What do I need to know for our first dog?

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Answered by: Marlo, An Expert in the Become a Dog Owner Category
Bringing a new pet into the home can be a daunting and overwhelming task. It isn't as easy as the movies make it look and often times the process can be much more than you expect when you first say to your family, "I think it's time for our first dog."

First, you are going to need to start by choosing which type of dog you want to bring in to your family. No two breeds of dog are the same and while they are all individuals that may vary from the norm, you're going to want a basic idea of what kind of personality you're getting. An active family isn't going to want a dog that can't keep up, but a busy family isn't going to want an athletic dog that they do not have the time to properly care for. Narrow it down to what you think would fit to your lifestyle. Take a look at a variety and familiarize yourself with some of the more basic characteristics and care. Keep a list of your limits in mind (or write them out if it helps!) while you browse.

When you feel you have an understanding when it comes to the type of care you and your family can provide, you need to make the next important choice.

"Should we adopt or go to a breeder for our first dog?"

Both choices have positives and negatives to consider. If you have your heart set on a specific type of breed you may find it best to go to a breeder first. You will need to do additional research to find someone who is legitimate. Many times you'll want to speak with them before hand and they'll want to meet and speak with you to know the family their puppies are going to. The cost of a pure bred dog is going to be much more than if you adopt, but you will have access to blood lines and medical history that may not be available otherwise. A good breeder is going to have good stock without history of medical problems that can be passed down and will be able to pass down the veterinary records for your new family member.

You may choose to go to a shelter instead. You would be surprised at the number of purebred dogs that do end up homeless and in these shelters. You shouldn't limit yourself. Many mixed breed dogs have been adopted and you may find this is the type of dog that fits well in your family. Most shelters are going to want you to fill out adopter forms. Take your time and look them over. Familiarize yourself with the staff and ask to take a look around. Don't go with the first dog you see, instead follow up over the next week or two and take time to visit them. This will give you time to get to know them as individuals and really see personality shine through.

When you've begun the process and have finally decided on where to adopt Fido from you should begin your shopping. Take advantage of the time between now and bringing them home to really put things together. You should have at least the very basic idea of the dogs size and type at this point. Start with what you know you're going to need first and compare reviews. Getting an appropriate size crate will help begin house training, invest in a dog bed and stock up on grooming supplies. Purchase a few toys of varying types, don't go crazy until you know what your pup is going to take an interest in. You may decide to go ahead and purchase your treats and dog food. Check with the shelter or the breeder before you do so. Sometimes they are kept on specific diets before they come to you and may need proper transitioning if you decide to change brands or types.

Get your house ready. Set up the things you've bought and carve out a spot in your home for them. Take care to block off any parts of the home you may want to keep curious puppies out of and know that shoes and cords are often mistaken as chew toys. You can stop accidents before they happen with a little bit of attention to what they may have access to.

When you finally get to bring new puppy home, give them time. You've been able to prepare and they may need a moment to adjust to the new environment with overwhelming smells and different sounds. It won't take long for you to reach a balance with your new puppy and you'll be thankful for your planning.

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