There is nothing like unconditional love from a dog, and getting a new pup is an extremely exciting time.

However, between the cuddles, kisses, and games of fetch, owning a dog is a huge responsibility. Whether you’re bringing home a new puppy, or an adult dog, there are some important things to know and be aware of to ensure your furry friend is happy, healthy, and safe.

With National Puppy Day on March 23rd, Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM and Pumpkin Pet Insurance veterinary expert, shares her "6 Tips for First-Time Dog Owners to Avoid Common Mistakes;"

Create a house-training plan – House-train early to avoid accidents in the house, which can make it difficult for you to leave, even for short periods of time. Regardless of age, make sure your pup has an established place to go to the bathroom, take them out for potty breaks every couple of hours and after they eat, and use positive reinforcement for good behavior.

Socialize puppies early – Early socialization is very important to create a healthy and well-behaved companion, and it can reduce their likelihood of becoming anxious, scared or aggressive. Socialize puppies with different sights, sounds, places, textures, people, and experiences. Use the rule of 7: experience 7 new things every day, and make the experiences positive
with praise and treats. Also, before you interact with other dogs, such as at dog parks, ensure your puppy or dog has received their required vaccinations. If you are adopting an older dog, ask the shelter or rescue for socialization advice.

Be prepared for common puppy emergencies and look into pet insurance – No one likes to think about health emergencies, but unexpected accidents and illnesses can happen – even to healthy puppies. A few key things you can do to be prepared: get your dog microchipped if they aren't already; keep an emergency kit nearby – at home or when traveling; and look into pet insurance. Pet insurance plans are usually designed to cover unexpected accidents and illnesses that pop up in the future, which means if your puppy gets hurt or sick, an insurance plan could reimburse you for a portion of your eligible veterinary expenses, making it easier to help them get the care they need to recover.

Dog-Proof Your House – Dogs can get sick from accidentally eating something they shouldn’t, so protect your dog by looking at your home from their level – what can they get into? Keep cleaning products, chocolate, toxins (like rat poison), prescription and recreational drugs, and anything else your dog can get into out of reach or in closed cabinets they cannot access!

Don’t overfeed and exercise your dog regularly –
While you may think that a few table scraps or extra treats won’t be an issue for your pup, even a little extra weight can cause a variety of health problems for dogs, including lowering their life expectancy and causing common health issues, such as joint pain and breathing problems. The best thing you can do for your dog’s long-term well-being is to feed them a balanced diet with high-quality ingredients, and make sure they get enough exercise (30 minutes per day). If you have any questions or notice weight
gain, consult your veterinarian for advice on the safest and most effective way to shed the pounds.

Regularly visit the vet – After the initial vaccination appointments for new puppies and they’ve been spayed or neutered, don’t forget their annual visits! This is very important to their preventative care since the vet will check their vitals, weight, teeth, lungs, heart – and run any tests they think might be necessary. If something is cause for concern, your vet can
address it and suggest options for treatment.