- How to keep your new pet entertained
- Affording all the extra costs – and what are they?
- Making sure your new dog is happy, not 'hangry'
1. Who is going to look after the new dog?
When a dog arrives in a new home, especially a puppy, they are likely to need constant attention and regular exercise. Work out a family rota to decide who'll be responsible for walkies, who's going to buy the dog food and who'll keep them entertained.
'Dogs are highly sociable animals; they need regular physical and mental exercise, as well as positive interaction with people and other animals, to ensure they're confident and well-mannered in everyday situations,' advises Hanne Grice (@WalktheDoguk).
'Some dogs can become anxious if left alone for too long, perhaps causing them to chew and scratch furniture, or mess on the floor,' continues Hanne. 'Boredom may also lead to unwanted behaviour, such as barking at passers-by.'
2. How much will it cost me to give my dog the VIP treatment it deserves?
According to research cited by the RSPCA, nearly a fifth of people who bought a puppy no longer had their dog after two years because of the financial strain .
The lifetime cost of owning a dog ranges from £16,000 to £31,000, and this doesn't include the cost of serious illness or injury .
'Work out how you can afford the basics such as vet bills, quality food and insurance, and consider other potential costs like training, grooming and kenneling services,' says Hanne. Oh, and a novelty Christmas bow tie – obviously.
3. What accessories do I need to deck out my dog's crib?
'Dogs need space to move around in and to get the exercise they need,' observes Hanne – so make sure their bed is in a decent-sized room where they can stretch their legs.
As well as a bed, you should buy a crate to get them used to bedtime, walking leashes, treats, toys and plastic bags to clean up after your dog while out on walks.
4. What kind of food should I treat my dog to?
'There is much debate surrounding the pros and cons of feeding a dry complete kibble type of food, a combination of dry and wet, or a wholly raw food diet,' Hanne says. 'Your vet can help you determine what is best for your dog.'
In any case, you should keep an eye on your dog's weight and body condition over time to ensure that you are feeding it correctly .
Meals are also a great opportunity to stimulate your pet's brainpower. 'Food puzzle toys can be a great way to redirect a puppy's chewing onto something rubberised rather than owner's hands or feet, and it can help teach a dog to settle down and keep itself occupied when its owners are out,' reveals Hanne.
5. How will I keep my dog entertained?
It's a good idea to look up the original working function of the dog's breed and thinking about how this will fit in with your lifestyle.
'Doberman Pinschers, for instance, serve well as an alert watchdog, whereas Beagles are playful family pets – even though they were originally bred for hunting,' explains Hanne. 'Collies are good herders of farm animals, so they enjoy a game of chase.'
There are dog breeds that could prove deceptive, however: Greyhounds, for example, are renowned couch potatoes and need less exercise than most dogs of their size.
6. Will I need to train my dog?
When it comes to training, the gender and age of your dog should be taken into account – but if you've chosen an older dog don't presume they won't need any training – potty or otherwise!
'Consider that males can be prone to scent-marking and more risk-taking than females,' says Hanne. 'Some people say females are easier to train than males – but there's no real science to support this.'
7. Have I sorted out pet insurance?
According to the UK government's impartial Money Advice Service, vet bills are going up in price . Vet fees can also vary significantly in price, depending on where you live, according to recent Guardian Money research .
Dog owners could face a bill of thousands of pounds if their pet develops an ongoing condition. 'For this reason, insuring your dog is a no-brainer,' says Hanne.
8. How do I get my dog microchipped?
'As of April 2016, all dogs in England, Scotland and Wales are legally required to be microchipped, with their details registered on an authorised database,' explains Hanne.
Most vets in the UK can microchip your dog, as can a growing number of local authorities and welfare groups . It's also an idea to register your dog with Petlog, the UK's largest database for lost and found services , just in case your pal goes walkies on his or her own.
9. How do I register with a vet?
'First, shop around to see what different vets' facilities are like,' advises Hanne. 'What services do they offer? Look to see how staff interact with clients and animals.
'Once you've found a surgery you feel comfortable with, make an appointment. Some surgeries will register you over the phone, but all will require you to bring in your dog for an examination.'
Opening times are also important. If your vet isn't open on Sundays, find the closest available clinic that is – just in case your dog starts showing symptoms over the weekend.
10. What do I need to remember to keep my dog safe in the winter weather?
'While dogs with heavy undercoats are more comfortable in colder weather, they shed more than short-coated dogs in spring and autumn,' says Hanne. 'And short-coated dogs require less coat care but may not handle cold weather as well as their heavy-coated canine friends.'
Keep an eye on your dog in winter, whatever length their coat. If your dog is shivering in the cold weather, consider buying a dashing winter jacket for them. For more seasonal dog tips, read the winter canine code for happy dogs.
11. Should I give my dog's fur the spa treatment?
Routine and proper grooming has been shown to greatly decrease shedding of hair and may reduce skin irritation and secondary bacterial infection .
Grooming, ideally carried out by someone who's not allergic, should be an important part of a management strategy for dog-allergic owners – plus it means you get to watch your pet being shampooed and blow dried, which is kind of brilliant.
12. How do I make sure my new dog and the kids play nice?
'Although some breeds have a more 'laid back' temperament than others, (e.g. a Labrador), all good pet owners should learn the appropriate ways for children to interact with their dog. Be sure to supervise interactions to ensure all parties are enjoying any time together,' Hanne recommends.
If you have children, follow the RSPCA's '6 Golden Rules' to make sure that both your pet and the kids stay safe.
13. (Bonus surprise question) I've decided I'm fully ready and able to have a dog. Is it acceptable to gift-wrap my dog come Christmas morning?
Absolutely not. However, a large bow will never go out of style and, for that very special someone, consider a velvet presentation cushion.
By planning ahead and following expert advice, you can be sure you're doing all the right things for your new dog. All that's left is to look forward to years of joy, companionship... and sloppy kisses.
Hanne Grice runs a puppy and dog school in Hertfordshire and is author of the book Playing with Your Dog. She has received a number of awards and is a member of several professional organisations. To find out more, visit www.doglistener.tv and follow @WalktheDoguk on Twitter.