UNITED STATES—Taking the plunge and becoming a new dog owner is a huge step. Whether you are getting your first puppy or you’ve decided to open up home to a loveable rescue dog, there is no doubt that dog ownership will bring unlimited joy to your life. Your pup will test you at times, but the benefits of having a loyal companion in your life will undoubtedly outweigh any difficulties you can expect.

However, there are a number of rookie mistakes that experienced dog owners make on their dog parenting journey. In the spirit of sharing, here are a few useful tips that should get you started on the right foot:

Food Is Your Friend

Dogs are food-motivated, so find out what your pup likes. Do they prefer wet food or dry? Is raw food their go-to, or do they prefer dog food with grain? Food isn’t just necessary in terms of keeping your dog happy and healthy; it will be your tool for training them. Once you find out what their favorite treat is, you’ll be able to get them to do anything for it with enough practice.

Don’t Be Caught Without Poop Bags

You’ll soon learn that dogs choose the most inappropriate time to answer the call of nature. Be a responsible dog owner and ensure you are always prepared by keeping an adequate supply of poop bags on your person so you can clean up after your furry friend.

Don’t Go a Day Without Exercise

It is important to keep your dog stimulated, and exercise will play the biggest role here. Your dog will need to get out at least once every day. If you feel comfortable and you have permission to do so, let them run free in a controlled environment from time to time. If you are a runner or hiker, taking your dog out with you and training them to work out with you will kill two birds with one stone and make dog ownership even more satisfying.

Sometimes You Have to Be “Cruel” to Be Kind

A lot of people became dog owners during lockdown when they were spending more time at home. This was great in terms of creating a strong bond, but as life slowly returns to normal, we all need to adjust. Part of this means training your dog to be alone and become somewhat independent. Leaving them at home alone for small periods of time may feel cruel, but it will be in their best interests in the long term.

Establish Yourself As a Pack Leader

It is crucial that your dog knows who is the boss. If you’ve never owned a dog before, it’s good to consider enrolling in a dog training course to learn the basics. From simply learning to walk your dog properly to get them to do their basic commands, the lessons will teach you to take charge rather than having them making demands of you.

Dog ownership is likely one of the best decisions you’ll ever make, but it’s also going to require a lot of hard work. Learning from those and taking advice from people who’ve experienced training a dog will help you a lot, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Do your homework and you’ll be just fine.