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5 Things you need to know before you get a dog

I work as a journalist specializing in pets and wildlife. I cover pet care, pet lifestyle, wildlife, wildlife travel, and the people who work with and on behalf of animals.

Are you ready for a new commitment in your life? While this one gives you lots of unconditional love, it's essential to note that with this, as with every relationship, you will need to invest time and work. Go into it knowing that it will be worth every moment.

Adopting a dog is an adventure. To make it work, be prepared by following these tips.

1. Do your homework

If you have never lived with a dog, visit your local dog park, talk to friends who have dogs and check out books on dog care. Before you are ready to commit, you may want to volunteer at your local animal shelter or talk to the workers there about the dogs in their care. They know their personalities and can find a good match for you.

You may want an active dog who loves the outdoors or you may prefer a couch potato who will sit by your side while you both watch the tube. By visiting your local animal shelter, you can observe the dogs who are looking for their forever homes.

5 Things you need to know before you get a dog

Image: Gracie is an American Bulldog with lots of energy. She's a year old and is currently living at the ASPCA in New York City.

2. A few facts to know

  • The average life expectancy of large-breed dogs is 15 years, and small breeds can live up to 20 years.
  • Annual vet care is vital to your dog's health. Ask friends with dogs to recommend a good veterinarian.
  • Your new dog will need to be spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering results in healthier dogs.

3. Create rules to follow

Before you bring your dog home, sit down as a family to discuss the rules. Decide which rooms your dog will be allowed in, where he will sleep and if he is allowed on the furniture.

Decide on a schedule for meals, play, potty breaks and quiet time. If you have young children, you can supervise and teach them to feed the dog. You can also take walks together. If your children are young, never leave them alone with the family dog. Children can hurt the dog, and the dog may bite out of fear or protection. So if you have young children, you must be present.

If your children are older, have them walk the dog when they come home from school. You can create a chart to put on your fridge; this way everyone in the house will know the schedule.

4. Prepare your home

This should be done before you bring Fido home. For areas that are off limits, either keep doors closed or put up a large baby gate that he won't be able to clear.

You can purchase a dog bed if you want him off the furniture. You will need a water dish and food bowl. Make sure the water is changed once a day. Talk to your dog's veterinarian about the type of food you want to feed your dog. The rule here is to buy the best quality that fits into your budget.

5. Must-haves

You will need a leash and collar with an ID tag that has your name, your dog's name and your phone number on it. It's also a smart idea to buy shampoo and flea prevention. K9 Advantix II is a monthly preventative solution recommended by veterinarians that protects your dog against ticks, fleas and other insects. It kills between 98 and 100 percent of fleas within 12 hours and continues working for one month to prevent infestations. It should be used on dogs over four pounds and older than seven weeks of age.

Another must-have is training. Start training your dog within the first week when you bring him home. This way, your dog will be well mannered.

Disclosure: This post was brought to you by K9 Advantix® II, a registered trademark of Bayer. Do not use on cats.

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