First Dog Owner’s Guide

You now own a new dog. Congratulations!

Is it your first one? Well, it doesn’t really matter, because each dog has a unique personality.

You need to carefully plan for its training. Also, just like human beings, dogs need love, care, and attention.

With the right kind of care, your canine friend can fill your life with much love and joy.

According to the American Psychological Association, people who own pets lead healthier and happier lives.


Having a new dog in your family can be overwhelming for you and the pet.

As he/she settles in your home, you’ll create a bond through such things as walks and sharing some household amenities.

As such, you need to pay proper attention to the dog’s health and wellbeing. This is one way of showing love to your canine companion.

You need to protect your dog against distress, threat, and external harm.

In this guide, we will tell you all you need to know about dog ownership.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Caring for Your Dog

Owning a dog means commitment. This means that you should be prepared for the additional responsibilities involved.

These include the day-to-day care of the dog, its nutrition, veterinary visits, training, and vaccinations.

The good thing is that when you take care of your of your dog well, it is worth all the effort.

Create the conditions necessary for your dog to thrive. You may not see progress immediately.

However, with consistency, you’ll achieve your goals. Remain focused and don’t lose your patience in the process.

The first thing you should think of is your dog’s safety. Ensure that you give your dog proper identification. It’s important in case the dog gets lost.

Thousands of dogs become homeless every year for lack of proper identification. Together with the dog collar, give your dog a nametag.

After all, you don’t want your dog being added to the annual statistics, do you?

Equally important is the type of food you feed your dog.

Dog Nutrition

Good food ensures that your dog leads a healthy, happy life. There are different foods for different dog breeds.

Ensure that you get the right food for your dog.

Puppy Diet

Puppies require different foods from grown-ups. This is because they grow more rapidly. Choose foods that will help in their growth.

Here are the key considerations when it comes to puppy food:

  • Don’t give them a wide variety as they may make them susceptible to indigestion
  • Feed then on easily digestible food
  • In case you need to make any changes, do it gradually
  • Don’t refill half empty bowls
  • Avail clean drinking water for your pup
  • Don’t feed your pup scraps of food
  • Feed your pup 4 months a day, and reduce this to 3 by the age of 6 months
  • In case of any problems, consult your vet

A Mature Dog’s Diet

When it comes to a mature dog, choose a brand that is reputable and suitable for your dog breed.

Such brands use high-quality ingredients with no artificial preservatives. Thus, your dog is unlikely to suffer from allergies.

Study the food label carefully to establish the nutritional value of the product you’d like to buy.

Also, ensure that you establish a regular feeding schedule for your dog.

It’s important that you understand what a dog should and shouldn’t eat.

What Your Dog Shouldn’t Eat

  • Raw fish and meat
  • Chocolate
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Hard chews
  • Avocado
  • Chicken Bones

Equipment and Supplies

It’s important that you purchase all the right equipment and supplies for your dog, even before you bring the dog to your home.

If you acquire a dog for the first time, there are things that you’ll require straight away. Some of them are mandatory, while we consider others optional.

You can start with the mandatory ones, and purchase the optional ones later.

Mandatory Supplies

  • Breed and age-appropriate dog food
  • Identification tags
  • Collar Leash
  • Dog bed and bedding
  • Stainless steel food bowl
  • Stainless steel water bowl
  • Disposable waste bags
  • Treats
  • Odor and stain remover

Optional Supplies

  • Safe dog toys
  • Crate
  • Dog shampoo
  • Outdoor kennels
  • Muzzles
  • Pet gates
  • Grooming accessories
  • Flea treatment
  • Training pads
  • Clippers

Creating Home Comfort

Most dogs are inquisitive by nature. As such, they like exploring and discovering their new environment in the home and outside.

You need to enhance the safety of your house and its environs before you bring the new puppy or dog home.

This will ensure that your pet is not injured as it explores its new environment.

Safety Inside the House

Keep expensive and treasured items out of the reach of your dog. You can choose a high, unreachable location for them.

Trailing electrical cords and wires pose a particular hazard for dogs. Keep them well tacked, and out of your dog’s reach.

Protect your cables with chew-proof protectors. Also, ensure that all lower drawers in the house are well secured.

A pet gate at the bottom of your stairs protects your dog against injuries. A tumble down the stairs can cause serious injury.

To ensure that your dog remains active and lively while you are away, seek the services of a professional pet sitter. Such a person will engage your dog in constructive activities in your absence.

Safety Outside the House

Your compound should be well fenced to prevent your dog straying. In case of any instability in the fence panels, secure them before you bring the pet to your home.

Ensure that your fence does not have any room that your dog can escape through. You can use a wire mesh to block any gaps in the fence.

Cover any ponds, hot tubs, and swimming pools in the home.

Be very careful when moving your vehicle in or out of the compound. Many a dog has been run over by vehicles.

Also, ensure that your compound is free of plants that are dangerous to dogs. Here are some such plants:

  • Tulip
  • Tomato
  • Ivy
  • Lily
  • Azalea
  • Daffodil
  • Hydrangea
  • Aloe vera
  • Chrysanthemum

Keep Your Dog on a Leash

A number of dog owners seem to ignore the importance of a dog leash. You should not be among them!

Whenever you go outdoors, ensure that your dog is on a leash. In some areas, it is illegal to let your dog off the leash in public.

However, even if you don’t live in such an area, ensure that your dog is under supervision at all times. Do not allow him to loiter.

It is equally important to pick up after your dog. It is unethical to leave dog poop in public places. A disposable waste bag for dogs should come in handy for such occasions.

Also, try to contain your barking dog. Otherwise, your neighbors may regard it as a nuisance.

Exploring the Home

On the first day, your dog arrives home, try to help him explore his new home. Be available to show him around, to help him be acclimatized to the new environment.

Takes things slow, and let him explore at his own pace. Let him meet your family members, including any other pets in the family.

Most dogs show signs of anxiety on this first day. They will pace aimlessly and pant a lot. Don’t try to do anything rash, as this might heighten his discomfort.

Among the first things you should do is to train your dog basic commands. Teach him to understand the meanings of ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

Let him know that he’s not supposed to urinate or poop in the house. Let him understand he should conduct such business outside.

Once the dog has visited all the rooms in the home, it is time to introduce him to his bed and crate.

You can use treats to encourage him to enter his crate.

It is common for new male dogs to mark their territory. This is more so if it has not been neutered.

Be keen to establish the chain of command from early on. Establish yourself as the dominant partner. This way, you’ll be able to instill disciple and good behavior in your canine friend.

The Best Dog Gear

Dog Leash

There is a wide selection of leashes to choose from for your dog. The traditional ones tend to be cumbersome. Retractable ones often break under the pull of a strong dog.

The best leashes are packable, indestructible, and light.

Dog Bed

Your dog deserves a good place to sleep in. He deserves a soft, pliant bed.

Invest in a good bed that has a tough cover. The cover should be removable so that you can wash it with ease.

Dog Bowl

A dog bowl is a crucial piece of equipment for feeding time. It should be made of stainless steel and should be indestructible.

Also, look for a dog bowl that is friendly to your dog’s muzzle.

Seat Protector

Even as your dog has fun running around, they tend to accumulate all kinds of filth. However, this filth need not stain your car seats.

A good, heavy-duty seat protector should help you protect your car seats on the ride back home. All you’ll need to do is to hose it down once you get home.

Dog Harness

A dog harness comes in handy when you want to restrain your dog. Some of the best harnesses have a chest leash and back attachment points.

Paw Protectors

Use paw protectors if you intend to take your dog hiking over rough terrain. Good paw protects are flexible and provide your dog’s paws with extra traction.

Dog Pack

You can pack your dog’s bowls, water, and food in an appropriate dog pack. It will make your own load lighter while giving the dog a good workout.

However, be keen not to overload your canine friend. Ensure that he doesn’t carry more than 20% of his total body weight.

Importance of Good Training

When your dog is well behaved, it is a benefit to you and all those it meets. It is less likely to upset people. Also, it will be more welcoming to your family members and visitors.

As such, it’s important that you impart good canine etiquette to your dog.

If your dog is ill-behaved, it may cause accidents or injuries that expose you to legal ramifications.

A poorly trained dog lacks a sense of structure and may behave erratically.

If you’d like to enjoy a happy, healthy, and long relationship with your dog, get it good quality training. Do this as early as possible.

Being a pack animal, a dog seeks guidance from a leader. Take responsibility and act as the leader from the onset. Train it exactly how you’d like it to behave.

Basic House Training Steps

Once your dog arrives home, help it to be acquainted with the surroundings. Take charge so that the dog can comfortably adjust as soon as possible.

Walk him around the garden. Let him acclimatize to the sights and sounds of your home.

Pick a good spot for it to be relieving itself. Let him associate that particular spot with urinating and pooping.

Of course, toilet training your dog calls for tons of patience. You can use the reward system for each time he gets its right.

Shower him with praises, or give him a treat to approve an action. This will help them to acquire good traits quite fast.

Dog Play Date Ideas

Dogs are naturally sociable. Thus, it’s important that you earmark certain dates as your dog’s play dates.

Here are a few fun things that you can consider:

Arrange a Doggy Date

You can have your dog meeting other dogs. Organize with the owners of the other dogs, so that you can meet and allow your dogs to play together.

Visit a Dog-friendly Beach

The US has many dog-friendly beaches. Identify some of them and take your dog for some fun. They’ll enjoy swimming or just lying on the sand.

Visit the Park

You can take your dog to a dog park for exercise. Also, it’s a place where dogs can socialize.

Hit the Trails

Being naturally inquisitive, your dog will enjoy hitting the trails with you. However, find out whether he’s supposed to be on a leash on the particular trail.

Enroll Your Dog in an Agility Course

Even if you are not into serious competitions, have your dog trained for the fun of it. This will provide him with great exercise.

Also, it’s a great opportunity for both of you to bond.

Include the Kids

Most dogs love being around kids. They enjoy playing together. Taking the kids and the dog on a trip is a great way for them to bond. Playing together will enhance their trust in one another.

Keeping a Regular Exercise Schedule

When a dog is bored, it exhibits unusual behave. They may chew endlessly, bark continuously, or start dogging.

You can keep your dog entertained through exercise. Besides, it’s a great way for them to have good working minds and bodies.

The amount of exercise you expose your dog to largely depends on its breed, age, size, and health status.

A sporting breed will require more exercise than say a toy breed.

Whatever the case, ensure that the exercise is regular. Try to give your dog a consistent amount of time and exercise each day.

Exercising at least once a day is important for helping your dog maintain s good blood pressure and healthy weight.

Puppies are usually exuberant and full of energy. As such, you need to keep a very close watch over them when you take them for walks. Also, do not over-exert it. if the weather is very hot, try to go out when it is cooler.

In case you notice your puppy struggling for whatever reason, be sure to see your vet. It could be that the dog has some hidden medical condition.

Bathing and Grooming Your Dog

You should bathe your dog at least once every 3 months. However, depending on your unique circumstances, you can do this more often.

Do not use harsh shampoo in the bathing process. The market today is awash with all kinds of dog shampoo. Choose a mild and safe type.

Before you dip your dog into the water, it’s important you brush it. This helps to clean it of all mats and dead hair.

Don’t get water into their ears and eyes.

Also, use a firm rubber mat at the bottom of the tub to steady the dog’s footing.

Some dogs consider bathing time as playtime. Encourage this by introducing toys into the bathtub.

You should groom your dog on a regular basis. This gives you the chance to check for fleas and other pests. Also, regular grooming keeps your dog’s skin and hair healthy.

How often you brush your dog will depend on the size of their hair. Dogs with long hairs should be brushed daily. You can brush those with short hairs about once a week.

Grooming should start as soon as the dog arrives in your home. This helps to establish this as a regular routine. To help them take up the habit, give them treats after every bath.

Your Dog and the Vet

One of the earliest things you should do with your pup or dog is to register it with your vet. The vet is as important to your dog as your own doctor is to you.

Upon registration, the vet will request to conduct a check-up to verify its medical status.

The vet will advise you about the nutritional needs of your dog. This will depend on its breed, age, and medical status.

He’ll also advise you about the susceptibilities that your type of dog breed faces.

What to Do in an Emergency

It is common for dogs to have emergencies. In the unfortunate event, this happens with your dog, you need to know how to handle the situation.

To start with, determine the nature of the emergency. If the situation is critical and requires immediate attention, contact your vet without wasting time.

It’s important that you don’t panic. Stay calm, but act with haste.

Your vet can advise you on how to handle common dog emergencies. The vet usually has a comprehensive list of such common dog emergencies.

Vaccinations & Preventing Disease

Just like all living creatures, dogs do get sick and fall ill. You should be prepared for this.

Ensure that your dog is vaccinated against some of the more common diseases. However, find out first whether the previous owner/breeder had taken all the necessary vaccination measures.

A vaccinated dog enjoys a better quality of life than one that is not. It boosts their immune system and protects them against serious illnesses.

Your vet will advise you on all the vaccinations you need. Also, they’ll inform you about booster vaccinations, and when to take your dog for them.

If your dog becomes too sick, you’ll not enjoy peace of mind. Just like humans, dogs experience much pain and may howl relentlessly. In the very severe cases, the dog may succumb and die.

Vaccination is a sure way to protect your dog. Once vaccinated, your dog will enjoy a long, healthy, and quality life.

Your vet can advise that your dog is vaccinated for the following:

  • Rabies
  • Canine Parvovirus
  • Canine Distemper
  • Canine Para-influenza
  • Canine Adenovirus-2
  • Canine Influenza
  • Canine Enteric Coronavirus
  • Canine Parvovirus
  • Intestinal Worms
  • Leptospirosis
  • Heartworm Disease
  • Lyme Disease
  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis
  • Leptospirosis
  • Kennel Cough

Common Diseases, Infections & Pests

If your dog misses out on vaccination, you need to look out for possible diseases and infections. If left untreated, it’s possible for the infection to affect your other family members, including the other pets and humans.

To avoid catching the infection, observe the rules of good hygiene. For example, wash your hands with a disinfectant after attending to a sick dog.

More importantly, consult your vet as soon as possible.

In some cases, it’s possible that your dog can pass infection over to humans. As a result, always observe strict hygiene rules, such as washing your hands after interacting with your dog.

If you notice that your pet has any of the above symptoms for these illnesses, speak to your vet without delay.

Here are a few signs of disease that you should be wary of:

A kennel cough

This dry cough usually comes after a bout of exercise or hard activity. It is accompanied by retching and vomiting. The dog may gag or sneeze incessantly.

Canine Distemper

This is characterized by inflammation and discharge in the nose and eyes. The dog may show difficulties breathing.

The dog will have a fever, diarrhea, and a cough.


The dog will show signs of fever and inflammation of the eyes. The dog may also experience mood swings. It will also appear sold and shivery.

Infectious canine hepatitis

The dog experiences nausea, coughing, sore throat, and inflammation of the eyes. It also loses appetite and shows signs of unquenchable thirst.

The dog’s tongue, nose, and gums will be pale.

Canine Parvovirus

The dog will be unusually quiet. It may also vomit a lot, leading to dehydration. This is made worse by a very severe bloody diarrhea.


Regardless of your dog’s breed, it is at the risk of getting worms. Puppies are more likely to get worms than grow-ups. They can get them during birth or as they suckle.

Worms cause serious infections in dogs. As such, it is important that you deworm your dog every four months.

Puppies should first be dewormed two weeks after birth.

Roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms are responsible for blood loss, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Heartworms are quite long and invade the lungs and heart.

The market is rich in the number of worm treatment brands. You can get these from your local pet store.

It is advisable to consult your vet for deworming services.

Fleas, Ticks, and Mosquitoes

Tiny as they might be fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes can cause your dog untold suffering. Just one bite from them can infect your dog with diseases.

Fleas cause flea allergy dermatitis. This makes the dog to scratch continuously due to severe itching. When this goes on for long, your dog will suffer much hair loss.

Ticks are responsible for the Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.

On the other hand, mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease, which can be fatal.

What’s more, fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes affect dogs of all breeds, ages, and sizes. None is immune.

Spayed and Neutered

The world over, thousands of dogs are euthanized because of overpopulation. If your dog is not neutered or spayed, it is could be contributing to this challenge.

Ask the vet to neuter your male dog when is about 9 months old. This will tone down its aggression and reduce its chances of getting testicular cancer.

The vet should spay your female dog when it is between 3 and 9 months old. This reduces its chances of getting incontinence issues and breast cancer.

It is not mandatory that you neuter or spay your dog. However, it is advisable if you want to avoid challenges in the future.

Ask the vet to sterilize your vet. You could be saving a life in the process!

If you intend your dog for breeding, breed responsibly. Avoid mixing purebreds with breeds of unknown genetic history.

Socializing Your Dog

Finding the Right Dog Park

Your vet can advise you on the safest dog parks in the vicinity. Alternatively, you can speak to other dog owners in your area.

Some parks are best suited for small breeds, while others cater to the needs of larger breeds.

Also, find out if the park is free or private. Private parks usually charge a small fee.

Understanding Dog Park Etiquette

As you look to using dog parks, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with dog park etiquette.

Train your dog to observe good public behavior. Here are some of the basic dog park rules that you should be aware of:

  • Ensure that the play area is clean so that your dog and others are not injured
  • Don’t visit with too many pets. They could distract your attention.
  • Consult your vet regarding your dog’s suitability to play
  • Have the vet spay or neuter your dog before it visits the park
  • Ask the vet to vaccinate your dog before it visits the park
  • Be courteous to fellow dog owners
  • Close all gates/doors as you enter or exit the dog park
  • Don’t leave your dog(s) unattended
  • Avoid eating or smoking in the park
  • If your animal causes problems in any way, remove it from the park
  • Don’t take infants and very small children into the dog park
  • Keep your dog leashed, unless otherwise permitted
  • Avoid grooming your dog in the park
  • Don’t feed other dogs without their owners’ permission
  • Clean up after your dog
  • Take responsibility for damage caused by your dog
  • Don’t carry dog toys into the park
  • Only use licensed training for training in the park (if it’s permitted)
  • Carry with your recent shot records for animal officials

Inviting Friends at Home

Don’t be in a rush to invite friends to your home before your dog settles. The early days are very important for your dog.

The dog needs time to acclimatize to the new environment.

When your friends do finally come over, ensure that the dog is under your full control. It is best that you keep it on a leash during such moments.

Remember to reward your dog for good conduct.

Make your guests comfortable and relaxed. Your dog may react negatively to their nervousness.

It is quite common for dogs to sniff and smell your visitors. All the same, do not allow it to jump on guests.

Introducing Your Dog to Another Dog

The best time to introduce your dog to another dog is when he is between 4 weeks and 10 weeks old.

It’s upon you to enhance the success of that first encounter. To do so, you need to bear in mind a few things.

To begin with, choose a place where neither dog feels threatened. Dogs tend to be territorial. As such, neutral ground is suitable for this meeting.

Ensure that the two dogs are on leashes. Allow them to study and smell each other.

Be on the lookout for any signs of hostility from either dog. If they seem relaxed, bring them closer and drop their leashes.

You and the other dog owner play the role of calming and reassuring the two dogs. Remember to reward them for good conduct.

The most important thing is to maintain control.

If things do not work out, withdraw both dogs and try introducing them later.

Dogs and Children

Never make the mistake of leaving alone with the dog. At the same time, the children should learn how to behave in the presence of your new dog.

When a dog feels threatened, they become afraid and defensive. They growl and bite. Young children may not know their boundaries in the presence of dogs.

Teach your children the behavior that may cause your dog to turn defensive.

Here are a few things that you can teach them:

  • Never to mistreat or harass the dog
  • Never to scream at the dog
  • Never to play bite with the dog
  • Never to play rough with the dog
  • Never to show signs of aggressive behavior
  • Never to run towards the dog

Dog Insurance

Just like humans, dogs can suffer medical emergencies.

They can experience unexpected accidents and diseases. When this does happen, you may have to incur costly, unplanned expenses.

Some treatments can run into thousands of shillings.

Do you have considerable savings to mitigate such a situation? Are you in a position to save the life of your pet should the need arise?

Some breeds of your dog are at high risk of getting medical challenges. If yours is such a dog, you need to think outside the box

It’s important that you consider purchasing appropriate pet insurance. This will give you peace of mind. You’ll no longer have to worry about the care of your dog in case of an emergency.

Even if your dog is not in the high-risk category, you still need to consider the financial and emotional ramifications in case of an accident.

There are different types of dog insurance. They cost differently, depending on your type of dog. The larger the dog, the more expensive the insurance cover.

Ensure that you engage your pet insurance provider exhaustively before you take a policy. They’ll give you all the options available depending on your dog’s unique circumstances.

Final Word…

Being a new dog owner is all about commitment and responsibility.

You need to be committed to taking care of it. You need to take responsibility for his actions.

If you decide to breed your dog, ensure that you observe all the proper protocols of breeding. Acquaint yourself with breeding standards. Join a community of responsible breeders for support.

Also, rope in your vet. They’ll be very instrumental as you raise your dog.

Most importantly, ensure that your dog is healthy. The first step in this is by feeding him high-quality food.

All the best as you embark on this new way of life with your canine friend. Be a patient leader, and your pooch will turn out just right.

Feel free to share with us your experiences.

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