Are you a first-time dog owner, or preparing to be? 2020 has been a year for the history books, and it’s no surprise that many people are looking for some companionship in these trying times. And a dog can provide just that — unconditional love, loyalty, and friendship. But it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Dogs, more so than the majority of other pets, require a whole lot of care. Unlike cats, reptiles, or other exotic pets, you can’t just leave dogs to their own devices and expect them to be happy and healthy. It’s a relationship where you have to give a lot, but you’ll gain much in return.

As the leading veterinarians in Philadelphia, we have a keen interest in helping dog owners to be the best they can be. This not only improves the life of both people and pets, but it can also help the dogs to remain healthy. While we make a living tending to the health of animals, that doesn’t mean we want pets to have problems. Unfortunately, there are many mistakes that dog owners only learn from experience. Want to learn from those who came before and get ahead of health problems your dog may have? Consider these essential tips for first-time dog owners:

Give Your Dog the Right Food

There’s one thing that dog owners will learn real quick — there is an astounding amount of similarities between a dog and a vacuum cleaner. Indeed, where many homeowners are used to getting out the ol’ broom when they spill some crumbs, they’ll eventually find out that many messes are taken care of before you’re finished turning around. Dogs will eat just about everything, and they won’t let you forget it — especially when they’re sitting in front of you with their doe eyes while you eat your meals.

But just because dogs can eat everything doesn’t mean that they should. In fact, it’s not even accurate to say that they can — many dogs will happily lap up something that’s toxic to them just because it smells good. Innocuous foods such as grapes or raisins can kill a dog, so before you feed them human food, do your research, and be sure to avoid foods that are toxic to dogs.

Furthermore, you should take care in which pet food you buy for them. Certain mixes are better for some breeds than others, and the size of your dog is also an important factor. Generally, you’re also not doing your dogs any favors by buying the super cheap stuff. Want to know which off-the-counter dog foods are best for your canine companion? Our veterinary staff at 2nd Street Animal Hospital can provide some guidance.

Don’t Wait to Train

If you think your new puppy needs some time to “wise up” before you start training them on essential tasks, think again — dogs pick up a lot, and the sooner you begin training, the better. The happiness of you as a dog owner, and the safety of your dog are often directly correlated with how well-trained they are.

We’re not talking party tricks, like getting them to hop around or play dead. While cute, tricks like these usually don’t serve a useful purpose,there is some training that every dog needs, potty training and off-leash training being chief among them.

Most puppies aren’t potty trained from birth, and it will take a lot of discipline and patience to get them to the point where they won’t be having accidents in your home. Meanwhile, off-leash training is something that can literally save your dog’s life. An untrained dog might be quick to run up to other people, sprint into traffic, or play with a more aggressive dog who happens to be leashed. All of these things can be liabilities. For first-time owners, we recommend calling a professional trainer — this is an investment that can have invaluable lifelong returns.

Buy Them A Lot of Toys

There are a few reasons why dog toys are a prudent investment for dog owners. First of all, it helps to prevent the likelihood of your puppy ruining all your personal stuff. And if you don’t think they will, just wait — puppies are adept at getting into every little nook and cranny that you want them to keep away from, and they’re not so cute when they’re sitting in front of your freshly-mangled pair of $130 headphones.

Dog toys are essential, because they give your pups something to chew on and play with by themselves. This keeps them away from your stuff, and it’s also a valuable training tool. When they’re chewing away on something they’re not supposed to, give them the toy instead, and reinforce the action with a verbal cue.

But, more importantly, dog toys are actually good for your pup’s long-term health. Dogs don’t just chew as a hobby — they do it because they need to. Chewing improves their oral health, and the more they do it, the happier they will be. All you need to do is channel that in the right direction!

Find a Reliable Veterinarian

If you know a friend or family member that says you don’t need a vet unless it’s “absolutely necessary,” it might not be good to take their advice. Yes, many people get away with taking their dog in once every five years or so, but they’re not doing their dog any favors with that kind of treatment. Here at 2nd Street Animal Hospital, we often see these kinds of dogs, and more often than not, there’s a latent health issue that’s far overdue for treatment.

That’s something you simply have to be aware of with dogs — their health needs are many. Whether you need a spay/neuter appointment, an emergency surgery, a checkup because they ate something toxic, or a professional nail clipping, there are a thousand and one reasons to have an ongoing relationship with your local veterinarians. At 2nd Street, we make our rates as competitive and affordable as possible, so that no dog owner will feel like treatment is beyond their capacity. Want your dog to live a long, happy, and healthy life? Contact 2nd Street Animal Hospital today.