#MyFirst: 5 Must-Know Tips for Adopting a Rescue Dog

Jillian Knox Finley
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Longchamp

We recently kicked off a new series, #MyFirst, a guide to all of your “firsts” in this chapter of life, from buying a home (or a dog) to asking for a raise at work to dealing with your first serious breakup. Each month we will serve up expert tips and insights on how to best navigate each of these #MyFirsts. Next up: our advice on adopting a rescue pet.

I had no intention of adopting a dog. My rescue puppy, Ghost, was an impulse buy. I can testify from firsthand experience that aimlessly cruising pups available for adoption on a rainy Saturday is a dangerous game. Having grown up with multiple family pets, but never one of my very own, I had a steep learning curve ahead. Keep scrolling for my tips for first-time pet owners.   

I'd love to say I did not choose my dog based off pure aesthetics; however, it was a fateful post-mimosa Saturday morning when I stumbled upon the online glamour shot of the single cutest puppy in the history of earth. A midsize Australian cattle dog mix, her size and disposition happened to fit with my lifestyle. I do not recommend choosing a dog based on its look. Research the breed's temperament and other attributes that may be important to you, such as whether a dog sheds or is hypoallergenic. Be mindful of selecting a breed with a disposition that syncs with your lifestyle. If you rescue, have your puppy genotyped at PetSmart. Finding out the breed mix will give you a beat on the natural tendencies, common health issues, and exercise requirements.

My mother’s family bred German shepherds growing up. I grew up with purebred pets and show dogs. If you rescue, get a detailed account of the animal’s history from the shelter or rescue organization. The endeavor of saving any animal is a worthwhile pursuit. Just know what's ahead of you. Dogs originally from puppy mills or unlicensed breeders are especially prone to chronic health problems. You want to inquire about lineage, past traumas, allergies, and any history of illness.

If you are rescuing a dog, Petco offers a discount on just about everything upon receipt of adoption papers. The first push of toys, beds, leashes, and collars can be a sizeable chunk of change. The discount helps. My new puppy chewed through two leashes in the first week. I switched to a chain leash, and it has lasted a year. Save yourself the added expense of replacing goods by starting off with the chew-proof alternatives. Hit up Amazon for essentials like food and bedding. I can have Ghost’s dog food overnighted on my Prime account for roughly half the price of purchasing it at the pet store down the street.

From house-training to chew-proofing, any dog will take time to train. Cesar Millan has fantastic books and YouTube videos on how to reverse bad habits, get your dog to walk on a leash, and house-train efficiently. I had the luxury of working from home when she was a baby. Taking her out every hour on the hour was the only way to get her housetrained. Even then, pee pads were still needed. I chose not to crate-train; however, if you are away for hours at a time, it’s a fantastic option. To this day, Ghost has never touched a shoe but loves to chew unplugged chords. I replaced three MacBook power cords in a single month. Watch them closely; they will fixate on a material and continue to go for it. My ex-boyfriend’s puppy once devoured my entire makeup case. It never would have occurred to me that a hound dog would try to eat Laura Mercier foundation. Alas, nothing is sacred.

When I rescued Ghost, she came from a shelter that had had a distemper outbreak. Sadly, many of the puppies did not survive. About two months after I took her home, she woke up and could not walk. I took her to our family vet of 30 years, who gave her five days to live and told me to prepare to have her put down. I was a wreck. Out of options, my mother rolled the dice and took her to a naturopath. He placed her on a raw diet, gave her herbal supplements of minerals and garlic, coconut water for electrolytes, and colloidal silver. She recovered in four days. Holistic medicine for pets is incredible. If you rescue an animal, explore all avenues to protect their health.

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Have a tip for first-time pet owners? Tell us in the comments below.

Explore: pet, Petco, Petsmart

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