1. Have a family pow-wow.
A dog is a big commitment, so before you take the plunge, make sure you’re all together on wanting this newest member of the family. Then decide who’s going to be the primary caretaker–otherwise you’ll spend lots of time arguing while your new dog stares at his empty food bowl. To avoid confusing the pup, hammer out the house rules ahead of time (will the dog be allowed on the bed? On the couch? Where will the dog sleep? Are any rooms of the house permanently off-limits?).
2. Stock up on the right supplies.
Buy some of the basics ahead of time, so you both and your dog can settle in without too many mad dashes to the store. Here’s what you’ll need:
food and water bowls
food and maybe some treats for training. Try to get the same food your dog’s been easy since a sudden switch in diet can upset his stomach.
collar and leash
toys, especially chew toys
stain- and odor-removing cleaners
possibly some baby gates to block off sections of your house
3. Prepare your house.
This requires a little more work if you’re getting a puppy, since they can be champion chewers and have a knack for getting into things they shouldn’t. But no matter what your dog’s age, you’ll want to do some organizing ahead of time.
Create a temporary, gated-off living space for your dog or pup, where she can’t damage your belongings or eat something that will make her sick. She’ll stay in this area whenever you’re not with her to prevent her from having house training accidents.
Pick a room that’s a center of activity in your household, so your dog won’t feel isolated, and be sure it’s one with easy-to-clean floors. The kitchen is often a good choice; you can block it off with baby gates if needed. Make sure you remove anything that you don’t want chewed on or soiled.
What’s in your dog’s area will vary a bit depending on her age and how you’re house training.
Puppy-proof to make sure anything that could hurt your dog–medicines, chemicals, certain plants–is out of reach.
4. Arrange for home care.
Ideally, you can take a few days to a week off work to get your new dog or puppy settled in and to start house training. It’ll also help the two of you bond, which in itself can make training easier. But even if you can take some time off, you’ll need a back-up team in place pretty quickly.
Here’s what you’ll want to shop around for:
5. Find a good school.
Group obedience classes are great for bonding with your new dog and for learning how to communicate with and train your dog. They’re especially recommended for young puppies, since they give pups a chance to get comfortable being around other canines and people–a key part of raising a safe, friendly dog.
Dog training is unregulated, and pretty much anyone can call herself a dog trainer, so you’ll want to do a little research to make sure you’ve found the right class and teacher.
6. Plan the trip home.
Find a helper to come along when you go to pick up your dog. Young puppies who’ve never been on a car ride before may get rattled, and even adult dogs can get nervous–and a terror-filled car ride can turn into a long-lasting phobia of car travel. Ask someone to sit next to your dog on the ride home, soothing him and keeping him from hopping into your lap while you’re driving.
If your dog’s used to a crate, you can stash him in the crate for the ride home. Just make sure it’s secured; sliding around the backseat will make the drive more stressful.