First Time Getting A Dog? A Guide To Dog Care & Health Information

Welcoming a dog into your family is one of the best decisions you can ever make. They are friends you can keep for a lifetime, who only want to play, cuddle, and sleep near you.

If you are a first-time dog owner, you might be worried about how to care for your new pooch. The fact that you’re concerned is good! It means you are on your way to becoming a responsible pet owner. We will help you get prepared for your new buddies’ arrival and then set you up for a lifetime of happiness with some helpful care and health information.

first time dog owner guide
First Time Dog Owner Guide

Items To Help Settle Your Dog

We know that most people love a checklist. You can take it to the shopping mall and be sure that you have everything you need for your new pet. To make sure you don’t forget the essentials, we have created just the list for you.

Of course, you can buy more, but you need these items at the least!

infographic cartoon of girl and dog sitting on ground

Basic Items:

  • A bed (or a crate)
  • Food bowls
  • Water bowls
  • Dog food that matches the age of your pet
  • A dog collar and a tag
  • A harness that fits the size of your dog
  • A lead
  • Lots of toys

The items above are probably things you have already thought of. Apart from the food, you often only need to buy these items once, so make sure you get the right size to make your puppy happy.

You may think that a harness isn’t necessary, however, untrained dogs often pull on their lead. If you only have a collar, then the pressure will cause your pup to become stressed and act irrationally. It can even cause health issues. Harnesses hold your puppy by their chest and distribute their force across their body, making the pull less dangerous. 

Needed Items:

  • Puppy pads for toilet training (if you have a puppy or untrained dog)
  • Poo bags (scent-removing and bio-degrading bags exist – we recommend those)
  • A comb or brush for grooming your dog
  • Dog toothpaste and dog toothbrushes 
  • Dog shampoo
  • Blankets

The idea of dog toothpaste and dog toothbrushes might seem strange, but our furry friends also need to look after their teeth. Just like us, if they are left untreated, their teeth will start to decay.

Before bringing your dog home, ensure you have all the necessary supplies you need

It might be tempting to buy your supplies once you have your new puppy, that way, you can see precisely what their size is and what food they like. However, until you get the basic and needed items, your dog will be waiting for their primary care. 

If you are worried about getting the size right, we recommend talking to the seller or the adoption center you are contacting. They will know the size of your dog, as well as the food they are interested in. They can even tell you the toys your new friend prefers to play with.

Responsible dog sellers will have all of this information to hand and can point you in the right direction to make your new furry friend happy in your home. Ask for their suggestions to make the transition easier.

Bringing Your Canine Companion Home

infographic cartoon of man with dog sitting on lap

Now you have all the items you need, you should prepare your home for your new best friend’s arrival. Whether you have a new soul or an old yeller, you need to make sure your home is suitable for them.

Hiding Harmful Items

Puppies, in particular, are curious creatures who go through a teething stage. This means you need to hide your wires, your cleaning products, and anything else a dog shouldn’t be chewing. Older dogs can be just as mischievous, so don’t think that your adult pooch doesn’t need to be babied.

Ideally, all of these items should be hidden and out of your dog’s reach:

  • Food (both human and dog food, but not including what is in their food bowls)
  • Cleaning Products
  • Medicine
  • Batteries
  • Alcohol
  • Trash (dustbins should have a lid on them to stop your dogs from smelling the food, ripping the bag open, and eating food that is bad for them)
  • Wires and Cables

Create Space for your Pooch

Clearing your house of harmful chemicals is one thing, but making it inviting is another. Your new friend will need an area that they will recognize as their own. This is particularly important for dogs going through toilet training.

To create this space, you should have a crate or a bed in the same room as the puppy pads (if you’re toilet training), blankets, and toys. This could be in your bedroom, in your living area, or wherever makes sense in your home. Regardless of which area you pick, you want your dog to feel comfortable. You need to make sure they have space to roam about and have the ability to hide away.

Just like humans, sometimes we all need some time to ourselves. So make their bedroom comfortable and warm.

Where To Put Their Food and Water

Their food bowl and water bowl should be in a different place to their sleeping area. This is so that they don’t overeat, and you can monitor their food intake. 

As we said before, their bags or cans of food should be hidden from your dog when you aren’t using them. If left in an easy-to-reach place, your puppy will chow down like there is no tomorrow!

Restricting Areas

Although you want your dog to feel comfortable in your home, there will be areas they shouldn’t access. Creating these boundaries straight away will teach your dog what their limits are early on. 

Baby gates are a great way to stop dogs from entering important rooms, like studies or the kitchen. You can then use treats, toys, and training implements to encourage them to stay in their allowed areas, eventually taking the baby gates down.

Remember that you need to be consistent and continuous with any training you do, so your dog learns without confusion.

Securing Your Garden

Your yard will most likely turn into a toilet and a playground. Cleaning up after your pup won’t be a problem with your poo bags in hand, but you need to ensure that the garden is secure to stop your dog from getting stuck or lost.

Walk around your yard and search for any areas of the boundary that are loose, have gaps, or can be easily broken. Tighten up any failings you can see before letting your dog out.

Create a Routine

When your new dog arrives, they will be confused. To help them settle, you should create a routine and stick to it. This will help your puppy understand their surroundings and keep them calm. This will also help you develop a pattern of eating, walking, and sleeping, so your dog knows how their day will go.

Using Calming Products

When your dog first arrives, use a plug-in diffuser to help them adjust. Special plug-in diffusers made for dogs can release calming pheromones to help your dog relax. We suggest using them for the first few weeks to help them settle and then keep them around for when the fireworks season arrives.

Set Up Training and Create Rules

Whether you have a new puppy or an old dog, you need to learn how to communicate with each other. Set up training sessions so you can learn when your dog is frustrated or confused, and they can learn how to be safe in the human world.

When a new dog comes into your home, they will bring with them the rules of the old living arrangements. Whether it is the litter they came from, the old home they are leaving, or the shelter you have rescued them from, they will have to learn the new boundaries in your family.

Whatever these rules are, you need to be consistent. Consistency will create new habits in time, so keep at it! Changing your mind or only making some family members keep up the boundaries will confuse your dog.

Make Your Dogs Socialise

Every dog needs to have good socialization. Unless you are adopting a dog with behavioral issues, you should make your pooch hang out with other dogs, so they learn how to interact with others of their kind. Socialization will allow your puppy to experience new smells and have a great time. It will help with their mental health and their ability to avoid conflict. Creating this setup early will prevent you from having a socially destructive pet.

General Dog Care & Health Information

You have your dog’s new items, and your house is prepared; now it’s time to learn about the general care of your pooch and when to go to the vet. Don’t be put off by this list. You can always bookmark this page when you are confused or worried about your new friend. Simply keep this information in mind when you are caring for your furry friend.

Feeding your dog

Feeding your dog might seem like a job you can leave to chance, or it might seem like a mathematical equation that will harm your pooch if you get it wrong. In reality, it is a bit of both.

If you feed your dog too much, they will become obese, which will harm their lifespan. If you feed them too little, they won’t have the energy to have fun, or worse, they won’t have the energy to live. 

These problems don’t happen overnight. You have time to find the right balance, and your vet can help you achieve these goals. We will talk about veterinary services later on, but for now, you should use a search engine to compare your dog’s breed or size with the amount of food they need.

Dogs will eat all day if they have the chance, so you need to portion control their meals. Your dog shouldn’t eat “people food” either, because the amount of salt is harmful to them. We are different creatures and need different ingredients in our diets. Stick to dog food to keep your pooch healthy.


Your dog will need a constant supply of fresh, clean, and cold water. Ideally, they should be drinking half an ounce of water per pound of body weight daily. If they drink more than this, it isn’t a problem unless the behavior is unusual.

If your dog is drinking more than usual, then it might be a sign that something is wrong. Take them to the vet to confirm that their health is okay.

When the sun is out and the day is hot, your dog will need more water than normal.  Encourage your pooch to drink as much as they need. You can try playing with a watering hose or using sprinklers to encourage this behavior. 


Every dog needs daily exercise, but some breeds need more than others. Working dogs like sheepdogs and huskies need a lot of activities to stay healthy. Small dogs, like toy breeds and pugs, only need one outing.

If you aren’t sure how much exercise your dog needs, ask your vet or search online. Every breed will have a suggested walking amount, so follow that guidance. 

If you have a mixed-breed dog, you will need to figure out for yourself what your puppy needs. Use the dog’s heritage to give yourself a range to follow and discover when they become tired after a walk. If they come home with more energy and excitement, you will likely need to extend their exercise time.

Not all exercise has to be the same. Some dogs love to hike, some love to swim, and others like to play fetch. Figure out what your dog enjoys doing and make it part of their routine.


Grooming might seem like a superficial issue, but there are lots of ways in which a good comb can help your pooch. When you brush your dog’s hair, you will stop it from clogging up their pores which can otherwise turn into ingrown hair. You will also be able to spot ticks, fleas, and other parasites that would like to hide in their fur.

Treat grooming as a way to reconnect to your dog’s body and keep an eye on their skin. With this close-up inspection, you can see if they have bare spots, red and raw skin, or other signs of illness. 

If you notice fleas or broken skin, take your dog to the vet. They will give your puppy medication to help them get better.

Brushing your dog is also great for you. If you have a dog that molts, you can collect the hair before it gets trapped in your coach and carpets. Combing is also a great way to bond with your puppy, because who doesn’t like a good head scratch?

Before we move on to the next pointer, we should remind you about clipping your dog’s toenails. Just like us, your dog needs to keep their nails clean and trimmed to stop them from breaking or causing infections. If you don’t want to cut your dog’s nails at home, your vet or local groomer can help you.

Oral care

Lots of dog owners ignore oral care. They think that dogs losing their teeth and developing gum disease is a natural part of old age, a problem for another day. However, just like in humans, gum disease and tooth decay is a painful experience.

Brushing your dog’s teeth will make sure that they are healthy. It will also stop other health problems, like bad breath and stomach digestion. 

If your dog is young, you can use toothbrushes aimed at dogs and create an oral routine every evening. Teaching them young will make it less of an issue when they are older.

Dental chews or toys are the best second option if your dog doesn’t allow you to brush their teeth.

If your dog already has signs of tooth decay, you should ask your vet how to proceed. They might recommend specific dog chews which will be easier to use.


Training your dog will create a bond between the two of you, as well as trust in their abilities in the human world. 

Unfortunately, dog training classes aren’t regulated, which means that each company will take a different approach, and some of their reasoning isn’t backed by science. We recommend sitting in on a training session without your dog before signing up for the classes. In the viewing session, you should see how friendly the trainer is to the dogs. Other factors you should look out for are how excited or stressed the dogs and owners are, and how many dogs are being trained at once.

If there are a lot of dogs in the class, then the owners won’t be given the time and attention they need to complete a successful lesson. 

If the dogs are playing without control or barking a lot, then the trainers have no command of the pooches and so will likely not have any valuable tips to help you.

If the trainer acts with aggression or frustration, then you can be sure that the puppy and the owner can feel it too. No one learns well under stressful circumstances.

Only take up classes with trainers who seem capable, friendly, and use positive reinforcement.


Adding a tag to your dog’s collar is a legal requirement in most states. Having a microchip implanted is another requirement that many locations enforce. The idea is that a lost dog can be reunited with their owner by anyone if they have a collar that tells you the owner’s phone number and zip code. Only vets can read microchips, so a vet can still identify your dog if a collar gets lost or removed. Microchips are essential in reducing dog theft.

Vet visits

Your dog should be taken to the vet regularly, so a professional can assess their health. Unlike the people in your life, a dog cannot always communicate their feelings effectively, so you may be unaware of their pain or problems.

When you adopt or buy a dog, you should take them to the vet within the first two weeks of ownership. This is so they can check your puppy’s vaccinations, start their flea prevention treatment, and confirm that your pooch is healthy. 

Your vet might point out potential issues that are common in your breed of dog and how to prepare for them. For example, dogs with floppy ears are more likely to get ear infections. Cleaning their ears can help reduce this likelihood.


When you have taken your dog to the vet, they will offer you flea and tick prevention treatments. These medical kits need to be applied weekly in your own home. Depending on your insurance, you should be able to receive more treatments every couple of months.

Put an alarm on your smart device or phone to help you remember to apply more treatment and keep your dog healthy. Without the treatment, your puppy is likely to bring fleas into your home, along with the diseases they carry.


Neutering and spaying your dog is when you remove the testicle or their ovaries and uterus. There are many reasons to put your dog through this medical procedure, including stopping them from breeding.

Breeding can be a massive expense on your vet bills, so an unpredicted pregnancy can be a financial drain. But the other reasons for neutering your pet are due to more than just finances.

Male dogs can be hyper-aggressive due to their biological need to mate. Taking away their testicles will reduce this anger-inducing hormone, making them less of a target to other dogs and making them calmer themselves.

Female dogs go into season twice a year for around 3 weeks. During that time, they leave a bloody discharge and start to act strangely. They might try to run away in search of a mate or become aggressive to females. If your dog does become pregnant, the birth can be a health risk, which sometimes results in death or other health complications.

Ideally, all dogs should be spayed and neutered unless they are healthy and happy to breed.


Vaccinations protect your dog against diseases that can kill or majorly harm them. Some of the most dangerous diseases a dog can get are conditions such as parvovirus, canine hepatitis, leptospirosis, and canine distemper. All of which can be prevented with vaccinations. 

Not only does it stop them from getting the illness, but it also stops the illness from spreading to other dogs.

Puppies and old dogs are the most likely to get seriously ill from diseases, which is why you can start the vaccination process when a pooch is around 8 weeks old.

If you are concerned about your pet and want to know how to look after them, see your vet to get more details.

Top Tips

All the information we have given you might seem like an overload, so if you need a hand breaking it down, have a look at our top tips!

Do your own research

The information we have given is all generic. We don’t know what breed of dog you have or where you live in the world. The amount of water your dogs need will vary if you live in a hot country or a cold one.  The type of dog you have will determine if they need a lot of walking or can just roam around your apartment.

The information you need to make your knowledge specific will come down to the type of dog you have, the lifestyle you live, and where you are in the world.

Knowing this, refine your research.

You don’t just have to look up facts and figures either. There might be a club near you where dog owners meet up, socialize their dogs, and trade helpful ideas to keep your puppy happy. These types of groups can help build a community for you and your pooch, so use a search engine or social media platform to find a group near you!

Understand your budget

Dogs can be expensive. The breed of dog you pick can dramatically affect your vet’s bill. For example, Samoyeds are beautiful snowy dogs that look like hunting teddy bears, but their beauty comes with a price tag. Their thick fur can create health issues like corneal dystrophy, autoimmune conditions, and cardiac disorders.

When picking a breed, you should consider these factors and recognize the likelihood of illness. 

Be a responsible dog owner

Being a responsible dog owner means giving your pet the food they need to be healthy, taking them on long enough walks according to their breed, keeping your home clean, and recognizing when you need to go to the vet.

These aren’t high demands, so we are sure you will be able to look after your dog with the care and comfort they deserve. 

Have Fun! 

Don’t let all these do’s and don’t get you down. Having a dog is like welcoming a friend into your home. As long as you set yourself up correctly in the beginning, you shouldn’t have any problems going forward.

Your dog will want to go on walks with you, hang out with you, and play with you. They are a friend for life. 

If you are worried about the health issues we mentioned before, remember that all dogs are prone to one health disorder or another. The most healthy dogs tend to be mixed breeds, as they are more diverse than others.

Once you have the toys laid out, the vets signed up, and the dog bed plumped, all you need next is your furry friend!

first time dog owner guide
Guide for First Time Dog Owners


As much as you might want to let your new dog run wild in your home, you need to set up boundaries as early as you can. As soon as you and your dog can understand each other, these new boundaries won’t seem like a hindrance. To help you along with this new dynamic, we recommend training your dog with a professional and keeping up the training when you’re at home.

Consistency is what your dog needs to learn how to be good. But being good goes both ways. To help your dog become their best, you should take them on long walks that allow them to socialize with other pets and burn off their energy. Exercise is an important part of a dog’s day, and keeping to their schedule can even help you maintain a healthy life too.

The most expensive part of owning a dog is the vet’s bill. Dogs are notorious for inheriting illnesses, but if you talk to your vet and ask them how to make these problems less of an issue, they can teach you how to prepare for the common breed health issues.

Breaking down the guide into a couple of easy steps, you should make sure you have the basic and necessary items for your pet, you should have a vet set up ready for any issues, you should have a routine with a trainer and a walk, and you should make sure to groom your pet.

Other than that, you need to remember that your pet is your friend. They will love you to the moon and back, and if you give them the same attention, then they will live a happy life.

stuart and his dog

Family Dog Expert Author

Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.