New Dog Owner Checklist

Step-by-step pointers for Fido’s new family.

Choosing Your Dog

  1. Check Select a breed.

    Before buying or adopting, research different breeds on the American Kennel Club’s site ( To find one that suits your family, study the dogs’ behavioral characteristics.

  2. Check Scout your new pet.

    Sites such as,, and can help you find an animal shelter near you. Or follow the Humane Society’s advice (

  3. Check Apply to become the pet’s owner.

    You’ll be asked to fill out an application about your lifestyle and history with pets (application fees can range from $25 to $300).

  4. Check Perform a background check.

    Request documentation of the pet’s history, health, and temperament. If buying from a breeder, ask to meet the puppy’s mother and father to observe their behavior.

  5. Check Prepare your home.

    Dogs need crates or beds to develop a space of their own. Ask your vet to recommend a crate size. (Don’t have a vet yet? Find one near you on

  6. Check Buy supplies.

    Stock up on food appropriate for the age of your pooch—ask your pet store or vet to help pick the right brand for your breed. You’ll also need a collar, a leash, chew toys, treats, puppy pads for accidents while house training, a dog brush, stainless-steel bowls for food and water, and shampoo. (Ask at a pet-supplies store for help in choosing these items.)

Bringing Your Dog Home

  1. Check Visit the vet.

    Ask about spaying and neutering, potty training, obedience school, and the right way to discipline your puppy. Your vet should also let you know about vaccinations, vitamins, and medication.

  2. Check Order identification.

    Many states require pet licensing, so go to to find a pet licensing location near you.

  3. Check Register your pet.

    Consider registering your pooch with the Companion Animal Recovery Service (, the nation’s largest database for recovering lost pets.

  4. Check Send your pet to school.

    Enroll your dog in obedience school. (Even older pets can benefit from a refresher course.)

  5. Check Create a schedule and stick to it.

    Establish a schedule for walking, feeding, bathing, and brushing the teeth of your new addition, and divvy up the responsibilities among your family members.

  6. Check Set some rules.

    Discuss how you plan to discipline a misbehaving dog so all family members are clear on the rules.

  7. Check House train.

    Follow your vet’s advice.