“What pet should I get?” It’s not just the title of a Dr. Suess book, it’s a question often heard from a first-time visitor to the Connecticut Humane Society. You’ve already thought about the pros and cons and whether or not you’re ready to get a pet, but you still might be on the fence about what type of pet you want. Or maybe you just adopted a pet, and you want to make sure you’ve covered all your bases. Check out these tips to start.

You’ve thought it over, and you’d really like to adopt a dog. They’re companionable, you can take them places, and let’s face it – they’re really, really cute. Read on for tips to make sure you start off on the right paw.

When you adopt your pet, speak with the adoption counselor, breeder, or prior owner about what the dog has been eating. You might want to keep feeding that particular food, or you might choose to transition your pup to a different diet. If you choose to change your dog’s food, recognize that your pup is going through a lot of change – a new home, family, and routine. Transition your pup to a new diet gradually – your dog food label may have guidance. A little bit more of the new food (and a little less of the old diet) each day will make the change easier on your pup’s tummy, and one less thing to worry about as you adapt to each other.

A dog’s daily diet should be divvied up into 2 or more meals. The quantity, frequency, and formula of food should be appropriate for the dog’s age, weight, breed and size; your veterinarian can help you select the right food for your pup.

Always ensure your pup has access to fresh, clean water.

Bedding & Housing
Dogs are highly social. They thrive on their relationship with you, so you’ll want to plan accordingly when figuring out where you’re going to keep your dog.

  • Your new pup needs a warm, comfy place to rest, ideally away from drafts and off the floor.
  • A training crate is a great option – it gives your pup a place of their own and a safe place to be when you’re not home.
  • As long as your dog isn’t a chewer or eater of dog beds and blankets, beds can be placed inside a crate or used alone. Ensure the bedding remains clean and dry – wash it often.

If your pup enjoys being outside, make sure they always have shelter and water and are safely contained. Pets are part of the family – never leave your dog outside unattended for long periods of time.

Training and Enrichment
Select a dog that’s the best fit for your lifestyle. This means one that’s compatible with your work-life balance, your family, and what you like to do for fun. The time and energy you invest in care, training and enrichment will make for a fantastic four-legged companion and a wonderful bond.

Remember that size does not necessarily echo function of a dog – there are just as many small dogs that need a lot of exercise as there are large dogs needing exercise, and vice versa. Knowing the traits of the dog you’re interested in will go a long way in helping to see if you’re compatible.

  • Your pup is going to need at least one walk a day and, depending on their activity level, may need more.
  • Very active dogs will not do well confined in a home, and especially in a small place, unless you are ready to provide plenty of exercise each day.

Even if you adopt an older dog, it can be a great start to enroll in an obedience class. Experienced and new dog owners alike will enjoy the bonds they form and strengthen with positive, rewards-based training programs.

And when you feed meals, you can make it fun! Change it up from time to time. Some pups prefer to eat from their bowls each and every day. Others enjoy the challenge of working through their meals – whether it be in a training session or via a food puzzle.

A special note on puppies:
Puppies require extra special time and energy in order to grow into well-adjusted family members (and neighbors).

  • They must be housebroken (either taught to eliminate outside, or, if a small dog, to eliminate on a potty pad). Little puppies can need to go to the bathroom as often as every 2 hours, so you’ll need to plan to be able to let your pup out, arrange for a dog walker, or enroll in a doggie daycare for while you’re at work.
  • Your puppy will need to learn basic obedience like “sit” and “stay,” and to come when called. Taking your little one to obedience classes can do wonders!
  • In addition to learning all this, puppies have the added need to be handled often and exposed to a variety of people, places and things so they develop into well-socialized adults.

Veterinary Care
Annual check-ups with your veterinarian are a must when you’re a dog owner, as is monitoring your dog for any lumps, bumps, sniffles, change in energy, diet and more. With proper care that includes a healthy diet, regular check-ups, vaccines and preventatives, dogs can live an average of 10 years or more – unfortunately, larger dogs don’t generally have as long of a life expectancy as their smaller counterparts.

It is Connecticut state law that all dogs 6+ months must be licensed. Your town clerk’s office will help you register your dog with proof of a valid rabies vaccination.

Dogs need a bathing and grooming regimen appropriate for their coat type. You may choose to do it yourself, or enlist the help of a professional groomer. Pets with curly or long fur may need to be trimmed and/or brushed more frequently than dogs with shorter hair. Nail maintenance through trimming and/or filing is also key – a dog’s nails should not protrude over the pad and should not touch the ground when standing.

Check out the video below for kid-friendly dog care tips.