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A beginner's guide to owning a dog

4 minutes

  • How often should you exercise your dog?
  • What are the best ways to socialise a puppy?
  • The essentials you need before your dog comes home 

First time dog owner? Congrats! You're in for a wild ride. 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.

Most people find their pooch quickly becomes one of the family and a great companion.

But dog owning is a full time job, and there's lots to consider before you bring home a new pet. Dogs can live to 15 year of age, and looking after your pooch over its lifetime can cost up to £19,000 depending on the breed.

Here, we've gathered up everything you need to know about caring for your new pet. And remember, there's no NHS for pets, so it's a good idea to consider pet insurance to cover vet's fees.

Dog ownership is a full time job, and many dogs can live up to 15 years of age. 

Bringing your new dog home

It's the big day! Whether you've bought a brand new puppy or adopted a dog from a shelter, bringing your new pooch home is really exciting. 

To make the homecoming a happy one, stock up on supplies before your dog arrives. You'll need a comfortable dog bed or mattress, a training crate, pet bowls, the right food, access to water, a collar or harness and lead and plenty of chew toys. 

As a new dog owner, you'll have some legal responsibilities. Your dog should already be microchipped. If it isn't, get this done as soon as possible. 

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

It's also a legal requirement for every dog to wear an identity tag when they're out in a public. It should include the dog's name, plus your phone number, address and postcode. 

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

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

You'll also want to check 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

Socialising your new dog is critical to its wellbeing and happiness. To help your new dog find its confidence, take it out to socialise and get familiar with your local environment. Make sure your dog meets lots of new people, and experiences as many sights, sounds and textures as possible. 

Encourage your dog to interact with other dogs. As long as they're friendly, play dates are a great way for dogs to learn how to behave when out and about. If they're 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 instinctively know which behaviours are right or wrong, so it's up to you to show them. Ignoring inappropriate behaviour and rewarding good behaviours with treats and praise shows your dog how you want it to behave.



Day to day care

Every day, your dog will need to be fed, watered, exercised. Dogs also love company, so you'll need to ensure you're spending adequate time with your pooch. 

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 thrive on human interaction, so don't leave your pet alone for long periods of time. Keep your dog busy with a chew toy, or try a treat filled toy if you plan to leave it alone for a couple of hours. If you're out of the house regularly, consider getting a dog sitter or arranging for someone to walk your pooch 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 immediately. 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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