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New Pet Parent Tips: How to Take Care of a Dog

Pet Care Tips 9 min read
New Pet Parent Tips: How to Take Care of a Dog

Bringing a new dog into your life can feel a lot like bringing home a baby. You have to learn about how to interact with and care for a little one that needs you to guide them. You know what they say, “it takes a village”. That’s why we’re here to help you as much as we can. For starters, here are some tips for first-time pet parents on how to take care of a dog.

What Supplies Do I Need?

  • Crate/carrier
  • Puppy pads
  • Leash and collar/harness
  • Waste bags
  • Dishes for food & water
  • Food and treats
  • Toys
  • A place to sleep

Crate/carrier. When picking your new dog up from the rescue, shelter, breeder, or whomever you are adopting the dog from, it is important to be able to safely transport them home. Placing your dog inside their carrier prevents them from wandering about in the car while you are driving. This is not only for your safety to not have a distraction while driving, but also to keep your dog as the car moves around. The carrier should be placed in a secure part of the vehicle like attached to a backseat, tucked on the floor between the front and backseats so that it does not get thrown around in the event of a car accident or sudden stop.

Puppy pads. As puppies and even adult dogs are adjusting to life in a new place, accidents happen. Whoever has been caring for the dog before you brought them home likely has some sort of system for their potty business. Some people will use newspapers as a thrifty alternative and other dogs may have already been trained to do their business outside. Puppy pads are good to keep in your puppy’s space while they are still learning so that messes can be easily dealt with. Keep in mind that some dogs may chew or rip up the puppy pads and they should not be a replacement for teaching your dog to do their business outside.

Leash and collar/harness. On the topic of doing their business outside, a leash and collar/harness are an essential part of that. Going for walks is how your dog will learn how to socialize with other dogs and other humans, as well as get some exercise. We recommend using a standard flat leash, especially when training your new dog. Retractable or stretchable leashes make it harder to teach your dog etiquette for walks and can make it harder to maneuver them in emergency situations. It is a good idea to have a collar or leash with an identification tag for your pet. Collars can be worn all the time or just while out and about. Harnesses are generally more restrictive and are often better to be worn only when needed. Harnesses are very helpful for dogs who have a tendency to pull a lot while walking on a leash or can easily slip their head out of their collar.

Waste bags. Whenever you are taking your furkiddo for a walk, a car ride, a visit with friends and family, or an adventure, it’s a good idea to be prepared with waste bags. In many places, you can get a fine or a ticket for not cleaning up after your dog. We recommend finding ones that are compostable and comply with your local waste disposal guidelines.

Food and water dishes. It is important to have separate dishes for both food and water. We recommend avoiding plastic dishes as bacteria can get trapped in small abrasions on the surface of the plastic. Ceramic, pyrex, or stainless steel dishes are generally recommended, just make sure that whatever you choose is either high-quality or considered human-grade food safe. While glass dishes can be good for cats, we don’t generally recommend them for dogs as they tend to be less gentle with their dishes and have a higher chance of breaking or chipping. Make sure that you wash both their water and food dishes regularly and refill their water every day.

Food and treats. Depending on where you have gotten your new puppy from, they will likely be able to tell you what kind of food they have been giving to them. It can help to start your puppy with the same food that they are used to, as diet changes can cause gastrointestinal upset. Once you have brought your dog home, you can gradually transition them to a new food. If you are unsure of what you should be feeding your dog, we always recommend choosing a food that is high-quality and well-balanced. You can always consult your veterinarian on which food they would recommend for your dog or you can talk to us about a custom nutrition plan from our in-house vet Dr. Amanda.

Treats should make up no more than 30% of your pet’s diet. Excessive treats can cause issues like obesity and diabetes. We recommend always checking the ingredients when choosing treats and looking for ones that contain whole ingredients and things you can pronounce. You can even make some yourself at home with simple recipes.

Toys. Dogs, especially puppies, need exercise and mental stimulation. Toys are a great way to keep your dog entertained, burn off some energy, and bond. Make sure to always choose toys that are made specifically for pets and are suitable for the size of your dog. Toys like balls, stuffies, or ropes are often a hit with pooches. As your dog ages, you can find food puzzle toys that are a great way of helping your furry friend use some brain power and can help keep them occupied. Many toys like ropes and food puzzles should only be used while being supervised in case of choking.

A place to sleep. As mentioned before, crates can be used as your dog’s bed but it is often nice to have some other comfy places for your dog to relax. Placing a blanket or small bed inside their crate can make it more comfortable. Having another bed in other areas of the house where you are likely to spend your time like the living room can also give your pet a place to hang out while being nearby. Some shelters, rescues, and breeders will give each dog their own blanket that can be taken home with you as something familiar to comfort your dog.


First Day Tips

When you first bring your dog home, the first couple of nights can be hard for both you and your puppy. They will likely cry, bark, or need to do their business during the night. It can be helpful to have your dog set up in a confined space where they can’t be getting into trouble while you are asleep. Setting up a pen in your laundry room or bathroom often works well as it can make messes easier to clean up and hazards can be safely put away.

Some people have differing opinions on whether or not dogs should be crate trained. We often recommend crate training for puppies as it gives them a safe place to feel at home, no matter where the crate is. By keeping their crate accessible and comfortable for them, puppies can learn that their crate is like their own personal bedroom and can be a place for a time out, feeling safe while traveling or on the go, or a cozy nap spot all in one.


Dog Proofing Your Home

Before bringing your new furkiddo home, it is a good idea to make sure that your house is dog-proofed and ready for your little scamp.

Bathroom and kitchen. All of your trash cans should either have a secure lid or are inside of a cabinet to avoid any dumpster diving excursions. Childproof latches can be quite handy on things like your cabinets and toilet. Toilets can be especially dangerous to young puppies as there is a risk of them drinking harmful substances or drowning. Make sure all harmful substances (cleaning supplies, cosmetics, medications, alcohol, etc.) are put away in a cabinet that can be tightly closed or locked. Less harmful things that your dog can get into should also be safely stowed away like treats and food to prevent messes and overeating

Clean up. Give your house a thorough clean to make sure there are no small bits, crumbs, or garbage that your pet can get at. Underneath or behind furniture and appliances are prime areas where home debris can collect. While your new dog is still getting used to their new home, it may be a good idea to limit what parts of the house they have access to in order to limit hazards. Make sure that all small spaces your dog may get into are either safe or blocked off.

Small objects and toys. Make sure that all children’s toys and small objects are all put away to prevent choking hazards or small bits from getting stuck in their digestive system. Take the time to put away all items that you do not want your dog to use as a chew toy. Things like rugs, shoes, cushions, or clothes found on the floor are all things that your dog might see as a fun thing to play with or do their business on.

Plants. Some house plants can be toxic or harmful to pets. Like aloe vera, lilies, and some types of ivy. If you are bringing a new pet into your home, make sure that your plants are not dangerous to your pet or are out of reach. If your plants are safe but within reach, make sure that they are secured in place to prevent them from being knocked over and the plant pot from breaking.

Check your backyard, patio, and garage for hazards. Your garage might be an excellent place to store things that you don’t want your puppy to have access to. Make sure that your dog does not have access to the garage or outside without you escorting them. If you plan to train your dog to go out into the yard on their own to do their business, make sure that all your plants are not hazardous, trash and compost are out of reach, and your fence is secure.


What Should I Do With My Dog?

Your dog needs to learn how to entertain themselves while you are busy doing other things.

Puppies generally have a lot of energy but will still spend a good chunk of their days napping. Spending time together is really important for bonding with your new pet. Every day, you should take some time to play with them a bit, go for walks, and try to get some quality snuggle/nap time together. You likely won’t be able to entertain your new dog all day due to work, errands, etc. but that’s okay. Your dog needs to learn how to entertain themselves while you are busy doing other things. Just make sure that your dog is always in a safe, dog-designated space while you are not watching them or are doing other things. The more time you spend together, the more you will both understand each other and build a routine.

Puppy training classes are another good activity to do together. It helps reinforce your bond, teaches your pup good behavior and tricks, can be an opportunity to socialize with other dogs, and gives you a chance to learn some new things too.


How Do I Know What My Dog Wants?

As you get to know each other better, you will start to pick up on each other’s cues. Dogs tend to like having your attention and may act out or get into trouble to get your attention. By keeping a schedule will help your dog learn cues for the things they want. Try to feed your dog and go for walks at the same time every day. Eventually, your dog will learn the routine or associate things like the door and going out to do their business. When you find your dog sitting in front of the door barking or barking at you in the kitchen, it is likely that they are trying to tell you that they want something they associate with that place.

When Should I Take My Dog To The Vet?

As soon as you get them it’s a good idea to take them to the vet for a quick check-up. Wherever you are getting them from should be able to offer you some background on their medical history. If you have adopted a stray without any medical history, it is always a good idea to take them to the vet when welcoming them into your home to find out if they have any conditions you should be aware of and to find out whether they have been spayed/neutered.

A healthy dog should visit the vet at least once a year for a check-up and to ensure that all of their vaccines and shots are up-to-date. If your dog has a health condition that requires treatment from the vet or regular monitoring, your vet may advise more frequent visits.

A good indication, if your dog needs to go to the vet, is if you notice anything unusual changes in their appearance or behavior. Some things to look out for are:

  • Changes in stool frequency or appearance
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Frequent vomiting
  • An increase or decrease in urination
  • A change in coat appearance (abnormally greasy or dull hair)
  • Excessive self-grooming
  • Abnormal behavior (loss of balance, confusion, etc.)

Of course, if there is some sort of injury or emergency (like your dog eating something they shouldn’t), it is important to see a vet right away.


While bringing a dog into your home for the first time is very exciting, it can be stressful and a bit chaotic at times. That’s why it is so important to try to fill every moment you share together with a lot of love and patience. Though dogs can be a bit of a handful, all the happy moments you will share together are well worth it! We wish you lots of love, luck, and healthiness for this new chapter of your lives together! If you ever have any questions, click on the button below to start chatting with one of our pet experts!

NHV Pet Experts

NHV Pet Experts

We have a dedicated group of pet expert professionals, including veterinarians, vet techs, and other pet professionals to guide you through any questions. We’re committed to your pet’s wellness and can offer additional tips, resources, nutritional advice, and more.

Published: May 5, 2020

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