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Pooch-Ready Basics

As excited as you are about your new pet, you don't need to splurge and buy every trendy accessory on the market. These basics are all you'll need:

Crate. Crate training will prevent your new puppy from using your dining-room table leg as a bathroom when you can't keep an eye on him. The crate should be at least big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in. Buy one that's a little bigger so he can grow into it.

Collar and leash. The collar doesn't need to be diamond-studded. Your dog won't know the difference. "Just a regular flat buckle collar -- something that has a secure ring that can hold a rabies tag, ID, and license," Herron says.

Bed. Again, nothing fancy is needed. You just want a cozy space where your dog can feel comfortable and secure.

Find a Vet You Trust

Your veterinarian is just as important to your dog's health as your pediatrician is to your kids' health. Find one you trust. Ask friends for recommendations, and then interview the vet to be sure.

"You don't just want to meet the veterinarian. You want to meet the office staff, the technicians. You want to feel welcome," McConnell says.

Ask your vet for tips on what type of food to buy and how often you should bring your dog in for checkups. Also ask about spaying or neutering your pet if that hasn't already been done. And find out about microchipping, which can help return your dog to you if he ever runs away.

Set Limits

When you first bring your dog home, close doors and set up baby gates to keep him in a confined area. This is good advice for both a new puppy and an older dog.

"You want your dog to have as little time as possible out of your eyesight," McConnell says. "Even if they're 8 years old and house-trained, they're not house-trained to your house."

Close off your pet's outside space, too. Build a fence around your yard if you plan to let your dog go off-leash.

To make sure your dog behaves, sign him up for training classes ahead of time. "You want to look for positive reinforcement-based training," Herron says. She recommends hiring a trainer with the certification "CPDT" (Certified Professional Dog Trainer).