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Top 3 Pieces of Advice for First Time Dog Owners

Bringing home a new dog is incredibly fun and exciting, but it’s natural to have a lot of questions, especially if you’re a first-time dog owner. After all, picking out your new dog is the easy part. But now that you’re a pet parent, it’s your job to keep your new best friend happy and healthy. It’s also vital to teach him how to be a well-mannered member of the family.

There’s a ton of advice out there, and it can all be a little overwhelming. We’ve got your back though as we’ve listed out our top advice for first-time dog owners to help you make all of the most important decisions with confidence.

1. How to Choose the Best Food for Your New Dog

One of the first things you’re probably concerned about is how to choose the best food for your new dog. There are tons of them to choose from, and most of them are adequate for meeting your dog’s nutritional needs.

Here’s a look at the different types of dog food, as well as the pros and cons of each type:

Dry kibble: Dry kibble is available in a wide range of price points, from very affordable to fairly expensive. It’s readily available in most stores and will stay fresh for several weeks after opening as long as it’s stored in a cool, dry place and kept in a sealed container.

Unfortunately, many of the more affordable brands of dry kibble contain a lot of carbohydrates, such as grains and legumes. While they are fine for providing energy, grains and legumes are common allergens for dogs, and they are also more likely to cause unhealthy weight gain.

Wet canned food: The biggest pro of choosing wet canned foods is that they are usually lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein. It is shelf-stable for months, but once it’s opened it will need to be stored in the refrigerator and used within a couple of days.

Raw dog food: Raw dog food is often made at home, but it can also be purchased pre-made. It’s made mostly from uncooked animal protein and ground-up bones, and sometimes it contains fruits and vegetables for added flavor and nutrition. Proponents of raw dog food recommend it because it’s unprocessed and contains live enzymes that may help with digestion.

However, there can potentially be some drawbacks to feeding a raw diet. First, raw meat can contain pathogens or parasites that may be dangerous to you, your family, or your dog, especially if the food and equipment used to serve and prepare it aren’t handled properly. Just don’t worry, just be aware of that, and buy your raw food from a brand that gets good ratings.

And, if you are making the food yourself, you must take great care to ensure you are meeting all of your dog’s nutritional needs. Of all the types of dog food available, feeding a raw diet is generally the most expensive.

Make Sure To Ask Your Vet

When it comes to choosing the best food for your new dog, most experts will agree that you should choose the best food you can afford that works for your dog and your lifestyle. You may have to experiment by trying a few different brands to find the perfect fit.

If you’ve found the right food, it will show in your dog’s healthy skin and shiny coat, firm stools, and of course, overall good health. Your dog will have a good appetite and normal stools that are neither too firm nor too soft. If you have any questions or concerns, your vet will be able to offer valuable insight based on your dog’s medical history and current condition.

2. Providing Preventive Care to Keep Your New Dog Healthy

According to experts at Bond Vet, a Brooklyn-based veterinary hospital, preventive care is crucial to your dog’s wellbeing. This includes annual checkups, dental care, and regular grooming. Start by taking your new dog to the vet for a checkup before or soon after you bring him home.

It’s not uncommon for shelter dogs and puppies to have fleas, worms or other parasites, dental issues, or other problems that should be addressed as soon as possible. Once your new dog is given a clean bill of health, he should be groomed by you or a professional, including a bath and brush out, a haircut (if needed), cleaning out his ears, and trimming his toenails.

At these initial appointments, consult with the vet and groomer to find out how often your dog should have checkups and grooming. Keeping to a regular schedule of preventive care will go a long way toward maintaining your pet’s health and catching any potential issues before they become serious.

3. Teaching Your New Dog How to Be a Well-Mannered Member of the Family

When it comes to training your new dog, be wary of outdated advice that tells you to be your dog’s “alpha,” or pack leader. Most animal behaviorists agree that you will get a lot further with positive reinforcement and teaching your dog boundaries, rather than using force or punishments that will only teach your dog to be fearful and anxious.

For example, if you catch your new dog chewing on something he shouldn’t, take the object away and give him a chew toy instead. When he starts chewing on the toy, offer praise. Make sure to provide lots of stimulating toys and keep other items out of reach until your dog learns boundaries.

It’s probably best to assume your new dog isn’t housebroken, just in case. Using a crate or confining your dog to one “dog-safe” area when you’re not home is probably a good idea when you aren’t available to supervise.

Crate training is a great way to housetrain most dogs. Take your new dog out every couple of hours, especially when he first wakes up and after a meal. Supervise him closely and take him outside right away if he starts sniffing around or showing other signs of needing to go to the bathroom. Always offer praise when he goes outside, but don’t yell or punish him for having an accident in the house. That will just teach him to hide the behavior.

Final Advice for New Dog Owners

Don’t hesitate to talk to a professional anytime you have questions about caring for or training your new dog. That’s what they are there for, and most vets, groomers, and trainers are happy to answer questions and make recommendations. Attending a basic obedience class is a great way to strengthen your bond, get some valuable training advice, and provide some valuable socialization for you and your new pooch.

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