Those adorable puppy eyes persuaded you and you’re about to welcome a new four-legged friend into your family. Before you know it, you’ll be surrounded by lots of licks and lots of love. If you are a first-time dog owner, there are certain things you can do to ensure a positive relationship with your pup. Below are just a few tips to get you started from Gayle Martz, proud owner of KoKo and KARTU, founder of Sherpa Pet Trading Company, author of the new book “IT’s IN THE BAG: A Revolution in Pet Travel,” and pet activist.

Prep Your Pad

Whether you’re bringing home a little puppy or a more mature senior dog, pet-proofing your home is key to avoid any unwanted chewing or scratching. Hide old shoes, wires or anything that looks like it could be appealing to your pup. Then make sure you have enough dog toys that your puppy can safely chew on! Another important prep step that is often overlooked but is very important – make sure the plants in your home are safe for dogs, as some plants like tulips, lilies and philodendrons, can be toxic. More information can be found in this visual guide and the ASPCA also maintains a directory that you can search if you’re unsure.

Take Time for Training

Both your dog and you will be happier when you can communicate with one another. Simple skills like sitting, staying, down and “drop it” are needed to foster good behavior. You’ll be happier and your dog will be too, knowing that they are pleasing you! A well-trained dog will have an easier time socializing with other dogs and visitors in your home. No matter which training method you use, make sure to heap on the praise when your dog does something you want and shower them with lots of love and positive reinforcement.

Explore the Outdoors 

Dogs love to run around and get whiffs of fresh air as much as they can. Whether you live in a city or a rural area, make sure you have a safe space for your dog to play outside. Never leave your dog unattended, and make sure to get your dog microchipped just in case they run off accidentally. “I can testify to that happening because KARTU ran out the door and up the hill. We have coyotes and bobcats here who just can’t wait to gobble up a pet. Be very mindful because you are their companion and must protect them,” says Gayle.

Keep Your Companion by Your Side

If you need to leave your home for some time and can’t take your dog with you, have a trusted and vetted sitter and/or boarder that will take care of your dog the way you would. The good news is that there are more and more places that recognize that pets are part of people’s families and are happy to accommodate them. Airlines, hotels, workplaces and even some dentists have started to welcome dogs into their spaces. Make sure that you are familiar with each company’s policy beforehand and come prepared with all of your supplies – an approved, safe carrier like the ones made by SHERPA™, food, a water bowl, a blanket, treats and toys.

“Adding a dog to your family can literally be life changing. And while every dog is a big responsibility, the loyalty and unconditional love they can provide are what makes them our best friends and so much more,” says Gayle.