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Before Adopting a New Dog: Checklist of What You Need

Updated on July 16, 2014
Rusty, the day we brought him home
Rusty, the day we brought him home

It's a question many people, singles and families, young and old, male and female, ponder every day - should I/we get a dog? Whether you adopt a new puppy from a breeder, or an older dog from a shelter there are many things to consider before opening up your family to the addition of a furry new member.

The day my husband and I adopted our German Shepherd mix Rusty is one I won't ever forget. We went into the Oregon Humane Society (one of our local animal shelters) and chose him out of all the other dogs. He was timid, hiding in the back of his kennel, clearly not feeling secure in his noisy surroundings. When we approached though, he made his way slowly over to us, licked our fingers tentatively with his warm pink tongue, and looked up with the most hopeful brown eyes I've ever seen.

We met him next, and although still shy we could tell he craved human love and affection. And he took treats from our hands more gently than any dog I had ever met. We fell in love, and knew we needed to take him home. And Rusty's been a part of our family ever since.

There's a lot to check off your list when bringing a new dog home, but the number one thing on any new down owners checklist is make sure you have the time and love to give to the dog who will become the newest member of your family. And make sure you're 100% committed to giving him a home and your love forever.

What else do I need?

Alright, so you've made the big commitment to open your home and your family up, to adopt a new dog and love him forever. Now, what else do you need to get in order to be ready for your family's new addition?

1. A cozy bed of his own (unless he's going to sleep in yours)

A set place for him to sleep, one that's warm and comfortable, will give your dog a sense of security and make him feel safe in his new home. Of course some people have their dog sleep in bed with them, this is perfectly fine. If you prefer not to do this though (to keep your bed clean, dander free, etc.) as my husband and I did when we adopted Rusty it's very important for him to have his own bed. All beds I have chosen for Rusty include removable machine-washable covers to make care easy. And except for his first bed, all of the beds we've chosen have been orthopedic for added comfort. Rusty especially loves beds that are 'sofa style' with raised edges. We assumed he would, as his second favorite spot in our house to sleep after his bed is curled up in the corner of our couch.

Of course all dogs need to eat, and no matter what's on the menu meal time tends to be one of a dog's favorite times of the day. Feeding him a healthy diet may not be something your dog will notice, but it will improve his health over time. We prefer food that's made in the USA, without artificial colors or preservatives and nutrient-rich. The first ingredients of a good quality dog food should be meat and protein, not fillers like corn.

Your dog needs dishes of his own for his food and water to help establish consistency and routine - he will very quickly learn that they are his. His water dish should always be full of clean water. His food dish of course should only be filled at meal times ('free feeding' isn't as healthy). I like raised food and water dishes, as they aid in digestion.

A collar (leather or non-stretch) and ID tags (with your dog's name, as well as your phone number and address) are very important for your dog's safety and to ensure that if he ever gets lost a good samaritan will be able to help him get home. The collar is also where his rabies vaccination tag and registration tag will be attached. Microchipping your dog is also not a bad idea as an extra precaution - we were lucky in that Rusty had already been microchipped by the humane society we adopted him from when we brought him home. A collar must fit properly in order to be the most beneficial - it should be snug, and should allow for just two fingers to fit between the collar and your dogs neck.

5. A Leash and Possibly a Harness for Long Walks

A leash is needed for walking your dog, and walking together is one of the best ways for your dog to burn off calories as well as expend excess energy. All dogs need plenty of exercise (exact needs depend on breed and age - Rusty is an adult german shepherd mix, so he needs a lot). In addition to enjoying the physical activity of walks, dogs also cherish the time spent sniffing and exploring their environment with their noses (which is great mental exercise by the way). Walks are also excellent for dog-human bonding, and a great time to work on training. If your dog pulls on leash (and many do) or has issues with leash reactivity (Rusty did pretty badly when we first adopted him) I also highly recommend a harness of some type. We prefer front attach, but many people swear by head harnesses as well.

How often do you bathe your dog?

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Brushing your dog daily is great for his skin, helps to minimize shedding in your home, and like going on walks together, brushing (or doing other grooming) is a great way to bond with your new family member. If you plan to bathe your dog at home you'll also need dog shampoo, and nail clippers if you plan to trim his nails at home. Rusty is big, and messy at bath time, so we go to a local self-serve dog wash place for his bath and nail trimmings. Some people also drop their dog off at a groomer every so often, especially those with dogs that require a bit more extensive grooming.

Dental hygiene is very important for your dog, and dental disease is one of the most common forms of disease found in dogs. And once dental disease develops it can also lead to other medical diseases, including immune and organ damage. Many dog owners don't realize it, but you should actually try to brush your dogs teeth each day, just as you do your own. And don't use toothpaste made for humans, as dogs tend to swallow a large amount of their toothpaste. Dog toothpastes take this into consideration and are made to be healthy even when swallowed - they also tend to be made in flavors that dogs enjoy.

Toys are fun, but they're also important for dogs for a myriad of reasons. They help combat boredom when your dog is home alone, provide mental stimulation, help with teething and dental hygiene and provide comfort and entertainment to your dog. Rusty's favorites include anything that squeaks, anything he can play tug of war with, and puzzle/interactive toys (especially when treats are hidden inside, of course!). He even eats his breakfast out of a kong each day, for added mental stimulation and fun. His morning meal lasts longer that way too. Every dog is different in his or her toy preferences, but all dogs definitely need toys to play with! Experiment with different types to find your dog's favorites.

9. Some tasty but healthy treats to aid with training

Tasty treats are a wonderful supplement to your dog's meals (in moderation of course). And when training, they're an excellent way to ensure a dog stays interested in the lessons he's learning. Dogs of course learn a ton when they first get adopted into a new home, but they should also spend their whole lives continuing to learn. Not only does training make dogs more fun to live with but it helps their minds stay sharp as they age thus enhancing their quality of life. Healthy treats are of course essential to ensure that your dog keeps at a healthy weight and sticks to a nutritious overall diet.

Where did you adopt your dog from?

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    • ShepherdLover profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Portland, OR

      Thank you JG11Bravo!

    • JG11Bravo profile image


      5 years ago

      Great list. We make a few of the same observations, actually. Perhaps that's why I enjoyed this so much.

      Also, that's a gorgeous dog.


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