Having a loyal, affectionate canine companion by your side can certainly be a fulfilling experience, but being a successful dog owner involves a lot of effort. Make your experience easier with these six tips and tricks for first-time dog owners.

Photo Lab Pet Photography

Photo Credit: Photo Lab Pet Photography

Evaluate your Lifestyle

Make sure you know where the dog will go when you are not at home. Leaving a dog alone in an unprotected yard is dangerous because of possible theft, especially if your new dog is an expensive breed. Tying it up outside won't make you popular with neighbors, and is illegal in some areas.

Establish an Indoor Space

If you don't want your new dog to have access everywhere, make sure to put up gates. Even adult dogs might have accidents when changing environments, so protect carpets when you first bring your dog home, or keep them in a room with easy-to-clean floors until they acclimate.

Don't Underestimate Small Dogs' Requirements

Small dogs might make better pets for smaller spaces, but need the same amount of training as larger dogs. Also, they don't necessarily make better pets for children just because of their size. Don't rule out small dogs; just know what to expect.

Find a Good Groomer

Dogs have different grooming needs, but all need services like nail trimming and bathing. Even short-haired dogs need to be brushed, and long-haired breeds definitely need regular grooming. A groomer from Paw Palace Dog Grooming recommends researching breed-specific grooming requirements before deciding on a dog to adopt. Don't try to take care of all grooming yourself—doing so can result in injury to your dog—find a groomer your pet is comfortable with to accommodate their grooming and upkeep needs.

Train the Dog

Even when you adopt a dog or puppy that has already been trained, you need to keep it up. They need to obey all family members in order for everyone in your household to be safe. For example, “heel” is necessary when walking the dog to keep it out of the road.

Keep in mind that training is not just about what you do, but also about what you fail to address. For example, when the dog exhibits undesirable behavior and you do not correct it immediately, you are “training” it to keep engaging in that behavior. Make sure everyone in the household understands this.

Know the Difference Between Discipline and Punishment

Disciplining your dog can provide a sense of structure and security many dogs need, but hitting will not. Proper discipline can include distraction (a loud noise), redirection (telling the dog to sit), or putting the dog into “time out".

Just like people, dogs come with different personalities. Some will blend right in, and some might need a bit of help. Pick up or download a good dog manual, and don't hesitate to ask your veterinarian or a reputable trainer for help.


Emma SturgisEmma Sturgis is a freelance writer currently living in Boston. When not writing, she enjoys baking and indoor rock climbing. Find her on Google +.



By Natalie Hennessy 1 hour ago 0 Comments

Adopting a pet is one of the greatest ways to add warmth and joy to your household, and selecting a pet from a shelter enables you to save a life at the same time.

Unfortunately, quite a few misconceptions exist regarding shelter animals, and these only serve as needless barriers to shelter animals finding the loving homes they so rightfully deserve.

Novocastrian Photography

Myth #1: Shelters Don’t Offer Purebreds

According to Dr. Jules Benson, the VP of Veterinary Services at Petplan Pet Insurance, 25% of all dogs in shelters are actually purebreds – a statistic that greatly discredits the common claim that all shelter animals are “mutts.” Purebred animals are surrendered for the same reasons mixed breeds are, so their presence within animal shelters across the nation is not surprising.

Myth #2: Purebreds Make Better Pets

Purebred animals and mixed breeds both offer excellent companionship. And when it comes to general health concerns, mixed breeds typically have a lower chance of being born with inherited congenital diseases, and that makes for lower veterinary costs in the long-run.

Myth #3: Shelter Animals Are Sickly

Some people automatically assume animals in shelters are sick, and these people are misinformed. Many shelter pets are very healthy. In fact, animals from shelters and rescue groups are 5% less likely to need unexpected veterinary care than animals purchased from pet stores.

Martha Smith-Blackmore, former president of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, reiterates shelter animals’ health: “In well-run shelters, animals receive vaccinations upon intake and are fed a high-quality diet.”

Myth #4: Shelter Animals Aren’t Well-Behaved

Shelter pets often receive training and socialization prior to adoption in order to help make their transition into new homes easier. Also, most shelters will allow you to spend time with your potential pet to experience its temperament first-hand.

Sadly, some people mistakenly assume feral cats in particular are not able to easily and comfortably transition, but that’s simply not true. Although shyness and fear are typical characteristics of a feral cat, these traits can quickly lessen with patient and consistent human interaction.

Myth #5: Shelter Animals Are Older

All age ranges of animals can be found in shelter settings, so you can easily find puppies and kittens alongside senior animals. Keep in mind that while babies are certainly adorable, older pets are usually already well-trained and may require less work initially (as anyone who has endured puppy training knows all too well).

Myth #6: It’s Better to Get a Free Pet

This is one case where “free” isn’t exactly a bargain. Adopting an animal from a shelter or through a rescue group typically involves a nominal adoption fee, but in the long-run, you’re actually saving money on veterinary expenses. If you simply adopt an animal for free, you’re responsible for an extensive list of medical services:

  • Spaying/neutering ($150-300)
  • Distemper vaccination ($20-30, 2x)
  • Rabies vaccination ($15-25)
  • Heartworm test ($15-35)
  • Flea/tick treatment ($50-200)
  • Microchip ($50)

Myth #7: Something Must Be Wrong With a Surrendered Animal

Pet owners have numerous reasons for surrendering their animals. In fact, the main reasons pets are given up include:

  • Owners are moving (7% dogs, 8% cats)
  • Allergies (8% cats)
  • Owners having personal problems (4% dogs and cats)
  • Too many, or no room for litter mates (7% dogs, 17% cats)
  • Owners can no longer afford the pet (5% dogs, 6% cats)
  • Owners no longer have time for the pet (4% dogs)

Most of the time, these reasons have nothing to do with the animals themselves.

Benefits of Adopting a Shelter Animal

There are plenty of excellent reasons to adopt a pet instead of shopping for one.

1. Saving Lives: Shelters have tragically high euthanasia rates, so adopting a shelter animal literally means you’re saving a life. In addition, for every animal adopted, rescue groups can focus on saving another animal that needs help, so the whole process is truly a win-win.

2. Ending Puppy Mills: Purebred animals are often bred in deplorable conditions, and the animals suffer as a result of overcrowding, poor hygiene, little socialization and extreme physical demands. By adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue, you send the message that backyard breeders won’t be supported.

3. Making Dreams Come True: Each shelter animal is waiting for his or her forever home, and many of these animals have experienced distress from owner surrenders and lives lived on the mean streets. You have the opportunity to give an animal a life it has only ever dreamed of, and what could be more rewarding than that?


Kayla MatthewsKayla Matthews is a pet-loving productivity blogger with a passion for animals and especially big dogs! To read more articles by Kayla you can follow her on Google+ and Twitter, or at ProductivityTheory.com


Image by Novocastrian Photography

By Natalie Hennessy 7 days ago at 1:25 pm 0 Comments

Pets can help ease the transition into retirement for today's elderly population. Pets provide companionship and responsibility to an otherwise lonely demographic and help make both living home alone or in a retirement home much easier. While companionship is an obvious benefit to owning a pet, there are many unforeseen advantages that adding a pet into an older person's lifestyle may bring.

Muttville Senior Dog Rescue

Photo credit: Muttville Senior Dog Rescue

Managing Weight

Because pets require regular exercise, they encourage their owners to get active. After retirement, exercise can become a bit of a struggle, but 15-20 minutes of physical activity each day can help regulate body weight and prevent weight related diseases like diabetes. Regular exercise has also been linked to stronger general mental health.


In addition to the company a pet provides, many retirees have found that owning a pet encourages more folks to talk to them while they're walking their pet. Loneliness in the elderly is common, so having a pet that inspires conversation with strangers helps ease the transition from a conversational workplace to living alone or a less stimulating lifestyle. Pets in nursing homes have also been found to encourage conversation between the nursing staff and the residents.

Sensation of Touch

According to USA Today, having a pet encourages increased physical contact. Petting an animal has been linked to lower blood pressure and lower stress levels, both problems among the elderly. And because pets require lots of stimulation through touch, it's often not difficult for elderly owners to oblige a nagging dog or cat.


Because animals need routine feeding and maintenance, pets provide a sense of normalcy and routine to their owners. This routine can help break up the monotony of a day and can help remind owners that it's time to eat and walk themselves, something that's often forgotten among the elderly. Walking and feeding a pet can replace the job-like tasks the elderly leave behind when they exit the workplace.

While pet ownership can sometimes lead to depression if an animal is unable to follow an elderly person into a nursing home or assisted living facility, many homes like those at Sunshine Retirement communities are now welcoming the idea of animal companions for their residents. Animals help bring happiness and companionship back into an elderly person's life and can often be the difference between additional medication to help treat unhappiness and a successful transition into older age. 


Savannah CoulsenSavannah Coulsen is a freelance  writer. She lives in Raleigh. Savannah loves to read and write and she hopes to write a novel someday. Savannah also loves learning and is a self-proclaimed health guru. Savannah found this information on retirement homes from Sunshine Retirement Living. 

By Natalie Hennessy 16 days ago at 1:47 pm 0 Comments