Owning Your First Pet Dog – A Complete Guide

We are pleased to provide our free guide to owning a new dog. This document outlines every aspect of dog ownership, covering issues such as training, nutrition, insurance, socialization, healthcare and more besides. Please enjoy………

Congratulations on deciding to own your very first dog! With the correct level of training, planning, love, and attention, your canine will be the perfect companion for many years to come. Dogs can bring such love and joy into our world. Research from the American Psychological Association has even indicated that those who own a pet will be much healthier and happier throughout their life (*1).

1. Sufficient Training

2. The Care Your Dog Deserves

3. Essential Equipment and Supplies

4. A Comfortable Living Space

5. Basic Housetraining Steps

6. Exploring the home

7. Meeting Other People

8. Meeting Other Dogs

9. Dogs and Children

10. Registering With a Vet

11. Injections and Vaccinations

12. Infections and Symptoms

13. Common Diseases

14. Worming

15. Fleas

16. Spayed and Neutered

17. Insurance

18. Food and Diet

19. Exercise and Walking

1. Sufficient Training

The success to a healthy and happy relationship between you and your new four-legged friend is to make sure they are trained properly from the outset. Additionally, you need to learn to understand your dog’s needs too.

A dog is a pack animal that will look for guidance from a leader. Therefore, your responsibility is to take charge, act as the leader, and teach the dog exactly how they should behave.

As you now own your very first dog, understanding what to feed it, how much exercise it needs, what equipment you should buy and ensuring that it has the correct vaccinations are just some of the areas you may be unsure of.

As a result, this guide will provide you with advice, tips and the information that you need to know.

2. The Care Your Dog Deserves

Owning a dog is a big commitment. As a result, you will need to take on a number of new responsibilities. Daily care, medical visits, as well as vaccinations and training are potentially some of the financial costs you will incur.

However, this is simply the very nature of owning a pet and as thousands of other dog owners will agree, it’s worth it for the difference they make to your own life.

Your dog deserves to be loved, so therefore it’s down to you to make sure they are cared for in the best conditions possible.

Progress may be slow initially, as all dogs have to get used to their new surroundings, but it’s important to stay focused and not to lose your temper.

3. Essential Equipment and Supplies

It’s advised to purchase all of the essential equipment you need to successfully look after your dog before you bring them back to your home.

When owning a dog for the first time, there are a number of supplies you will need straight away and others which should be viewed as optional. The optional supplies can be purchased at a later date as and when needed.

The main and essential supplies include:

The optional supplies include:

  • Dog toys
  • ID tag
  • Crate
  • Dog shampoo
  • Puppy/dog training pads
  • Clippers
  • Dog flea treatment
  • Kennels – for outdoor use
  • Pet gates – for inside the home
  • Muzzles
  • Grooming products and accessories

As your dog begins to settle into their new surroundings, this will give you a clearer indication as to what optional supplies you need to purchase.

4. A Comfortable Living Space

It’s only natural that your dog will arrive home and explore its new home. Before your puppy or dog is brought back, you need to make some small amendments to your living space first.

The home and the garden can be dangerous for inquisitive dogs. So, to avoid injury, ensure your items remain intact, and to stop the dog entering or exiting areas of the home that it shouldn’t, make sure the following is carried out: 

Safety inside the house

  • Move treasured and valued items out of their reach (high places are usually the best location)
  • Ensure that trailing electrical wires and cords are either safely hidden or are kept in cable protectors to make them chew-proof
  • Fit locks on lower kitchen cupboards, especially if they contain products which could cause the dog harm, such as home cleaning products
  • Use a pet or baby gate at the bottom of your stairwell to prevent access to  restricted areas and to help avoid any falls or serious injury
  • Keep kitchen appliance doors shut at all times. A small puppy can easily find their way into a tumble dryer, washing machine or an oven if it’s been left open.
  • If your dog can access second story windows or those above this height, make sure screens and bars are used to prevent jumping and accidental falls
  • Use non-skid mats or carpet to stop your dog slipping and causing an injury

Safety Outside the house

  • Place secure fencing around the perimeter of your garden to ensure that your dog can’t escape
  • Check that existing fence panels are stable and there is no way for your dog to get underneath them
  • If you have a garden gate with slats, make sure there isn’t room for your dog to squeeze through the panels. Adding mesh wire is a great solution to prevent this.
  • Keep drive and side gates shut and locked at all times and ask all family members to do the same
  • Cover swimming pools, hot tubs, and ponds
  • Keep your dog away from the driveway when reversing or moving your vehicle
  • Some plants and shrubs are poisonous to dogs. Your vet can advise you on which types are dangerous – common plants for your dog to avoid include:


Lily Hydrangea Tomato Daffodil
Aloe Vera Chrysanthemum Holly (berries) Ivy (entire plant) Tulip

5. Basic House training Steps

After making the above alterations in the home, your dog will now be ready to familiarise themselves with their new surroundings. At this stage, it’s important to provide leadership so that the dog can comfortably adjust.

On the first arrival, walk your dog around the garden on a leash. This will allow them to take in the smells associated with their new home. Pick a spot for your dog to relieve themselves so that they also associate this area with this action.

It might take a while for this to happen, so be patient. Always praise your dog for completing the desired action through positive praise and treats. Remember that they have a lot to learn, so rewarding them early on will make them learn good traits for the future.

6. Exploring the home

Once the garden has been explored, take your dog into the house. Be sure to keep them on the leash. It’s normal for your dog to feel anxious and excited about their surroundings so behavior such as panting, pacing, chewing and accidents are common initially.

If at any point your dog lifts up their leg to urinate, pull and release the lead and say “no” to reinforce that this action is incorrect. Take them outside to the same spot as before to relieve themselves and then enter the house again. Continue to repeat this action until the dog starts to learn that they should urinate outside.

Once they have explored the home, take them to their crate or bed. If they enter the crate, then once again reward them with positive praise and a treat.


  •  Any dog, especially a male who has not been neutered, may mark their territory if other animals have been living in the home
  •  Be responsive to your dog’s signals and needs – if you are vigilant and aware now, they will become much more reliable within the home later on
  •  Once you educate them and act as the dominant leader, they will start to relax and behave accordingly
  •  Never leave the leash attached when your dog is out of sight as they could get this caught and cause themselves injury

7. Meeting Other People

Always give your dog time to settle in before you invite people over to say hello. The initial learning stage is hugely important and the dog needs time to learn without multiple distractions.

When you are introducing friends and family, keep the dog on a leash for extra control. Have a handful of treats ready to reward them for good behavior too.

Remember that your dog can detect if your guests are nervous, so they also need to feel relaxed in this situation. Your dog is also likely to smell and sniff any visitors that enter your property.

Growling, barking, and jumping are common behaviors, but you should always teach your dog not to jump on guests when they arrive. Using the command “off” from an early age will steer them away from bad habits.

With control and training, most dogs will learn to feel comfortable around others and enjoy meeting new people.

8. Meeting Other Dogs

First and foremost, your puppy or dog should be vaccinated before meeting other animals. Mixing with other dogs from a young age is great for their natural development.

When introducing your dog to other dogs, for example, either in the home or out in a park, carry out the following:

  • Make sure the dogs who are meeting are both on a secure leash with choke collars if needed to provide more control
  • Introduce them gradually when they are both calm and reward relaxed behavior
  • If there is a negative reaction, take a step back to the neutral ground where neither dog reacted
  • Provide a positive vocal tone so that the dog is aware that you are confident as their leader that the situation is not alarming
  • Keep control and with any sign or form of aggression, correct this by pulling firmly on the leash and stating the “no” command
  • Stay focused, calm and relaxed as dogs can sense tension and gauge an owner’s reactions
  • If the dogs continue to react negatively towards one another, take them back to the neutral ground and try introducing them at a later point
  • Over time, each dog should acclimatize to the situation by sniffing and getting closer to the other dog without any signs of aggression or distress

9. Dogs and Children

First and foremost, never leave children alone with your dog.

Teach your children, as well as those entering your home that they should never:

  • Scream or run towards your dog
  • Harass or mistreat them
  • Be forceful, aggressive, or play rough with them
  • Encourage play biting

A dog’s natural defense when threatened will be to growl, nip and bite to show that they are afraid. Therefore, be extremely cautious when dogs and children are on the same premises.

If the above guidelines are carried out your dog should be able to acclimatize to having younger children around them.

10. Registering With a Vet

It’s important to register your puppy with a local veterinary practice as soon as possible. Your vet is as fundamental to your dog’s health as your doctor is to your own. Go for an initial check-up first and your vet will be able to advise you of any required subsequent visits thereafter.

It’s also a good idea to make a list of any questions you need to ask your vet. Even if you think you already know about the potential diseases and threats to your dog, they will be able to provide you with further insights. This could cause you to take appropriate action and prevent your pet from harm.

11. Injections and Vaccinations

Just like humans, your dog can experience pain and discomfort through illness and disease.

To provide the relevant protection, your dog should be vaccinated at the earliest stage possible.

If you’ve bought your dog from a registered breeder, there’s a possibility that they would have already been given the required vaccinations. It’s best to check with them first and if not, speak to your vet straight away.

Getting your dog vaccinated will give you peace of mind and prevent your dog from becoming seriously unwell. In addition, while also keeping them immune, you will be protecting the spread of infection to other animals too.

Injections should be issued at the earliest stage possible and booster vaccinations should be issued when needed.

Vaccines can protect your dog against the following:

  • Canine distemper
  • Canine parvovirus
  • Infectious canine hepatitis
  • Kennel cough
  • Leptospirosis

(Reference *2)

Remember that diseases can cause pain and distress to your pet and in some cases, they can be fatal. Ensure that you prevent the threat of disease at the earliest stage by getting the required vaccinations.

12. Infections and Symptoms

In the event where your dog has not been vaccinated, it’s important to spot any potential signs of disease straight away. Here are the early warning signs to be aware of from the abovementioned list.

Infection Symptoms
  • Canine distemper
Discharge or inflammation of the eye and nose, diarrhea, fever, cough and labored breathing, vomiting
  • Canine parvovirus
Lethargy, vomiting, fever, severe and bloody diarrhea, loss of appetite, dehydration
  • Infectious canine hepatitis
Nausea, sore throat, coughing, cloudiness of the eye, excessive drinking and urinating, loss of appetite, weight loss, pale tongue, gums, and nose
  • Kennel cough
Harsh and dry cough, retching, vomiting after excitement or exercise, sneezing and gagging
  • Leptospirosis
Fever and depression, appearing cold and shivery, drooling, inflammation of the eye

(References *3 and *4)

In some cases, it’s possible that your dog can pass infection over to humans. As a result, always observe strict hygiene rules, such as washing your hands after interacting with your dog.

If you notice that your pet has any of the above symptoms for these illnesses, speak to your vet without delay.

13. Common Diseases

As well as the above infections, all dogs can suffer from the following common diseases:

  • Lyme disease – caused by ticks
  • Rabies – caused by a bite from rabid animals
  • Giardia – caused by water-borne parasites

(Reference *5)

14. Worming

All dogs are at risk from worms; however, puppies are at an increased risk, due to the fact that worms are often passed directly from the mother to the puppy during pregnancy, then through the mother’s milk after birth. Puppies with worm infestations can experience stomach problems, sickness, weight loss, and other more serious problems.

Therefore, it is advised that puppies are wormed from two to three weeks of age, at fortnightly intervals, until they are three months of age. After this time, it’s recommended that puppies are wormed every month until the age of six months, then every four months thereafter.

There are various worming treatments on the market, from brands such as ‘Drontal’ and ‘Panacur’, which can be purchased from your vet or from a pet supplies store, providing their staff are suitably qualified to dispense such medication.

Again, if you have any further questions, then it is always a good idea to seek advice from your vet.

15. Fleas

Another common health complaint which affects dogs and puppies comes in the form of fleas.

Fleas live by feeding on the blood of pets and animals. This experience can be very painful and can cause health problems for young puppies, so it is important that your new pet is protected.

One of the main problems with fleas is the fact they are notoriously difficult to detect. However, the easiest way to check for them is to look for dark specks on your dog’s coat and then if these spots turn red or brown, it is very likely your dog has fleas. These specs are basically the dried blood which the fleas have been feeding on.

If you need further information, then as always, seek advice from your vet. If your dog or puppy does have fleas, there are some very effective products on the market, such as ‘Frontline for dogs’, which kills fleas within 24 hours and protects against fleas for up to eight weeks.

Furthermore, this product is safe to use on puppies from eight weeks of age who weigh over 2kgs. Finally, as with many things in life, prevention is always better than cure, so providing a regular dose can help keep your pet and home flea and tick free.

16. Spayed and Neutered

  • Female dogs should be spayed between three and nine months old to reduce the risk of breast cancer and incontinence problems
  • Male dogs should be neutered between six and nine months to reduce the risk of testicular cancer and to calm aggression

It’s not essential to get your dog spayed or neutered, although it’s advised to do so in order to avoid problems at later date.

17. Insurance

It’s advised to make sure you have sufficient pet insurance in place for your dog. This will assist you with costs for healthcare and the general well being of your animals, such as X-rays and surgical procedures.

Insurance costs will vary, depending on the type of dog you have and whether it’s a pedigree breed. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the dog, the higher the insurance premiums. Pedigree breeds are also likely to cost more to insure.

Although insurance can be costly, bills can soon add up if your dog suffers from an ongoing or serious health issue. Always speak to your insurance provider first to ask about the details of your policy and consider the following:

  • How much are your vet bills and how much could you pay for standard care?
  • What’s the required excess you will need to pay?
  • Is your dog exposed to more dangers and risks because of where you live?
  • Does your breed of dog have specific health needs?
  • Will you be getting the correct level of cover for your dog?

18. Food and Diet

In order for your pet to live a healthy life, a decent doggy diet is essential.

Puppy diet

As puppies grow quickly, they need a separate diet compared to adult dogs. It’s advised to use formulated growth food initially. This can be given to your puppy at regular intervals during the day to aid their development. Start by feeding your puppy four meals a day and reduce this to three meals when they are four to six months old. After this period, two meals a day will suffice.

Other top tips for feeding your puppy include:

  • Try not to give them too much variety in their diet as this can affect their digestion
  • Food that can easily be digested is best at this stage in their development
  • Consult your vet if your puppy produces light stools or has diarrhea as they could have digestive problems
  • Any changes in diet should be made gradually over the space of a week
  • Choose a product specially designed for puppies – premium dry puppy food is a good starting point
  • Find a product that works (such as tinned or moist puppy food) and stick to it
  • If any physical problems reoccur from a specific diet, speak to your vet
  • Always ensure clean drinking water is available
  • Avoid refilling half empty bowls
  • Avoid feeding your dog scraps of food
  • Remember that puppies have small stomachs so they require smaller but more frequent meals than mature dogs

(Reference *6)

 A mature dog’s diet

It’s advised to choose established dog food brands, as bargain food can cost you more in the long run. An established and renowned brand that uses high-quality ingredients and fewer preservatives are the best option. This will help to avoid any allergies and offer the nutrients your dog needs. Always check the packaging to see what ingredients are contained.

Dry foods can help to keep a dog’s teeth clean and incorporating fresh vegetables into their diet will provide extra nutrients.

Just like puppies, always make sure that your dog has access to fresh drinking water and stick to scheduled feeding times. Always wash food and water bowls before each meal too, as this will prevent the spread of germs.

Food your dog can eat

Food your dog must not eat

Vegetables – such as green beans and carrots

Chocolate – as it’s poisonous to dogs

Plain yogurt – high in protein and calcium

Hard chews – can crack teeth

Apple slices – a good source of fiber, vitamin A and C

Chicken bones – can splinter and cause injury

Cooked chicken – for extra protein

Avocado – large amounts can be toxic

Cooked salmon – a good source of omega 3

Grapes and raisins – can cause kidney failure

Oatmeal – a good source of fiber (don’t add any sugar)

Raw meat and fish – can cause food poisoning

19. Exercise and Walking

It’s common for puppies to be full of life and energy. When it comes to exercise and taking them on walks, you should pay attention to their individual needs.

Never push your puppy beyond their limit if they display signs of being tired and worn out.

Also, always ensure that you have enough water to provide them and try to walk and run in cooler areas on extremely hot days. Chances are that if you feel hot and drained from the heat, your puppy will too.

The main point about exercise and walking is to keep it consistent. Your puppy may find it difficult to run around the park if you’ve kept them inside the house for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, a regular pattern from an early age will help with their natural development into a full grown dog.

In any scenario where you notice that your puppy is struggling beyond what you think they are capable of, consult your vet to see if there are any underlying health issues.

All dogs regardless of their breed should have at least one walk per day. This will strengthen their muscles and bones and also help to reduce blood pressure and avoid gaining weight too.


Remember to take poo bags with you to clean up any mess and keep the landscape clean for other people. Failing to clean your dog’s mess in public places will result in a fine.

When walking your dog in the countryside, by law and in order to adhere to the Countryside Code, you should ensure that they are wearing a collar and ID tag which states your address (Control of Dogs Order 1992 – *7).

…And Finally

All that’s left to say now is best of luck with training and looking after your dog. Remember that you are the one to make a difference by acting as the leader, which a dog will need when settling into their new surroundings.

Hopefully, this guide has offered you the advice, tips, and guidance you need to be able to spend many happy years together with the new addition to your family. So, here’s to great times ahead with your very first pet dog!  We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our guide to owning your first dog!

 References and resources

  1. The Daily Mail, Creature Comforts: Why owning a pet makes you ‘happier and more likely to live longer’: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2013854/Why-owning-pet-makes-happier-likely-live-longer.html
  2. PDSA, Care Advise: http://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-health-advice/puppies-and-dogs/health#registering-your-dog-with-a-vet
  3. Viking Vets: Canine Distemper: http://www.vikingvets.com/factsheets/distemper.htm
  4. The Merck Veterinary Manual, Overview of Canine Distemper: http://www.merckmanuals.com
  5. Yahoo Voices, 10 Dog Diseases Common to All Dog Breeds: http://voices.yahoo.com/10-dog-diseases-common-all-dog-breeds-5787772.html
  6. The Kennel Club, Feeding your puppy: http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/item/456
  7. The Kennel Club, The Countryside Code: http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/item/248
  8. Partnership for Animal Welfare, Bringing Your New Dog Home: http://www.paw-rescue.org/dog_guide.php
  9. Purina, Making your home dog-friendly: http://www.purina.co.uk/content/your-dog/your-new-dog/welcoming-your-dog-home/making-your-home-dog-friendly
  10. 10. PDSA, Puppies and dogs – Health: http://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-health-advice/puppies-and-dogs/health
  11. 11. DogsTrust, Worms: http://www.dogstrust.org.uk/az/w/worms/#.Ue-2mY3qmnl
  12. 12. Vets4Pets, No fleas on little me! – http://www.vets4pets.com/pet-advice/dog-advice/puppy-advice/fleas-and-your-puppy/

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