21 min read

The Ultimutt Guide to Caring for a New Dog

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Overview

So you've just welcomed a new four-legged family member to your pack — congrats! You’re about to receive one of the best gifts life can give: a dog’s love. But while our fur-babies bring an infinite amount of joy, affection, and cuteness into our lives, raising a dog isn’t always a walk in the park.

If you’re a new pet parent wondering what comes next, read on to learn everything you need to know about caring for a new dog. (And yes, we do mean everything — from finances, veterinary care, and grooming to training, feeding, and sleeping, we've covered all the bases!)

person with long brown hair petting a white dog and lying on a white carpet

Preparing to welcome a new dog to your pack

Now comes the fun part: bringing your new canine companion home! Let’s take a look at how to dog-proof your home, introduce your new dog to your household, and budget for your new dog’s needs.

Dog-proofing your home

Just as you'd child-proof a house to protect little ones, you want to make sure your living environment is safe for your fur-child. Here are a few tasks you should add to your dog-proofing checklist:

  • Remove house and garden plants that are toxic to dogs, or keep them out of reach.
  • Unplug chargers and wires when not in use, or use deterrent sprays and cord covers for appliances that are always plugged in.
  • Keep trash secure with a hands-free trash can or bin with a sturdy lid.
  • Restrict rooms and off-limits areas with pet gates.
  • Store potentially harmful items — including batteries, medication, food, and cleaning products — out of your pup's reach.

Bringing your new dog home: introductions and first impressions

While some dogs may adjust to their new home immediately, others may need more time. Let your pup explore their new turf at their own pace. Reward positive interactions with praise, treats, or whatever motivates your pup. If they hide, don’t force them to come out or punish them — this will only instill fear. If you’re concerned about them hiding somewhere they might get hurt, restrict their access to those areas.

If you have other pets or young children, introducing your new four-legged family member may prove tricky. At first, keep your new pup in their crate and let your other pets sniff them out. (They were in the home first, after all!) If your existing pets show any signs of aggression, remove the new dog to let everyone calm down, then try again later.

Pet parents of cats and dogs may find it easier to let the new siblings sniff each other out through a closed door at first, then gradually work up to the first meeting.

Families with children should discuss boundaries regarding the new dog. Show your children — especially little ones! — the right way to pet and interact with the new pup. Ensure everyone’s on the same page about feeding schedules, restricted areas, and training methods.

For more tips, check out our guide on helping your dog adjust to their new home.

Budgeting for your new dog

The costs of raising a healthy, well-mannered dog add up quickly, so you’ll want to be prepared. You can expect to spend “ruffly” $700 to $2,000 per year on your new pup, but costs will vary depending on several factors, including your location and your dog's breed.

The lower end of that price range covers the basics, like food, toys, routine check-ups, parasite preventatives, and basic supplies like leashes and bedding. The higher end of the range includes extras like grooming costs, training classes, and on-demand pet care services like dog walking and overnight sitting and boarding.

For an in-depth look at budgeting for a dog, plus some tips on how to save money, check out our guide on how much it costs to have a dog in 2023.

assortment of dog food and treat products including a rawhide bone, dental chews, wet dog food and dry dog kibble

Dog food and treats

A high-quality diet is essential for keeping your pup healthy. Not only can a quality kibble improve mobility and digestive health, but it can also help your dog live longer! Read on to learn how to choose the right dog food and treats for your pup’s unique dietary needs.

Choosing the right dog food

With so many pet food brands out there, it’s hard to know which one is best for your dog. Here are a few things to consider when choosing your pup’s food:

  • Your dog’s age, breed, health, and activity level
  • Your budget
  • Your pup's preferences
  • Your vet’s recommendations
  • The brand’s product recall history
  • Reviews from other customers, especially those with dogs like yours

Once you’ve narrowed down your options and chosen a brand, let your pup have a taste to see how they like it. While some dogs will wolf down anything that’s edible, other pups are picky — and it’s always a good idea to feed your fur-baby a food they actually like!

As your dog grows, their nutritional needs will change, and you’ll need to switch to a food that’s appropriate for their stage of life. When switching your dog’s food, be sure to transition gradually to prevent vomiting, diarrhea, and other digestive problems.

Quick guide to understanding dog food labels

Now that you know what to keep in mind when comparing pet food brands, here are a few quick tips for figuring out what those complex dog food labels really mean.

  • Check the first 5 ingredients. Because dog food ingredients are listed according to weight, the first 5 ingredients will tell you which ingredients are most abundant in your dog’s food.

  • Choose a food with a named meat source as the first ingredient. Meat should be the very first ingredient, not grains, cereals, or vegetables. Try to opt for a food that specifies the meat source — for example, chicken or beef.

  • Look for the nutritional adequacy statement. This lets you know the food meets the strict standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

  • Read the nutrition facts (also called “guaranteed analysis”). This tells you the percentage of essential nutrients like protein, carbs, and fat. Any food you choose should be high in protein — AAFCO requires between 18% and 22% protein depending on your dog’s stage of life.

For more tips and info, check out our guide to choosing the right dog food.

Dog treats

Not all dog treats are created equal. Some are healthier (and tastier!) than others. The best treats for your dog will vary depending on their activity level and personal preferences. Here are a few quick notes on choosing treats your dog will “pawsitively” love.

  • Treats should comprise no more than 10% of your dog’s caloric intake. For example, an 11-pound dog should typically eat a maximum of 351 calories per day, which means any treats should only account for 35 of those calories. (Source: World Small Animal Veterinary Association)

  • “High-value” treats — like a piece of hot dog or a bit of cheese — are great for training. Feed high-value treats sparingly to prevent weight gain. If you’re working on training often, consider using individual pieces of kibble as treats instead.

  • Consider your dog’s health when reviewing the ingredients list. For example, treats that are high in carbs may not be suitable for dogs with diabetes, while dogs with arthritis may benefit from treats that contain glucosamine and chondroitin.

  • Dental treats are a “grrreat” way to provide mental stimulation and clean your pup’s teeth. However, they shouldn’t replace brushing.

  • Avoid giving your dog cooked bones or rawhides as treats. These are choking hazards and could obstruct your pup’s gastrointestinal tract. Not to mention that rawhides are difficult for dogs to digest.

  • While some table scraps are safe for dogs, avoid feeding them too much “human” food. This can cause digestive problems and even bad behaviors, like begging at the table or eating from your plate.

For a deeper dive into this topic, check out our guide to the healthiest treats for dogs.

brown and white dog with a yellow tennis ball in their mouth running through the grass

Exercise and enrichment

Everyone knows dogs need daily walks, but exactly how much exercise does your dog need? That depends on their age, breed, and health history.

Contrary to popular belief, puppies need up to 1 hour of low-impact exercise each day, broken up into short chunks throughout the day. Some adult dogs may require as little as 30 minutes or as much as 3 hours of exercise per day. Meanwhile, seniors need up to 1 hour of low-impact activity per day.

Let’s take a closer look at how to adequately exercise your pup’s body and brain.

Physical exercise

Physical enrichment is vital for every dog, even low-energy breeds. Exercise not only keeps your pup in a healthy weight range, but it also goes a long way toward preventing diseases like arthritis and diabetes. Not to mention that dogs who don’t receive enough exercise often suffer from behavioral issues, as well as anxiety, stress, and boredom.

Here are a few things to consider when creating your pup’s exercise regimen:

  • Research your breed’s exercise needs. Your dog’s size isn’t always a good indicator of how much exercise they need. For example, Greyhounds are big dogs, but they only need about 30 minutes of exercise per day. Our dog breed guides are a “grrreat” resource for learning about your breed's needs!

  • Mix it up! Brainy breeds, like Boxers, get bored quickly, so try a variety of activities to keep your pup engaged.

  • Stay present. Resist the temptation to drag your dog along while on walks or check your phone frequently while playing. Not only is supervising your dog during playtime super important, but staying mindful and engaging with your dog will also strengthen your bond.

  • Be aware that some activities will require extra training. Even basic activities like swimming and zooming around the dog park require dogs to have reliable obedience and recall skills.

  • Avoid high-impact activities and sports if your dog is young or old. Growing puppies and senior dogs need low-impact exercise to avoid placing stress on their developing or aging joints. Instead of high-impact activities like excessive jumping and sprinting, try leisurely swims or short walks.

  • Know when to stop. If your dog is clearly tired and starting to slow down, don’t force them to continue. Remember, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing!

Mental stimulation

Stimulating your pup’s brain is just as important as exercising their body. Not only does mental stimulation ensure a full-body workout, but it also improves your pup’s receptivity to training and helps them relieve stress.

Here are 3 quick tips to ensure your doggo is getting adequate mental stimulation:

Related: 6 Easy Ways to Give Your Dog More Mental Stimulation

brown and white chihuahua dog sleeping under a red blanket next to a beige plush bear toy

Sleep and potty schedules

Sleep and potty schedules are super important for your woofer's wellbeing. Read on for some quick tips on how to create consistent routines.

Your dog’s sleep schedule

Just like humans, a dog’s sleep habits will vary depending on several factors. Adult dogs tend to sleep between 8 and 14 hours a day depending on their age, breed, health, and activity level. Young puppies can sleep as much as 18 hours per day, while senior dogs also tend to nap a lot and sleep longer.

Is your fur-baby having trouble sleeping? Here are a few reasons why they might be struggling to snooze:

  • They’re not getting enough stimulation during the day
  • They’re in pain or discomfort due to an underlying health condition
  • They’re disturbed by noise or activity
  • They ate a meal or treat just before bedtime and need to potty
  • They weren’t taken for a potty break before settling down to sleep

Once you’ve decided when your pup will sleep, it’s time to figure out your new dog's sleeping arrangements. Should you let your dog sleep in your bed, or is it better to give them their own space? There’s no right or wrong answer to this question — it all depends on your personal preferences as well as your pup’s.

Some dogs like their personal space, while others will beg to snuggle up next to you. If you don’t allow your dog on your furniture, it’s better to give them their own bed to avoid confusing them. But as long as you’re happy sharing your bed with your dog, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t!

For more tips on creating a consistent sleep schedule for your dog, check out our guide to how much dogs should sleep.

Your dog’s potty schedule

How often does your dog need to go out to potty? That depends on their age and health. Puppies aged 12 weeks or younger can only hold their bladder for up to 2 hours at a time. Meanwhile, adult dogs who are potty trained can hold it for up to 8 hours at a time.

No dog should go longer than 8 hours without a potty break. If you work full-time, make arrangements for someone to check in on your pup to prevent any accidents. (Pro tip: Drop-In services with Wag! are a “grrreat” way to keep your canine comfy during a long workday!)

Potty training is one of the biggest challenges for pet parents. Here are a few quick tips:

  • Be consistent with your pup’s potty schedule. Dogs do best with a routine, so try to take them out to potty at the same times each day to solidify the habit.

  • Pee pads can make or break your dog’s potty training progress. While pads are great for certain situations, they may also teach your dog that it’s okay to potty inside, or that any thin piece of paper is fair game. This can confuse your pup, especially if you’re trying to train them to go outside instead.

  • If your dog has an accident indoors, use an enzyme cleaner to remove lingering scents. Dogs tend to go where they’ve gone before, and their powerful sniffers can detect lingering smells up to 3 weeks after an accident! Enzyme cleaners are super effective because they contain good bacteria that break down scent molecules.

Related: How Often Should Your Dog Go Out to Pee?

veterinarian using a stethoscope on a brown and white bulldog sitting on a vet exam table

Health and wellness

Maintaining your dog's health and wellness starts with choosing the right veterinarian and getting pet insurance. Read on to learn more about your new dog's healthcare needs, including vaccinations, spay/neuter, microchipping, and parasite treatment and prevention.

Choosing the right vet

When it comes to choosing a veterinarian, it’s worth comparing your options. Your vet will likely care for your pup throughout their life, so you’ll want to build a relationship with a professional you trust.

Research vet clinics and hospitals near you to learn more about their location, services, fees, and operating hours. Consider your dog’s breed and exercise regimen, too — some vets specialize in working with certain breeds or conditions. If you have any questions about your preferred veterinarian’s experience, qualifications, or education, don’t hesitate to ask.

Related: A Day in the Life of a Veterinarian

The importance of pet insurance

Figuring out how to fund your pet’s healthcare costs can be a minefield. Should you set up a pet care savings account? Use a crowdfunding platform like GoFundMe? Pay entirely out of pocket? Or simply ignore the need for coverage until your pup has an accident or emergency?

Investing in pet insurance is the best way to ensure you can afford your pup’s vet bills throughout their life. Depending on the policy you choose, you may be reimbursed for up to 100% of your dog’s vet bills in as little as 3 days. Insuring your new dog ASAP ensures any health issues that arise later in life will qualify for reimbursement, since many providers don’t cover pre-existing conditions.

We’re speaking from experience here. Wag!’s very own Growth Marketing Specialist, Megan Crowley, hesitated to insure her dog, Ferris, who was diagnosed with encephalitis just 2 days before the waiting period ended. The result? Megan’s paid tens of thousands of dollars for Ferris’ treatment, all out of pocket.

To learn more about Megan’s journey, check out our round-up of 5 pet insurance stories that prove pet insurance is worth every penny.

veterinarian holding a closed syringe in front of a brown dog

Vaccinations

Vaccinating your dog is essential for keeping them safe and healthy. Vaccines are split into two categories: core and non-core.

Core vaccines are recommended — and even legally required, in most states — for all dogs. Non-core vaccines are optional immunizations that may be recommended for dogs based on their location and lifestyle.

Core vaccines for dogs living in the US include:

Non-core vaccines that may be recommended by your vet include:

When does your dog need their vaccinations? That depends on their age. After the first doses are administered between the ages of 3 and 16 weeks, puppies usually receive boosters at the age of 6 or 12 months.

Once your dog is fully vaccinated, how often do they need their boosters? Typically every 1 to 3 years, depending on the vaccine's duration of immunity. Find out more in our complete guide on dog vaccination schedules.

Spay/neuter

If you’re welcoming a puppy or intact adult dog into your pack, it’s a good idea to spay or neuter them ASAP. When should your dog be fixed? That depends — dogs as young as 8 weeks old can be spayed or neutered, but most vets will wait until dogs are between 6 and 9 months old.

Complications of spay/neuter surgery are more common in adult dogs than puppies. However, this vital procedure can also prevent more serious health problems later in life, like uterine cancer and prostatic cysts. Spay/neuter can also promote good behavior by reducing aggression toward other dogs of the same sex.

To learn more, check out our guide on the benefits of spaying or neutering your dog.

Microchipping

No one likes to think about tragedies like their dog running away or getting lost, but it's good to be protected and prepared. Microchipping is safe, painless, and non-invasive.

Contrary to popular belief, microchips do not contain GPS trackers. If your dog gets lost and ends up at a veterinary clinic or animal shelter, a staff member can scan the microchip to see your contact info and let you know your dog is safe.

Speaking of which, don’t forget to register your contact info and the microchip ID number with a pet recovery database after it’s implanted. Always keep your contact information up to date to ensure you and your dog are reunited if the unthinkable happens.

For more information and answers to FAQs about microchipping, check out our guide on how microchips work.

small brown tick sitting on a person's finger with a golden dog lying in the grass in the background

Parasite treatment and prevention

Treating and preventing parasites is a key part of being a responsible pet parent. Read on to learn more about how to protect your dog from pesky pests.

Deworming

Puppies develop roundworms from their mother's milk and tapeworms from infected fleas. Deworming your dog is vital for eradicating existing infestations and preventing them in the future.

How often should you deworm your dog? That depends on their age. Puppies are usually dewormed once every 3 weeks until the age of 16 weeks. Adult dogs typically take a worm preventative medication once every 30 days. Some medications, like Simparica Trio, protect against most types of worms, including heartworm, roundworm, hookworm, tapeworm, and whipworm.

Flea and tick treatment and prevention

Flea collars, oral medications, topical treatments — you’ll find a range of flea and tick products available to keep your pup parasite-free. But which one is right for your dog?

Even if you use a flea collar or medicated shampoo, you should still administer flea and tick medication to ensure your pup is fully protected. Some dogs may tolerate topical treatments well, but oral medications like NexGard are more convenient and may be easier to administer.

How often does your dog need flea and tick treatment? Typically, you’ll need to administer it once every 30 days. Remember to treat your home and yard as well to prevent future reinfestations.



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Routine check-ups

Once your dog’s initial healthcare needs are taken care of, you likely won’t need to visit the vet quite as often. Most pups will receive an annual check-up, also called a wellness exam. Senior dogs and those with health issues may need to visit the vet every 6 months. To learn more, check out our guide on how often your dog should go to the vet.

For now, let’s take a closer look at what routine check-ups involve and why they’re so important for keeping your hound happy and healthy.

Physical health assessment

What do vets do during a routine check-up? Typically, your vet will examine your dog’s weight, heart health, and respiratory function. They’ll also check out your pup’s eyes, ears, teeth, skin, and abdomen to ensure everything is in working order.

Be prepared to answer questions about your dog’s diet, exercise regimen, and potty habits. From there, your vet will recommend diagnostics, treatments, and lifestyle modifications as needed.

Bloodwork

Is bloodwork necessary for dogs? That depends on your vet, as well as your dog’s health status. Many vets recommend bloodwork during an annual check-up to detect diseases — like diabetes, anemia, and even cancer — that may fly under the radar during a physical exam. Regular blood tests can ensure serious conditions are diagnosed and treated early, ensuring the best “pawssible” prognosis for your dog.

Urine and fecal tests

Annual fecal tests help ensure your pup is fully protected against parasites. Meanwhile, urine tests provide essential insight into your dog’s kidney function, helping prevent kidney disease, bacterial infections, and other conditions.

dog trainer wearing white t-shirt and jeans kneeling down to high-five a brown and white dog

Training and behavior

Now comes the real tricky part of pet parenting — dog training! Teaching your new fur-baby the rules of the roost will take a lot of time, patience, positive reinforcement, and tasty treats. Read on to discover our top 5 dog training tips, a checklist of essential obedience commands, and guidance on obedience and socialization training.

Wag!’s top 5 dog training tips

Before we dig in to essential commands, let’s cover a few must-know dog training tips to make your journey a little easier.

  • Identify what motivates your dog. Some dogs like treats, while others prefer praise. Use this to your advantage to make your training sessions more effective (and fun!).

  • Use positive reinforcement. Dogs respond best to reward-based training. Avoid negative reinforcement methods like hitting, punishing, or yelling at your dog — these will only cause fear and confusion.

  • Avoid rewarding bad behaviors. Dogs will often act out to get your attention. Do your best to ignore your dog’s bad behaviors, like begging at the table or barking excessively. Reacting to their bad behaviors teaches them they can do it again in the future to get what they want: attention from you.

  • Be patient and consistent. As frustrating as dog training can be at times, patience and consistency are key. If you stay calm and work on training a little bit each day, your pup will learn the rules of the roost in no time!

  • Know when to call in the pros. Some behavioral issues are caused by underlying trauma or health problems. Consider enlisting the help of your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer if you’ve followed dog training best practices and haven’t made much progress.

Related: LIMA Dog Training Principles: What You Need to Know



Need a helping paw with training your stubborn pup? Dog trainers with Wag! have got you covered!



Obedience fundamentals

A solid grasp of obedience commands is vital for every dog. Not only does obedience training stop your pup from peeing and gnawing on your beloved belongings, but it also keeps other pups and people safe when you’re out and about.

What obedience commands should your dog know? Here’s a quick checklist — click the links below to see step-by-step training guides for each command:

a golden retriever dog playing in the grass with an irish red setter dog

Socialization training

One of the most rewarding parts of being a pet parent is exploring the world with your dog. Whether you’re traveling to faraway destinations or exploring the sights and scents of your local area, proper socialization is a must to keep your canine calm and comfy on your adventures.

But where do you start with socialization training? That depends on your dog’s age and even their breed.

The critical socialization period occurs between the ages of 3 and 16 weeks, and dogs are most receptive between the ages of 6 and 8 weeks. During this brief window, you should (safely) introduce your dog to a variety of new experiences, like walking in busy areas or going to dog-friendly restaurants and events.

However, it’s important to introduce 1 or 2 new experiences at a time to avoid overwhelming your woofer. If your dog shows fear, aggression, or anxiety, stop and try again another time.

If your dog is already an adult who didn’t receive socialization training as a puppy, don’t fret! It’s never too late to start socialization training, but you may need to take things a little slower to help build their confidence.

For more tips on successfully socializing your pupper, read our guide on why socialization is so important for dogs.

Advanced trick and sports training

If your mutt has mastered the basics, up the ante with some advanced tricks and sports! (If you’re keen to get your dog involved in canine sporting events, visit your vet to confirm they’re fit to participate.)

To give your dog a healthy dose of mental and physical stimulation, try teaching your dog how to:

an assortment of dog grooming tools, including a brush, nail clippers, and scissors, on a white towel against a yellow background

Grooming

Grooming your pup doesn’t end with brushing and bathing — ear and dental care are also important parts of a proper grooming regimen. To help keep your pup looking and feeling their best, we’ve sniffed out some “furrific” dog grooming tips!

Professional grooming vs. DIY

Should you groom your dog yourself or take them to a professional? That depends on their coat type and length, as well as your own proficiency and level of comfort performing grooming tasks.

Grooming tools are inexpensive and widely available, making it easier than ever to keep Sparking looking sharp. On the other paw, professional grooming is the "pawfect" way to pamper your pup. Groomers can also perform some health services, like anal gland expression.

Your dog might be a good candidate for professional grooming if:

  • Their coat is long, wiry, and hard to manage
  • You want to try creative grooming techniques
  • Your dog becomes aggressive when you try to bathe them
  • You have a condition or disability that prevents you from grooming your dog yourself

If you choose the professional route, how often should you take your dog to the groomer? Once every 2 to 3 months is a good ballpark figure. Of course, this will depend on your budget and your preferred groomer's availability. And if your canine's coat starts looking a bit shaggy between sessions, you can always touch it up at home.

Related: A Day in the Life of a Dog Groomer

Bathing

How often do dogs need to be bathed? The answer depends on their breed and lifestyle. For example, long-haired breeds or mutts who like to roll around in the mud will need more frequent baths than, say, a short-haired lapdog who spends most of their time indoors.

Even if your pup doesn’t require frequent baths, you should get them used to being bathed as early as you can. If your fur-baby is anxious about bathtime, a toy or game might help distract them.

Choose a soap or shampoo that’s formulated for dogs — many grooming products made for humans contain essential oils and other ingredients that are toxic to dogs. Medicated flea and tick shampoos can help keep pests at bay, but they shouldn’t be the only parasite treatment your dog receives.

If you're planning to scrub that coat squeaky clean in your own tub, keep a couple of towels handy. Fill up the tub so the water touches your pup's belly. Lukewarm water is best — check the temperature before placing your pup in the bath to ensure it’s not too hot or cold. Our guide on how to give your dog a bath in the tub offers a bunch more methods for keeping your pooch calm and collected.

dog owner using a slicker dog grooming brush to brush a white and brown dog

Brushing

Do you really need to brush your dog? Yes — but how often you should do it depends on their coat texture and length. Dogs with a long, wiry coat are more prone to mats and typically need to be brushed daily, or at least a few times a week. Meanwhile, short-haired dogs might get away with a quick brush once every couple of weeks.

Brushing helps keep your pup’s coat shiny and free of dirt and debris. It’s also a good way to assess your dog’s skin health and find fleas and ticks. Be sure to choose the right tool for the job — slicker brushes are “grreat” for detangling long hair, while bristle brushes works wonders for removing dander and dead hair. Check out our dog breed guides to discover the best grooming supplies for your pup.

While some dogs will beg to be brushed, others might run for the hills. When introducing the brush to your dog, let them sniff it out at their own pace, and reward positive interactions. Speak softly while brushing, keep sessions short, and be gentle when untangling mats. Need more advice on helping your dog learn to like brushing? We've got a guide for that!

Nail trimming

How often should you cut your dog’s nails? "Ruffly" once a month. If you can hear their nails clicking on the floor as they walk, it's time for a trim!

Cutting your canine's claws can be a little tricky, so start early to get them used to it. To gauge where the quick of the nail is, place the nail inside the clipper and apply light pressure. If your pup yelps, bring the clipper closer to the tip of the nail and repeat until your doggo doesn't react.

Treats, playtime, and other rewards will come in handy for keeping Tucker calm while learning how to trim a difficult dog's nails.

Dental care

Tooth brushing is just as important for dogs as it is for humans. The earlier you introduce the toothbrush and paste to your pup, the easier it will be to keep their chompers pearly white.

Here’s a quick step-by-step rundown of how to brush your dog’s teeth:

  1. Get a toothbrush and toothpaste made for dogs. Try to choose a toothpaste with a yummy flavor, like peanut butter or chicken.
  2. Dab a little toothpaste on your fingertip so your pooch can get a taste. (Don’t worry, most toothpastes for dogs are safe for them to swallow.)
  3. Let them investigate the toothbrush, and reward positive interactions.
  4. Once they're comfortable, lift their lips gently and brush their teeth in circular motions. If they resist or try to bite you, take a break and try again later when they’re calmer. You may want to tire them out with a walk or game beforehand so they’re less likely to put up a fight.
  5. When you’re done, reward them with a dental treat and plenty of praise!

Got an antsy pup who won't sit still despite your best efforts? Check out our full walkthrough on how to brush your dog’s teeth.

Ear cleaning

Regular ear cleanings help you catch parasites, bacterial infections, and other health issues. How often should you clean your dog’s ears? “Ruffly” once a month. Dogs with drooping ears, like Basset Hounds, usually need more frequent cleanings than dogs with prick ears, like German Shepherds.

How do you go about cleaning your dog’s ears? A piece of gauze and some warm water should do the trick for removing dirt and debris. Never use cotton swabs, rubbing alcohol, or ear drops made for human use.

Our in-depth guide on how to clean a dog's ears covers everything you need to know about ear care for dogs.

Recap: A complete guide to dog care for new pet parents

TL;DR: Caring for a dog is a lot of hard work, even for experienced pet parents. But just because it's hard doesn't mean it's not worth it! Take care of these dog care tasks, and you're well on your way to creating an unbreakable bond that will bring you joy and happy memories for years to come:

  • Give your dog and household plenty of time and space to adjust to the new addition.
  • Budget for your dog's care — $700 to $2,000 per year is a good ballpark range.
  • Choose a high-quality dog food that's AAFCO-approved to keep your dog in a healthy weight range.
  • Provide a variety of activities and games to keep your pup's body and brain in shape.
  • Set and maintain a consistent sleep and potty schedule.
  • Make obedience and socialization training part of your daily routine, and be consistent.
  • Invest in a pet insurance policy and wellness plan to ensure your pup's healthcare needs are covered.
  • Get your dog microchipped and spayed or neutered as soon as you can.
  • Know how often your dog needs to be groomed, and use positive reinforcement to keep them comfy.



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