Pets

Puppy guide 101: Four things every new dog owner should know

Dr Katrina Warren's guide for first-time dog owners.

By BTYB KONG
So you've decided to bring a new four-legged friend home - yay for you! But now the real adventure begins.
It's totally natural for first-time puppy parents to feel a little nervous; 'Where will I find my furry friend? What kind of puppy do I want? Is my home pet-proofed? What will I name it? Am I even ready to be a dog mum/dad?!'
But fear not, we've enlisted the help of vet-extraordinaire and TV personality Dr Katrina Warren (and her four-legged BFF Riley) to give us the down low on what to expect when you're expecting... a fur baby.

1. Do your research

Step one: decide to get a dog. Step two: decide what kind of dog you want.
And when it comes to choosing a breed, is a lot to factor in - kids, allergies, your living space, yard size, energy levels, dog size, cost, time.
"The first thing you should ask yourself is: 'Is this the right dog for my lifestyle?'" says Dr Katrina. "You need to be honest with yourself about the amount of time you have to exercise, groom and train your dog."
An online breed selector might be a good place to start. Remember that each breed has a unique temperament as well as different needs and maintenance requirements — and the purchase cost of the dog is only the beginning . You'll need to factor in costs for vet visits, grooming and food — those are just the basics!

2. Always ask for a meet and greet

Whether you're adopting or buying from a breeder, it's important to know where to go and what to look for.
"If you have your heart set on a particular breed, then I recommend going through the breed club in your State, who can put you in touch with registered breeders," says Dr Katrina. "And if you are open to a adopting a dog, look for rescue groups in your area and ideally choose a dog that has been temperament tested."
Going to the breeders home to see the conditions the puppy has been raised in is the perfect way to meet your new family member (and enjoy some puppy cuddles). Rescue shelters often ask you to bring any other dogs you own for a play date before you can take them home. This helps to ensure both you and your new pup will be happy at home.

3. Prepare for play time

Every dog, no matter what size, will need exercise and play time — at least an hour each day according to Dr Katrina (depending on age and breed, of course!). And toys are essential for keeping your pup happy and entertained while they transition into their new home.
Go for a tough and durable toy that is designed to be chewed on — and has some serious bounce to make fetch time fun! Dr Katrina's (well technically Riley's) favourite? The KONG Classic.
Each KONG is available in five sizes, made from durable, natural rubber to double as a chew toy that satisfies your dogs' instinctual needs. And the KONG can keep your pup's mind stimulated long after playtime is over, working like a puzzle that dispenses food - perfect for keeping them entertained when you're at work.
KONG Classic, $16.99-$35.99 at selected pet stores.

4. Tricks and treats

Puppy cuddles are great, but you need to be prepared to put in some training hours. Training your dog is essential for teaching manners but also helps to create the bond between you.
Start with the basics — sit, stay, come - and work your way up from there. And when puppy school is in action, make sure you have endless praise and a pouch of treats handy.
"I use a combination of treats and praise," says Dr Katrina. "When teaching something new, I train when the dog is hungry and use 'high value treats' — these are treats that the dog really loves like small pieces of chicken or cabanossi."
If your pup has been an extra good boy/girl, keep the treats coming by stuffing their KONG with their favourite food and they'll be entertained all day long. Just make sure you avoid rewarding your dog with chocolate — our treats don't double as dog treats!
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