Thinking About Getting A Dog? Read This First

Photographed by Ben Ritter.
Hi, everyone! It’s Rachel of Team LC here with a post for all of you dog-lovers out there. In January, I was lucky enough to adopt an adorable puppy through Wags and Walks, an amazing rescue organization in Los Angeles. As is the case with most rescues, I saw her picture, fell in love, and took her home the very next day. So, it’s safe to say that I wasn’t quite prepared for Winnie. The next few weeks were equal parts amazing and difficult. I had a new best friend whom I loved more than anything, but at the same time there were so many things I didn’t know I needed, and also a lot of questions I didn’t have the answers for. Which is where today’s blog topic was born.

Because I’m not an expert on the topic of dogs (just a new mama to a cute little pup), I’ve enlisted the help of Lesley Brog, the founder of Wags and Walks, to help me share 10 tips for all of you new or prospective dog owners. And, lucky for us, Lesley knows what she’s talking about. Since she started Wags and Walks three years ago, it's saved more than 1,000 dogs from shelters and has placed them in loving forever homes. If you live in Southern California and are looking for the perfect furry addition to your family, I highly recommend checking out the group's website.

If you’re in the market for a new pooch or you’ve recently brought one home, here are 10 tips to make new puppy parenthood a little bit easier.

Puppy-Proof Your Home
Lesley says, “Even if your dog is older, curiosity can get the better of him. Make sure your home is a safe place for him by putting yourself in his paws. Put yourself at their eye level: Crawl around on the floor and check out any potential dangers. Electrical cords, poisonous houseplants, and any item small enough to swallow are just a few of the things that should be out of his reach. Veterinarians perform more surgeries to remove strange objects that a dog has swallowed than for anything else.”

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Get Your Gear

My first stop after picking up Winnie was my local Healthy Spot. There, I was able to grab the essentials: a collar and leash, a crate, a cozy bed, dog food, treats, poop bags, toys, etc. Some of my favorite finds are her Yark collar and leash, a really cute bed from Jax & BonesEarthbath Grooming Wipes (they come in a green tea scent, which I love) for wiping her paws before bed, and her Fluff & Tuff stuffed animals.

Get To The Vet
The day I brought Winnie home, I immediately asked around about local vets and made an appointment for her for the following day. They made sure she was up to date on shots, gave me recommendations on what food she should be eating, and assured she was healthy and doing well. Not only do you want to find a vet close by, but you’ll also want to locate a 24-hour pet hospital (in case your vet is only open during business hours) that you can take Fido to in case of an emergency.

Microchip + Register
This one is so important and can be dealt with at your vet appointment. Lesley says, “If your city requires dogs to be licensed, get this taken care of right away. Licenses can usually be purchased at the vet’s office. Even if your city does not require a license, it’s a good idea to get your pup microchipped and also provide the dog’s name, your name, and your contact information on your dog’s collar. If your pet is lost or stolen, microchipping will ensure his or her safe return. Collars can come off, but microchips stay put.”

Clear Your Calendar
If at all possible, I recommend clearing your schedule for the next couple of weeks so that you don’t have to leave town while you’re getting to know your new family member. Now, I’m not saying call in sick to work and never leave the house, but if at all possible, try not to go out of town and leave your pup with someone else during the first couple of months. It is important bonding time, and especially for rescue pups, being around will help them get used to their new life and home. On the other hand, you don’t want to spend every single second with your dog; otherwise, they’ll get used to having you around all the time. So, make sure to keep your normal schedule — just avoid leaving your pup to go on vacation ’til they're used to their new life. 

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Reach Out To Fellow Puppy Parents

One thing no one ever told me about having a dog of your own is that it’s kind of scary. I grew up with dogs, but they were never really my responsibility. With Winnie, it’s a whole different story. I had become completely responsible for every aspect of this animal’s life — that’s a scary notion. I was so nervous and anxious the first few days that I could barely eat and was completely overwhelmed with the prospect of this new puppy in my life. But, as with most things, that passed. So, if you’re a new puppy parent and you feel totally overwhelmed or have questions, reach out to your friends who have dogs. They’ll calm you down, give you tips, and provide you with the extra confidence you need when dealing with a brand-new pooch.

Enroll In Puppy Class

Even if your dog is a rescue and is somewhat trained (lucky for me, Winnie was completely potty trained when I adopted her), it’s still a good idea to go back to the basics and enroll in a puppy class. Your dog will get socialized, learn basic commands, and become much easier to handle on a daily basis. If you’re in L.A., I recommend Michael Chill’s group class, which Winnie and I are currently enrolled in.

Set Rules
“It can be tempting when you bring home a new dog to be a little lax on the rules,” says Lesley. “But, resist the temptation now so you can avoid problems later on. It’s much easier to prevent a bad habit from starting than it is to break one. Not only that, but dogs, like children, would rather have rules and structure. It makes them feel more secure to know exactly what is expected of them and exactly what happens if they don’t follow the rules. It also keeps order in the household. If you have other pets that already know the rules, they can get quite stressed out by an unruly newcomer. Whatever you do, do not feel sorry for your poor little rescue dog. Nobody wants pity, dogs included. For your dog’s best interest, put whatever sad past he may have had behind him and live in the current moment. He’s with you now, happy and cared for.”

Expect Those Rules To Be Broken
Lesley also said to expect your dog to break the rules frequently in the beginning. “He is not being stubborn or difficult. Dogs have a hard time generalizing, which means that something he learns in the living room will have to be learned all over again in the kitchen and again in the bedroom. It’s easy to get frustrated when you feel like he should understand already, but he still doesn’t. It helps to have a sense of humor. It can take 30 to 50 or more perfect repetitions before a dog truly gets a command.”

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Introduce Outside
This one is for those of you who already have a dog or cat in your family: Lesley’s advises, “If you have another pet at home, let your pet(s) meet the new dog before he comes into the house, if possible. I recommend taking the dogs on a walk together so they begin to feel like a pack and can start to bond without feeling territorial. Also, try to keep your other dog’s routine.” That way, your older pup can adjust to the new family member without feeling like their world just got turned upside down.

This might sound like a lot, but trust me: It’s all doable. And, I have to say, adopting this little animal has been the best decision I’ve ever made. She has her challenges, but she brings me so much happiness and love on a daily basis and just makes life better. For those of you contemplating adopting a dog (please adopt, don’t shop!), I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a lot of work, but the rewards are so much greater than I can explain. And, thank you to Lesley of Wags and Walks for the tips — and for bringing Winnie into my life!

Do you have any tips to add to the list? 
Leave them in the comments!

Xoxo, Rachel
Team LC

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