My dad has promised me that we will adopt a dog before my birthday, but before that, I want to know what preparations I should make before having one. (My mom is a dog lover and has a little experience with dogs.)
I think Kwuz did a pretty good job. I will offer my take on it, though, since it's a little different.
The first thing to do is assess your situation and figure out if you should get a dog. I'm not telling you that you can't or shouldn't have a dog. I don't know that. It's what you have to figure out. There are lots of people who love the idea of having a dog, but in reality they might not have the time, money, energy, or lifestyle to have a dog. It's now fair to the dog that get and in the end it's really about that. What's good for the dog. If you run through your assessment and find that you still think you should get a dog, then great. If not, then it's just not time and you should wait.
Out of all the things to consider, time is the largest commitment. Will you have all the time that your dog needs from you. If he's an indoor dog, he'll need to be walked a minimum of twice a day with one walk being fairly long. This is good for his mental health. He'll be focusing on following you as the leader if you're doing it right. It helps mentally drain him and helps prevent some "bad" behaviors you can see. So you have to decide if you'll be able to get up early to take him for a walk, keeping in mind that it may be raining or snowing. If it is, you have to get dressed and be miserable in it, because you can't leave him inside when he has to go to the bathroom.
Other time commitments are grooming, which takes more time the more hair the dog has, bathing, trips to the vet, etc... If someone is willing to help you with these chores to free up some of your time, that's awesome. However, if at any time, they opt out, you have to buckle down and handle whatever it is yourself. I'm not trying to discourage you at all. I'm just being realistic. A lot of people even convince themselves that they'll do right by their dog, but it's easy to do these things 1 time, 10 times, or 100 times, but even a large breed dog will mean approx. 7 years of your life. Small dogs can be around longer than you've been alive so far. It's really something you have to think about. Also think about what you'll be doing within that dogs lifespan. Will you be moving out, going to college, etc... What happens to the dog then, can you take him with you. You're making a commitment now that will affect you for some time to come.
If you've thought about the time it'll require of your life and you've decided to go ahead, then congratulations. The next step is to decide what type of dog you want. By that, I don't mean breed, but energy type. This is just as important as the time and it can make a huge difference. Currently, I have a Jack Russell. This is listed as one of the most energetic breeds. At 14 years old, she still runs around like when she was 2. I live on a fairly large acre farm and spent many, many hours training her and working the energy off of her. It paid off, though, and now I can walk into the vet and she hops in a chair beside me and other people don't believe she's a Jack Russell, they think she's a puppy first, then another breed. I tell them what she is and they tell me I must be mistaken, because they are crazy hyper and bite, while mine sits there and looks around calmly. It was just hours of work, though. If you live a high energy life style then you can have a high energy dog in a small living situation, like and apartment. That'll take more effort on your part, though. You can reduce your load by getting a less energetic dog. I can have a higher energy dog, with less effort, because I have space where she can frequently cut loose if she wants to. On the other hand, if you're a low energy person, get a low energy dog. The key is to match yourself and your (realistic) goals to your dog. If you're a runner and you've stuck with it for a while, you can really handle a high energy dog. If you're honest and you're a couch potato like me, then you either need to get a low/moderate energy dog, or prepare to kick yourself in the butt and get moving for them. She's not made me any less lazy, but I am healthier for having to get up and do things with her. So that's something to think about to.
Next, if you have decided what kind of dog to you're looking for, then start shopping around. It really doesn't matter if it's a rescue dog or a purebred. All dogs can be great. The only consideration is that if you buy from a breeder, you do the research and make sure they're reputable and that they've screened for health concerns.
NEVER, I repeat NEVER, buy a dog that you believe is part of a puppy mill operation. A puppy mill is where people basically log dogs in cages except when they're breeding them and then they sell the puppies to make a profit. I've been told that a good breeder barely makes money off of the puppies after they've provided the proper care to the mother and the puppies. Never buy a puppy that is less than 8 weeks old either (and older isn't worse), because they won't be properly socialized. You'll hear that from a lot of people, but what it means is that they are around their mother and their siblings. When they play too rough the others tell them so and they're reprimanded or loose their playmate. These and other actions teach your dog what boundaries are, what consequences are and how to get along politely with others. That doesn't mean that a puppy left with it's mother long enough will turn out a wonder dog, because reinforcement of principles occur over the dogs whole life, but it does start them off well. It's like how when you were little, your parents taught you not to throw your food on the floor or scream bloody murder. At least I hope so, right? :))
This same deal applies to back yard breeders. I wouldn't buy puppies from a friend or anyone else that bred their dog themselves. I think this is highly irresponsible. There is no genetic screening, no though as to why the dog should or shouldn't be bred, no thought to confirmation, or improvement of the dog. They just want to breed, either to make a buck or because they want to continue their beloved dogs "line". It makes me sick when I hear someone say they just want to breed their dog once before they fix it. The truth is that a pregnancy is dangerous for any dog. Females can only have 2-3 liters in relative safety before it gets dangerous for them. On top of that you will deform a females body for no good reason, and no least, you've increased the puppy population in the world.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for breeding dogs. It's the same with horses. The economy crashed and backyard breeders couldn't move their horses anymore. People who were buying were much more discerning (like they should have been from the start) and other who couldn't afford to keep them couldn't sell them. I was personally riding horses once and we pulled in right as a couple were riding out. We got back right before they did and they had two horses loaded on their trailer. It was that bad. Having said that, if you don't breed, you don't improve and you loose history that we have in these breeds. I'm just lobbying for responsible breeders and buyers who care about the health of the animal and the betterment of the breed.
Even new breeds can be okay. As a matter of fact, I just saw a picture of a Pomeranian/Siberian husky cross named Mya that was gorgeous. She looked like a fox. I'd love to have one. However, I'll do my research and find out if they're healthy and all that before hand. I won't go into it blind or support someone who is hammering out dogs to satisfy the designer dog demand.
So even if you want a purebred or close enough, you can adopt them. Many search sites allow you input the breed you'd like. The only consideration is like with any other mutt (I love them and have had several), you don't have a clue as to their genetic makeup and you could end up looking at sever health complications down the road, or none at all. It's a crap-shoot.
So now you've decided that you want a dog, that you have the time and commitment to take care of it, you're going to find a responsible breeder, and you've listened to this loudmouth drone on-and-on like he knows what he's talking about. :) The next thing to do is start doing your research. Start looking into what the top quality foods are and find a compromise of what is best and what you can afford. It would be nice to have a 5-star chef/canine nutritionist prepare your dogs every meal, but you can be realistic. I grew up feeding my dogs kibbles-and-bits. They were okay. That's not to say a good quality food won't make your dog live longer and be healthier. As one example, I inherited a keeshond from my grandmother. She went from indoor dog to indoor/outdoor dog. She developed a skin condition. The vet suggest changing to a grain free dog food. Her skin cleared up and she even lost a little weight. You'll have to make that call yourself. It's also something to consider when choose how large of a dog you want. I like good sized dog, but I tell you that I much prefer picking up my Jack Russell to the fat lab I used to have when it came time to put them in the back of the truck or up on the vets table. You'll also be able to feed a more expensive food when they don't eat a garbage can full at a sitting. At lets be honest, I met a Great Dane who's tail was at a really awkward height. He wagged near me once and I saw stars.
Something else to research is training. I suggest you look into clicker training, also known as operant conditioning. The idea of it is that in traditional training, the dog does a behavior and you say "good boy" and give him a treat. However, the dog could pop up, turn his head, or any number of behaviors in the time it takes you to say "good boy" much less walk over and give him the treat. The sound of the clicker becomes what's called a "bridge". It's short and sharp and clearly marks the exact instant the dog achieve the desired behavior. He learns, through "charging", that the clicker means a treat and associates the exact action at the time of the click with the treat, thus his mind bridges wink,wink the association between the two. You can practice at home by dropping a tennis ball and clicking the instant it touches the floor. It's good to practice your coordination before trying it on the dog. It'll confuse him some if you're trying to work things out at the same time. That's inevitable, and fine, but should be minimized.
You should also envision you're ideal dog. What do you want in a dog. Is he going to follow you around, instantly listen to any command, rescue babies from burning buildings? Or is he just going to have a solid grasp of basic commands and not do a bunch of aggravating things like whine, pee in the house, jump on people, dash through doors knocking people down, chase cats, etc... You need to have some sort of image in your head that you're working toward. Every second you're with your dog you're working toward that goal. It's very important not to expect something a dog isn't capable of, and you shouldn't expect large leaps of progress, as a matter of fact I'll tell you now that your dog absolutely will go backward in his training at some point. He'll do something right a hundred times, then act like he doesn't know what you're talking about. It's normal and you shouldn't be discouraged. However, you should have that idea in your mind and take little opportunities to fix it. As an example, when I inherited the keeshond, she had zero manners or training. I start working on basics, like not coming in the house unless asked. That's a basic skill that allows me to enjoy having my doors open in the spring or fall, or even carry groceries inside without having to worry about a dog running in and knocking me down. My family actively fought me on this, calling me a dictator and took opportunities to undermine me and let the dog bust in. Then they took her to the river in a freshly washed car. They got ready to leave and the dog had rolled in stinking river mud. They opened the door and told her to hold on a second while they laid a dog blanket down for the mess. The split second they shifted out of the way, the dog leaped into the car, smearing mud on their clothes, then proceeded to jump from the backseat to the front where she shook that lovely mud all over the car. They took it a little more seriously after that.
That brings me to my next point. Make sure you're family is going to back you up. It's not required, but if your family back you up and reinforces training the same as you, then your dog will progress much more rapidly. If they do like my family, then the dog will still listen to you, but it can act bad when out of your sight. They'll end up resenting it when it doesn't listen, even though they wouldn't put in the minimum effort and it'll be a thing. Have them read this post if you need to. They can take away from it what they want to. I'm telling you, though, that adopting a dog is a family ordeal, even if it's one person's dog.
In the same training vein, try to decide how much you want to train your dog. Some dogs are smarter than others, so your dog will be self-limiting to a point, however, if you plan to train more than the basics, put some thought into a command list. Dogs don't speak English, no matter what anyone tells you. They can learn certain commands and pick up on body language very well. They can also anticipate set ups. You'll tend to do things the same way even subconsciously. They don't speak English, though and can't infer what you mean. So it's best to use short, sharp commands, like: sit, stay, down, over, etc... It's best not to even use verbal commands till you get consistent results from no verbal cues.
If you train "sit" for having the dog sit and "down" for the dog lying down, you wouldn't want to say "sit down", the human can infer that you mean sit, but the dog hears to commands. It's also long for a command. The more cues you teach, the more conflict you'll have. So you should take the time before the dog arrives to hash out a substantial command list so you don't teach something now that sounds like something else latter on. You always have the option of going outside the English language if you need to. Some people intentionally training a dog in another language. The helps avoid confusion, say if some at your house tell another person to sit down and they'll bring them a drink. They do it as well, for security dogs, so they can't be called off except by a trainer.
When training your dog, you should keep sessions short and frequent. Dogs have an attention span and they'll shut down if you pass it. It'll get longer the older and more trained they get, but you should still keep sessions short and frequent as opposed to one hour long session. If a dog gets confused and seems to be try but not getting it, or you start getting frustrated, back down to an easier task, quite them, think about it, and come back fresh later. Also, start in a distraction free environment. A quite room should be a starting point. A fair or rodeo should be something to work toward. You should be careful not to train in exactly the same way every time. You'll be surprised when you have the dog face you and sit, that he won't sit beside you, facing the same way. You'll give the command and he'll run around and face you to sit. Use a wall and a stick to block him or think of anther clever way to teach him that sit simply means sit, no matter where you are or which way you're facing. This applies to other commands as well.
When clicker training, treat often. People don't treat enough, especially when the dog is just learning clicker training. The dog is working for a reward. If it isn't great enough of often enough, they'll quite on you. The same as you will if your work asks you for a massive out put, but then doesn't pay your well or frequently. If you think they've done well, then give them a jackpot reward, which is a handful of treats and lots of praise. Something to keep in mind is that your dogs motivation will wane in proportion to how full he gets, so keep the treats small. He can also get fat, so you may need to substitute some of his meal for the treats when training heavily.
Next, (getting to the end here, I promise) you need to keep an open mind and wade through the trash. You're going to find a lot of information on dogs and a lot of conflicting information. You'll have people that believe in a lot of negative reinforcement, positive reinforcement only, or a mix. Personally, I believe in a mix. There are some things, squirrels are a good example, that can be more motivating than a click and a treat. In a case like this It's fine to say no or use an appropriate leash correction. Negative reinforcement can be harsh but it doesn't have to be. I also believe in electronic collars (aka shock collars) they get a bad wrap, but it's a tool like any other. My Jack Russell for instance, could really have used one when she was younger. She was really well behaved when on a leash, but she quickly found out that I didn't have control when it wasn't on and it took a long time to train her that way. You aren't electrocuting your dog and many have a beep or a vibration to start and proceed from there. It's simply a way to tap your dog on the should from a long distance and say, no I can still touch you. I do strongly recommend training with an instructor before using one. The dog has to be introduced properly or he won't understand where it's coming from and the trainer has to be rock solid as well. You can't risk accidentally hitting the button or hitting it in anger or frustration. If you're mad or frustrated it's because you aren't doing it right. You need to regroup, get help, and try again. Knowledge is power.
Other things to wade through are fads. One that I really don't like are harnesses. Even Kwuz suggested getting a harness if the dog was a spaz. The purpose of the harness in the dog world was so that tracking dogs could run to the end of their lead and pull the handler along without having the lead pull their head up off the ground and away from the sent. Another purpose is so that sled dogs can pull more easily and the pressure is distributed across their body for maximum comfort when pulling. So taking a spaz or untrained dog and putting on a device that allows them to be bad more efficiently doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I even heard my aunt tell me that the "breeder" of her Pomeranian told her to only use a harness and not a collar on him because they have bird bones and his own wait on the end of the leash could snap his neck. That's a load of horse hockey. You will have to be careful with a dog like that that you don't hurt them, but they can easily be trained not to pull.
My Jack Russell was very bad at first about chocking herself and making a horrible sound when I was first training her to the leash and collar. You need to do it the same way as you do with a horse though. I guarantee you don't see anyone leading one of those around by a harness around their chest. When training a horse to lead, you teach them to give to the pressure. Let your dog walk around with the leash and collar on in the house. You don't want him to get up too much speed. He'll step on the collar and he'll have to step off of it to relieve the pressure. You can also put gentle pressure on the lead and wait till he step off of the pressure, even an inch and release it. You can click-and-treat for quicker results. It's also better to pull them slightly to the side so they can't brace against it. When they take a step to keep their balance, you release the pressure and they learn that they should come off of pressure, not lean into it. Consistent practice will have them leading like champs in no time. Again, you'll run into situations where something happens. The dog will pull, but its about what you've spent hour after hour, two minutes at a time, ingraining into your dog.
Well, I hope this has helped you some. I think what I've gone over is more important that listing the basics, like food bowl and brush. I think this will give you some ideas and skills to excel with your dog. Good luck.
Dogs like schedules, so preparing a schedule is probably the most important preparation you can make. If you have a fenced-in yard, I highly recommend installing a dog door so your dog can let himself in and out for the bathroom. If you're adopting a puppy, you'll have to train this behavior, but older, potty trained dogs will usually catch on pretty fast. If you don't have a fenced-in yard, or don't want to install a dog door, you'll have to figure out a potty schedule. The frequency will depend on the dog and his age, generally around 4-5 times per day.
You'll also have to figure out a time to take him out on walks. Even small dogs need a lot of exercise. Tired dogs are well behaved dogs, which will help your new dog settle peacefully into his new home.
You'll also want to figure out a feeding schedule -- two to three meals a day works for most owners. As with potty breaks and walks, try to keep it regular. Figure out a sleeping arrangement for your dog. I recommend crate training your dog. It keeps new dogs contained at night while you can't keep a close eye on them. I did this with mine when they were young, and now they know to stay in bed at night, even though we've phased out the crates in favor of dog pillows.
Finally, figure out a vet to take your dog to. The shelter you adopt your dog from will let you know if he needs any more shots or to be neutered/spayed. Check out online reviews and find a vet's office nearby that you can take him to.
okay, here's a basic list of what you'll need to take care of your doggy:
- food and water dishes
- dog food
- Treats (get small ones -- they're better for training)
- Crate (optional)
- Leash and collar (if you get a spazzy dog, you may opt for a harness too)
- Dog tags (you can get them engraved and most pet stores)
More things that you can wait on for a little while, but will need eventually:
- Dog shampoo
- Dog Nail clippers
- Brush (unless you get a long hair dog, in which case you'll need one immediately)
Normally I read all the answers before adding my contribution... but in this case... in addition to other responses...
As a long time and long term dog owner I can provide a list:
- If you have the opportunity, take your puppy to puppy school;
- If you have the opportunity, socialise your puppy with other dogs as often as possible when he or she is young - but only after the period of isolation required following vaccination;
- Puppies are "children" until about 1.5 - 2 years old - great love and patience is required;
- While it is a puppy, teach your dog to allow you to remove food from their mouth - it could save their life later;
- Do not punish your dog, they do not understand the concept;
- Train your dog with care, thought and careful observation;
- Train your dog using carefully selected and consistent commands based on different sounding words, so there is less chance for ambiguity;
- On training, apart from the basic commands, don't expect too much obedience until your dog is 2 years old;
- On training, if your dog demonstrates "good" behaviour, lavish them with attention and praise;
- On training, if your dog demonstrates "bad" behaviour, ignore him or her for periods of time to clearly demonstrate your displeasure - a little "bad", ignore for an hour, a lot "bad", ignore for 24 hours - still feed your dog during this time as they rely on you for food, just do so without acknowledgement. (Don't use this method until your dog is older maybe 1 - 1.5 years. Don't use this method with house training.)
- House train your dog with empathy - it must be taught but it knows no better - when it has an accident, firmly hold its snout next to the mess, say once and once only a very strong and firm "NO", lift the dog up and place it outside - as other answers comment it is important to schedule regular breaks to toilet train your dog. Wet grass is a great trigger for young pups to take a toilet break.
- dogs are pack animals - to live a fulfilling life, dogs need to feel loved and feel like they are an important part of their pack, in this case you and your family;
- dogs will challenge us to be the alpha male or female (boss) of the pack - ensure you maintain this role by providing strong and consistent routine and commands;
- if we are watchful and thoughtful, dogs can teach us a lot about life.
@Kwuz 's answer is excellent. The comments about schedule (routine) are important and deserve significant consideration.
Good luck you should look forward to a more fulfilling and love filled life.
In addition to things to get, you need to agree on a few things:
- What will the dog be allowed to do
- What behaviors are "Must haves" and shoudl be trained?
- What style of trainign do you prefer?
Even if you have a previously well-trained dog, you will need to continue working with him, in a consitant way! In most cases (traumatized dogs and just ESPECIALLY wild or stubborn ones excluded), gentle trainign-styles will work just fine, as long as everyone is consitant! For example, if you decide "my dog is allowed on the couch", that is just fine, but make sure everyone agrees on that, and make sure you can send him off at any time.
And (as @Paparazzi mentioned in his comment) find a dog that matches YOUR personality. Good breeders can make good guesses about their puppies, good shelters and adoption-groups know about their dogs as well.