Dog Care 101

Dog Care 101: Everything A First-Time Dog Owner Should Know

Congratulations on becoming a new dog parent! It’s one of the most fulfilling feelings in the world, though it could admittedly get pretty challenging at times.

Luckily, there are many real-life and online resources to help you keep your dog as happy and healthy as it should be. This listicle aims to contribute to those resources by providing both practical advice and recommendations on expert services.

We also put together some handy FAQs at the end of the article which will hopefully serve as a guide for common canine concerns.

Dog Care 101: Ten Basics of Dog-Rearing

Raising a pooch goes beyond just giving them food, shelter, and toys to chew on. A happy dog is a socialized one that’s also obedient and disciplined around other people and pets. 

Thankfully, Ottawa is home to some of the best dog training centres which can handle all kinds of breeds, sizes, ages, and degrees of canine discipline. You can choose which one is the most suitable for your dog based on trainer expertise, techniques, location, and other factors.

If you’re starting with a newborn puppy, you’re going to have to invest in time, money, and effort to ensure that it develops both healthy habits and a good attitude. Everything — from your furniture to your other pets — has to be prepared before you even bring your first dog home.

And here is where we emphasize that having a dog is indeed an investment. You’ll need to set aside specific funds for emergencies, regular supplies, and other needs like you would with any member of your family.  

In the following sections, we’ll be detailing all the basics that a first-time dog owner should know. 

But it’s important to emphasize the most basic point: a dog should be treated like family with all the love, care, and nurturing they deserve. They are a lifetime commitment.

1. Giving Your Dog the Best Nutrition It Needs

1. Giving Your Dog the Best Nutrition It Needs

Well-fed dogs are those that eat the right kind of food for their age, size, condition, and breed. Your veterinarian can help you determine the proper food and how many feedings your dog requires in a day.

If you’re the new owner of a puppy that’s been properly weaned from its mother, you can give specially formulated food that meets all its nutritional needs. 

According to PetMD, a puppy will need twice the daily nutritional requirements of a fully mature dog because of its rapid growth and development. But when and how often should you feed your puppy?

The number of meals tapers off as your puppy turns a year old. When it’s between six to twelve weeks old, you can feed it four meals a day (with your vet’s recommended amount of kibble or wet food). 

Reduce the feeding to thrice a day at three to six months old, and to just two main meals per day when your dog is between six months to a year old.  

If you want to experiment with a raw or organic diet, it’s best to consult your veterinarian first to see if it’s a safe option for your dog. 

2. Potty-Training Your Dog

2. Potty-Training Your Dog

Ever encountered someone with a dog that wears a diaper and you went “Aww, how cute!”? Well, the reason for the diaper-wearing might not be a cute one at all. 

Senior dogs could benefit from wearing one because of incontinence and other health issues. But it’s likely that a younger dog in diapers isn’t fully house-trained by a frustrated owner yet.

Proper potty training requires patience, dedication, and perhaps the number of the best carpet cleaning services on speed dial. Kidding aside, it’s one of the dog-related tasks that should be placed on high priority.

You’ll have to be mentally and physically prepared for puppy potty training because messy accidents will likely happen. And it has to be a supervised task especially if your dog isn’t fully vaccinated yet and could be susceptible to diseases and viruses outdoors.

Establishing a potty routine is key. When your dog has finished drinking or eating, when it wakes up from a nap, or when you wake up in the morning and before going to bed, bring it outside so it could go potty.

Your dog will soon learn its special potty spot outside with an established schedule of feeding and eliminating. If it helps, add a cue phrase into the training (“It’s potty time!”) so your dog can pick up on the habit faster.

And never use force or harsh words to potty-train your dog. Positive reinforcement works better because your dog won’t associate going potty with punishment.   

3. Selecting a Trustworthy Veterinarian

3. Selecting a Trustworthy Veterinarian_1

A trustworthy and reliable veterinarian will be your partner in ensuring that your dog remains healthy and fit for all of its life. It’s a good thing there are great vet clinics in Ottawa that can help you with your dog’s health journey.

Your dog’s first vet visit can determine if the veterinarian and clinic are a good fit for its needs. Beyond experience, skill, and specializations, a vet’s (and staff’s) bedside manner can give you clues if your dog will be in good hands.

A competent veterinarian will be able to tell you important things like your dog’s vaccination schedules, what diseases to look out for, and its recommended diet. You can also ask about spaying and neutering options, microchipping, and other future health and safety concerns for your dog.

And if you have trusted friends and family members who own happy and healthy dogs, consider them a good resource when you’re shopping for your very first veterinarian. They’ll likely recommend someone who’s done health wonders for their own fur babies.

4. Getting Your Dog in Great Shape

4. Getting Your Dog in Great Shape

Puppies and young dogs are hyperactive little creatures so get ready for lots of zoomies, chewing on objects, and generally running around indoors and outdoors for the first couple of months (or years). 

This kind of energy can be initially exhilarating for both dog and dog parents, but it could become a nuisance if not properly guided and harnessed.

If you have sufficient yard space, you can start to teach your dog simple commands like sitting, staying put, and coming over when called. Puppyhood is the best time for this kind of training so they can be ready to socialize at around four months old.  

There are great dog training centres in Ottawa with classes that are tailor-made for potty training, crate training, play and engagement, and to keep them fit using courses and routines. Some of them also have socialization programs so your dog can learn to get along with other pets and people.

And as with potty training, positive treatment and rewarding your dog with treats are much more effective than raising your voice or withdrawing food, affection, or comforts as punishment.

5. Keeping Your Home Safe for Your Dog

5. Keeping Your Home Safe for Your Dog

There are no ifs and buts about it: dogs will require you to adjust your home life. That means getting your house prepped even before your new pet calls it home.

You can put a designated area for your dog so it knows where to sleep, eat, and play. If some areas of your home need to be dog-proofed (like a home office, pantry, or the baby’s nursery), you can use baby gates or locked doors to discourage your pet from exploring them.

Dogs like to chew on things so make sure your cables are hidden or secured. Anything that can be the target of chewing like slippers, shoes, socks, gadgets, and small things should be stored in dog-proof cabinets that are difficult to open.

As for protecting your furniture, you can get upholstery services in Ottawa to come up with thick slipcovers for your sofas, chairs, and other pieces. Some fabrics are waterproof in case your dog drools on them so you might want to ask about that.

According to The Spruce, materials like canvas, leather, denim, microfibre, and outdoor fabrics are great for dog owners since they’re durable and easy to clean. On the other hand, avoid materials like silk, velvet, tweed and chenille, unless you like making trips to the furniture store often.

Make sure your dog won’t have access to anything toxic to their health including pantry supplies, human prescription medication, plants, cleaning solutions, and common household substances like antifreeze. 

To serve as a guide, Pet MD has a list of the ten most common dog poisons in homes and the potential illnesses they can cause.

6. Choosing Dog Accessories

Stock up on supplies before you even bring your new dog home. Whether it’s a puppy or an older pooch, having the right accessories ready will prove to be convenient for you and your pet.

Start with a leash, ID tag, and collar that’s a good fit for your dog. You’ll be needing them to keep your energetic pet getting fresh air and exercise daily.

Invest in poop bags to take for walks so you can pick up little accidents along the way and dispose of them properly. And for longer distances, you’ll be needing a spacious and sturdy crate or carrier (depending on your dog’s size) so they’ll be safe inside your car during travels.

Of course, a dog bed is a must for those doggy snoozes. If you intend to crate train your pet, get a bed that can fit snugly inside the crate.

Other important things to buy first include durable water and food bowls that are the proper height for your dog. Make sure the bowls are easy to clean and won’t get chips or nicks that can harbour germs or bacteria.

After all that comes the fun part of deciding which toys are best for your fur baby! Observe if they prefer to cuddle with plushies, play tug on ropes with you, chase tennis balls, or chew on squeaky toys so you’ll know what kind to stock up on. 

7. Making a Dog Care Checklist

7. Making a Dog Care Checklist
Photo by Samson Katt from Pexels

Between your dog’s vet, groomer, trainer, and dog-sitters, you’re going to have your hands full scheduling appointments for your precious pupper. It would help to come up with a checklist so you won’t miss anything.

You can create a desk calendar and tick off appointments or regular checkups for your dog. There are also handy apps you can use to remind you of everything from vaccination schedules to paying your pet’s insurance.

It’s also practical to plan your vacations and out-of-town trips for when your dog is freshly vaccinated in case certain places demand proof of immunization. Some short-term rentals in Ottawa are thankfully pet-friendly as long as you can present papers on your dog’s behalf.

Plus, planning ahead can help you stock up on supplies, schedule the best times with trainers, sitters, and vets, and generally give you peace of mind that you aren’t missing an important date!

8. Grooming Your Dog Properly

8. Grooming Your Dog Properly

Dogs aren’t as fastidious as cats when it comes to self-grooming. That’s why it’s up to you as their fur parent to get them as spiffy and sanitized as they deserve.

Along with your basic supplies of puppy chow, bowls, leashes, and beds, it’s good to invest in quality grooming tools, too. There are de-shedding combs to keep your dog’s topcoat shiny and frizz-free.

You can buy gentle dog soaps and shampoos for your dog but make sure the ingredients are veterinarian-approved. And if your dog makes a mess that doesn’t require a full bath, it’s a good idea to keep some grooming wipes within reach.

There are lots of professional dog grooming services in Ottawa that can accommodate everything from ear cleaning to nail trimming. Some even offer mobile grooming services in case your dog is a senior or is too big to drive around!

9. Rewarding Your Dog’s Good Behaviour

9. Rewarding Your Dog’s Good Behaviour

We mentioned using positive reinforcement for effective potty training for your dog. The same kind of technique should be used to reward your dog’s little triumphs and accomplishments. 

Toys are some of the best rewards you can give your dog after they’ve done something good. Giving your pup its favourite toy combined with praises can help establish that what it did was welcome.

And if you want a more high-value reward, buy some doggy treats. Give one every time your dog learns to do a trick or obedience training and say something like “very good!” as a verbal and tactile (and tasty!) cue that they got it right.

Again, using positive reinforcement is a lot better than using punishment or other negative methods to train your dog or get it to behave. 

In fact, an article from the Ottawa Humane Society states that “dogs that are taught using positive reinforcement methods are more tolerant, self-controlled and behave much more predictably in different situations”.

10. Should Dogs Be Kept Indoors or Outdoors?

10. Should Dogs Be Kept Indoors or Outdoors

As mentioned in a previous section of this post, dogs do need outdoor time. They can get physically and emotionally fit when they have the chance to run around and play with other dogs.

That’s why dog parks exist for this purpose so by all means, take them regularly so they can bask in the sights, smells, and sounds of the outdoors. There are also some pretty good dog daycare centres in Ottawa that can schedule dog walks and exercise programs in case you need to be away for some time.

However, keeping your dog exclusively outdoors can pose some serious health and safety risks for them. If the weather gets too hot or too cold, a doghouse might not adequately keep your dog from getting overheated or freezing.

There could also be predators that could harm, maim, steal, or kill your dog if you leave them unsupervised outside for long periods. Add to that the real threat of running into traffic or coming across something poisonous.

So the best solution would be to establish outdoor schedules, including walks and visits to the doggy daycare or dog park, so your dog won’t feel cooped up or bored.

FAQs About First-Time Dog Owner Dog Care