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The Ultimate Guide for New Dog Owners in 2024



Congratulations on your new furry family member! Owning a dog is truly one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling experiences.  And most dog owners would agree that having a constant, loyal companion who loves them unconditionally brings so much joy to their lives. 


However, bringing your pet home is only the beginning. Taking care of them and ensuring their health and happiness requires a great deal of responsibility, commitment, and effort on your part. Being a first-time dog owner is never easy, but it is always rewarding. To help you out, we've created this comprehensive guide on how to better care for your dog.


1. Getting Your Home Ready


Dog-proof everything


Take a look around your home and make sure to dog-proof everything. Dog-proofing your home will ensure your pet won’t get hurt as they try to explore their new environment. This not only prevents accidents but also emergency vet trips. Here are some steps you can take to make your home more welcoming and safe for them:


  • Remove any potential hazards - look for and remove any items that could be harmful to your dog, such as toxic plants, small objects that could be swallowed, and medications.



  • Secure your trash cans - dogs are known for getting into trash, so make sure your trash cans have tight-fitting lids to prevent your dog from getting into them.



  • Keep your chemicals and cleaning supplies out of reach - many household chemicals and cleaning products can be toxic to dogs. Be sure to keep bleach, herbicides, pesticides, and rodent poisons out of reach and properly stored to prevent accidental ingestion.



  • Protect your furniture - use protective covers or barriers to prevent your dog from scratching or damaging furniture.



  • Secure electrical cords - dogs may chew on electrical cords, which can be dangerous. Use cord covers or keep cords out of reach to prevent this.



  • Use gates or barriers to restrict access to certain areas - if you have certain areas of your home that you don't want your dog to have access to, such as a baby's room, use gates or barriers to block off those areas.



  • Keep small items out of reach - It's important to keep in mind that small or seemingly harmless objects around the house can pose a potential hazard to dogs, especially for puppies. As they begin teething between the ages of 3 to 8 months, they have a natural urge to chew on anything they can get their paws on - from slippers to remote controls, even AirPods!


Buy necessary dog supplies


Just like having a new baby, a new dog comes with an extensive shopping list of items that your pet will need. Here are some of the must-have items for the first-time dog owner.



  • Bed – giving your dog their own bed is a great way to provide them with a comfortable, designated place to rest and relax. Make sure the bed is large enough for your pet to stretch out and move around comfortably.


  • Bowls – look for a bowl made from a durable material that is easy to clean. Stainless steel, ceramic, and silicone are all good options for your dog’s food and water. They’re also perfect when giving your pet supplements, vitamins, or meds provided by your vet such as antinol for dogs or rx vitamins for pets.


  • Brush – your dog won't need anything too fancy at first. But as their coat grows in, you’ll be able to determine what kinds of grooming tools they’ll require.


  • Cleaning supplies – accidents will happen, no matter how much you try not to think about them. So it’s best to be prepared. There are a variety of sprays available that can help protect your carpet and furniture from damage caused by dogs, such as urine, vomit, and mud. 2 good examples are the 3M Scotchgard Rug & Carpet Cleaner and Douke Fabric Stain Cleaner. These sprays typically work by breaking down and removing stains using oxygenated enzymes. They also contain fresh scents to leave your carpets and fabrics smelling clean and fresh.


  • Collar, tags, and leash – all of these items are necessary for your dog's safety. It's an excellent identification tool, indicating that the dog belongs to someone. These allow anyone who sees the leash and tag attached to the dog's collar to locate you if you and your pet become separated. That if they become lost, they can be returned to you.


  • Crate – a crate is not only a useful training tool, but it can also provide a safe and comfortable environment for your dog when they cannot be supervised. Make sure to choose a crate that’s large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.


  • Nail clippers – there are several types of nail clippers available, including guillotine clippers, scissor clippers, and grinders. Choose the type that you feel most comfortable using and that will work best for your dog's size and nail type.


  • Poop scoop and poop bags – yes, you will be scooping poop, so prepare accordingly. There are various types of scoopers, some designed for grass and others for concrete. Always keep bags on hand, especially when you’re going out with your pet. 


  • Shampoo – some dogs have sensitive skin, so it's important to choose a shampoo that's gentle and does not contain harsh chemicals or fragrances. Different shampoos are also formulated for different coat types, such as long, short, or oily. Choose a shampoo that is appropriate for your dog's coat type.


  • Toothbrush and toothpaste – you’ll need a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for dogs. Don’t use toothpaste for humans, as it can be toxic for dogs.


  • Toys - your new dog will play a lot! Make sure you have a variety of toys on hand so they don’t get bored.  Just make sure there aren’t any parts of the toy that could come off. This can become a choking hazard and a reason for emergency vet visits.



2. Keeping Your Dog Healthy


Go for regular vet visits



Regular visits to your vet are crucial to keeping your dog healthy and happy. During these check-ups, your vet can catch any potential health problems early on, which can make a big difference in your dog's quality of life and health. Your vet can also recommend dietary supplements and preventative medications to protect your furry friend from diseases, parasites, and joint problems. For instance, if your dog suffers from joint problems, your vet may suggest Antinol, a dietary supplement that supports joint health in dogs. Or if you want to give your dog's immune system a boost, your vet may recommend Immuno Support from Rx Vitamins for Pets.


Regular veterinary care also helps to prevent parasite infestations in your dog, such as fleas, ticks, and heartworms. These parasites can cause serious health issues if left untreated, including tick fever, lung disease, heart failure, and organ damage. To protect your dog, your vet may suggest Heartgard Plus, Nexgard Spectra, Bravecto, or Simparica Trio, which are all effective medications to kill and prevent parasites.


By making sure your dog receives regular veterinary care and following your vet's advice, you're helping to ensure a happy, healthy life for your furry friend.


Get vaccinations



Vaccinations are also an important part of keeping your dog healthy and protected from serious diseases. There are several core and non-core vaccines that are considered essential for dogs, depending on their age, lifestyle, and location. Here are some of the most important vaccinations for dogs.


  • Canine distemper vaccine - this is one of the core vaccines that protect from a viral disease that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. The virus spreads through contact with body fluids, such as saliva, urine, or blood of infected animals. It’s highly contagious and can be fatal, especially in young or immune-compromised dogs.


  • Canine parvovirus vaccine - this core vaccine protects from a highly contagious and potentially fatal virus that affects the gastrointestinal system. It’s most commonly seen in puppies and unvaccinated dogs. The disease is spread through contact with infected dogs or contaminated objects, such as food and water bowls, bedding, and surfaces.


  • Leptospirosis vaccine - This is another core vaccine that's commonly included in the set of standard vaccines given to dogs. It's given once a year and protects against Leptospira bacteria, which can be spread through contact with rats' and other wild animals' urine. Dogs can become infected by licking surfaces or grass contaminated with the bacteria, which can cause serious and potentially fatal kidney and liver damage if left untreated.


  • Canine hepatitis vaccine - this core vaccine protects dogs against the canine adenovirus type 1 (CAV-1), which is the virus that causes hepatitis. The virus is highly contagious and can spread through contact with infected dogs or their urine, feces, and saliva. 


  • Canine influenza (also known as "dog flu") vaccine - this non-core vaccine is given yearly and protects from a highly contagious respiratory illness that’s caused by different strains of influenza viruses. It’s typically given to dogs that are at risk of exposure to the virus, such as those that visit boarding facilities, dog parks, or other areas where they may come into contact with other dogs.


  • Rabies vaccine - this non-core vaccine protects from a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus that attacks the nervous system. It’s usually transmitted through bites from infected animals. However, Singapore is considered a rabies-free country, so this vaccine is optional.


It’s important to consult with your vet to know which vaccinations are appropriate for your dog. The timing and frequency of vaccination may vary depending on your dog's age, health status, and other factors.


In general, puppies should receive a series of vaccinations starting at around 6-8 weeks of age. Puppies require a series of 3-4 core vaccine shots, each administered at 2-4 week intervals. The final shot should be given at or after 16 weeks of age. 


Following the completion of the puppy core vaccination series, a yearly core vaccine is recommended to ensure ongoing protection. Adult dogs, on the other hand, may require periodic booster shots for protection against diseases.


It's also recommended that you wait for approximately 1-2 weeks after the final core vaccine before bringing your puppy to socialize with other dogs. This precautionary measure is to ensure that your puppy's immune system has had enough time to fully develop immunity and provide adequate protection against infectious diseases. 


Spaying/Neutering


One important decision that many pet owners face is whether or not to spay or neuter their pets. While the decision to spay or neuter your pet is a personal one, there are many benefits to this procedure.


Spaying, which is the removal of a female pet's reproductive organs, can help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and prevent unwanted litter. In fact, spaying your female dog before her first heat cycle can greatly reduce her risk of developing breast cancer and uterine infections (pyometra).

Neutering, which is the removal of a male pet's testicles, can also help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and behavioral problems. Unneutered male dogs are more likely to roam, mark their territory with urine, and display aggression toward other dogs. Neutering your male dog can help reduce these behaviors and make him a better companion.


While spaying and neutering is a personal decision, it's important to consider the many benefits of this procedure. By spaying or neutering your dog, you can help ensure a longer, healthier life for your furry companion.


Provide your pet with good nutrition


Your dog needs a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients, including protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to stay healthy. However, puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs have different nutritional needs. Be sure to pick the right dog food that’s formulated for your dog's size and life stage.


For puppies, it's important to choose a high-quality puppy food that is specifically formulated for their growth and development. Puppy food should contain higher levels of protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorus to support their growing bodies. It's also essential to feed puppies several small meals throughout the day to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).


For adult dogs, the diet should be balanced and provide all the necessary nutrients they need to maintain their health. Look for high-quality dog food that lists a named meat source as the first ingredient and avoid foods that contain fillers or by-products. The food should also be appropriate for the dog's age, breed, and activity level.


Another thing to remember is that as tempting as it may be, do not overfeed your pet. This can lead to obesity, which can cause a range of health problems. Consult your vet or refer to the feeding guidelines on the dog food packaging to determine how much to feed your dog.

3. Grooming Your Dog



You'll want to groom your dog on a regular basis to keep their hair and skin in good condition. Grooming helps remove dirt, tangles, excess fur, and dirty nails which can prevent skin irritation and infections. It can also help to identify and address any health issues, such as fleas, ticks, or matted fur. Keeping your pet clean also improves their appearance and makes them feel more comfortable. 


4. Training Your Dog


Great manners maketh a lovely dog, and these do not come naturally. In most cases, you'll need to teach your dog how to behave appropriately. This is generally accomplished through the use of reward-based, positive reinforcement training. The idea is, when your dog behaves well, you should reward him with a treat or praise.


5. Feeding training


Once you have bought a bowl for your dog, it’s important to teach them to use it. You can do this by placing treats or food in the bowl and encouraging your dog to go to the bowl on command. With time and consistent positive canine training, your dog should learn to eat in their bowl for meals and treats.


6. Crate training



A crate can be set up as a safe space for your pet. Crates help dogs learn to self-soothe or deal with their anxiety, during situations where they become distressed, like during fireworks, a thunderstorm, or construction. It’s also a safe way to transport your pet while traveling or going for emergency vet visits, so having a cooperative dog get into a crate quickly saves crucial time. 


The best way to introduce the crate to your pet is by doing it gradually. Place the crate in a room where your dog spends a lot of time, and encourage them to explore it on their own by leaving treats and toys inside.


Gradually increase the length of time your dog spends in the crate, starting with short periods and gradually building up to longer periods. When your dog is in the crate, use positive reinforcement training: give them treats and praise to reinforce good behavior.


Make sure to crate your dog at appropriate times. Use the crate as a tool to manage your dog's behavior and prevent them from getting into trouble when you can't supervise them. It's important to keep in mind that every dog is different. And what works for one may not work for another. It may take some trial and error to find the best approach for your dog.


7. Potty training


It’s important to help your new dog understand the right areas to do their routine business.


The first thing you should do is choose a designated potty area. This can be a specific spot in your garden or a designated area inside your home such as the toilet. Next, is to establish a routine. 


Take your dog to the designated potty area at regular intervals, such as after meals, after play, and after waking up. Third is to choose a specific command, such as "go potty," and use it consistently every time you take your dog to the designated potty area. Finally, use positive

canine training. When your dog eliminates in the designated potty area, be sure to praise them and give them a treat to reinforce the behavior.


Potty training can take time and may involve some accidents along the way. Just be patient and consistent in your training efforts, and your dog will eventually learn where to go potty.


8. Socializing Your Dog



You can bring your new furry friend out to play with other dogs once they are up to date on their vaccinations and well-protected. Socialization is important for dogs because it teaches them appropriate behavior around other dogs and how to play respectfully with them. It's good for them to have some playmates because this gives them another way to exercise too. 


It's generally best to start socializing a dog as early as possible, as early socialization can help them become more confident and well-adjusted as they grow up. Puppies go through a critical socialization period between 3 and 12 weeks of age, during which they are more receptive to new experiences and more likely to form positive associations with them. This is a great time to begin exposing your puppy to a variety of people, places, and other animals in a controlled and positive way.


Puppy schools are generally regarded as hygienic and safe environments, making them a great place to begin socializing your pup. Dog parks are another option for your dog to run freely and interact with other dogs in a secure environment. It's important to find the right park for your dog's size and temperament and be aware that some parks may charge a fee. And before visiting, make sure you understand basic dog park etiquette as well as the park's rules and regulations.


9. Providing Regular Exercise and Routine



Dogs need regular exercise to stay physically and mentally healthy.  Regular exercise helps keep your dog's muscles strong and their joints flexible.  Plus, it reduces stress and anxiety in dogs, helping to improve their overall mood.


Take your dog for walks, runs, or play fetch in the park. Not only will these activities keep them in great shape, but it’s also a great way to bond with your pet, keeping you both active and happy. 


While owning a dog can be a lot of work, the rewards of having a furry friend can make it all worth it. By following these tips, you can help ensure a happy and healthy life for your pet.


For more pet care tips and guides, follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Tiktok. Pawkit connects Singapore pet owners to a variety of pet-related resources and services. Get everything you need in one place, from the latest pet care tips to your pet’s details and medical history, as well as a directory of on-demand pet services in your area, such as veterinarians, groomers, and daycare.



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