Should I get a dog? Trainer shares five valuable tips to help make that first year a whole lot easier

Woman cuddling her dog
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether you're bringing home a puppy for the first time or welcoming an older rescue dog into your family, those initial months together will be a huge learning curve for both you and your new fur friend.

If you're unsure what to expect, you're not alone. While there's plenty of joy to be found in having an adorable canine companion bounding around the house, many new pet parents feel pressure to get everything "right".

Lyz Knight, an experienced dog trainer and founder of Rover Rehab Dog Training, can empathise.

"When I adopted my first dog back in 2014, I had no idea just how much I’d learn, & how much of that info would’ve been soooo helpful to have initially," she explains in a post shared to Instagram.

So that you don't feel the same level of overwhelm that she did, Knight has put together a list of the five things she wished she had known before bringing home her beloved bundle of fluff. 

Read on to find out what they are...

1. Decompression first, training later: "The first priority when bringing home a new dog is to help them feel safe and supported," says Knight. "Decompression is more important than jumping right into training. Training can be important, of course, but letting our dogs settle in & learn that this new place is safe & that these new humans can be trusted is key!"

2. We don't need to train everything at once: "When we do start training, we can focus on just a few things at a time. Don't feel pressured to teach your dog all of the things right away — start with just a few skills that are helpful for your life together," Knight advises.

3. Not all 'problem behaviors' are problems: "Behaviors, like digging, chewing, barking, and chasing are normal behaviors for dogs!" Knight explains. "If our dogs are behaving in ways that are safe for them and for others, then those behaviors may not be a problem."

4. You don't need to wait for a problem before hiring a trainer: "Working with a positive reinforcement trainer early on can prevent or limit problems from happening before they even start, plus give you and your dog great skills for life together."

5. You won't get everything right and that's okay: "There's a lot of pressure on dog guardians to do everything "right" and that's stressful. If I can keep trying, be open to learning more, and give myself grace while I do my best then that will be perfectly good," says Knight. 

So, remember, when welcoming a new dog into your home, be patient and gentle — both with them and also with yourself.

"You're doing your best," says Knight, "and that will always be enough."

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.