So you’ve decided to bring a new four-legged friend home — yay for you! But now the real adventure begins.
It’s totally natural for first-time puppy parents to feel a little nervous; ‘Where will I find my furry friend? What kind of puppy do I want? Is my home pet-proofed? What will I name it? Am I even ready to be a dog mom/dad?’
But fear not, we’ve enlisted the help of vet-extraordinaire and TV personality Dr. Katrina Warren (and her four-legged BFF Riley) to give us the down low on what to expect when you’re expecting… a fur baby.
Do your research.
Step one: decide to get a dog. Step two: decide what kind of dog you want.
And when it comes to choosing a breed, there is a lot to factor in — kids, allergies, your living space, yard size, energy levels, dog size, cost, time.
“The first thing you should ask yourself is: ‘Is this the right dog for my lifestyle?'” says Dr. Katrina. “You need to be honest with yourself about the amount of time you have to exercise, groom, and train your dog.”
An online breed selector might be a good place to start. Remember that each breed has a unique temperament as well as different needs and maintenance requirements — and the purchase cost of the dog is only the beginning.
You’ll need to factor in costs for vet visits, grooming, and food — those are just the basics!
Ask for a meet and greet.
Whether you’re adopting or buying from a breeder, it’s important to know where to go and what to look for.
“And if you are open to adopting a dog, look for rescue groups in your area and ideally choose a dog that has been temperament tested.”
Going to the breeders home to see the conditions the puppy has been raised in is the perfect way to meet your new family member (and enjoy some puppy cuddles).
Rescue shelters often ask you to bring any other dogs you own for a play date before you can take them home. This helps to ensure both you and your new pup will be happy at home.
Prepare for play time.
Every dog, no matter what size, will need exercise and playtime — at least an hour each day according to Dr. Katrina (depending on age and breed, of course). And toys are essential for keeping your pup happy and entertained while they transition into their new home.
Go for a tough and durable toy that is designed to be chewed on — and has some serious bounce to make fetch time fun!
Tricks and Treats
Puppy cuddles are great, but you need to be prepared to put in some training hours. Training your dog is essential for teaching manners but also helps to create a bond between you.
Start with the basics — sit, stay, come — and work your way up from there. And when puppy school is in action, make sure you have endless praise and a pouch of treats handy.
“I use a combination of treats and praise,” says Dr. Katrina.
“When teaching something new, I train when the dog is hungry and use ‘high-value treats’ — these are treats that the dog really loves like small pieces of chicken or cabanossi.”
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Now to Love.