New Dog Owner Guide: Welcome a Dog in 10 Steps

Hi! I am Johann, founder of PetBudget. Thanks for allowing me to help you in your project of welcoming a dog into your family. It is an exciting time, and there is no doubt a dog will bring a lot of love and fun into your home.

In this 10-step short guide, I will share my knowledge to help you save time and money, make sure you are ready for your new furry friend, and give you different tips along the way. This short read is packed with useful information. I have tried, reviewed, and compared dozens of pet products and services and only introduce my favorites here. Don’t forget to bookmark it and come back later if needed. This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Quick Links

  1. Should you get a dog?
  2. Training basics – Free Online Courses
  3. Where to find a dog
  4. Puppy-proof your home
  5. Dog supplies
  6. Find a vet
  7. Pet insurance
  8. Dog food
  9. Trainer, groomer, dog walker
  10. Behavioral issues

Step 1: Should You Get a Dog?

This is the first question any future dog owner should ask themselves. Are you ready to commit to this for the next 10 to 15 years of your life? Are you willing to invest the time and money necessary for a healthy and happy dog?

It’s essential to understand what it means to raise a dog, whether it is a puppy bought from a breeder or an adult adopted from a shelter. I would advise you to educate yourself (read and watch videos) as much as possible. Here are two free resources that will help you with this if you want to go straight to the essential.

Before You Get Your Puppy: Free Book to Get Ready for Pet Ownership
This eBook is a great place to start. It is written by Dr. Ian Dunbar, a famous and respected veterinarian, dog trainer, and animal behaviorist. It focuses on finding a good dog for you and learning positive methods that have shown fantastic success over the years.

Before & After you Get a Puppy (2 eBooks)
+ Our Dog Supplies Checklist
+ Discounts & Coupons

PetBudget Breed Directory
I have started PetBudget Blog to help future dog owners understand the financial implications of pet ownership. Finances are an important reason why hundreds of thousands of Americans rehome their pets each year. Check the cost to own your favorite breeds (over 150 breeds reviewed) or read our puppy and dog cost guide to make sure you can afford it. We review the cost of the puppy, supplies, training, medical, grooming, food, and more! It’s worth taking a look if you are serious about getting a dog.

Step 2: Get Ready to Become a Dog Parent

It is primordial to be ready to raise a dog to develop a harmonious relationship between your furry friend and family members. I would start this process now. There are many ways to educate yourself : buy a book, watch YouTube videos, take a course. See it as a parenting class.

The Complete Guide to Raising the Perfect Pet with Love
Zak George is a fantastic dog trainer and has the most popular training channel on YouTube. I love this audiobook and could not recommend it enough. The great thing is you can listen to it for free with a 30-day Amazon Audible trial. If you already have an account, make it your next pick.

You will learn everything you need to know to raise, train, and care for your dog: from choosing the right puppy, training techniques, picking supplies, finding a vet, selecting the right food, handling behavioral issues, and much more.

Dunbar Academy: Best Online Resource for New Dog Owners
After reviewing many training programs, the Dunbar Academy seemed to be the best because it is the most comprehensive one, and the Dunbars are very reputable. I naturally asked Alexa (our dog trainer) and heard immediately: “Ian Dunbar is amazing!”.

The Dunbar Academy is all about easy, effective, and enjoyable methods to get ready to welcome and train your dog. Get two fantastic courses for free. The first one is the Guide to Getting a Dog, and the second one will teach you Six Simple Dog Training Techniques.

Step 3: Find your Dog

I want to start with a little advice: always buy or adopt from a responsible breeder or shelter. You will have a better chance of getting a happy, healthy, well-behaved dog. Avoid puppy mills and unreliable backyard breeders. Visit the kennel or shelter, ask questions about the breeding process or the dog’s history, and make sure to interact with the dog. A veterinarian should have seen the dog before your visit.

Year after year, approximately 3 million dogs enter animal shelters in the US, and more than half a million are euthanized. I adopted my pet and would advise everyone to do so. It will likely save a life and be cheaper, faster, and easier for you.

We have a detailed guide to help you find a puppy to buy or a dog to adopt. If you have a breed in mind, visit our breed directory to see specific information to find this kind of puppy. These resources will be a great help in your search for the perfect pet and will make you save a ton of time.

Here are some examples you can use below.

Where to find a dog to adopt?
– AKC rescue network
– Breed clubs websites
– Rescue Me!
– Petango
– Local shelters
– Friends and family

Where to find a dog to buy?
– AKC or UKC or CKC breeders
– Good Dog breeder directory
– Local breeders

Once you have your dog, don’t forget to get a dog license (mandatory in most places).

Step 4: Puppy-Proof your Home

Dogs (especially puppies) are curious and will want to discover their new environment. You don’t want them to injure themselves, get sick, or break something. Once you have found your dog, prepare your home before he arrives and always keep an eye on him for the first few weeks.
– Remove plants (digging is a lot of fun for a pup!) and flowers, food, household products, medication, jewelry, breakable objects, chemical products, children’s toys, and small objects (that could be swallowed) from the floor and low surfaces.
– Secure exposed electrical wires (chewing is a lot of fun, too!).
– Secure hanging fabrics the puppy could pull on (tablecloths, for example).
– Secure your yard to make sure the dog can’t access a road or fall in a pool, for example.

Step 5: Buy Dog Supplies

I would advise buying as many supplies as possible before welcoming the dog. And once you picked your dog and know its size (for the collar, bed, etc.), buy the rest.

Check our Dog Supplies Guide and get tips to choose the right items for you and your dog (bowls, collar, leash, bed, and crate size, grooming supplies, etc.). Learn everything about costs and find the best products available.

Enter your mail below and receive a free Dog Supplies Checklist. It will inform you of everything you need to buy for your dog and give tips to select the right products. It should help you get ready to welcome your new furry friend home.

Before & After you Get a Puppy (2 eBooks)
+ Our Dog Supplies Checklist
+ Discounts & Coupons

Where to buy dog supplies in-store?

– Walmart, Target, Costco, Sam’s Club, and other big chains have a limited selection of pet supplies but offer very competitive prices.
– Most dollar stores sell dog supplies. Again, the selection will be limited, and it won’t be the best quality, but if you’re looking for a cheap solution, it could make sense.
– Petco, PetSmart, and other pet stores have a wide variety of products but will tend to be more expensive than the others.

Another obvious option to consider if you are on a budget is to buy second-hand pet supplies.

Where to buy dog supplies online?

There are so many possibilities that it can be overwhelming. To help you save some time, I have reviewed dozens of websites and share my favorite options with you.

Amazon: Best Option to Find Inexpensive Dog Supplies
I don’t think I need to tell you that Amazon offers a great selection of dog products. They have thousands of options, from the cheapest ones to higher quality products. When it comes to buying new supplies for your dog on a budget, it’s a great place to start.

Here is my selection of inexpensive but good quality products on Amazon. It will save you hours of research. You to get almost everything on the Dog Supplies Checklist for less than $200 for a small dog and less than $300 for a large one.  

Click on each image to see it on Amazon.

Food & Water Bowls
Food & Water Bowls (different sizes available)
Dog Collar
Collar (different sizes and colors available)
Dog Leash
Leash (different sizes and colors available)
Collar ID Tag
ID tag (different designs available)
Dog Bed
Bed (different sizes available)
Dog Crate
Crate (different sizes available)
Dog Toys Set
Toys (suitable for all sizes)
Brush, Comb, Clippers
Brush, Comb & Nail Clippers
First-Aid Kit
Pet First-Aid Kit
Shampoo, Conditioner
Shampoo & Conditioner
Toothbrushing Kit
Toothbrushing Kit
Ear Cleaning
Ear Cleaning Solution
House-Training Pads
House-Training Pads
Stain, Odor Spray
Stain & Odor Removal Spray

Muttropolis: Best Option for Premium Designer Pet Supplies
Muttropolis has a fantastic selection of thousands of premium pet supplies on a user-friendly website. If you are looking for the highest quality and design, or products that can be hard to find, you will love Muttropolis. They pride themselves in testing and hand-selecting each item that you can find on their website. If you consider your dog like your own child and want the best for him, you will find all you need to spoil him there.

Here are some of the fantastic products you will find on their website. Click on each image to see it on Muttropolis.

Italian Leather Collar (different colors & sizes available)
Italian Leather Leash (different colors & sizes available)
Ceramic Food & Water Bowl (different sizes available)
Chewy Vuitton Plush Ball (different sizes available)
Designer Bed (different colors & sizes available)
Designer Crate (different sizes available)

Other amazing products

Most people will find all they want and need either on Amazon or Muttropolis, depending on their budget. But other products are worth considering if you want nothing but the best for your dog or make your life easier.

Fitbark: Activity Monitor & GPS Tracker
Fitbark 2 is a small and light health tracker. It’s waterproof, fits most dog collars, and enables you to track your dog’s health with the mobile app (can be linked to Fitbit, Apple Watch, or Google Fit). You can also add a GPS to track your dog’s location 24/7 and easily find a lost dog with Fitbark GPS. Fitbark 2 and Fitbark GPS are also available on Amazon.

WOpet: Smart Automatic Feeder
With WOpet, you can schedule multiple feeding meals per day (between 2 teaspoons and 4.5 cups each time) and record a personal meal call. It will make your life easier if your dog is by himself most of the day or if you don’t want to have to remember to feed him all the time. It is available on Amazon.

Bark Box: Healthy & Fun Subscription Box
Bark Box is a monthly subscription box to spoil your dog with premium quality products. Each box has 2 innovative toys, 2 all-natural bags of treats (made in the USA), and a chew. It starts at $23/box (retail value over $40). Shipping is free in the US, and the box is tailored for the size of the dog.

Cherrybrook: Premium Grooming Supplies for Show Dogs
If you have decided to get a purebred dog and potentially enter dog shows, Cherrybrook is a great place to get supplies. They carry a full line of professional products, premium grooming tools, and show accessories. Cherrybrook is the reference when it comes to getting your beautiful dog ready for shows.

Step 6: Find a Veterinarian

Choosing a veterinarian should be done with the same care you would in selecting a health care professional for a family member. It is a good idea to contact more than one clinic and ask a few questions to find the best fit for you and your dog. Start your research as soon as possible, ideally before you welcome the dog.

How to find a vet?
– Ask family and friends.
– Ask the breeder/shelter where you got the dog.
– Check the website of your state veterinary medical association.
– Google.

What to look for?
– Office hours (including after-hours emergency).
– Who covers when the vet is not available.
– Wait time to get an appointment.
– Fees and payment methods/plans.
– Accept pet insurance (most don’t) or not.
– Range of medical and non-medical services available on-site.
– Can they refer you to specialists if necessary?

During the first appointment, it is essential to feel comfortable with the staff of the clinic. If you have a hard time talking with them on the phone, do not think that they act professionally, do not like how they interact with your pet or the place’s cleanliness, look for another vet.

Also, veterinarians should not force you to buy medication from them. They should also offer to write prescriptions to give you the possibility to buy your dog’s medication elsewhere.

Finally, the first appointment is usually when the dog gets microchipped if he doesn’t have a microchip already.

If your vet doesn’t take after-hours emergencies, make sure to keep the contact information of a nearby clinic that could care for your dog on your phone. You might want to save the phone number of an animal poison control service as well (for example, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: (888) 426-4435 / a consultation fee may apply). This will come in handy if you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance.

Here are 6 questions you should ask during the first visit:
1 – What is the best way to care for my dog’s coat, teeth, and nails?
2 – Should I get my dog professionally groomed or trained?
3 – Can I feed my dog any food?
4 – Should I spay or neuter my dog, and when?
5 – How often to come back for a check-up and booster vaccination?
6 – What kind of parasite protection is best for my pet?

How to save on parasite prevention and pet medication?
There is a good chance that your veterinarian will advise you to use heartworm, tick, and flea prevention medication (which is expensive, as you will see). Instead of buying it directly from the vet and usually pay more, ask your healthcare professional for a prescription and purchase the products elsewhere. Your prescription can be filled in many big-boxed or pet stores. You can also buy them online for more convenience.

On top of being the most popular online dog food company, Chewy is also an online pet pharmacy with a large selection (hundreds of products), fast shipping, and very competitive prices! You can also use the “Autoship & Save” option to get an extra 5% to 10% discount and receive the medication when you need it. For example, it is very convenient for heartworm, tick, and flea prevention treatments to be taken multiple times a year.

If you want to know more about preventive care for a dog, what to expect during vet visits, and costs, check our article titled A veterinarian explains medical costs for a dog.

Genetic health conditions

Some genetic health conditions can be life-threatening for your dog and cost thousands of dollars to treat. Luckily, there is a way to evaluate the risk of many of them and start preventive care early on and plan for potential significant expenses.

Embark Vet: Best Health Screening Test for Hereditary Disease Risk
Along with Cornell University, Embark‘s veterinarians developed a DNA test kit that enables them to evaluate the risk of over 190 health conditions.

For less than $200, and within 2 to 5 weeks, you will receive a detailed report with great information to plan for proactive care with your veterinarian and budget your expenses. This is the most accurate and comprehensive dog DNA test on the market.

Save trips to the vet and get instant answers with telehealth

Let’s face it; most pet owners (myself included) don’t have a clue when it comes to their favorite animal’s health. If something worries us, it usually means hours of googling health symptoms ending up in needless worry, often resulting in an unnecessary visit to the clinic.

Vetster: On-demand online vet appointments
If you are in the US or Canada, you could now get an online appointment with a vet with Vetster. It’s extremely simple, and you get to pick a veterinarian in your area based on their price and reviews. So you can get your answers fast and without having to go in person. The peace of mind from getting answers and knowing your dog is well taken care of is priceless.

Step 7: Get Dog Insurance (or not)

Some medical conditions can be expensive to treat. Although purebred dogs may have a higher incidence of inherited disorders, mixed breed dogs are also likely to develop health conditions, such as cancer and heart disorders. No dog owner should have to make critical decisions about their pets based on their ability to afford care. That’s why pet insurance is more popular every year in the US. You can compare pet insurance prices on comparison websites like PetInsuranceReview.

5 things to consider when comparing pet insurances
1 – Monthly price
2 – Deductible type (per incident or per year) and amount
3 – Reimbursements percentage and limits
4 – Services included (emergency visits, hospitalization, surgery, medications, specialists, cancer treatments, pre-existing conditions, etc.)
5 – When will coverage start

If you wonder whether or not you should get pet insurance, we have a simple step by step guide to help you make the decision. This could save you thousands of dollars.

Step 8: Select Dog Food

When it comes to dog food, options are virtually unlimited. There are so many types of dog food, diets, and brands. Most dogs will be fine with the usual dry or wet food with treats, and some will have special needs. The best advice I can give is to talk to your veterinarian about it. Whether you want to know what to feed your dog or if a specific diet you have in mind would work, it is the person to consult.

Main types of dog food
– Kibble (dry food)
– Wet food (canned or pouches)
– Dehydrated and freeze-dried food
– Raw food
– Freeze-dried raw food

Potential diets
– Grain-free
– High/low protein
– Weight management
– Puppy/senior
– Sensitive skin
– Hypoallergenic

If you want to buy in-store, you can go to Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target, or Costco to get great prices on a small selection of mainstream brands. Petco and PetSmart are good options for a more extensive selection and usually offer a discount for in-store pick-up when you order online.

I like to buy pet food online for three reasons: more options, no need to carry heavy bags, and the possibility to schedule regular deliveries (and not have to think about it). Although very convenient, Amazon tends to be more expensive on average. Wherever you buy dog food, in most cases, buying a larger quantity will save money.

Chewy: Best Price & Selection
Chewy is the leading online retailer for dog food. They offer the best prices online and an incredible selection of brands, types of food (dry, wet, raw, frozen, special diets, etc.), and treats. They also offer auto-ship discounts (5 to 10%), which make their prices competitive with the lowest-cost local outlets. No matter what you are looking for, there is a good chance you can find it on the Chewy website at the best price.

Step 9: Find Dog Services

Having a dog might means hiring different professionals along the way.  Ask your breeder/shelter and your veterinarian if they would recommend:
– Professional training (or if you can train and socialize the dog entirely by yourself).
– Professional grooming (or if it’s easy enough for you to do it).
– Hiring a dog walker/sitter (depending on how long the dog can stay by himself and the amount of exercise he needs).

If you want to know whether to train your dog yourself or hire a professional and learn about the cost of training classes and supplies, check our article written with a certified dog trainer.

How to find a professional?
– Ask family and friends.
– Ask the breeder/shelter where you got the dog.
– Ask your veterinarian.
– Rover or Wag (for dog walking).
– Google.

What to look for?
– Working hours.
– Wait time to get an appointment.
– Prices and payment methods.
– Professional certification (beware of self-proclaimed trainers or groomers).
– Dog first-aid and CPR certification.
– Range of services offered.
– Customer references.
– Methods used and philosophy (for trainers).
– Insurance & Bonding.

Rover: Best Dog Walking App
If you need a walker or sitter every week, this could become your most significant expense (hundreds or thousands of dollars every year). Rover is by far the easiest way to find a dog walker or sitter near you. All the walkers go through a background check. You can compare prices and services, see reviews from previous customers, book and pay for your services through the app.

Furbo: Best Dog Camera and Treat Dispenser
This beautifully designed HD camera is the best way to interact with your dog, reduce separation anxiety, and keep it safe and happy when you’re not home. The user-friendly app enables you to see and talk to your dog, tosses treats when you want, and alerts you whenever something worth knowing happens, among other things. It can even alert you when your smoke or CO alarm goes off and potentially save your dog’s life! No wonder this is the best seller of the category.

Step 10: Correct Behavioral Issues

After a few days with your dog, you might notice some problematic behaviors: the dog doesn’t listen, barks uncontrollably, pulls on the leash, chews things, digs all the time, jumps or gets overexcited, seems anxious, etc. You can either hire a professional trainer or find a resource online to teach you to do it yourself, depending on your budget and availability.

It is essential to understand that behavioral issues are often caused by a lack of physical or mental stimulation. Ensuring your dog gets the proper amount of exercise and playtime could reduce or even eliminate behaviors you don’t like. It is also healthy for your furry friend and can prevent him from becoming overweight (you should be able to feel your dog’s ribs but not to see them).

Brain Training for Dogs: Best Online Course to Stop Bad Behavior
If your dog shows behavioral problems that you want to eliminate by yourself quickly, Brain Training for Dogs will be a great help toward the obedient dog you want. The course has been designed by a reputable, certified dog trainer, Adrienne Farricelli. It focuses on simple yet effective exercises to develop dogs’ intelligence and teach them to be well-behaved. And it costs less than $50 (lifetime access).

After You Get Your Puppy: Free Dog Training Book
This is another useful reference for understanding dog training and the milestones to expect with your dog. It is written by Dr. Ian Dunbar, a world-renowned veterinarian, trainer, and animal behaviorist. The book covers house-training, socialization, learning bite inhibition, and changes during the transition from puppy to adult dog.

Before & After you Get a Puppy (2 eBooks)
+ Our Dog Supplies Checklist
+ Discounts & Coupons


First of all, thanks for taking the time to read me. I appreciate your trust and hope that you enjoyed reading this guide and that it will help you save time and money while developing a great relationship with a happy and healthy dog.

Getting a dog is a big responsibility, and there are many things to learn, especially for the first one, but it is also a fantastic experience. Adding a new member to the family is always exciting, and a dog will most probably add joy, fun, and love to your household.