Know what dog is right for you
Are you thinking about getting a dog? If so, what kind, size, or temperament? Are you thinking of a puppy or an older dog? When people decide they want a dog, they often decide what breed they want without concern for whether that breed is consistent with their lifestyle. To ensure success in this new relationship, be honest with yourself regarding your lifestyle, how much time and effort you’re willing to spend, and what your goals are for the relationship. Consider the dog’s breed, age, adult size, basic personality, activity and energy level, and other needs to make sure these mesh with your needs and lifestyle. Once you know these answers, you’ll know if you can handle a puppy or if you should look for an older dog, and you’ll have a great idea what breeds or breed mixes will be right for you. In some ways, it’s similar to choosing a mate!
Before bringing your new dog home, make sure you have everything you need to take care of him. You’ll need a collar and leash, a brush, food and water bowls, an ID tag, perhaps a crate, food and some toys.
Once you have your new dog in your home, start immediately to build that bond. While it’s tempting to fawn all over a new dog, especially a puppy, it’s a good idea to give him some space for a couple of weeks. Let him explore and get accustomed to their new surroundings. He will likely be confused about where he is and what to expect, especially if he’s not a puppy. Show him the home, one room at a time, beginning with where his food and water bowl will stay. Simply letting him run from room to room will likely confuse and stress him. Also slowly introduce him to family members he hasn’t yet met. Allow your dog to go to your family members instead of family rushing your dog. This is difficult for children I realize, but to do so could frighten your new dog.
Educate yourself on training through positive reinforcement. Training begins the moment he comes home with you. Decide if he will be crate trained. Come up with a vocabulary of words your whole family will use in training him. Show him where the bathroom is and spend a lot of time making sure he understands what he is supposed to do and where. Have him watch you while you prepare his meals. Try to limit the amount of excitement in the home for the first few days to allow your dog to better settle in.
Expose him to a wide variety of experiences. Give him attention and lots of love on your terms, not his. Spend quality one-on-one time with each other. Pet and groom your dog regularly; this has a calming effect on both of you. Get him on a regular exercise program to keep him fit. Most important, have fun and play with your dog! Become the kind, benevolent leader that recognizes the gentle, loving nature of your new faithful companion, and you will be richly rewarded with a bond that lasts a lifetime and beyond.
Sherri Cappabianca, an expert in the field of canine health and fitness, is the author of two books on canine health, and co-owner of Rocky’s Retreat, an intimate and personal boarding, daycare, hydrotherapy and fitness center, and Barking Dog Fitness, a Gym for Dogs, both located in Orlando. For more information, visit rockysretreat.com or barkingdogfitness.com