Five Tips to a Succesful first month of Dog ownership

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Five Tips to a Succesful first month of Dog ownership

Just a few days ago we passed the one month mark with Finn, and life could not be better. As part of the celebration I've taken a few notes on things that have helped make this last month so enjoyable.

1. Prepare the space, and yourself:
Having all the dog products you'll need makes things a lot easier. Before Finn's arrival we set up his room. Two couches with slip covers, an indoor/outdoor rug and a cage area gives him a place to call home even when we are not here. We had a carrier already which made bringing Finn home a lot easier, it was a little bit small and we got a full sized crate the very next day which helped out a lot. The first week we had to really convince him to go into his crate but after a few bribes and pushes he would settle in for the night. A towel, some toys and a belly rub before we closed him in made everyone sleep easier, knowing Finn was safe. Also keep in mind there are things you will be needing to survive. Extra money, patience, and a camera all are invaluable tools. Learn where the closest pet store is and plan on spending a lot more time there. Also check out places you can walk or take the puppy for socialization. So far we've taken Finn to UCLA, Westwood, walks around the neighboorhood, Manhattan beach, Petco (Poop), a play date, the shower and a few other fun places. He's even ridden in the car with us to pick up a movie, just to get him used to driving.

Do all the research you can about your dog breed, health problems, training techniques, and general pet ownership. Yes you can do this once you have the dog, but getting it done ahead of time aloows more time to play with your new pooch.

2. Get toys, lots of them:
It's a puppy! Puppies play, and if they don't have something to play with they'll pick something of yours. Remotes, socks from the dryer, a newspaper it doesn't matter what the item is so long as it can be destroyed by teeth. Having an alternative lying around makes it easier to wrench the stuff you really want from his grasp. This will also help bonding with the dog. If all you are doing is scolding him for getting into stuff he's not supposed to the dog will build up a tolerance for being yelled at and a bad relationship will form.
3. Start a routine:
News flash: Dogs are creatures of habit. Yes, he is young but he is still learning. Some things even suggest it is a BAD idea to get a pet when you have too much free time (summertime mentioned) because the dog will learn that he gets attention all day and will act out once this routine stops. If the puppy is really young you may have to get up in the middle of the night, be prepared. I started getting up a few hours earlier and starting the day with a walk and a feeding. A nightly walk once everyone is home was added as we learned he was up for it and he's quickly showing signs of understanding what happens on a daily basis.

4. Find a Vet and a trainer:
A Vet visit is likely a part of buying the dog. If you got them from a breeder there should be a one week grace period to ensure the puppy's health. Personal references led us to our Vet, and they did a great job. Also check around for local pet stores that do vaccinations, these are usually cheaper and quicker then going to the Vet and if all you need is two shots it lessens the hassle of the whole ordeal. Make sure you do your homework about what shots the dog will need, the last thing you want is month two to be a disaster because you let something slip your mind. Vets and trainers can always give good insight but be aware of some things on your own is helpful.

As our neighbor said to me one night, while I was trying to get Finn to alleviate his bladder, "Get a trainer, it helps the bonding process too". Our dog trainer mentioned that working with a dog will also help stop unwanted behavior even if it is not addressed (a mentally tired dog isn't as inclined to eat a shoe). Not only does a quick start help to avoid future problems, it is also rewarding when you teach them a new command. Having formal training sessions helps train an owner as much as it helps teach the dog, be prepared to do some work.

5. Stop and smell the roses- Enjoy your dog for all the reasons you got him:

You spent all this money, gave up all your free time, and let your beautiful yard get brown spots all over it. So stop and remember why you did this. Make you you spend time with your puppy doing the things you'll want to do in the future. Play in the yard, curl up on the couch, pet them endlessly and invite people over to coo over them. Every night, when everyone is home from work we sit outside in awe of the beautiful beast romping around and chewing on this toys. A hug and some dog kisses, although unsanitary, is just plain relaxing. Extra daily exercise from walks will help keep you in shape and you may even get a green thumb replanting all the roses that the puppy digs up. Sure he'll get into trouble from time to time, and it's best to lay down the law, but you can be firm while still enjoying the pup's companionship. Finn is so great just glancing at him through a window makes us smile, and I try to consciously remember that each time I play with him. It's a lot of "work" to own a dog, but not if you have the right mindset.