Essential Things Every First-Time Pet Owner Should Know
Article by Brandon Butler

If you’re about to adopt your first-ever pet, congratulations, you’ve made a decision that will most likely bring you decades of happiness. Caring for an animal companion is one of life’s great pleasures. Taking the plunge into pet ownership for the first time can be overly exciting, however, and some people think that they don’t really need to know anything before they bring their little guy or gal home. It can’t be that hard, right?

Well, it’s not exactly hard, but it can be complicated if you don’t know some basics of pet ownership. Here are some essential tips for the first-time pet owner.

Eliminate the unexpected

When it comes to making sure you and your new dog are copasetic, it’s vital to establish routines and introduce structure into their life as soon as possible.

One way to do this is to make sure your dog has established ground rules from day one. Sure, it might be cute to let your new dog lie on the couch with you, but if you don’t want a couch dog for the long term then you should never allow this – not even on day one. You should try, as best as you can, to make your dog eat, sleep, go outside, and exercise at the same time every day. By doing this you can help avoid household accidents and a rambunctious dog when it’s time for human sleep.

“Dogs need order. Let your pet know from the start who is the boss. When you catch them doing something they shouldn’t, don’t lose your cool. Stay calm, and let them know immediately, in a loud and disapproving voice, that they have misbehaved. Reward them with praise when they do well,” says The Humane Society.

For info on the five essential commands to teach a new dog, check here.

Don’t give your new dog too much range

Keeping with the structure theme, it’s vital that your new dog has a designated “safe space” in their new home – at least for the beginning. Giving your dog free range of your entire house can not only lead to poor behavior, but it can be unsettling for a dog. This is especially important if you adopt an older dog, who may take quite a bit of time to get acclimated to a new setting. It’s also important if you have existing pets. It lets the meeting process happen slowly and reduces the risk of conflicts. Check out these tips for introducing your dog to your home.

“When the established dog is present, keep the new dog confined, but able to see, smell, and hear the established dog so they can communicate. This will also give you a chance to observe their interactions to get an idea of how they are adjusting to each other’s presence,” suggests ReachOutRescue.org.

The bonding begins immediately

“Love is what makes your dog dance when you come home at the end of the day, while the bond is what keeps him from taking off without you when the front door opens,” says The Bark.

Every dog is different, but there are some pretty universal ways to make sure you develop a bond with your dog that lasts a lifetime. Most dog-owner relationships that are subpar suffer from a few common problems. First, the owner doesn’t give the dog enough attention and praise. Second, the owner doesn’t exercise and play with the dog enough. And third, the owner attempts to “punish” the dog for bad behaviors instead of simply and firmly correcting them.

Maybe the best overall rule for first-time pet ownership is to practice patience at all times. Dogs pick up on aggression, fear, and frustration. If you are calm and collected, your dog will be calm and collected as well.

“FROM A MISSISSIPPI TRAILER PARK TO A VET’S HOME IN RYE”
– ARTICLE BY LAURIE YARNELL

As a veterinarian, my husband, Dr. Gary Yarnell, wholeheartedly believes in pet rescue as one of the best ways to unite terrific dogs with their forever families. During his more than 35 years practicing right here in Rye – he’s the founding partner of the Rye Harrison Veterinary Hospital – Gary has seen firsthand how adopting a rescue can work out beautifully for all concerned.

Yet we had never participated in anything but “informal” rescues, where we adopted a dog from friends or clients who were moving or whose circumstances had changed. That all changed for us with the adoption of our adorable rescued Lab mix Chloe in the summer of 2014.

We’ve always had two dogs at a time to keep one another company when we weren’t home. Others might send their solo pups to doggy day camp but we subscribed to the built-in play date model. So when our black Standard Poodle Kayley passed away at 14 in July of 2013, our then 3 1/2 year-old yellow Lab, Gracie, was devastated at the loss of her best friend/canine sister. Gracie is very playful and even as Kayley became frailer with age, she was still able to rally her a bit; we called her Kayley’s “aide” because she was so gentle with her. The year that followed Kayley’s passing was a tough one for our family that culminated in the death of Gary’s dad. Where normally we’d find a pal for Gracie in a few months, our focus was elsewhere. And while we were extremely attentive to her, we could see that Gracie was pining away for some canine company that liked to play chase and tug of war, two activities not high on our own lists.

Finally, almost a year later, we started the search for our new puppy. Going to petfinder.com, Gary entered “Lab puppy” and a photo of Gracie’s miniature popped up on the Good Dog Rescue site. Lilly, as she was then known, looked like a smaller Gracie; the resemblance was uncanny. We were very excited to put in an application to adopt her; most impressive was that even though Gary is a vet, we were not an automatic “slam dunk”, and subjected to a very careful screening. Once approved, we enjoyed the adorable pictures and videos of Lilly playing with her littermates that her Tennessee foster family would send us.

One steamy July day, we stood around a parking lot off a highway in Rockland, excitedly awaiting the arrival of our new puppy – much as we had waited in previous years for our kids to come home on the camp bus. The Good Dog Rescue transport was making a journey up the East Coast, with stops from Virginia all the way up into New England. When she was handed down to us from the big truck, we were instantly smitten. Once home, her canine big sister welcomed the now renamed Chloe on the front lawn, and they’ve been Velcroed-together ever since. Their constant antics continue to keep us laughing. Chloe is sweet, affectionate, and fun – we adore her.

Sure, there were some bumps along the road and a period of adjustment, but Chloe is a delight. She looks exactly like a miniature version of Gracie and everyone assumes they are mother and daughter. Our first Lab, Maggie, weighed in at a whopping 85 pounds; Gracie is “fun-sized” at around 60-pounds; and little Chloe, weighing about 45 pounds full-grown, is our own mini-Lab.

While we knew that our newly-born pup and her litter mates had been rescued, what we didn’t find out until later was that they were actually born beneath a trailer in Mississippi; the neighbors were none too happy with their new residents but fortunately the good folks from Good Dog swooped in to care for them all. Whenever we think of Chloe’s rough start in life, it breaks our heart. Today, everyone always says how lucky she is to have gone from a Mississippi trailer park to the leafy hamlet of Rye with a veterinarian as a dad, but truthfully, we know we are the lucky ones. Our little girl rescued our family from a difficult time and brought her own special sunshine into our live