Bringing Home Lucky: Preparing Your Family and Home For a Puppy
Our children have been asking for a pet for a long time. My initial, internal reaction was: "Like I need another thing to take care of!" However, our children are currently 8 and 6, and I work from home now, so somehow it seemed more doable. Cats were out of the question as our neighborhood is always losing cats to coyotes. So, we started looking around for the right rescue dog. It took about six months, but thanks to @austinanimalcenter and @happyfosterdog, we found our dog!
As you can see from the picture, he is adorable (yes, I am biased, but objectively, he is just darn cute). "Metro" was found in a box at an Austin Metro bus stop and was super lethargic and barely responsive, but he perked up quickly under the good care of the Austin Animal Center and his foster parents (@happyfosterdog). He is a very happy puppy these days, though still a bit on the thin side. We are working on this. The Austin Animal Center said he is likely an Australian Shepherd mix. He's about nine weeks old and we have had him for nine days. Our girls have renamed him Lucky. It seems a fitting name for both him and our family.
I am discovering daily what a joy it is to have a puppy, and also what an undertaking! Whew. As I didn't grow up with dogs due to family allergies, this is pretty new for me. So, I did what I always do when facing the unknown and put on my researcher hat. I thought I would share the results of my research for other folks out there who are getting a dog for the first time.
(Please note, the following is provided for informational purposes only; the information is accurate and true to the best of my knowledge, but there may be omissions, errors or mistakes, and no guarantees are made.)
Preparing Your Family
The biggest task is to be sure that all family members understand the time and energy that will go into having a new pet, especially a puppy. I recommend having several family meetings to discuss each family member's responsibilities. A responsibilities chart (see example here) is a good idea to make these discussions concrete and to act as a quick visual reminder of who is responsible for what.
When you bring a new puppy home, it is also a good idea to create a schedule for the dog (that also accounts for when you will be home) to track when it goes to the bathroom and ensure it is getting sufficient exercise and training. Steve De Bono's website, De Bono Dog Behavior Center provides a great schedule template for free, as well as helpful information about setting up the schedule.
Puppy Proofing Your Home
At least babies give you some time before you have to baby proof. Not so with puppies! I recommend getting everything off the floor and any counters that the puppy can reach and making sure you have trash cans with lids. We have been closing all the doors to the bathrooms and bedrooms as well. A baby gate is also a good idea if you want to be able to keep the dog out of certain areas of the house. In addition, Expertise has some good pieces like "Common Household Dangers for Pets" and "How to Pet-Proof Your Home" that I found helpful.
Information & Training Resources
If you are looking for general information on pet ownership and training resources, check out the following (Thanks @happyfosterdog for telling me about many of these resources!):
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) website has good resources on a wide range of topics, from general dog care, to dealing with common behavioral issues.
Puppy 411 is a good blog for dog owners, with information about health, grooming, training, and more.
Zak George's Dog Training Revolution is a great channel on YouTube with a ton of free, relatively short training videos on a wide variety of topics. I've heard his book, Zak George's Dog Training Revolution is also quite helpful. I may purchase this in the future.
Steve De Bono's website, De Bono Dog Behavior Center, is a good overall resource, and I found his Puppy 911 resources (including a free, step-by-step training method) to be particularly helpful.
I've been reading the Best Seller, Training the Best Dog Ever: A 5-Week Program Using the Power of Positive Reinforcement by Larry Kay and Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz (she trained the former White House dog, Bo Obama). This is a very informative book, but fairly dense and a bit slow to get through. I plan to stick with it though, as the information is quite helpful.
Medical Care, Grooming, and General Dog Care
In terms of medical care, grooming, and general dog care and training, I suggest you look into the following before you get your dog:
Veterinarian - ask your neighbors/friends for recommendations for nearby Vets. I found a good Vet through neighbors that does 1, 2, and 3. Jackpot!
Dog groomer, unless you plan to do this yourself.
Dog boarder or dog sitting service, for when you go out of town.
Dog walker/someone to let your dog out during the day, unless you work from home.
Dog trainer. We found ours on Expertise (Austin-specific dog trainers here). Our puppy is a serious mouther/nipper, which scares our kids sometimes, so we are having a trainer come out to our house this week for an hour-long, in-home training session to help us with this issue (love the idea of in-home training - it makes so much more sense to do the training in the dog's natural environment). We'll see how it goes!
I haven't done this yet, but I plan to look into the pros and cons of pet insurance.
One can go overboard with supplies for a new puppy, just as one can go crazy with baby supplies. Think about what is most practical and doable for your budget. I have included recommendations for the items I purchased below, based on my research (no paid endorsements here, just trying to save you some time). While the specific supplies listed are of course not required by any means, I do recommend considering an investment in the following categories of supplies:
Dog crate, if you will be crate training your dog. I recommend create training, particularly if you are getting a puppy. It will save a lot of headache and destruction if you have a safe place to put the puppy when you leave the house and at bedtime. I trust Wirecutter's reviews and recommendations (a New York Times Company, Wirecutter recommendations are made through "vigorous reporting, interviewing, and testing by teams of veteran journalists, scientists, and researchers." Their independent reviews focus on finding the best product in a range of categories "for most people"), so I chose the crate they recommended, the Midwest Ultima Pro.
Dog bed. As I planned to use a crate, I bought a bed that is more like a soft pad to use inside the crate. For this, I went with a highly rated, washable, and cushioned 2PET Crate Pad from Amazon. If you need more of a traditional dog bed, but are not sure where to start, check out this Your Dog Advisor article which considers the pros and cons of a variety of dog beds.
Chew and play toys. These are essential, especially if you have a puppy. They will keep your dog engaged and hopefully chewing on "approved" toys, rather than your shoes and furniture. I recommend getting a few different kinds of toys to start to see what your puppy likes. I especially recommend Kongs. They are hard rubber toys that dogs can chew on. You can fill these with treats and natural peanut butter and freeze them for a tasty treat for your dog. These keep Lucky occupied for quite a while. The Kong Classic is a good way to start (thanks @happyfosterdog for the tip!). The Twist 'n Treat is also great (a natural rubber, adjustable treat dispenser; thank you De Bono Dog Behavior Center for this tip!).
Collar and leash. For the collar, we went with Wirecutter's recommendation, the Orvis Personalized Dog Collar. I was hesitant at first, as it is expensive, but I liked that the dog's name and your phone number is custom-embroidered onto the highly reflective collar, so your dog can be identified even if tags are lost. Given that it is backed by a lifetime guarantee, I was willing to make the investment. For the leash, we decided to start with something sturdy, but relatively inexpensive, that would keep the dog close to us (we chose a BAAPET, five foot, reflective leash that was highly rated on Amazon).
Pet grooming brush. I went with the inexpensive, #1 Best Seller option on Amazon, the Bonve Pet Pet Grooming Brush.
Dog food and water bowl. Again, I went with the #1 Best Seller option on Amazon, the URPOWER Stainless Steel Dog Bowls with No Spill Non-Skid Silicone Mat. I wanted one that had a tray to catch food and that would not tip easily. This has worked out well for us.
Dog waste bags. Let's all be responsible pet owners and clean up our dogs' mess! I went with Wirecutter's recommendation and Amazon's Choice, AmazonBasics Dog Waste Bags with Dispenser and Leash Clip. I wish I had bought the biodegradable bags though. I will get those next time.
Pooper scooper. We went with the #1 Best Seller option on Amazon, the Spotty Metal Tray with Rake.
Food and Treats
Obviously, we want to be cautious about what we feed our dog, especially after hearing horror stories in the news for years about tainted dog food. However, as a new pet owner, it is a bit overwhelming trying to decide which food and treats to use, as there are so many options on the market. Steve De Bono's website was very helpful in this regard. In addition to providing a helpful list of "tools" (aka supplies), he also provides links to Dog Food Advisor, which rates dog food on a 1-5 star scale. You can look up food for your dog to find the best option based on your dog's age and breed size. For treats, De Bono recommends using regular puppy/dog food or a natural treat like Zuke's. Also, Expertise has a good list of people food that can make your pet sick. For an extensive list of people food that dogs can and cannot eat, check out Pet Gear Lab’s downloadable fridge printout “Can Our Dogs Eat That?” here.
Hope this guide has been helpful!
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