Getting a new dog? You’ll need a few things, and we’re not just talking collars and leashes here. Find out what equipment and supplies – and what household negotiations – should precede the arrival of your dog.
The first time I adopted a dog as an adult – that is, I was an adult, but thankfully so was the dog – I had no idea what a dog might need, beyond a collar, a leash, and food and water. I was clued in to the requirement to pick up poop, but otherwise, it was Ignorant-Orama chez Benal. A thoughtful shelter or rescue group or a responsible breeder will fill you in on everything I’m about to tell you, but, let’s face it, a lot of shelters and rescue groups are sloppy; careful breeders are thin on the ground; and there’s always the chance that you’ll get a dog directly off the street. Which is approximately what happened to me. To spare you early sad-sackery like mine, here’s what you need for your new dog.
Yes, collar or front-clip harness, leash, dog bowls, and poop bags. So far, apparently so straightforward. But you may want to check out my episodes on dog-walking equipment, because not all collars, harnesses, and leashes are created equal. Oh, and those dog bowls? Don’t waste your money on plastic. As you probably know, some plastics leach toxic chemicals, and also, plastic can discolor your dog’s nose. Yes, really. Stainless steel will last forever. If you want to get more decorative, you can buy posh ceramics. Or hit the thrift stores.
Your dog will also need bedding and toys. Buy the most expensive bed you can afford – gel or egg-crate foam if possible. These are easy on doggy joints. Also, if it’s a priority of yours to keep Dogalini off the human furniture, it’s only fair to give that comfy sofa some serious competition.
If you need to economize on bedding, it’s thrift stores once again. Garage sales and stoop sales are good, too. You’re looking for clean, soft, washable quilts that you can stack. Dog Trainer confession: Some of my dogs’ favorite nests entered our lives in the form of sidewalk discards. That’s what washing machines are for, people.
You’ll also need a crate, a pen, baby gates, or all three. Confinement between toilet breaks is pretty much essential to housetraining. Also, with most new dogs it’s smart to limit their access to valuable or potentially dangerous items, till you know something about their house manners.
Finally, as my regular listeners have heard a hundred times, food-dispensing toys are, well, indispensable. There is no easier way to make a pet dog’s life richer.
Who’s Walking the Dog? (Etc.)
Before you bring Zippy home, have a little chat with the other humans in your household about who’s doing what dog care and when. As a housetrained adult, Zippy should get a minimum of four goodish toilet breaks a day. I’m not talking about 30 seconds in the backyard here, but a 10-minute or 15-minute leg stretch. A housetrainee puppy will need more toilet breaks than that, and one of those may well have to come overnight. Better decide who draws that particular short straw at a time other than three a.m.
All this is in addition to at least an hour of running / trotting / sniffing exercise for a young, healthy dog, more for really energetic types.
If your new dog needs grooming, whose job is that? If your dog will be eliminating in your backyard some of the time, how often will you pick up poop, and who in this case do we mean by “you”? (I see a potential quid pro quo with respect to those overnight puppy pee breaks.)
If you don’t have a dishwasher, who’s washing the dog bowls and food-dispensing toys? Because you’re not going to be those dog owners who rinse the water bowl out once a week and let the food toys evolve their own ecosystem, are you?
Decide on the House Rules
Is Zippy allowed on the furniture? In bed? Where do you want him to hang out while you’re cooking? A friend of mine is being stymied in trying to teach her new dog to wait outside the kitchen while she cooks, because her housemates aren’t all on board with that rule. Some people want their dog to bark a couple of times when the doorbell rings; others want blessed silence.
Before I adopted my Izzy, I swore I’d never have a dog sleeping in the bed with me. My wife nodded and smiled, in the correct expectation that Izzy would set me straight on that point in a hurry. You, too, may find the house rules evolving as you settle in with your puppy or dog. But if you happen to have a housemate or family member who thinks dogs should live on a chain in the backyard, it might be helpful to clarify matters early.
Speaking of house rules …
Training (Zippy’s) and Education (Yours)
… how about training? Check out your local puppy-prep and manners classes ASAP. If you know you’re bringing your dog home on a particular date, it would be smart to sign up in advance. Those well-run reward-based classes may fill up quickly!
It’s a good idea, too, for people who have a dog to educate themselves a little about the species. Some very dopey ideas are floating around in the ether, though. Avoid them. Instead check out any or all of the excellent, fun books I recommended a couple of weeks ago, in my episode on New Year’s resolutions.
And, of course, you should have a vet picked out and know where you can go for emergency care. How to choose a good vet will be the topic of next week’s episode. Till then, visit me on Facebook, and you can also write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome your comments and suggestions, and though I can’t reply individually, I may use them as the basis for future articles. Thanks for reading!