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The Ultimate Checklist for New Dog Owners in Baltimore

Welcome to dog parenthood in the best hood! We are so excited that you made the decision to add a furry little friend to your family and our neighborhood! We can’t promise that every step of caring for a dog will be a walk in the park (pun intended) or that your camera roll won’t become shamelessly full of pictures of your dog being cute/eating/sleeping/breathing, but we can promise that we are here to help guide you along the way and that this will be one of the best decisions of your life.

As Baltimore's #1 Pet Care Professionals and self-proclaimed crazy dog moms, we know a thing or two about raising dogs in Baltimore. Read on for our professional and personal recommendations around supplies you’ll need, Baltimore City Laws and Regulations around owning a dog, our favorite pet services in Baltimore, and tons of information not only useful for puppies but also applicable if you adopt a senior dog (we’re not crying). Every dog is different and will require individualized care, but by using this checklist as a baseline, you're sure to be headed in the right direction!

Visit Baltimore Sign
Poppy @themarvelousmisspoppy in front of the 'Visit Baltimore' Sculpture in Baltimore's Inner Harbor

The Basics

Things to pick up before your dog comes home:

Leash + Adjustable Collar

Skip the retractable leash and go for a 6-ft durable nylon or biothane leash. We are big fans of leashes with traffic handles (a second handle close to where the leash attaches to your dog's collar) for more control, especially for city living where distractions are high. Go for an adjustable collar to give your pup room to grow.

Poop Bags

Biodegradable and eco-friendly options are encouraged! Also, always remember to take multiple bags on walks, just in case. It’s the law to pick up after your dog in Baltimore City and you could be fined for not picking up after your dog, not to mention publicly shamed on the Facebook neighborhood pages. Don't be a Karen. *City Etiquette: hold onto your dog's poop until you find a public trashcan or your own! Do not throw poop bags into neighbors' trashcans!*

Dog Food

Our fav dry food brands? Orijen, Wellness, Instinct, Royal Canin, Stella and Chewy's and Taste of the Wild. (Pssst. typically has the lowest rates on food). If you’re going the raw feeding route, K-9 Kravings (made here in Baltimore). Discuss any special nutritional needs for your breed or breed mix with your veterinarian.

If you're into fresh food for your dog, we highly recommend The Farmer's Dog (psst...get 2 weeks worth of food FREE with this link -- no strings attached).

Training Treats

Treats are key for training and keeping a walk moving along. Small, pea-sized treats will do the trick, even for larger breeds. Worried about giving too many treats? Use your dog’s regular food as training treats. Put your dog’s dinner in a bag and use it as a training opportunity. We recommend using your dog's food as a training opportunity as much as possible!

Enrichment Toys

The secret to a relaxed, well-behaved dog? Enrichment! Just like physical exercise, it’s important for your dog to get a mental workout and challenge their senses through enrichment toys like Kongs, snuffle mats, food dispensers, and treat puzzles. Here are some of our favorites.


If you have a small dog or puppy, Five Below has $5 beds so you don't have to feel bad about buying one for every room in your home. If you have a larger breed, Costco dog beds are the way to go!


We are BIG fans of crate training from day one. Providing a safe space for your dog from the start will give your dog a sense of security and a place where they can retreat for “me” time. Crates are the best way to keep your dog safe while you are out of the house and also make potty training a lot easier. What size crate is right for your dog? As a rule of thumb, your dog should be able to comfortably stand, turn around and lie down. If you’re expecting your dog to grow in size, a crate divider is a good idea.

Dog ID Tag

A physical dog tag is the quickest way to reunite with your pet if he or she bolts out the door. What should you include on a dog ID tag? Your dog’s name and your phone number are crucial. Other key info you may want to include: indication that your dog is microchipped, your address, and any information that may be useful for someone finding your dog such as, “Hi, I’m Friendly”.

Act Like a Pro

We have your back with the inside (poop) scoop.

Poop Bag Holder

A simple poop bag holder that attaches to your leash will ensure that you always have a bag on you when nature calls. We’re also kind of obsessed with these hands-free poop bag clips that hold onto used bags if you are hiking or somewhere where a trash can is hard to come by.

Grooming Supplies

Wipes, shampoo, nail clippers, and a brush suited for your dog’s coat.


If you’ve never had a puppy then get ready for some unwanted chewing of hands, furniture, clothes, shoes, sunglasses, and....everything you own. A good dog chew will keep them busy and help redirect this unwanted behavior until your puppy matures and sheds his puppy teeth. Our favorite dog chew for all ages is Bully Sticks by Best Bully Sticks. These single-ingredient chews are fully digestible, long-lasting, great for dental health and they're all-natural...what’s not to love?! These are a staple in DOCC team members’ homes!

Official Dogs of Charm City Swag

Show off your dog parent pride with some Maryland dog mom/dad swag.

Know the Rules

Owning a dog comes with more than just personal responsibility. It is up to Baltimore dog owners to comply with city-mandated regulations like keeping your dog on a leash in public spaces and always picking up after them (you can be fined by the city if you violate either of these!!). Also, if you live in Baltimore City you are required by law to obtain a pet license. Dogs are required to wear a Baltimore City pet license in order to enter any public Baltimore City dog parks.

Dog-Proof Your House and Your Yard

Scan the inside and outside of your home for potentially dangerous items like choking hazards or plants that are toxic to dogs. Pets deserve a space that is 100% dog-friendly which in return keeps your mind at ease. For inspiration around creating a dog-friendly outdoor space in the city or county, check out 11 Tips to Create a Dog-Friendly Yard, Straight From the Pros by Redfin which includes tips by yours truly.

Domino Sugar Sign Locust Point Baltimore
Baltimore Rescue Pups Serena and Rufus @thegossipdogsin front of Domino Sugar's 'Welcome To Locust Point' mural at 1020 Key Hwy. in Locust Point

You Can’t Do It Alone!

Essential pet care services to line your new dog up for success.


Finding a veterinarian to treat your puppy is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make for your pet. We recommend reaching out to a vet in advance to schedule your dog’s first visit within a few days of bringing them home. Vet appointments for a puppy should typically occur every 3 to 4 weeks starting when puppies are 6 to 8 weeks old and ending when they are 4 or 5 months old.

Many dog shelters and breeders start vet visits for puppies before they even head to their forever home. You should receive paperwork that clearly states what type of care has already been provided, when it occurred, and when you should schedule your puppy’s next veterinary visit.

Talk to your vet about:

  • When to spay/neuter

  • Microchipping

  • Flea and tick prevention

  • Heartworm

  • Vaccines like Rabies, DHPP and Bordatella. Also, ask your vet about the Leptospirosis vaccine due to the high Baltimore rat population. Many local dog daycare and dog boarding facilities in Baltimore also require Canine Influenza.

DOCC recommends our new friends and neighbors at Heart + Paw on Aliceanna Street in Fells Point. Led by veterinarian Dr. Katie Pagan, Heart + Paw offers low-stress vet services so that your four-legged family members can live longer, healthier, and happier lives! Heart + Paw treats their patients like family and believes that pet wellness goes beyond just healthcare, providing pet grooming and dog daycare all in one convenient location.

DOCC also recommends HomeVets as a convenient and high quality vet option for your pet. HomeVets is a full-service veterinary practice that provides care both in-home AND in their state of the art brick & mortar hospital. Whether you have a dog who is anxious about going to the vet or getting in the car, a new puppy sensitive to outside factors, a dog reactive to other pets, or you simply value the convenience of mobile vet care, HomeVets will travel to YOU in the comfort of your own home. HomeVets also offers longer appointment times than most other veterinary practices, and by seeing your pet in their own familiar environment, the doctor is able to consider all lifestyle factors including daily routine, environment, diet, potential stressors, and allergens when determining their plan of care. Starting with Managing Veterinarian, Dr. Shawn Budge, and Medical Director, Dr. Brittany Wolfe, they have a talented team offering services ranging from wellness checks and sick visits, to telemedicine and emergency visits. You may be wondering, “What if my dog needs care beyond a home visit…like surgery or a more serious procedure?” Rest assured that all aspects of your dog’s health can be supported by HomeVets - in the case your dog needs to be seen in a hospital setting, the HomeVets hospital in Ellicott City is prepared to provide your pet with top care!

Urgent Care

Unfortunately, accidents DO happen, but if you're local to Baltimore City, we're lucky to have an incredible urgent care facility at Eastern Animal Hospital. EAH has a trained vet staff ready to help, and one of the best diagnostic track records in the region (okay, we see you 👀💯). So, if your pet has a sudden emergency, please call them at their 24/7 hotline, 410-633-8808. Additional facility hours and more can be found on their Urgent Care webpage, here.

We know disasters can seem unfathomable, but DOCC and EAH highly recommend having a plan in place to go for help if your pet requires critical care or needs to be hospitalized. If you are not local to Baltimore City, now is the time to familiarize yourself with your closest urgent care center!


If you have a long-haired dog or one that requires a bit of primping, look into a reliable dog groomer. If you can, take your dog to the same groomer throughout their life. Much like with a veterinarian, you will want your dog familiar with their groomer so that they are comfortable and feel safe! Check out Heart + Paw grooming for some incredible, quality grooming - yes, your dog will certainly be dried off in a BrookLinen towel and treated like the King/Queen they are.

If you're in need of a DIY self-service dog wash in Baltimore, the following pet stores have you covered:

  • Petco Canton

  • Loyal Companion Brewer's Hill

  • Loyal Companion McHenry Row

  • Loyal Companion Mt. Washington

  • Buck Wild Dog Training

  • Pet Depot

Pet Insurance

Should you get pet insurance? We vote yes. Many dog owners find that pet insurance helps them significantly cover the cost of healthcare for their pup. Most insurance providers begin coverage at 6 weeks of age. Depending on the plan, pet insurance can cover accidents, illnesses, routine care, dental cleanings, breed-specific care, and physical therapy. On average, the monthly premium is $47 for dog health insurance according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA). It’s important to note that there's a wide range in pricing (many see rates as low as $12/mo, others might see rates as high as $100/mo) depending on your pet's breed, age, location, as well as the deductible, reimbursement rate, and payout limits you choose. The Reviews Team at This Old House developed and broke down (by ratings, pros/cons, pricing & more) a very helpful list of DOCC approved Pet Insurances. We recommend doing your research and taking your time to pick an option that is best for you and your pet!

Dog Walker

A tired dog is the best dog! Hiring a bonded and insured dog walking company that provides exercise, bathroom breaks, play, and stimulation can help put your mind at ease knowing that your pet is well cared for and maintaining a routine despite what your day brings. Regular walking helps to release excess energy in your pup, resulting in calmer behavior at home. With frequent walks, your dog may be less inclined to bark, chew, or bother you on that mid-afternoon Zoom call. Dogs of Charm City makes hiring a professional, bonded and insured dog walker in Baltimore simple. Learn more about Dogs of Charm City dog walking and pet care services here.

Dog Boarding

Headed out of town? Don’t forget to make plans for your dog! Whether you plan to take them with you or leave them behind in good hands, it’s important to establish a relationship with someone who can watch your dog overnight. Dogs of Charm City offers boarding and staycation options to our family dog-walking clients in Baltimore City. Learn more here. If not a DOCC client, we recommend looking into Hereford Bed + Breakfast, Reisterstown Pet Resort, Stay Pet, and Dogwood Acres Pet Retreat for dog boarding in Baltimore.

Dog Trainer

Training a dog is one of the most important steps you can take to give your dog (and yourself) a life full of opportunities and experiences. At the minimum, a baseline of commands will open doors for your pup including dog walking services and the ability to enjoy dog-friendly spots around town.

Looking for a dog trainer in Baltimore? We won't hold back in letting you know that we are BIG FANS of balanced training here at DOCC. Our absolute favorite training company is Baltimore-based Monument City Dog (MCD) owned by trainer Laura Gabell. MCD provides an intensive multi-week boot camp lifestyle program that focuses on addressing the state of mind of your dog, rather than creating a set of rehearsed commands. By using clear communication and non-negotiable boundaries, your dog will look to you for guidance. This will strengthen your relationship and create happy, healthy, and balanced dogs that are able to be included in all aspects of your life. Laura provides training to Dogs of Charm City staff members, and many of our personal dogs have been trained by Laura.

Other dog trainers we work with and admire in Baltimore include Buck Wild Dog Training and Bmore Balanced Dog Training. If your dog has gone through a training program, Dogs of Charm City offers a Structured Walk + Train Program to help you reap the benefits of training and stay consistent. Led by DOCC’s most skilled handlers, our structured walk sessions are a great solution for maintaining and building upon your dog’s training and obedience. If you are a Dogs of Charm City Dog Walking Client, email us to learn more about our Walk + Train Program. Our Structured Walk + Train program is the only program of its kind here in Baltimore.

The Fun Stuff

Because although owning a dog is a big responsibility, it's also SO. MUCH. FUN.

Dog Parks in Baltimore

Ensure your dog is up-to-date on all vaccines, spayed/neutered, friendly with other dogs and people, and that you're able to keep a VERY watchful eye on not only your dog but on all dog interactions while you're in the park. Not all dogs are a good fit for dog parks, so we strongly recommend discussing whether dog parks are a good option for your dog with a dog trainer.

  • Patterson Park Dog Park (200 S. Linwood Ave)

  • Canton Dog Park (3221 Toone St.)

  • Latrobe Dog Park (1627 E. Fort Ave)

  • Howard Street Dog Park (310 W. Centre St.)

  • Paw Point Dog Park at Lake Roland (membership only)

Dog-Friendly Things to Do in Baltimore

We're not just dog experts, we're experts on Baltimore. With your new pup, you'll get to explore the city in a whole new way! And, of course, we're here to help! Follow us on Instagram and Facebook to get updated when we share new blog posts! These blog posts are curated lists of dog-friendly places and things to do in Maryland. Here are some fan favorites to check out:

Bark Social

Bark Social is an indoor/outdoor beer garden & coffee bar (with a food menu, too!) with a professionally monitored off-leash dog park. (Yes, seriously. This place is heaven on earth.)

Get a free day pass or secure your annual membership here!


We can't stress this enough: you really can't do it all alone! There are many local groups and resources through social media that exist in the Baltimore/DMV area for dog owners. Members of these groups arrange in-person meetups, seek and share advice, recommendations, and tips, and help with re-homing and rescue of certain breeds.

Facebook Groups for Baltimore Pet Parents:

Breed Specific Groups:

Good luck on your journey with your new best friend! If you have any specific questions, concerns, or need a recommendation, shoot us an email or DM us on Instagram and our team of pet care professionals will get back to you. And remember...enjoy these puppy stages while they last because they grow like weeds! We hope to meet your pup soon! 🐶

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