Things You Must Know Before Getting A Dog!
Your dog will make messes. Unfortunately from both ends of their bodies. They are messy eaters, and… yup. The occasional accident from the other side.
April 7th, 2019
Suppose that after asking yourself those questions, you’ve concluded you’re ready. You’re expecting to welcome a new dog in your home within the next few days or weeks.
First of all, congratulations! That is a huge life-changing decision–one to own and be proud of.
The prep work starts now! Before your new dog arrives, there are some very important things you need to figure out.
In this article, I’ll present a list of all the things you must have answers to before getting your dog, assuming you have already committed to getting one.
Just to be clear, this article is not a list of questions to help you decide whether or not to get a dog (Questions such as “do I have the time to properly exercise my dog?”). That was covered in the other article mentioned above.
With that out of the way, let’s dive in.
Know Where The Vet Is!
This one made the top of the list for a reason!
Before getting a dog, it is so, so important to locate a good vet near you. Though our furry friends hate vet visits, they’re key in maintaining good health.
Definitely figure this one out early. You don’t want to be caught fumbling over this when a real emergency strikes.
If you don’t know where the vet is in advance of a major health problem, you’ll probably end up just visiting the first vet you find on Google… and this is not likely to be optimized for you and your dog’s needs.
You may end up spending too much on lower quality veterinarian services in an inconvenient area.
Don’t do your dogs this disservice. Do your research ahead of time. Here are some basic guidelines on how to find the right vet for you.
Maybe you know another dog owner who can vouch for a good vet in your area. Leveraging your personal network is a good way to begin narrowing down vet options, in addition to conducting searches online.
Another tip is to simply ask the shelter or breeder you’re getting your dog from.
In my case, my shelter partnered with a local animal hospital and provided me free treatment for any health conditions Yuna may have had in the first seven days of her arriving in Seattle. Your rescue organization may have something similar, so take advantage of that if possible.
Considering Quality Of The Vet
Quality is the biggest factor when it comes to choosing the right vet. Though you may not have your dog yet, there are many ways to glean information about a clinic.
One, as mentioned in the previous section, is through the opinions of those you know as well as online reviews.
Another would simply be to schedule a tour with the vet. Any reputable veterinary practice should be happy to introduce you around their facilities.
From this visit alone you should be able to form a decent first impression of the vet. Gauge the cleanliness of the facilities and the warmth of staff and how they interact with the animals.
Also, take note of how busy the facility is. A crowded waiting room can be a good sign, showing that client trust the services of the clinic.
Considering Price And Convenience
Price is always something that is difficult to pinpoint in dog care (more on this later). Different clinics can charge wildly different prices for the same tier of services.
Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about this besides trusting price estimates given on Google and Yelp. But even from this, you should be able to form a map of where the most affordable vets are in your area, without compromising on quality.
Convenience is yet another key aspect. When considering a vet, is the location easy for you to travel to, especially during an emergency? Also consider the issue of parking near the hospital.
During An Emergency
It may be the case that the primary vet you choose is not a 24/7 facility (apart from overnight boarding services). You should really know where your nearest emergency animal hospital is should something spring up overnight.
This almost came into play for Yuna and me when she had multiple vomiting episodes late in 2018, and was later diagnosed with acute pancreatitis.
Being able to call our local emergency vet was helpful in assessing Yuna’s health situation when no other nearby facilities were open.
Following these guidelines, you should be able to pin down your primary choice of vet, as well as a backup emergency vet. You will thank yourself for doing this later on!
Make Sure Your Home Is Dog-Friendly!
It’s very important to dog-proof your home.
Before diving in, I should note that it’s actually possible to over-prepare in this regard. Before I got my dog Yuna, I made a ton of modifications to the furniture layout, item placement, etc. I was prepared for the worst.
But Yuna ended up being an angel at home and pretty much everything I did was for nothing… well, almost nothing. Now that I have those experiences under my belt, I now get to share them to help you dog-proof a home before getting your dog!
Get At Your Dog’s Level
Before talking about specific changes you might have to make, one key exercise to try would be to get down on all fours and observe what your house looks like from down there.
What do you notice that stands out? Any dangling strings or pieces of furniture your future dog might want to tug? Got any moldy areas in the house? Any items you may have left on the floor? All these can invoke the curiosity of a dog!
By doing this you’ll be able to identify many issues you wouldn’t have been able to notice at human eye level.
Keep this in mind when reading the rest of this section. Changes you should make are not just limited to the ones presented here–if you think something looks off from a dog’s eye level, fix it!
All Wires Must Be Unreachable
All wires, electrical cords, cables, etc. must be kept away from your dog.
This can get kind of difficult with the amount of wires there are in most homes nowadays–everything is plugged in. Computers, internet routers, TVs, appliances…
But it’s worth investing the effort upfront. You don’t want to have to deal with what happens if your dog turns a cord into a chew toy.
There are multiple tips and hacks you can use to hide cords. The easiest and most obvious solution would be to wind up any exposed cords and stow them behind nearby furniture.
Most cords can be hidden in this way: computer cords behind a desk, internet cable cords behind drawers, TV cords behind TV stand… etc.
However, you may encounter some pesky cords which are harder to hide…
If it’s impossible to hide them behind furniture, consider wrapping them in some sort of protective material. Some possible choices for dog-proofing a home include corrugated wire loom or plastic spiral wrap–you can pick these up at office stores.
Finally, have chew toys ready. We’ll have an article soon of a checklist of items you’ll want to buy before getting a dog, but for now, just note that pets will only seek out these forms of “alternate entertainment” when they’re bored. So to stop your pet from chewing on wires, get chew toys!
Consider Baby Gates
There are some areas of the house you just don’t want your pet snooping around.
Maybe it’s the bathroom, the kitchen, or the storage room that contains all the dog food… in these cases, you may want to consider baby gates.
Make sure you buy a size appropriate for your dog. Some dogs are very clever (or athletic) and can figure out ways to circumvent these.
If you’ve got open-air cabinets or closets, you’ll want to make sure you cover them up.
Dogs are notorious for picking up those loose socks or other clothing items and calling them their own.
Before getting Yuna, I got all my clothes off the ground to a higher shelf, way out of any dog’s reach.
If you’re worried about your dog getting into your laundry hamper and you don’t have a cover, you can use some rope or clothes hangers to hang the hamper up high.
Trash cans should ideally be covered. A staggering amount of pets visit the vet each year because they went fishing in the trash.
Leave cabinets that can be closed, closed.
And then there’s the infamous drinking water out of the toilet bowl–keep that lid covered as well. It’s gross and potentially hazardous.
Take Note Of Fragile Items
Vases, glasses, or other household decorations should ideally not be left on living room tables.
This is especially important if you’ve got a small puppy who will later grow into a big dog. They are not very good at estimating their size–and they can easily knock over mirrors and topple over tables and chairs.
Your dog probably will not understand that they need to keep their paws off these things at first, so it’s always better to dog-proof them.
Take Note Of Flowers
Some household flowers are toxic for dogs if ingested. This includes tulips, daffodils, and many others.
If you’ve got these around in the house, make sure they are completely out of reach for your dog.
If you have a garden, you won’t be able to just let your dog roam free there. Ensure that the flowers you grow are not toxic for dogs, and always supervise them while they’re out there.
Keep It Clean
Before getting a dog, do a thorough cleaning of your house! Pick everything up off the ground, scrub down all table surfaces, wash furniture, vacuum and mop the floors, the whole shebang.
Your dog spends a lot of time sniffing the floor, in case you haven’t realized! A dirty house makes a sick dog.
Know Where To Take Care Of New Dog Essentials
The first week you get your dog will be a busy one. You’ll have to take care of many doggy issues, including but not limited to: spaying or neutering, vaccinations, and microchipping.
It’s a good idea to figure out how and where you’ll get these done before getting your dog. We will very briefly cover them here.
Spaying Or Neutering Your Dog
The choice of whether to spay or neuter your dog ultimately depends on the owner. There is a wealth of information out there arguing for or against this practice.
Many dog owners maintain that spaying or neutering their dogs will cause them to lose their inherent nature.
But many sources also consider spaying or neutering your dog perhaps the single best decision you can make for your dog’s long-term welfare.
Dog homelessness is a huge issue. An enormous amount of dogs are euthanized in shelters each year because they were not able to be adopted in time.
Spaying or neutering your dog prevents unwanted dogs from being born, among other health benefits listed in the article linked earlier.
So if possible, schedule a time and place to spay or neuter your dog. Dogs as early as eight weeks old can be spayed or neutered if healthy, although the usual age is somewhere between six and twelve months of age.
Even if you adopt an older dog, as long as they’re healthy they can and should be spayed or neutered–there generally is not an age where dogs are “too old” to get spayed. Though you should check with a vet for senior dogs (i.e. six years or older).
Get them. The main ones are Rabies, Distemper, and Bordetella (kennel cough).
For Distemper, puppies can get their first shot at around 6-8 weeks, the second at 10-12 weeks, and the third at 14-16 weeks. This is followed by one shot at one year, and then a renewal every 1-3 years after (seek vet recommendations).
For Bordetella, puppies can get their first shot at around 8 weeks, and then once per year. Some vets and daycare facilities recommend renewed Bordetella vaccinations every six months because of how contagious kennel cough is. Definitely consider this if you plan on frequenting doggy daycare.
For Rabies, puppies can get their first shot at around 12 weeks, and then a renewal every 1-3 years after (seek vet recommendations).
Be sure to check on any Canine Influenza vaccinations recommended for dogs in your area. Your vet and rescue organization are good sources to ask about this.
Other vaccinations include ones for Lyme, Lepto, Corona, Hepatitis, etc. Again, getting second opinions in person from vets and animal specialists are good in determining exactly which ones your dog will need.
The puppy vaccination schedule provided above was mainly sourced from here, in addition to recommendations from Yuna’s vet and other online sources.
Finally, before getting a dog you’ll need to figure out where to get him or her microchipped.
Microchipping is a quick process whereby a tiny computer chip is ingrained in your pet’s skin using a large bore needle. This adds your contact information to a global pet registry service, in case your dog ever gets lost.
Microchipping is preparing for the worst-case scenario. You may think that a collar containing all identification information is enough for dogs, but we switch our dog’s collars all the time, and name tags can easily break or wear out over time.
The chip will greatly increase the odds of getting your dog back safely. You will only need to do this once for your dog, and it’s a very quick process, so there’s no reason to skip this!
Be Sure You Can Backup Costs!
The sad truth about dog ownership is that it’s almost certainly going to be more expensive than you anticipate.
The day-to-day costs of owning a dog–the food, water, and supplies–are relatively low. It’s the unexpected costs that really break the bank.
It’s impossible to foresee any of these, regardless of whether you’re adopting a dog with an unknown history, or getting a dog from a reputable breeder.
Of course, you can and should do a lot of digging before getting your dog to figure out what possible health conditions they are most prone to.
But you could be the best dog parent in the world, and things just come up. Your dog gets in the trash. A health condition from their past that you never knew about starts acting up.
Being Financially Ready
You need to be financially ready to own a dog. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. If it doesn’t make financial sense to own a dog now, you are not doing you or your future dog’s life any favors.
I have already written in a previous article about costs of owning a dog–there, I estimated a first month cost of around $3,000, which may well be on the extreme high end.
But throughout the months of owning Yuna I’ve blown money on various health issues, the most serious being pancreatitis. Even something that’s seemed relatively innocuous like an ear infection is a mistake that can cost upwards of $300 to treat.
Make sure you have a significant chunk of money saved up in a rainy-day fund. This is money that would not cripple you financially even if you had to spend it all on your pet.
Part of being a responsible dog owner is being able to pay for the best treatment for your dog whenever health issues arise. If you cannot foresee yourself doing this or would be uncomfortable shelling out that kind of money, you need to reconsider your decision to get a dog!
Should You Get Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance can help on the financial front.
Since health issues are so difficult to predict, it may be worth researching different insurance options before getting a dog.
A big part of it is up to personal preference. Many dog owners would prefer the consistent, monthly or yearly payments as opposed to erratic spending due to unforeseen circumstances.
Opinions are mostly split on pet insurance. Many contend that it is simply too expensive and not worth it.
However, one big pro of having pet insurance is that it will allow you to choose the best coverage for your dog in an emergency, rather than take the least expensive route.
A comprehensive dive into pet insurance and all the related fine-print is simply out of scope for this article. We plan to publish an in-depth guide on this in the future!
Know What Happens When You’re At Work Or On Vacation
Regardless of whether you’re expecting a new puppy or an older adopted dog, chances are it’s a bad idea for you to leave them alone for longer than a few hours during the first few weeks home.
Perhaps you work a 9-5 and your office isn’t dog-friendly. Or perhaps you work long hours or a night shift and you won’t be able to tend to your dog.
And then there’s vacation–we all need some time just to relax and recharge.
It doesn’t matter what you’re doing–your dog still needs care even though you won’t be the one to provide it. What are you going to do in these scenarios?
Your Plan B
You need to know your plan B (and perhaps C and D and E…). Well before your decision to get a dog, you should know whether anyone can help you watch over the dog during your work hours.
At the very least, you need to make sure you can return home during your lunch break to care for your dog every single day until your dog is comfortable being alone for longer periods of time.
If your dog is older and already socialized, you could consider doggy daycare. It’s a nice option for your dog to stay active around other dogs while you work, but it is an easy place for infections to spread, and the costs can quickly add up too.
In any case, know your plan B before getting a dog!
Become Mentally Prepared
And finally, be mentally prepared. No doubt you’ve already heard from many about the huge responsibilities that come with dog ownership, and perhaps you’re tired of hearing about it.
But when the dog arrives in your home, things get very real, very fast.
Here’s just a glimpse of what you should be getting yourself mentally prepared for before your dog comes home.
Training is an umbrella term that covers so many things.
This is more than just your standard obedience training and teaching your dog crowd-pleaser tricks.
You’ll also need to house train your dog. They may not know their boundaries at first and you’ll have to establish that firmly in the start.
You should crate train your dog. Make sure your dog has a comfortable crate in the house where he can reliably spend a few hours on their own if need be.
Of course, there’s also potty training. There’s leash walking. You should start early with training and establish proper habits from the get go.
Cleaning Up After Your Dog
Your dog will make messes. Unfortunately from both ends of their bodies. They are messy eaters, and… yup. The occasional accident from the other side.
Your dog will bring home dirt and possibly fleas. They can get all over your furniture and carpets, and you are tasked with keeping your house clean.
Your dog will shed. Probably a lot more than you’re currently anticipating. Fur will get all over your clothes, your furniture, and the floor–get ready for lots of vacuuming, lint-rolling, and dog brushing.
Your dog will need consistency to get comfortable with their schedule. This means consistent feeding times, potty times, and any other routines that you build into their lives.
Then there’s exercise. Depending on your future dog’s energy level, you’ll likely be getting out of the house a lot more than you used to.
Before getting a dog, really consider whether or not you’re able to keep this up day in and day out.
Are You Prepared?
We’ve covered a lot of content in this article. Hopefully all this information did not deter you from getting a dog!
It may seem a little overwhelming, but that’s why you should take some to think about it all now. Before the dog arrives and everything suddenly gets super hectic.
We hope you got something out of this article. Do you think there’s anything we missed? Let us know in a comment or send us an email about it!
Be sure to follow Yuna’s Instagram for dog tips every other day, along with a renewed feed look!