Guest Post: Advice for First-Time Dog Owners

If you are considering adopting a dog, congratulations! A dog is a fantastic addition to any size family. Dogs love unconditionally and provide outlets for physical exercise and emotional bonding. Pets, in general, can help people battle loneliness and create a sense of purpose. More than any of this, a dog is a friend. They ask for little and provide much in the way of love.

As a new dog owner, you might be concerned about how to go about choosing a dog and welcoming her into your home. Although you should consider the obligation of dog ownership carefully and choose a breed and size that is suitable for your living arrangements and lifestyle, the process is not all that difficult.

Choosing the right dog

If you are adopting your new family member, you will likely have much fewer options for selecting a breed. Many shelter or adoption dogs are mixed breeds, with an overwhelming and seemingly never-ending supply of mid-to-large-sized breeds. Although many fit the unspecific category of “pit bull,” there are also beagles, boxers, labradors, and other breeds or breed mixes.

Regardless of the mix, you can glean some basic guidelines based on the rough size of the dog and athleticism. You can also check out some of the various online breed-matching tools, which take some of the typical character traits and care needs of different breeds and match them to your family’s lifestyle and housing arrangements.

For example, larger breeds generally need a lot of exercise to remain happy and to maintain good behavior. Dogs sleep a lot in general. But if they have little activity, they will become restless when you are not home. Restlessness leads to anxiety and destructive or unwanted behaviors. A well-exercised dog will likely sleep all day while you are at work, will be less likely to jump on visitors, and will be receptive to obedience training. Exercise also helps curtail obesity, which leads to a host of medical problems from joint issues to diseases.

Smaller breeds may not need as much exercise as a larger dog, but they have their breed-specific concerns. Often, it is helpful to try to see your small dog’s world from her perspective. Can she reach her dog dish? If allowed on the couch, can she leap from the ground? You may find that you need to rearrange some parts of your home to accommodate your little canine.

Also, you should evaluate your home in general before choosing a dog. Concerns such as the size of rooms to whether you have a fenced-in yard might influence your decision. If you don’t have a fence in your yard, you may need to install one. In the DC area, installing a wood fence will generally cost between $1,675 - $4,116. Regardless, rather than choosing in the heat of the moment (e.g., when you see the cute puppy with sad eyes at the adoption clinic), make sure you get the right dog for you and your home.

Preparing your home for a dog

When you have a general idea of the type of dog that is appropriate for your life, spend some time preparing your house before bringing the pup home. This is another time when assessing your home from the dog’s perspective can be helpful. Walk through your home and look for potential hazards that may be low to the ground. Your dog may be curious and try to open under-the-sink cabinets with her nose. Make sure dangerous chemicals are out of your dog’s way, and also look for potential chewing spots.

Also, you should prepare an area of your home for your dog’s comfort. A spacious dog bed and dog crate (cost varies from $25 to $571) can occupy a permanent area as a way to reinforce stability for your dog.

As a bonus, these steps in making your home comfortable and choosing the right breed each help in fostering a positive bond between you and your new pet. By selecting carefully and preparing your life and home to welcome the dog, you will have already laid the groundwork for a positive dog ownership experience.

Jessica Brody runs Our Best Friends and can be reached at

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