So, you just got your first dog! Mazal tov! This is a very exciting time for you and your new friend. Since this is new, you’re probably wondering what to expect. The information below is designed to be a helpful guide:

woman holding her puppy

You will need the following for bringing your pooch home:

Items you will need eventually:

Some equipment you may need, but not necessarily

dog laying in his bed

Time for your Dog

dog running in the park

What else does your dog need?

Mostly, your dog needs YOU. They need time with you, they need your patience, they need your affection. They do not need any anger, punishment, or yelling.

They do not speak your language but rely on your tone of voice. Most dogs are exquisitely tuned into human emotions. If they don’t behave the way you expect, it is up to you to train them to the daily rhythm of your home. Your dog’s bladder will now rule your life.

Many dogs are okay with eliminating three times a day: when they get up, dinner time, and bedtime, but that doesn’t mean every dog will only need to go out three times a day. In the beginning, your dog may be nervous and need to go more often. Very young and older dogs usually need to go more often.

Your dog needs exercise, depending on their age and physical condition. Even old, doddering dogs like to go up and down the block, but insufficient exercise for most dogs means they will burn out their energy in inappropriate ways, like chewing things they shouldn’t.

Messages are left in other dogs’ urine, and they like to go out and read it and respond. They like to move and smell, leave their scent, and see the neighborhood and the neighbors. These are called sniff walks; they are about enrichment more than exercise and are very important.  Use a leash to prevent accidental tragedy; check to see if there is a leash law in your area.

Most, but not all, dogs want affection – pats on the head, belly rubs, ear scritches, sweet nothings lovingly whispered to them.  A consent test can tell you if a dog likes that kind of affection or prefers not to get it. They may want to fall asleep with their head or entire body on your lap, whether they are lap sized or not.

A regular schedule is best, if it’s possible. They like to know when they’ll be fed, when you’ll get home from work, when they can nestle with you to watch a movie, and what signals bedtime. Try to give meals at approximately the same time each day, such as right when you get up, or right when you get home from work.

Some of what we can eat or ingest – xylitol ( a sugar substitute), alcohol, marijuana, grapes/raisins, caffeine, ibuprofen, some nuts – will make dogs sick. See the box below for more information on toxins. 

Starting a relationship with a new dog is a bit like dating someone new. Everyone is on their best behavior for approximately three weeks to three months. Once dogs get comfortable and come to realize this is home, their real temperament will emerge. They are no longer pretending that they have to behave in front of company. Often when they are comfortable, a rich sense of humor will be seen, or a penchant for playing with you in a certain way. Whatever it is, enjoy it! But start training your dog early, before they get comfortable enough to start testing you.

Toxic Substances for Dogs

Dogs are a different species, so some things we can eat or ingest may essentially poison them. There’s no need to panic if your 120-lb dog eats two M&Ms, but you do need to worry if your 20-lb dog eats half of a chocolate cake. If you know what your dog has ingested, you can call ASPCA Poison Control Center  for a fee, at (888) 426-4435, or contact a veterinarian immediately.

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