I truly believe the world would be a much better place if everyone experienced the love of a dog. They make us kinder, more compassionate humans. However, like most things in life this harmonious give and take love affair between dogs and us doesn’t come without challenges; and this challenge is often called PUPPYHOOD.
As a professional dog trainer, I am fortunate to be able to engage in my passion on a full time basis. Being able to help bridge the communication gaps between man’s best friend and man himself is humbling to say the least. A large portion of my students are puppies. Which means, an even larger portion of my human clientele are puppy mommies and daddies. Many of my clients are ones that acquire a puppy, get home, and then say, “ What do I do now?”
Like any new parent, they usually are in a state of confusion and panic by the time they have reached out to me. Well meaning family and friends, fellow dog owners, their vet and/or a breeder have kindly (and sometimes not so kindly) offered their two cents on what they should be doing. Should they crate their puppy or not? Should they use a Wee Wee pad or strictly outdoor potty training? How will they get their newest family member to interact with their human siblings or for that matter older canine ones? All that contradictory “good” advice and intentions seem to go out the window as soon as this cuddly, warm ball of fur gets home. The tired, baffled and concerned new parents are left scratching their heads instead of their new best friend’s belly.
I am more than just a Dog Trainer. I like to think of myself as a New Puppy Parent Teacher, for you will see it is you, the Mommy and Daddy, who really needs to be trained.
I am also a straightforward, hardworking guy who knows a thing or two (or three or four) about dogs, especially puppies. This book is a compilation of all those things as well as my first hand experiences and years of hearing the same questions asked over and over again. It will give you some guidelines on what to expect from your new “BABY” and help you get through the first year of his puppy life. I also offer you easy to use right away training tips and a lot of laughs along the way, because as every new parent knows, laughter does make things better!
I’m not going to lie to you, its not going to be a walk in the park. Some days you yourself are going to feel like a dog, others you may feel like the hydrant! But on those trying days remember this quote: “In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.” – Edward Hoagland
Getting a puppy is a decision that is going to affect the next couple of decades of your life. Kind of makes you stop and think for a second when I put it like that doesn’t it? Good! The decision to get a puppy should not be taken lightly.
While impulse buying can be great under certain circumstances; this decision requires a little more consideration than say whether or not to purchase the Altoids or the Winter Fresh Tic Tacs in the grocery store checkout line. Yet, very few people really take the time to do any research on what type of puppy to get and this can be a recipe for disaster. Here’s an example of getting a puppy without any planning.
I can’t begin to count the number of clients I have seen that never stop to contemplate how Rover really fits into their lives. This thinking ahead can save you the stress and anguish of finding out your puppy doesn’t fit and now you are faced with the unthinkable nightmare of having to re-home your puppy.
Now is the time to ask yourself some really good questions. Are you a homeowner or are you renting? If you rent does your lease allow dogs? If so are their restrictions to size or weight? Do you have allergies? Do you have children? Are you planning on having any in the next 15-20 years? Are you able to afford the extra cost of a dog? Puppies aren’t cheap! These are just a few of the questions you should be asking before you allow yourself to fall in love with that cute little fur ball. At the end of this chapter there is a fun (purely for entertainment) quiz that will get you thinking even more about your lifestyle and how, or if, a puppy would fit into it.
Does Size Really Matter?
Contrary to what many might believe… size doesn’t really matter! Common mistake most folks make is assuming that a small breed puppy is better suited for apartment and that a large breed is right for a house with a huge backyard. Not true. Some of the best apartment dogs are Great Danes, and um, for the record, these dogs are not small!!! Energy level is a much more important factor than size (and yeah, I bolded that because it’s an important thing you need to remember!).
Let me tell you about one of my clients who just so happened to live in an apartment and her unique problem she had with her small Jack Russell Terrier. It seemed her little guy loved doing laps around the room. While running around in circles may not sound so strange, this tiny terror had a rather unusual way to unwind; his teeny weeny paws never touched the floor. He would do his running from couch to loveseat, windowsill to a chair, coffee table to ottoman. He never hit the ground! He may have been small in frame but this pint-sized fella had enough energy to fuel a nuclear power plant. A backyard or a few long walks a day would have helped. See, energy level is a much better factor when deciding then size!
On Your Mark, Get Set, GO SPOT GO!
We typically classify dogs into low, medium, and high energy. If you’re into an active athletic lifestyle, a high-energy dog might be the right fit for you. If you tend to be more of the TV couch potato consider one of the low energy breeds. Do your research so when you pick out your puppy you will have a clearer picture as to how he will behave.
But remember…all puppies have high energy. Excess puppy energy is the biggest cause of puppy mayhem. Biting, nipping, jumping, digging, barking, etc. can all be attributed, to some extent, to excessive energy. Your biggest challenge as a puppy owner will be to reduce that energy and channel it into positive behavior patterns.
A great mantra for you to live by is:
“A tired (insert your puppy’s name here) is a happy (insert your puppy’s name here). And a tired (insert your puppy’s name here) doesn’t nip, jump and chew on the furniture nearly as much as one that is all revved up and rarin’ to go.”
Many clients tell me “Michael, I don’t understand. I let my dog out into the backyard for lengthy periods of time and he’s still chewing on my living room curtains.” And I tell them, “Maybe he doesn’t like the colors!” Nah just kidding. What I do tell them is that exercising your dog is not letting them into the yard by themselves and expecting them to run themselves into a state of exhaustion. For the most part, dogs are lazy. Seriously there is a reason why they are man’s best friend you know. They are couch potatoes perfectly willing to watch Monday night football with you.
Like most of us, young dogs have got to be pushed to exercise. Throwing a ball, playing catch with a Frisbee, and taking Fido for a walk are all great ways to ensure your puppy gets the exercise he needs.
Mars vs. Venus
Yes we have all heard it before, men are from Mars and Woman are from Venus, we are different, yadda yadda yadda. While gender seems to matter a lot in our two-legged world, I am not so sure it is all that important in the 4-legged one. Whether or not to get a boy or girl puppy is strictly a personal decision. Some people feel that female dogs are easier to train. Obviously, as a male dog trainer I can’t say I agree with this! Also, it has been said that males tend to roam more than females. Is this possible, sure, but not a rule of thumb. The only things in regards to gender that are definite are the following:
- Females tend to be smaller than males in most breeds of dogs.
- If you want to breed your dog and have puppies, well then obviously your decision is made.
I need to get on my soapbox here for a minute and get a bit more serious. Please think long and hard before making the decision to breed. There are so many dogs looking to be adopted that are in shelters currently. More unwanted dogs are definitely not needed.
As mentioned earlier, all decisions as to what type of puppy you get are yours to make and it would be presumptuous of me to suggest one type over the other. That said, and since I am still on my soapbox, if you are still not sure between adoption vs. purchase of a pure breed, please consider the puppy up for adoption at your local shelter. These dogs all need homes with loving families and they make awesome companions. Okay stepping off the box now.
Are You Ready For A Dog Quiz
So by now you may be thinking, “I’m READY!” But are you really? I put together this fun quiz to see just how ready you really are. While this quiz is really just to make you smile, there are some very real truths you may not have thought about that it points out. So take it for fun, but do stop and think about how you would really answer them and why?
- How would you best describe your home where you live?
- A – Cluttered and filled to capacity with stuff. Plus no storage area.
- B – I live in an apartment building that has a strong no pet policy.
- C – I can and plan to puppy proof my house to the best of my ability.
- Ten years from now I imagine my life will be like…
- A – Who knows? I plan on traveling a lot in the next few years to find myself.
- B – Good question. I’m moving out of the area.
- C – I expect my life to continue pretty much the way it is now. But if something comes my way, I’m ready.
- How would you be affected if your dog needed surgery or special medical care that would cost in excess of $500 and you did not have insurance?
- A – Oh boy, that’s a problem!
- B – It would put a severe strain on my finances.
- C – While money certainly doesn’t grow on trees for us, we would do what we needed to do to get our pooch better; after all he is part of our family.
- Who will watch your dog when you go out of town?
- A – Never thought about it.
- B – You mean someone has to watch it?
- C – My sister (neighbor, friend, etc.) has offered to watch him while we are away and if they can’t we know a really good PET HOTEL we can board him for the few days.
- Which answer most closely describes why you want to get a dog?
- A – Great chick or guy magnet.
- B – Someone to play with after I get home from a long night of partying or a long day at the office.
- C – A dog would be a loving addition to my life and our family.
If you answered mostly…
- A- Maybe…NOT!
- You think you want a dog, BUT, you may be in love with the idea more than the real thing! It may be best to re-evaluate WHY you want a dog.
- B- You should really think this through…
- Although you may feel strongly about getting a dog, stop and reconsider. Seriously like really, really, reconsider!
- C- You’re ready…
- You have the right attitude for being a dog owner. You understand the responsibility entailed with a dog. You are ready to make a lifelong commitment to your pet. You want your dog to become a loving member of your family. You are prepared for all of the work it will require and for all of the surprises that may occur.