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New Dog Owners: Tips, Tricks, and What to Buy

BY: Dan Delagrange | Oct 23, 2017

My wife and I will never forget the day we became new dog owners, the day we brought home our puppy, Taco. Mind-numbingly cute, he wiggled his way around our apartment, getting a lay of the land and quizzically peeking up at us as we ate our celebratory pizza. Later, he peed on the floor and scream-cried during his first night in his crate.

Becoming a new dog owner is, of course, a happy occasion. But there are definitely some curve balls not every first timer sees coming; pups need more than just kibble, walks, and check-ins with the vet. Read through these dog training tips to help ensure the furry new addition to your family is as healthy, safe, and happy as possible.

We've also put together a handy shopping list for all you new-pup needs here.

The Essentials

Along with proofing your home, as a new dog owner you'll want to stock up on required items before picking up your pup. If you think it's an obvious need, then it probably is. But there are some essentials that need some extra thought, though. Will you be crate training your dog? Where will he sleep at night and during midday naps?

Tips from Our Dog-Owning Editors:

  • "Crate training creates a stable environment for the dog to call their own, separates them from any other animals in the household, and helps with potty training." – Natalie O'Brien

  • "Got a shedder? Get a Furminator [deshedding brush]. I have a golden, and that thing saved my life." – Patrick Wisniewski

Toys, Toys, Toys

Toys do more than simply entertain your dog. Dogs need toys. Not only can they make for a good source of exercise, but certain dog toys fulfill the animal's biological drives and instincts. Chew toys give your pooch an approved outlet (i.e. not the couch) chomping away. Treat-dispensing toys (like Kongs) can serve as great tools when training your dog to associate good play with rewards.

Tips from Our Dog-Owning Editors:

  • "My older dog loves soft toys, but my younger dog loves to rip soft toys' guts out. They meet in the middle and play with animals woven out of rope." – Amelia Buzzell

  • "If your dog tears a hole in a plush toy, take the toy away immediately. You'll avoid having the dog swallow stuffing and [you] might teach him about being gentle with toys." – Patrick Wisniewski

Don't Rush Baths

First and foremost: make sure your dog's comfortable. The last thing new dog owners want is a pooch who's not only wet, but scared of being wet. Get him used to the experience in baby steps—like letting the water run off your hand and onto his back while reassuring him with a soothing voice. You'll also want to use shampoo designed for dogs because their skin has a different pH balance than ours. Still intimidated by the grooming process or cursed with a tiny shower instead of a tub? Take him to the groomers and save yourself some effort.

Tips from Our Dog-Owning Editors:

  • "We have a lab mix with short hair, so she needs minimal grooming. And shampooing her too often, even if she stinks, is bad for her coat and skin." – Jolene Gilbert-Bruno

  • "Wear a poncho. This is not a drill." – Amelia Buzzell

Use Walks As Obedience Practice

Walks are just as important as food, baths, and playtime are to a dog. Dog walking is also when obedience training is perhaps most crucial. It can be frustrating to walk a dog who's misbehaving, but as your dog's leader, you need to focus. Use this time to practice commands such as "stay," "watch me," or "come." Use a calm yet assertive tone, and reward him when he obeys.

Tips from Our Dog-Owning Editors:

  • "Never forget poop bags! And be sure to protect your pup's paws if you'll be walking through salty streets during the winter." – Brooke Gabriel

  • "A lot of dogs—especially puppies—need to learn how to walk on a leash, which is not something everybody knows." – Lacey Wright

Pamper that Pup!

Your dog's part of your family, and, since dog owners are less likely to get heart disease, he can literally make you a healthier, better person. That level of companionship deserves reward. Don't be shy about filling your pup's wardrobe with spiffy clothes and costumes (there are even doggy sunglasses!), tricking out his food station with a bubbling pet water fountain, or spoiling him even when you're not there with a treat-dispensing camera. Your dog will thank you by being the cutest, most loyal companion you'll ever have (human partner excluded).

Tips from Our Dog-Owning Editors:

  • "We got [a fancy dog bed] after she had surgery because we felt she deserved a nice bed to recover on. It's actually made with Tempurpedic materials. That's nicer than my bed." – Brooke Gabriel

  • "When he was a puppy, we put a dinosaur costume on him. He was more of a fan of that, but mostly because he liked to chew on the straps." – Patrick Wisniewski

The Ultimate Dog Shopping List

Here's everything you need to make the happiest home for your new BFF:

This article was originally published in a slightly different form at an earlier date. It has since been modified by our editors.