A fair amount of dog lovers find this blog:) You know, they do say children from abusive situations tend to love animals more. I have to say, since my first word was "kitty", I just think no matter what happened in my child hood, I was destined to be an animal person in one form of another. I always thought that meant being a vet, and I was just a distaster in biology. Anyway, I love this blog http://zamphir.blogspot.com/2006_12_01_archive.html with lists. She has also gotten her first dog.
By the way, that's one of my loves at Doberman Rescue. He actually went on to a new home years ago. His name is Jordan, and he's a bit nutty (My Jack reminds me of him a bit). I know they were having a hard time with him (in his new home), but I hope everything turned out okay for the lug.
1. No matter how small your dog, always train them to go outside (ie skip the pee pad thing).
2. Find a vet you trust as soon as possible. You want them to be able to handle beyond the vaccinations. You want a vet that can spot a problem before it endangers your dogs life. If you don't feel comfortable with your vet, switch.
3. Do some research on the common illnesses or structural problems of your breed and what to watch out for.
4. Don't go crazy about it, but do some research on nutrition in dogs or consult your vet. You want something convenient, nutritious, and that the dog likes.
5. Never ever feed table scraps, especially from the table. If you want to give an occaisional treat, take the food away from your place of eating. Have your dog do something for the treat (it does not need to be elaborate).
6. Do not enable your dog to continue nervous or obnoxious habits. Time and again, I find these morph into life threatening behaviors (for the dogs because the owners don't know what to do later on). Take care of them at the get go by doing things like not getting them when they are insisting on that walk or food until they quiet down.
7. Make sure your dog is quiet and behaviored before, after, and during his feeding time. Normally you make them sit or down (quietly) first until YOU release them to approach their food.
8. If this is a first dog and you have never trained, find a good dog trainer near you. It will help you immensely in the long run. Make sure you see this trainer at work before selecting them, and that they can do something with their dog and clients dogs. Make sure also that answers to questions seem knowledgable and have a logical reasoning to them.
9. Everything in the house is YOURS, the human owners. Most people don't realize the kind of issues this mind set can avoid. Any sign of aggressive behavior, and priviledges (your things that you share) should be taken away, also finding a good trainer if you haven't dealt with this is important.
10. Socialize, socialize, socialize. This is a little more than bringing your dog to a dog park. In fact, sometimes dog parks can be dangerous to go to, because that's where people with the untrained unmannered dogs mostly go. Also disease abounds in some unregulated dog parks. Better to find a play group of your own. Also bringing your dog (controlled) into pet stores like Petco or PetSmart. And if you are lucky like me, down to the beach. Socialization means getting your dog used to being around strange people and dogs like it's no big deal.
11. Your responsibility to your dog is to keep them safe, especially if you want a trained well mannered dog. If they can't trust the situation you are putting them in, it's unfair to think they are going to obey a command unquestioningly.
12. Related to 11, have a game or safety plan for certain situations. This can actually get you through a confront with a strange aggressive dog. Think of things you could use to put between you/your dog and the aggressive dog, or even things you could hop on top of. Carrying an airhorn or spray isn't a bad idea either. And many dogs are just fakers (it takes a little exposure to know) and you can walk confidently towards them and yell, and they may back off.
13. Exercise and fun. All those were serious, but it's important for a dog to exercise their muscles and brains every day. Most dogs are easily amused (Leon likes to chase my toes under the blanket as a game), so it's normally pretty easy even if you aren't feeling your best.