look out for to ensure all is well. You may want to put your pup on preventative meds for pests and parasites, and now's a good time to look into insurance, spaying or neutering, and microchipping.
Consider what you might do if you need to switch from working from home to going to the office. Introduce the concept of solo time and gradually increase how long you leave your dog alone. Over time, this will build to a point where separation anxiety is less likely, and your dog can manage without you for a few hours.
Get your paws on the latest animal news and information