Updated: May 25
Bringing home a dog is life-changing in more ways than one. The enrichment pets provide in your life cannot be overstated. Still, like most relationships, you have to put in some work to get the most out of it.
Making room in your life for a dog can be a daunting task, but we're here to help you manage the responsibility.
Shelters vs Breeders
The most logical place to start this process is with where you'll get your new dog. While you may find a dog needing a home from a friend or other source, most people either adopt from a shelter or rescue organization or find a pup from a reputable breeder.
Shelters are incredible organizations that need all the help they can get. You're bound to have access to several while living in the city, and they'll all be full of pets deserving of a home. However, shelters aren't the right source of adoption for everyone.
Pro: Rescue A Dog Looking For A Home!
You may feel morally inclined toward adopting from a shelter because it saves the life of the dog you adopt and makes room for another pup to take their place. Certainly, there's something to that. You shouldn't feel undue pressure to use a shelter, though. There are, of course, other factors to consider.
Con: Unknown Origins
The biggest drawback of adopting from a shelter is that you likely won't know your dog's full history. Did they come from an abusive home? What mix of breeds are they? Will they get along with cats or children?
Sometimes the shelter is able to provide answers—or educated guesses—to these questions. However, more often, you won't know much about your dog until you've had the chance to get to know them at home.
This, of course, doesn't have to be a deal breaker. Not only do many well-adjusted dogs come out of shelters, but plenty of dogs with behavioral issues have received the training and patience they need to settle into a loving home. You usually can spend as much time with the pups as you want to, so you can walk them, play, and even introduce them to another furry family member if you plan it with the shelter. Also, you could consider fostering a dog before fully committing so you can see how they behave in your home.
Pro: Cost Effective
Finally, since owning a dog is a financial commitment, it's worth noting that shelters tend to be less expensive than breeders. In addition to the base cost, these organizations typically help out by keeping dogs up-to-date on their vaccinations.
Breeders are just as viable as shelters, but it can be tricky to find one that's responsible.
Pro: You Know Where Your Pup's Been Socialized
One of the marks of a good breeder is that they'll invite you over to see the environment in which the pups have been raised. You'll be able to meet at least one of the dog parents and judge how well they've been treated.
This also allows you to get a sense for how the puppies' socialization is coming along. If the breeder has kids of their own, cats, or other dogs, this can instill confidence that your new pup will feel comfortable with these environmental stressors.
Con: Quality Can Vary
In addition to responsible breeders, you might come across amateurs or puppy mill type operations. It's important to be able to tell the difference.
Being invited to the breeder's home is a good indication that their operation is above board. Additionally, pay attention to the breeder's knowledgeability, the age of the puppies (they should be no younger than 8 weeks), the conditions (are the dogs well fed and in a clean area, safe area?) and whether or not you're asked to sign a contract. You can also ask for medical histories These are all good litmus tests for quality.
The bottom line is that you can make either option work for you. Simply be sure to do research and consult your budget so you're not diving into the process blindly.
New dogs take a lot of work, so you'll need to be fully prepared for their arrival. This means more than just dog-proofing your home, though that's certainly a task that needs taken care of, too.
Preparing your house is ahead of time is important when you bring home a puppy, since they're likely to chew things you don't want chewed and have accidents while they're still being potty trained. However, no matter the age of the dog, there will undoubtedly be adjustments to make.
You'll also want to tuck away or tape down exposed wires around the house. This keeps dogs from tripping over wires that could cause expensive electronics to come crashing to the ground, as well as deters them from chewing.
Other Members of the Household
Consistency is the key to training a dog, so you should have conversations with housemates about what is and isn't allowed. Establish basic commands you'll use, how you're planning to handle meal time, whether or not the dog's allowed on the furniture, and whether you'll restrict the dog to certain parts of the home. Being as thorough as possible will keep tensions low, which will be good for both human and animal members of the house.
For your new dog's comfort, entertainment, and safety, you should have several items on hand before you bring them into your home. The list includes:
Food and water dishes
Everyday food*, as well as a few treats
Chew toys, ropes, and tennis balls
A collar and leash
Pet-friendly cleaning supplies
Gates, if you're planning on keeping them confined
A crate, if you're planning to crate train
*To ease their transition, you'll want to get the same brand they have been fed. To transition them to a new food, it’s best to slowly blend the new food in to slowly switch them over.
Tips for the First Day
Traveling from wherever you pick your dog up will be the first challenge of day one. Be sure to have a secure way to get them to your home, like a crate or carrier.
Once you get home, give the dog space to sniff around and settle down. It'll be tempting to shower the dog with attention and constant stimulation, but that's likely to make them a little nervous. Finally, be sure to follow the feeding schedule the dog is used to and take frequent trips to the bathroom.
Training and Beyond
As your dog continues to adjust to their new home, you'll want to help by engaging them in play and mental stimulation. If they're a puppy, signing them up for obedience classes is a good idea. Of course, adult dogs need socialization, too, so you can consider classes for them, as well.
Finding a regular vet will also be an important item to check off the list. You can make sure they're in good health, get them on flea and tick medication, and ensure all vaccinations are taken care of.
Getting your dog on a schedule is also a good idea. If you need to be away from the house for work for long periods of time, consider hiring a walker. This will cut back on accidents and help your dog feel comfortable during the week. For tips on choosing a responsible service, read on here.
Overall, the more forward thought you put into your new dog's needs, the easier the transition will be for everyone.