As most people quickly discover, the minute you have a dog, you find a world of endless things to pay attention to and spend money on. From toys to pet spas, fancy collars to puppy pools, there’s no shortage of places, resources, and stuff available to spoil your beloved canine. However, there are a few necessities that should come at the very top of the list, and should be a priority for any new dog owner. Each one of these items could be a separate post, so I’ll just quickly cover the basics right now. Here are 5 of the most important investments you can make in your dog:
1. A vet you trust
Just as you would (I hope!) never see a doctor whose care you don’t trust, you shouldn’t have a vet whose care you find questionable in any way. Yes, it can be a bit of a painstaking process to find the right one… and they may not be the closest to you, they may be more expensive, or they may have crappy parking. But when your dog gets critically injured or ill, you will want to be assured that he or she is in the best hands possible. Your furry family member deserves no less, and you deserve that peace of mind.
2. A good petsitter
This one is also of huge importance. Dogs require a lot of time and care to thrive. When you’re around to take care of that, it’s ideal. But no one can be tied to home all the time, either. Finding a quality person to look after your dog in your absence is essential. In fact, you might need two people: one who can make a quick visit during your work hours and when you have an unexpected delay in getting home, and one who can do extended care if you need or want to travel. Many people are finding that doggy daycare is a wonderful option for their dog. It’s socialization, playtime and bathroom breaks all day long – versus hour after hour in a crate. Some dogs thrive in daycare, some find it frightening or overwhelming. It’s up to you to figure out if it works for your particular dog’s personality.
For some dogs, a kennel works just fine for extended care. However, many owners find that it’s incredibly stressful for their pet. In that situation, it’s best to find a home for your dog to stay in (try dogvacay.com or rover.com), or a sitter that will stay in yours. Some people are lucky enough that their dog can stay with a trusted friend or family member; others (like me) find a sitter to stay in the home. I’ll admit, finding a professional, trustworthy, compassionate petsitter isn’t always easy – but it is ALWAYS worth it.
3. An emergency first aid kit and plan
The unthinkable happened… Your furry friend found her way into your pantry, and devoured an entire bag of dark chocolate. It’s after hours, and your usual vet is closed. You check the magnet on the fridge, you call the emergency poison hotline, and they instruct you to make your dog vomit using hydrogen peroxide. Oh thank goodness, there’s a way you can help… except you don’t have any hydrogen peroxide. Yikes. Make sure you’re never in this situation. There are a few staples you should always have on-hand to take care of your pet in an emergency. Check this list (http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pet_first_aid_kit.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/), then GO! Get them and put them somewhere safe right now. I’ll wait.
You should also have an emergency plan in place should your family end up victims of a calamity like a flood, a fire, a hurricane, etc. For EVERYONE in the family – spouse, kids, pets – a plan to keep yourselves fed, sheltered and safe is crucial. Check the American Red Cross website for tips.
4. Training resources
All dogs require training in order to become the best companions they can be. Thankfully, they usually have a natural desire to please, and the time you spend in training can be a lot of fun for both of you. If you can attend obedience classes together, you can get the basics, meet other dog owners, and help socialize your dog all in one. If however, you don’t have the time or ability to attend classes, you can find a lot of good books on the subject, as well as online advice, but with one big caveat: make sure you hire, follow or read works by a trainer who specializes in positive reinforcement. There are still far too many trainers who rely on shock collars and other methods of fear-based training, and that is the least productive way to train your dog. In the long run, you’ll be much better off with a dog that follows directions because it’s rewarding to do so, not one that obeys out of fear. It’s far healthier for the dog, and for your relationship with him or her.
It might be #5, but that doesn’t make it the least important, by any means. Owning a dog demands time. They are social creatures, and they have been bred over centuries to be devoted companions to humans. As such, a dog is usually happiest when it’s with YOU. That means you need to have at least a little leisure time available that can be devoted to spending with your dog. I do realize that lives get busy, you will go through phases when you don’t have much free time, and bonding with your dog will get bumped down the list. But almost everyone has at least a few extra minutes a day that they can set aside for play, walking and cuddling. And the upside is, it’s not just about your dog. Research has shown that time spent petting, walking and bonding with a dog is good for YOUR health, too. Do both yourself and your furry friend a favor, and make a little doggy downtime a priority every day. Trust me, you’ll never regret it.