Date: Jan 11th, 2023
By: Alex Semancik
I’m a recent college graduate still living in a college town, and I see a lot of dogs—especially puppies. Dogs are constantly being walked around the neighborhoods of student housing, but I sometimes worry if these young pet owners are prepared for the responsibility they are taking on. Owning a dog is an extremely rewarding experience, but one that comes with a lot of responsibility and ultimately a large price tag. In the spirit of creating a new generation of knowledgeable, responsible pet owners, I have put together this “dog owner checklist” to get new or potential owners started. Keep in mind, there is always more to learn. I strongly encourage you to do your own in-depth research about dog ownership.
(Photo courtesy of Dianne English and Great Bridge Labradoodles)
Acknowledging the commitment that comes with being a dog owner is always a logical first step. Depending on the breed, dogs can live for well over a decade. Daily, you will spend hours caring for your canine. Be honest with yourself; are you ready for that?
Finding a Veterinarian
Before you bring your new pet home, it's a good idea to find a veterinarian. Pick someone local and note your closest pet emergency clinic. A vet will not only be there to make sure your dog is in good health, but will also be there as an endless source of valuable information. Choose your vet wisely and learn from them.
When you bring a dog into the picture your house can start to feel like your dog's house very quickly, but there are some basic steps to make you and your new pet’s transition a bit smoother. Set up a place for your furry friend to sleep ahead of time. Generally, it is best to start with a more confined space like a crate. Add a nice crate mat or pad and some blankets and your pup will feel safe and secure. Give your pup its own space. If you can set aside a whole room separate from the house, great, but you may have to resort to some baby gates and the like. Dog-proof your home by keeping any furniture, shoes, valuables, and anything dangerous to your pet out of sight and out of paw reach.
You are what you eat and so is your pet. Your dog will need food right away, so buy it beforehand. It is a good idea to find out what your dog was eating before you got them and carefully transition them to a new food. Reactions to new food are oftentimes how dog owners discover their pet’s allergies, so be mindful and pay close attention. Remember the veterinarian you already found? Consult them for food recommendations to ensure the specific breed you choose gets the right nutritional balance.
If you are getting a puppy, or a young dog, assume they will not be housetrained. Your pet does not understand where they should and shouldn’t go potty, and it is your job to teach them. Remember the tip about keeping your pet in a relatively confined space to start, this will help with potty training. Reinforce good behavior! Take your pet out of their space and give them a treat when they go potty outside. Housetraining is a crucial aspect of having a dog and there is a limited window to train them when they’re young.
Buying the Necessities
There are some necessities every dog owner needs to have to be ready for their new pet. Anything food related is obviously a must. You already have food and now you need a food bowl, water bowl, and some treats for positive behavior reinforcement. You’ll need a leash, collar, bed, toys, a crate, poop bags, and potty pads to start. There is always more pet gear to buy, I promise you!
The worst thing that could possibly happen to you as a new dog owner is your pet escaping. Invest in a collar tag with your dog’s name and your current cell number. Microchip and register your dog with a reputable organization and be sure they always have your current contact information. Some owners turn to trackers. These small implants won’t bother your pet but will give you the ability to always know their whereabouts. They are a small price to pay for peace of mind.
I hope I haven’t completely scared you off from owning a dog, but it is a large responsibility that should be taken seriously. By bringing a dog into your life you are accepting responsibility for another life. Hopefully this checklist makes you more prepared and more confident for the rewarding journey ahead.