When I was little – like my prime awkward years in middle school – I was a huge Sims fan. I played that game every day after school and built kick a$$ houses and families with the last name of my latest crush (obviously). Then when Sims Pets came out I think I went overboard. Most of my families had like 5 puppies. Apparently now in the latest version of the game you can be the brain behind not just the Sims but their pets, too! Gah! And you can take them to the park and stuff! I’m glad I don’t have this game now or I would have no life, even though I don’t currently have a life now either. As much as I’d like to think that Sims Pets prepared me for my future as a dog mom, there wasn’t a lot of reality in there. I don’t remember any whining or having to spend any real money to get a dog, but the potty training was there but its way more annoying in real life. If you’ve ever played the Sims, the only scenario in that game that represents real life is when your Sim accidentally starts a fire while cooking and you start to panic for them, or when your Sims is a shitty parent and gets their child taken away by social services. Other than that, I don’t really think Sims is a genuine example of real life, so if you are considering getting a dog I wouldn’t plan everything based on what Sims Pets may have taught you 😉
I put together a list of necessities and things to keep in mind for the folks out there thinking about getting a dog but not sure what they need for their first few days home. Let me know in the comments if there’s anything else you guys found to be useful to get your pup adjusted to their new home!
Things to consider:
Adopting vs. Buying
- This is a no brainer but there are a LOT of dogs in shelters and rescues around the country and all over the world. Now, I know that some breeds are awesome (cough, cough, Vizlsa) but my first suggestion would be to think about the type of dog you want or if you don’t care about the breed. If you don’t care to have a certain breed, then take a drive and visit a few shelters in your area to see if theres a pup there that you could bring home!
- There are a lot of people that will tell you to adopt a dog as opposed to buying a puppy from a breeder or a pet store. As for the pet store, do your research ahead of time because I think you will be disgusted by where a lot of puppies from pet stores come from (puppy mills). I won’t go into detail in this post about why puppy mills are terrible, but its important that all dogs without a home are able to find one, whether you adopt or buy. Some may tell you if you are partial to a particular breed to go the breeder route. I would advice to first look for a rescue that specializes in that particular breed you want. You may luck out, and find a fully trained dog, (past the puppy stage, too!) that is the breed you wanted all along.
Breed & Maintenance
- As I mentioned above, if you are partial to a particular breed based on looks alone, I will highly recommend you go to a library or do some online research to learn more about that dog type and their personalities. While not all dogs of the same breed are exactly the same, some of them will have similar characteristics to their personalities that you should keep in mind. For instance, Vizslas are known for wanting to be near their master/human all the time (its why they got the nickname velcro dog). This stems from their hunting instincts of following close by their master. And because of that neediness, they are far more likely to never leave you alone at home, whether you are peeing, showering or just need some peace and quiet. A lot of hunting breeds also have separation anxiety, too. Other dogs, Pugs for example, are known for their lazier nature. They were bred in ancient China and given a very luxurious life of little activity from what I’ve read.
- Some dogs require more maintenance than others. This could be due to how much fur they have and how often they need to be groomed or their activity level. You may need to take your dog to the groomer monthly, or walk them a few times a day. Just think about the amount of money and time you are willing to dedicate to a dog in general, let alone a specific breed that may require more of your resources.
- Select a breed that is in line with your lifestyle. For the most part, I think its possible to train your dog to adapt to your lifestyle, but its also not fair to expect a dog used to a particular lifestyle of their own, to become uncomfortable. The best example I can think of here would be a dog that is used to running in big a field may not cope well with adapting to an empty life of apartment living.
Effort & Patience
- Another component to getting a dog that a lot of people don’t anticipate is the amount of work that you will put into helping your pup feel at home. I’m talking the emotional and mental toll that it can take on you. Getting a dog that requires training of any sort will be stressful at times, so remember to be prepared for the long days and middle of the night wake up calls, and obviously practice patience with your new pup: they’re adjusting to their new environment just as much as you are adjusting to them!
- Looking back on the first month with Luna, that first stretch was terribly difficult and I definitely cried a crap ton and regretted getting her a few times. I’m talking hyperventilating Kim Kardashian ugly tears. I’m not sure if I had ever been told how exhausting it’d be ahead of time, but that’s why I’m sharing this with you guys. I hear so many stories from my best friends who volunteer and foster for a local Houston rescue, Animal Justice League, about people who get puppies for their kids for special occasions and don’t realize the effort it takes to have a dog. And they give up, let the dogs run away, turn them over to a shelter, or don’t take care of them at all because its too much work and they probably weren’t prepared for that.
- If you have a friend who is going through that rough patch in the beginning few weeks or months, remind them that it only gets easier! But it also will only get easier based on the amount of effort you are willing to put in. Give anyone you know who’s struggling with this the resources that worked best for you and your dog, or direct them to a trainer, or just let them vent. Its definitely a stressful time for everyone involved, including the dog, so having a shoulder to lean on can be make or break for a lot of people. I will add that I know a few people who have had really great experiences and never had a stressful moment with a new dog, but its better to be over prepared than underprepared.
Things to buy:
- I’m a big supporter of crate training, but I realize its not for everyone. My suggestion is to have one on hand, whether you borrow it from a friend or purchase one yourself. I had no idea if Luna would be a crazy pup who needed to be crated or would be calm enough to just sleep all day. But low and behold crate training was the route we took since I work a full day and am not able to be at home with her. After about 6 months or so of crate training, we were able to wean her off of the closed crate when we left for the day, and now she chooses to spend the day in her crate or cozy cave and sleeps the day away without terrorizing the apartment 🙂 She may look like she isn’t crazy, but puppies are big fat con artists.
- I kind of went overboard with the bed scenario and bought a bed from a company that guarantees their dog beds will withstand chewing. This cost me about $100. I ended up doing this only because the $50 beds from PetSmart were being chewed up on the regular. Just go the cheaper route from the beginning until you get to know your dog, then you can go cray like me and get a cozy cave.
Food and Feeding Bowls
- I put together a list of our favorite treats and how I determine which dog food brands to buy which you can check out here, but when I brought Luna home I started off with a smaller bag of dog food until I found out what she liked best. This way I didn’t waste $50 on a 20+ lb. bag of food only to find out she didn’t like it. A lot of stores have a great return policy where you can actually return half full bags of dog food if your dog doesn’t like it, but I would check on that policy at your pet store before you take that route.
Leash & Harness
- The first things I picked up when I was considering getting a dog was a leash and a collar. I decided on a harness later on because I wasn’t sure how much of a puller my future dog would be. It also can’t hurt to get a harness just in case though! Luna actually backed out of her collar in the parking lot at PetSmart (cue tears and paranoia and losing my mind) RIGHT AFTER I GOT HER. So I knew the harness was money well spent. We are currently using Kong this harness, but I’m probably going to try this PetSafe harness eventually.
Collar (with tags)
- Some of my favs are from Gun Dog Supply (this is the one we have and love!) which includes a monogrammed nameplate with the purchase of the collar, but you can easily pay for a tag at PetSmart or Petco and get them monogrammed for free. Be sure to include your cell phone number and address. I’m still working on recall with Luna and trying to get her to “come” when called so when we practice that training its a comfort knowing that if she got away, my number is on her collar and whomever finds her can contact me.
- I think this one is self explanatory but you can’t go wrong with a rope toy or a something a little more robust like the Kong. If you are looking for some more advanced toys to keep your pup’s brain active, you can check out our favorite puzzle toys here. Toys are like the flavor of the week in our house, but I know some dogs that find their fav toys and never find anything else to be as interesting ever again.
Did I need the multiple toys? Probably not. We probably could have made do with one or two of them. Same goes for treats. You don’t really NEED them. For all you know you will bring your dog home only to find out that they aren’t food motivated and the treats aren’t a hit. Wait it out and figure out your dogs personality before spending the dinero on stuff you don’t even know your dog will like.
Things to schedule:
- You should definitely ask around for vet recommendations before getting a dog. You never know what may pop up before you are able to schedule an annual exam after getting your dog. I believe a lot of shelters will require that you agree to bring your dog to a vet within a reasonable amount of time after adopting, so having that vet’s number on hand is a good idea. Also, google or ask friends or even people at the dog park for suggestions about emergency clinics or how they like their vet.
- Now this may not be applicable for everyone, but if you are anything like me and enjoy planning ahead and having a back up plan, I’d definitely get a trainers number ahead of time. I really thought I’d be able to train Luna by myself (LOLOLOL) but having someone else who is way more experienced in the field come to train BOTH of us was well-worth the money.