Bringing home a new dog can be one of the most exciting days of your life. But many new dog owners enter the situation without fully arming themselves with all the information they need. It’s not just about giving your dog a bed and a food bowl. Owning pets can be almost as challenging as parenting children. And though there’s a lot of unpredictability when it comes to bringing a new dog into the family, there are also some facts that can help you to prepare for your new furry friend.
These are the top five things new dog owners should know.
Develop a mutual understanding
One of the most challenging elements of being a dog parent is not sharing the same language. So it’s important to dedicate the time to understanding your dog – not just when they’re hungry, tired, or want to go outside. But the things that excite them, upset them, and make them anxious too. It might sound like guesswork, but if you dedicate the time to ‘listening’ to your pet’s needs you might find you’re able to intuit more from their body language and responses than you thought.
Being a dog owner is not a passive exercise. We should be constantly striving to understand their wants and needs so we can fulfil them. However one common issue that can arise is humans assuming dogs emotions are conveyed in the same way as our own. So rather than guessing, take the time to pay attention and perhaps do some extra research into your dog’s behaviours and what they could mean.
We think of dogs as members of our family, so we should aim to know and understand them as well as the humans we live with.
Don’t slack on the training process
Obedience and behaviour training can be a long and stressful road for both dogs and their owners. But it’s crucial you don’t give up. For the long-term happiness of both you and your pet, it’s important they’re well trained in order to stay safe, healthy, and happy. It just takes patience. Take the training process one step at a time and never stop giving your dog positive reinforcements. As soon as your frustration or negativity seeps in it has the potential to alter your dog’s perception of certain behaviours.
You’ll both make mistakes, but if you can make the process fun – with treats and cuddles – your dog is likely to learn much quicker. And if you’re struggling, don’t be scared to call in a professional to help. New dog owners aren’t expected to know how to do everything on their own.
Don’t underestimate the importance of socialisation
As well as good training, good socialisation will set your dog up for a happy life. The more environments, situations, and people your dog meets when they’re young, the better adjusted they will be. It sets them up to deal with new things without stress or anxiety. So rather than worrying about how your puppy will cope with a new situation, enter it with a positive attitude. A new puppy’s boundless enthusiasm and curiosity means they are far less likely to be fearful. However, if they don’t encounter new situations until they’re older and more settled, they’re more likely to find them anxiety-inducing.
Socialisation is most important between the ages of 8-12 weeks. It’s during this crucial period that the positive experiences your puppy has will form their attitudes as they grow. So in their early weeks, make an effort to properly, and positively, introduce them to everything you can. Fight the urge to apply your human emotions to your puppy, and trust that they will not be overcome with anxiety in the way that a small child might.
And though the first few months are the most important time for socialisation, the process never truly ends. Even older dogs can grow used to new situations – you just need to be there, with a positive attitude, making them feel comfortable.
Don’t skip walkies
Mental and physical stimulation is vital for a dog’s health – not just as a puppy but throughout their life. As well as daily walks, your pet should have toys and activities that will keep them entertained at home. As mental stimulation is just as important for their long-term health as walkies, you might want to invest in puzzle toys – especially if they’re likely to be left alone for periods of time.
Dogs that don’t get enough exercise aren’t just unhappy, they’re unhealthy too. As well as obesity your dog could suffer with joint issues, anxiety, and numerous other health issues as a result of not getting the right amount of exercise. Dogs aren’t meant to be cooped up, so where possible you should make sure they have access to the outdoors – even a sniff around the garden can keep their brains and bodies active.
Establish your relationship
We don’t call them puppy dog eyes for nothing… When you’re looking at that adorable face, it can be hard not to give your pup exactly what they want. But one of the most important parts of dog ownership is establishing your role as their leader.
Dogs are wired to follow the pack, so once they understand that you’re their boss and their guardian you’ll find they should obey you without question. Form a relationship based on trust, respect, and stability so your dog knows they’re always safe and comfortable when you’re around. Establishing your role as leader should never result in aggression or anger – bullying your dog will cause them to fear you, not respect you.
Another element of establishing your relationship is developing rules. There are rules your dog would have learned in their training and other, more specific rules, that apply to your house, family, and lifestyle. Dogs respond well to structure, so make sure they know these rules from early on and they will have no trouble living by them. Dogs actually thrive within set boundaries as this makes them feel secure. So a lack of rules could backfire as they’re more likely to act out when they feel unsettled.
Once you’ve got these five rules down pat, your dog is sure to live a happy life that’s fulfilling for them and the rest of your family. And if you need some help keeping them calm and settled, try Front of the Pack’s Harmony supplement. It’s made with a mix of natural ingredients that prevent stress and anxiety. This can help when introducing a dog to new environments – including bringing a puppy into the home – and can assist in keeping them calm as they grow.