Owning a dog is a huge commitment and responsibility. It can also be one of the most rewarding relationships you will ever experience. So start off on the right foot (or paw!) and enjoy.
Get your home ready
Plan ahead and make sure your home and garden are safe and secure for the arrival of your new pet. Decide where the dog is going to sleep – the kitchen or utility room is a good choice - and have a bed waiting, along with a bowl of water, a toy and a blanket or jumper with your scent on it. If you’re planning to use an indoor kennel or crate, have this ready too - see www.bluecross.org.uk for more information.
Read up on toilet training
When you arrive home, before you take your new puppy or dog inside, walk it around the garden, use a simple command such as ‘be good’ and praise it when it goes to the toilet. More advice can be found at www.thekennelclub.org.uk. Remember dogs that are already house trained can be thrown off-track with new owners and new smells. Don’t get angry if there are accidents.
Set some house rules
Get everyone in the household to agree on rules. Don’t give conflicting messages and confuse your new pet. There is no point in one person scolding the dog if it sits on the sofa, and another encouraging it to climb up. Stick to the rules from day one. It’s not fair on the dog if you suddenly change them after a few weeks.
Keep calm and relaxed
Although you may be very excited, don’t fuss over the dog or raise your voice. Gently stroke your pet so it sees its new surroundings are safe. Some dogs, especially those from rescue shelters, may be nervous or frightened. Don’t force it to interact with you, let the dog approach you. It can take a while to build trust and a bond. A good factsheet, Your Battersea Dog, useful for all dog owners, can be downloaded at www.battersea.org.uk.
Think about your dog’s diet
Find out what your dog has been eating and how often it has meals. A sudden change in diet may make it sick, so follow the same routine for a few days then start introducing your preferred food, a little at a time. If your new pet doesn’t seem hungry at first, don’t worry, the dog may just be getting used to a new home. You can feed it by hand, but if you repeat this too often your dog may only want to be fed this way.
Don’t change your routine
Initially it’s tempting to spend every minute of the day with your dog, but get it used to your normal routine as soon as possible. Your new arrival needs to learn when it has fun with you and when to be content on its own. The first night can be tough, but don’t rush to comfort the dog if you hear whimpering – you will only reinforce this behaviour. Any dog that’s been well exercised will soon fall asleep.
Teach a few commands
Start off with a few basic commands – sit, stay, down - and praise and reward your dog when it does what you ask. Tone of voice is important during training. Saying no and laughing at the same time will only confuse the dog. If you’re not happy with its behaviour, turn around and be silent. To find out more about good training techniques, see the Dogs Trust advice factsheet, Basic Dog Training, at www.dogstrust.org.uk.
Register with a vet
It’s always worth taking your pet along to a local vet for a quick health check and to get advice about inoculations and flea and worm treatments. If you are not planning to breed your dog, you may also want to find out costs for neutering. Your vet can also microchip your pet (see below).
Get your dog microchipped
From 6 April 2016, all dogs in England have to be microchipped by law. Costs are around £20-£30 and the chips are easily inserted using a needle. The Dogs Trust has confirmed that once the new legislation is introduced it will supply vets with the chips free of charge (vets may still charge you for implanting them). A number of charities including Dogs Trust and Blue Cross will carry out the procedure for a donation.
Consider pet insurance
Pet insurance doesn’t just help to pay vet bills if your dog is ill, an insurer may pay out to help you find a lost dog or if it damages someone’s property. Some policies will also cover costs if a dog sitter has to look after your pet if you need to go into hospital. Forking out for insurance every month is costly, so do your sums and remember you could pay over £300 to sort out a dog’s ear infection.
Find out about Saga Pet Insurance