Bringing home a new dog can be one of the most exciting events in your family's life — particularly if this is your family's first dog.
Of course you want everything to be perfect. Naturally, it won't be. Nothing's perfect, after all. But there's a lot you can do to make your house a home for your new friend, and to make the transition easier for everyone.
Puppy or Adult Dog?
The first question, of course, is, will you be bringing home a puppy or an adult dog?
Puppies and adults will have different needs and expectations. In addition, the equipment you'll need may be different as well. And, depending on your household, the age of your new addition may affect how easily they fit into your family's routine.
Many adult dogs, for example, already know where the potty is, and not to chew up your shoes. On the other hand, a puppy hasn't already figured out how they like to do things, and will more readily mold itself to your family's lifestyle.
Adoption, Rescue, or Purchase?
Where your dog comes from won't make a difference in how much you love it — and how much it loves you. But it will make a difference in terms of the speed and ease with which your new family member integrates themselves into your household.
Some people think of a puppy as a “blank slate.” But that's not entirely true. Dogs, like people, are individuals, and each has its own personality.
When you bring home a puppy, you're starting from scratch. So be prepared to put in some serious time and effort with house training, leash training, basic obedience, and teaching your puppy the house rules.
With an adult rescue dog, your dog's prior experiences will play a role in how they settle into your household.
That doesn't mean a rescue dog can't be the best dog you've ever had. It does mean, though, that you may need to be exceptionally patient and kind while they settle into your household.
A good rescue can give you an idea of your dog's past and any relevant issues such as neglect. Many rescues also do behavioral work with their dogs to help them to become more adoptable.
There's nothing like the look on a shelter dog's face when they realize they're leaving the shelter for a home.
Nonetheless, few shelters maintain records of their animals' past experiences. You might know, for example, that your dog was surrendered by their previous owners, but not the reasons why. Likewise, the shelter might not be aware of any behavioral or background issues your dog may have.
Don't let that dissuade you!
Adopting a shelter dog does involve a bit of mystery. But getting to know each other is part of the joy of bringing home any new pet.
And no matter where your dog came from, love and patience will always be the keys to making a happy home for your new friend.
Every dog will need some of the same types of supplies. And some supplies will differ depending on your dog's age and prior experiences.
Food and water
You will, of course, want to have your pantry stocked with food and treats for your pup.
That involves, of course, knowing your dog's nutritional needs. Make sure that the food you buy is appropriate for your dog's age, weight, and any known medical issues.
How much should you feed a Jack Russell?
For puppies, experts recommend four to six small meals a day, totalling between 800 and 900 calories. The macronutrient balance should be close to 22 percent protein and 18 percent fat, with the rest being carbohydrates.
Adult dogs that weigh between 13 and 17 pounds will need two to three meals per day, and a total of 450 to 650 calories. The nutritional balance should be something like 18 percent protein and 5 percent fat.
Do you have to count treats? Of course you do! And they should make up no more than 10 percent of your dog's diet.
If your dog has specific medical problems, your vet may recommend a prescription dog food.
If you're thinking about feeding your dog a raw food diet, make sure you understand how to do so healthfully, and have your supplies and plans in place before you bring them home.
Food dishes, etc
And of course you'll need food and water dishes! Lucky for you, these are generally inexpensive and easy to come by. You can also have some fun shopping for one-of-a-kind handmade dishes as well.
Just remember that, to avoid squabbles, every dog should have his or her own set of dishes.
Where will your new friend sleep?
Some people are happy to share their bed with their pup. A JRT doesn't take up much room, after all. And it can be very cozy.
Other people may prefer not to share. In this case, your dog will need somewhere to sleep. If your home has carpeting, many dogs are happy with this. You can also provide a dog bed.
If your new dog is older or suffers from bone or joint soreness, you might consider a memory foam bed for them. Pups who live in hot climates might enjoy a raised bed that lets air circulate underneath the sleeping surface.
You can also make your own dog bed pretty easily. Check out this article for designs, plans, and instructions!
Most experts agree that, in general, dogs don't need to bathe more than a few times a year. Bathing depletes the oils that protect their skin and coat. It can also put them at increased risk for fungal and bacterial infections.
The exceptions, of course, are when they are unable to groom themselves, or if they like to get very dirty very often. Also, dogs with certain skin conditions may find a bath soothing from time to time.
There are a lot of dog shampoos on the market. You can also use baby shampoo, which is gentler than regular human shampoo.
You can also make your own dog shampoo from ingredients most of us have in our kitchens. It's easy, cheap, and can be all-natural.
If your new friend has naturally short hair, you won't need to worry much about taking care of it. A gentle brush now and then to remove dirt and debris will do it.
If you're bringing home a wire-haired Jack, though, you're going to need some additional grooming supplies. Which ones? You might ask. How about these?
A wide-toothed comb for daily detangling.
Slicker brushes can help with daily brushing during “shedding season” (usually spring and autumn).
You may also want a stripping knife for removing dead hairs from your wiry Jack's undercoat. A stripping knife isn't actually a knife. It's a fine-toothed metal comb with a knife-like handle. You can also strip the undercoat gently by hand.
Blunt-ended scissors can help you trim the wiry hairs around your dog's face when they get too long.
Flea and tick protection
The best cure for the inevitable fleas and ticks is to stop the problem before it starts.
Many people swear by the prescription-strength drops that you can buy through your vet. But did you know that there are natural preventative methods as well?
It will take a little more effort and consistency, but you can create your own anti-flea and anti-tick measures from things you probably already have in your kitchen.
Natural flea repellents include solutions of water plus either apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. You can also dilute dog-safe essential oils such as citronella and lavender. These won't kill the fleas, but they will make fleas think twice about taking a bite.
If you suspect your new friend already has fleas, there are natural methods for getting rid of them as well. And these can be as simple as diomataceous earth or a bath with warm water and dishwashing liquid.
Everybody loves walkies — and that goes double for a lot of JRTs! And for that, you're going to need the right stuff.
Most experts recommend a harness for small dogs, rather than a collar. And prong collars and choke collars should be right out. The potential for injury is just too great.
As for leashes, many small dog owners like retractable leashes. On the other hand, some experts believe that retractables can make training more difficult, because they reward your dog for pulling.
The best leash and harness, of course, is the one that works for both you and your dog.
It's always tempting to bring home a boatload of new toys for your new dog. But in this case, perhaps it's best to start out slow. After all, the last thing you want is a box of toys that your dog has no interest in.
Instead, why not buy one or two different kinds of toys to see which one your dog likes best?
An energetic dog with a high prey drive like a JRT would do well with tennis balls, for example. They may also enjoy a soft toy that they can cuddle with — or chew into bits. YMMV.
Making Your Home Terrier Ready
Is your house terrier-ready? Do you know what that means?
Terriers have some…er…special qualities. They're small and cute. We already know this. But they can also be stubborn, feisty, high-energy, and, as some have said specifically about the JRT, “eager for a spirited argument.”
They also have some behaviors and instincts that breeders have developed and concentrated over time. These make the JRT a fantastic hunting dog, but can be problematic in a pet.
Barking may also come up. There may be several reasons your dog barks excessively, including anxiety, pain, and boredom. Addressing the underlying cause can help you to eliminate unwanted barking. And behavioral training can work wonders as well.
So…You Got All That?
It's a lot to think about. But then again, when you're bringing home a new family member, you want to be prepared.
Relax. You will be.
Do you have a great “Gotcha Day” story you'd like to share?