Preparing Your Family for a Dog

More Dog Preparation Tips

Establish a Routine

child feeding pet

Heather Weston

Dole out responsibilities before you bring your dog home, and don't be afraid to explain them to your family in precise detail. Decide who will walk, feed, and bathe the dog, as well as ferry him to vet appointments and training classes. Puppies need to adapt to family routines and be housetrained. Dogs of any age require exercise, attention, and -- don't forget -- someone to pick up their poop. If you use chore charts, integrate the various dog-related chores into your regular schedule. "I think the biggest mistake anyone makes is not planning for a new routine," says Lianne McLeod, D.V.M. "This is especially true when it comes to training. It would be best to have a plan in place and involve all family members right from the start -- even preschoolers can learn the basics of how to get a dog to sit. Decide what rules are going to be in place for things, like whether the dog will be allowed on the furniture. Consistency from day one will make transitioning to life with a dog much easier."

Buy Toys and Food

"For dogs and other animal companions, toys are not a luxury, but a necessity," says the Humane Society of the United States. Toys keep dogs active and stave off boredom, but, more important, having safe toys around keeps dogs from playing with potentially dangerous household items such as ribbon, string, and rubber bands. When buying toys, stick with items that are made specifically for pets, and make sure there are no loose buttons or fabric pieces that can easily be swallowed. Avoid fabric that's been dyed and pay attention to the size of the toy -- some large breeds can swallow toys meant for smaller dogs.

When buying food, ask your vet for recommendations and buy those that meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards for your breed and age of dog. Pay attention to how your pet reacts to the food over time: Look for a shiny coat and healthy skin, and monitor the quality and frequency of stools. If your pet has diarrhea, constipation, or other bowel issues, it might be time to try a different brand.

Ask for Help

If you start to feel overwhelmed, don't be afraid to ask an expert. "Families shouldn't forget to reach out -- to veterinarians, dog trainers -- if they experience difficulties," Dr. Crosby says. "Sometimes a simple change in environment or routine will help; in other situations, more specialized attention or training is needed. Many of the larger pet supply stores offer in-store socialization and training workshops that are helpful in training both the dog and the human." Friends and family can also offer insight into new pet ownership or specific breeds. The Internet is another valuable resource. Consider joining, a website that connects people with similar interests in offline clubs, to find pet parents in your area. It takes time to adjust to bringing a new dog home, so don't get discouraged if it's tricky at first. It won't be long before you have trouble imagining your life without a furry family member.

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

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