Checklist for First-time Dog Owners


While a puppy or dog under the tree may seem adorable, it’s crucial to understand that pets aren’t gifts, particularly for first-time owners. Dogs are family members and require a long-term commitment. If you’re thinking about getting a dog for the first time and adding a furry friend to your family, we have a new dog owner checklist to guide you through the process, covering everything from preparation to the initial stages of pet parenthood.

Think about it before committing

Owning a dog is a big deal, especially for a first time pet owner. Before diving in, ask yourself if you’re truly ready for the responsibility. Dogs bring joy, but they also demand time, patience, and money. Can you provide for their needs and give them a great life? Research shows that some pets don’t stay in their new homes for long. To avoid this, consider fostering first to test the waters. Dog ownership involves love, walks, and vet bills. It’s a package deal, but if you’re up for it, the rewards are priceless.

Don’t forget to do your research

After you’ve decided you’re ready for a dog, think about which breed suits your lifestyle. Consider your time, space, and other household members, including humans and pets.

Low Maintenance Dogs

Busy people can still enjoy the company of dogs by choosing low-maintenance breeds. While all dogs deserve love and care, some require less exercise, grooming, and training. Consider breeds like:

  • Dachshund
  • Greyhound
  • French Bulldog
  • Chihuahua
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Mastiff
  • Bullmastiff
  • Poodle

Apartment Dogs

If you live in a small space, there are still dog breeds that can thrive. Many of these dogs are low-maintenance too. These apartment-friendly breeds include:

  • Pug
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • English Bulldog
  • Shih Tzu
  • Chihuahua
  • Greyhound
  • French Bulldog
  • Great Dane
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Dachshund
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Basenji
  • Boston Terrier

Athletic/Active Dogs

If you’re looking for a dog that can be your exercise partner, consider the breeds listed by the American Kennel Club. These dogs enjoy activities like walking, jogging, biking, hiking, swimming, and playing Frisbee. The breeds include:

  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Border Collie
  • Brittany
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Dalmatian
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Greyhound
  • Redbone Coonhound
  • Vizsla

Family Dogs

For families with kids, it’s important to choose a safe dog breed. You should consider these breeds:

  • Mutts
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Poodle
  • Irish Setter
  • Vizsla
  • Newfoundland
  • Bull Terrier
  • Beagle
  • Bulldog.

Find a trusted veterinarian

Before you bring your new puppy or dog home, find a vet you trust and schedule a visit soon after their arrival. Your dog will need vaccinations and medications, so this visit is crucial for their health and well-being. It’s an easy way to start them off on the right foot!

Figure out an area for your dog

Simplify your life by choosing a spot where your dog will stay when you’re not around, like a room or an enclosure. Make it cozy and safe! This area is important, especially during holidays when there are decorations and gifts around. Keep your pup away from fragile ornaments and presents when unsupervised.

Buy all essentials

If you’re new to dog ownership, you’ll need a few things to welcome Fido home. Here’s a list of what you must buy as a first-time dog owner:

  • Food: Stick with what the breeder or shelter feeds your dog to avoid upset tummies. If you want to switch, do it gradually.
  • Collar: Make sure it fits well.
  • Name Tag: For identification.
  • Leash: Essential for walks.
  • Kennel: A safe space for your dog.
  • Bed: Keep them comfy.
  • Toys: For playtime.
  • Food and Water Dishes: Basic necessities.
  • Treats: Opt for low-calorie options for daily use, saving the indulgent ones for special occasions.
  • Puppy Pads: Helpful for indoor accidents during training.
  • Poop Bags: Keep things clean during walks.
  • Cleaning Supplies: Specifically designed for pet messes.
  • Dog Brush: Keep your puppy’s coat in good shape.
  • Dog Shampoo: For baths as needed.

Establish a routine

Dogs like having a routine, so try to feed them, play with them, and take them out for bathroom breaks at the same times every day. Give them alone time too, to help them adjust when you’re not around!

Train them

Training your dog is vital for their safety and happiness, so start as soon as you can, even if they’re grown up! Here are five important commands to teach them: Sit, Come, Down, Stay, and Leave it. “Come” is especially important as it can help keep them safe. Keep training sessions short, calm, and frequent, a few times a day. Use positive reinforcement by rewarding good behavior, even during potty training. When they go outside, praise them and maybe give them a treat.

Create a safe space

If you haven’t already, now’s the time to set up a cozy spot for your pup. They need a comfy place to sleep and feel safe, like a bed, kennel, or snug corner. This spot helps them feel secure, whether you’re home or not. In colder weather, consider making it extra warm for them.

Give them treats

Treats are important for training your dog using positive reinforcement. They’re also great for special occasions when you want to spoil your furry friend. Make sure treats are on your shopping list! Let your dog try different treats to see what they like. Choose tasty and low-calorie options for daily training.

Don’t forget to play and have fun

New dog owners have plenty to learn, and it’s not all about technical stuff. Amidst training and challenges, don’t forget to have fun and play with your dog. Tug-o-war and belly rubs are part of the package and will keep your dog happy and healthy. Dog ownership is a responsibility, but it should also be enjoyable! Make time for relaxed play every day.

Fur childcare

If your new dog comes home during the holidays, you might have lots of time together at first. But when life gets busy again, your pup will have to stay home alone sometimes. Don’t worry, there are ways to check on them during the day!

  • Lunch Break: If you can, come home during your lunch break to spend time with your dog. It’s a chance for a potty break and some quality time.
  • Pet Sitters: If you can’t make it home, consider hiring a pet sitter. They can check on your furry friend while you’re at work. You can hire a professional or ask a neighbor, friend, or family member.
  • Doggy Daycare: Doggy daycare is another option. Your dog can socialize, exercise, and stick to a routine while you’re at work.

Follow Our New Dog Owner Checklist for the Best Welcoming Experience

Thinking about getting a dog? Make sure you’re ready for the commitment. From choosing the right breed to setting up a safe space and training them, there’s a lot to consider. Remember, dog ownership is about love and responsibility. So, before you bring home a furry friend, take the time to prepare and ensure a happy, healthy life together.


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