A dog is more than a fun companion. When you adopt a dog, you’re bringing a new member into the family. For that reason, it’s important to choose the right pet and prepare before bringing your new dog home. As you look for your first dog, this is what you need to consider.

Deciding on a Future Pet

Dogs are highly social animals, which means they demand a lot of their owner’s time and attention. However, some dogs have higher exercise and social needs than others. Rather than adopting a dog based on looks, ask yourself how you want a dog to fit into your lifestyle and how much time and energy you’re willing to commit to a pet. If your image of dog ownership is a couple of short, leisurely walks per day, a more laid-back breed is the best choice for you. But if you live a highly active lifestyle and have the time and desire to take a dog out running, hiking, and playing outside, a high-energy breed is a good fit.

Avoid the mistake of adopting a dog based on lifestyle aspirations. While dog ownership might encourage you to start exercising more, adopting a high-energy breed when you lead a sedentary or busy lifestyle is more likely to end in frustration for both you and your dog.

Make sure you have the living arrangements to accommodate a dog. As cute as Great Dane puppies are, a full-grown Great Dane in an apartment is like a bull in a china shop. Small breeds and laid-back breeds like Greyhounds are better suited to apartment living.

Shopping for a Dog

Once you know what kind of dog best suits your situation, consider where you’ll get your new pet. While many first-time dog owners worry that a dog from a shelter is a wild card, that’s not necessarily the case. While some dogs at animal shelters are there due to behavioral problems, many pets are surrendered because their owners can no longer care for them. Shelter employees also spend time assessing dogs’ temperaments so they can match them with the right family. That way, a dog is less likely to end up back at a shelter.

If you can’t find the dog you’re looking for at an animal shelter, consider private rescue groups. Most private rescues are closed-admission, which means they can be selective about which dogs they accept. There are also breed-specific rescues that only work with dogs of a certain breed. While adopting a dog through a private or breed-specific rescue is often more expensive, it’s an excellent choice if you’re seeking a particular breed of dog.

Bringing Your New Dog Home

Finding the perfect dog doesn’t guarantee things will go smoothly from day one. Dogs can be nervous and fearful in a new space, especially rescue dogs who have experienced a lot of change in a short time. This may manifest in behavioral problems and separation anxiety. Don’t worry; your dog’s behavior in the first days isn’t necessarily indicative of his overall personality.

To ease your new dog’s nerves, start him out in a quiet area of the home. Once he’s comfortable in that space, you can expand his territory within the home. Maintain consistent routines so your dog learns how to live in his new family. Take him outside for regular bathroom breaks, provide meals at the same time each day, and keep your own schedule as consistent as possible.

Make sure your dog has a safe space to retreat to. For most dogs, this is also their sleeping quarters. Dogs feel most vulnerable while sleeping, so be sure to position his or her bed in a quiet, secluded area away from your home’s busiest areas, like a spare bedroom or laundry room. Outfit it with a bed that cushions your dog’s joints against the hard ground and toys for mental stimulation.

Dogs are loyal friends, enthusiastic playmates, and dedicated guardians. However, they’re also animals with their own personalities and preferences. When adopting your first dog, ask yourself not only how a dog will add to your household but also how you can offer a great life to your new companion.

Image via Unsplash

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