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A beginner's guide to owning a dog

Your introduction to becoming a responsible dog owner

A woman hugging a little white dog

Owning a dog is a huge responsibility, but it can also be great fun. There's nothing quite like coming home after a busy day to be greeted by a wagging tail.

Many people find their new dog soon becomes one of the family and a great companion.

But dog owning is a seven days a week activity and not to be taken lightly. Dogs can live to the ripe old age of 15 and looking after your pooch over its lifetime can cost up to £19,000 depending on the breed.

This dog owning guide will help you appreciate what's involved in caring for your new pet. And bear in mind there's no NHS for pets, so it's a good idea to consider pet insurance to cover vet's fees.

Dog owning is a seven days a week activity and not to be taken lightly.

Bringing your new dog home

Whether you've bought a new puppy or adopted a dog from a rescue centre, bringing your new dog home is a wonderful experience.

It's best to get all the equipment they'll need ready in advance. Make sure your new dog has somewhere to sleep, a training crate, the correct type of food, access to water, a collar or harness and lead and some toys to play with.

As a new dog owner you also have some legal responsibilities. Your dog should already be microchipped when you get it, but if it isn't, you'll need to get it done.

Puppies older than eight weeks will be microchipped by their breeders but you need to update the contact details online with your information when you bring home your dog.

It's also a legal requirement that every dog carries an identity tag when they're out in a public place with the name, address and postcode of their owner.

Your dog will probably want to explore its new surroundings, so give it some space to have a sniff around when it first arrives.

Help it relax by providing a safe space, such as a training crate and reward it when it settles down. Don't force a shy dog to interact if it doesn't want to.

You'll also want to check that your new dog has all the right vaccinations. Speak to your vet about how to keep your pet healthy. Taking out pet insurance can help cover the cost of unexpected or ongoing treatment in the future.

Socialising your dog

A happy dog is one that is confident in its surroundings. To help your new dog feel confident, take it out to socialise with other dogs and get familiar with your local environment.

Encourage your dog to interact with other dogs. As long as they are friendly towards other dogs, this is a great way for them to learn how to behave when out and about. If they are fearful or aggressive, speak to a vet or qualified pet behaviourist.

Training your dog

Positive reinforcement is a great way to train your puppy or dog. Dogs don't know which behaviours are right or wrong, so it's up to you to show them. Ignoring inappropriate behaviour and rewarding 'correct' behaviour shows your dog how you want it to behave.

Day to day care

Your dog needs walking every day, feeding every day and requires your attention and interaction every day.

Each type of breed will need different levels of exercise. For example, a border collie needs more exercise than a French Bulldog. Both need mental stimulation to prevent them from becoming bored and potentially destructive.

Most dogs love company so don't leave your pet alone for long periods of time. Keep your dog busy with a toy or 'treat filled toy' if you plan to leave it alone for a long time. If you're out of the house regularly, consider getting a dog sitter or arranging for someone to walk it during the day.

Make sure you provide your dog with the right type of food for its age, activity and general health. Dogs also need access to water at all times. Certain human foods, like chocolate should never be given to dogs. If your dog gets hold of food it shouldn't have, speak to your vet straightaway. Your pet insurance may help cover the cost of any treatment.

Lots of useful information about how to care for your dog can be found on the RSPCA website.

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