Okay, seriously….do you REALLY want a dog?
This may sounds like a stupid question, but it’s still worth asking. If you’ve ever decided to create a search for the word ‘dog’ on twitter, you’ll see a tons of people, ranging from teenagers to lonely bachelors and bored housewives declare to the world “I want a dog!!!”
Sure, the thought of rescuing a bright eyed, long tailed, innocent looking pooch can melt even Medusa’s heart…assuming she was real and even had one. And who couldn’t benefit from the constant adoration and companionship of the only animal worthy enough to be titled Man’s Best Friend?
But there’s a completely different side to dog ownership that most people forget to consider before they bring home the new member of the family. So, before you take the plunge into dog ownership, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I really want to come home to stains in the carpet after a long day at work?
- Am I ready to lay chicken wire by my fence so that my dog can’t dig under it to escape?
- Am I ready to entrust my backyard to a creature who loves to dig and chew?
- Do I want to spend a few moments every day picking up pieces of trash that’s torn and scattered all over the house?
- Am I ready to put my stuff away or at least keep it out of reach so that the dog can’t chew on it or otherwise destroy it?
- Do I want a dog that jumps up on me the moment I walk through the door?
- Do I want to get up in the middle of the night to let the dog outside if he needs to pee?
- Do I want to hear the sound of loud barking in conjunction with the doorbell?
- Am I ready for my couch, recliner and even my bed to become giant chew toys?
- Do I sincerely want to dragged around the neighborhood like a bad guy in an old western whenever my dog is ready to go for a walk?
If you have answered NO to any of these questions, then you are in good company. But the fact remains that people continually purchase or adopt dogs and run into these exact same issues. In fact, this is why so many dogs are re-homed or surrendered to the animal shelter. So, before you adopt a dog and force him into the same terrible fate that many family dogs end up facing, you need to be able to plan for it’s arrival and it’s future.
It’s imperative that you ask yourself if you have the time and money to:
- train the dog.
- prepare for the dog. This means dog-proofing your house and yards so the new dog can do as little damage as possible.
- exercise the dog properly (a tired dog is a happy dog) and
- put the dog on a GOOD diet. And by good diet, I don’t mean the cheapest 50 lb bag at the grocery store. What your dog eats is just as important as how he is trained, because both have a profound effect on his health, attitude and overall well being.
If you realize that you don’t have the time and money for the factors mentioned above, then this is not the right time for you to have a dog. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have one in the near future, nor does it mean that you shouldn’t consider a lower maintenance pet, like a cat, lizard or goldfish.
It’s easy to give into the impulse of rescuing a dog, but if you don’t have the resources for it, then don’t. You’ll quickly go from “YAY! I got a new puppy!” to “How the hell can I get rid of this dog?!”
Trust me, I see it all the time. And if you can’t afford to hire a dog trainer (aka: ME) to fix your dog’s issue, then you can’t afford to have a dog either.
My mom loves to tell the story of how I, her darling 2 year old daughter, refused to talk to her for 2 whole weeks after she brought my new baby brother home from the hospital. At first, I thought he was fun to play with, but after a couple of days, I decided that it was time for him to go back to where ever it was that he had came from. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen.
So, to show my disdain regarding this new creature that was taking up so much of my parents time and attention, I decided to ignore my mom for 2 whole weeks. I didn’t look at her or talk to her. Of course, I have no recollection of this and sometimes, I still wish that they had taken my brother back.
As a child, I had no concept of where babies came from, and I didn’t understand what this newborn was doing in our house. I guess I saw him as a toy. He was interesting to have for a while but after a few days, I was so over it.
It took time for me to adjust. I had gone from being an only child with all of the attention to having a sibling and having to share some of that attention.
Coincidentally, dogs who are used to being number one in their families have to go through a similar adjustment period. They don’t understand what a baby is and many times, dogs can become jealous of the newborn in it’s house because they don’t understand what is going on.
So in order for your dog to adjust to having a new born in the house, there are things you should do to get him or her used to it.
Before The Baby Comes Homes
- Play a CD or a video of a child crying. This is a noise that both you and the dog will be hearing for a few months, so you might as well get used to it.
- Take a doll and swaddle it up in a blanket. (Finally, a use for your old vintage 80s Cabbage Patch Kid doll.) Sit down with it and hold it like you will when your newborn comes along. Allow your dog to come up and check things out.
- Get your dog used to the smells of the newborn. Baby powder, diapers and formula will all become scents that dominate the house so introduce your dog to these before the baby arrives.
- Do all four of these things often, and at random times throughout the day.
Life for your dog will be completely different once your newborn arrives, so you need to have a game plan. Most owners find that they no longer have time to play with or walk their dogs during the first few months of having a child. So, you may want to look up some pet sitters, dog walkers and even some doggy day cares in your area that can help you to take on those tasks of dog ownership that you won’t be able to do for a while. There’s no shame in hiring someone to walk your dog for you.
After The Baby Comes Home
Just because you’ve done what you can to acclimate your dog to having a newborn around doesn’t mean that he’ll adjust to everything just fine. Also a dog will not understand that a baby is a tiny human. They smell different, look different, sound different, and act different compared to the full grown version. What we see and know as a human baby your dog could see as a shaved cat, or strange bald animal.
Once he sees the newborn getting all the attention, he may become sad, jealous and confused. After all, your dog was once the apple of your eye and now, this new bald creature has come out of nowhere and has stolen all of the time and affection that you once showered on your darling pet. Your dog is bound to feel some type of frustration because of this. So remember these rules when it comes to your newborn and family dog.
- No matter how safe you think your dog is, NEVER leave him or her alone with your newborn child. Accidents can happen, and while your away, your dog might decide to play with this defenseless child. Your dog won’t understand that your child can’t defend itself or ‘play’ back. This can lead to serious trauma and even death.
- Never leave your child in an area that is accessible to your dog. I see so many people leave their child on the floor strapped into a car seat while their rambunctious, playful dog roams around freely. It doesn’t matter if your in the same room or the next room over. Never put your newborn in this situation. This is an accident waiting to happen.
- Don’t assume that all the training and preparing you did before hand will kick in your dogs instincts to protect this child as part of the family. A lot of people assume that their dogs will lovingly accept and protect their newborn once it enters the home, and are surprised to find that nothing could be further from the truth. Again, your dog doesn’t understand what a newborn is and may have mixed feelings about having the baby in the house.
Both your dogs and your baby depend on you to provide good, solid leadership. This means that you must constantly manage and supervise the household 24/7. Keep a sharp eye on the interactions between your babe and your dog and don’t ever waiver from the rules above.
It’s important for people to know that dogs and babies go together like a hand and shoe….which is to say, they don’t go together at all. Dogs have to be socialized to babies and kids, just like they need to be socialized to people and other dogs.
Dogs are animals and at times can be unpredictable. So be sure that you prepare both yourself, your family members and your dogs for the roles that they will take when the newborn arrives. This is the best way to ensure the peaceful blending of both dog and baby.
For more information and guidelines on this topic, check out the book And Baby Makes Four: A Trimester-by-Trimester Guide to a Baby-Friendly_Dog by Penny Scott-Fox.
There’s a common myth that dogs beg because sometime during their life, someone fed them some ‘human food’ from the table.
NEWSFLASH: There are thousands, maybe even millions of dogs out there who have never been fed a single scrap of food from the table, yet they still beg. An even more annoying myth is that dogs beg to assert their dominance. That’s about as stupid as claiming that a teenager asking his mom for gum is trying to boss her around.
They beg because this
is all they have ever known and all they are ever given. And they’re sick of it.
What if this
was your meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day for the rest of your life? What if it was boosted with all the vitamins and nutrients you could possibly need? Would you be perfectly content with eating this from the day you were born til the day you die?
Now what if someone walked in with this
or even this?
Would you be happy eating this
or do you think you might ask for a slice of this?
In the wild, dogs eat a variety of foods. They probably eat better than we do! They eat rabbits, toads, fish, chickens, lizards, berries, grass, veggies, fruits and all sorts of good foods.
Well, thousands of years after we domesticated them, pet food manufacturers emerged, and they made a business that thrived on giving dogs scraps, aka: GARBAGE that we wouldn’t eat ourselves. Later on, the evil geniuses went on to form the lie that you shouldn’t ever EVER give your dog table scraps, yet that is what our domesticated doggies ate long before pet food was ever invented.
And why is it that you shouldn’t give your dog table scraps or food from the table?
Because it might cause them to beg, of course!!!
So dogs went from eating this
Now you tell me – is it really hard to figure out why dogs beg?
So yeah, your dogs beg. Mine do it too, though not that often. What you decide to do about this is up to you. You can actually give them some of what they’re begging for (HEAVEN FORBID!!!) provided that it’s not harmful or poisonous to them (yes, there are some foods, like onions and chocolate, that can actually hurt your pooch, so do your research so that you can know what’s safe for them and what isn’t) , you can give them yummy REAL food mixed in with their kibble, you can put them on a diet of homemade food, or you can teach them an alternative method like ‘go to your bed’, ‘go to your crate,’ or ‘go lay down’.
Heck, you can even just put them outside with a squeaky ball where they are most likely to play with it for hours on end while you and your family enjoy a nice dinner without some little furball whining incessantly at your feet.
The choice is yours.
NOTE: I’m not anti-dog food, because there are some good ones out there. I’m only anti-bad-dog-food, and there’s plenty of that on the market. *cough*PURINA*cough* If you choose to give your dog commercial brand food, do your research, read the label and get to know what you’re really feeding your dog.
“Lilly!” I said sternly as I pointed to the living room “Out of the kitchen!”
Lilly is a Siberian Husky with ninja stealth capabilities. Whenever I was cooking or baking in the kitchen, she wanted to be near me, but that often meant that she’d sneak up on me while I was putting something in the oven, opening the fridge and trying to get around. I stepped on her tail a couple of times but she had her revenge when I was walking to the counter and tripped over her, resulting in a tray of warm sugar cookies spilling all over the floor. From that point on, I made it a rule to keep her out of the kitchen whenever I was in there.
“LILLY!” I shouted when she snuck back in. I pointed to the living room again and scolded in frustration “OUT of the KITCHEN!”
She raced out of the kitchen and onto her favorite spot on the couch. To Lilly, this had become a very fun game. To me, it was a frustrating sequence of try to get around in the kitchen without having my Siberian Husky accidentally kill me.
A few months has gone by and Lilly doesn’t really go into the kitchen much anymore. When she does, all I have to say is “Out of the kitchen” and she obeys.
Now for a lot of dog owners, that may seem like an amazing feat, but I accidentally trained a behavior that I didn’t want.
The Problem – What I Trained
Whenever I’m in the kitchen with Lilly, she will run to her spot on the couch if I point.
If I point while asking her to go to her crate, she runs to the couch.
If I point when I ask her to look at something, she runs to the couch.
If I point at her food when I want her to eat, she runs to the couch.
BUT if I point to something in the living room, dining room, bedroom, front room, when we’re outside, or any other place other than the kitchen, then she will go where I want her to and inspect what I ask her too. It’s only in the kitchen that the dreaded point has become a cue for ‘go to the couch’. It became obvious that I needed to find a way to change the cue and become much more mindful of how I was using my body language when working with Lilly.
The Solution – How I Untrained It
First, I gave “Out of the Kitchen” a different cue. She already knows this verbally, so it doesn’t really need a cue. But I thought it made sense to give it a different one anyway since I wanted to reshape the meaning of the point.
So, I started to say Out of the Kitchen with an open hand held out in front of me, the same way you might hold it out if you were going to shake someone’s hand. At first she was a little confused, but after a few click and treats, she caught on pretty fast.
Next, I sat down on the floor in the living room right near the kitchen, put a treat on the floor and pointed at it. As she approached it, I clicked and treated and we repeated this a few times. Once she got it, we tried it in the kitchen and of course, she did just fine. But the moment I stood up in the kitchen to point – BAM! – she went running to her spot.
This was going to take a little more work then I had originally thought.
So, I started from the beginning and slowly worked to a standing position.
So the steps were like this:
1. Sit on floor, point to treat and click and treat when she approached.
2. Kneel on the floor, point to treat and click and treat when she approached.
3. Stand up, bend at a 90 degree angle from the waist, point to treat and click and treat when she approached.
4. Stand up, bend at a 45 degree angle from the waist, point to treat and click and treat when she approached.
5. Stand up completely, point at treat and click and treat when she approached.
Level 4 was the hardest for her. She was no longer running to the couch, but she did take a few steps back, bark and get frustrated. It took about 3 days and several training sessions on this alone to get her to understand what I wanted when we came to level 4. But, by the time she got it, level 5 was easy for her.
So now, I have a dog that looks at where I’m pointing too when we’re in the kitchen, instead of running to her couch each time.
Even though Lilly and I were both successful at reshaping the point, life would have been a lot easier on both of us if I hadn’t poisoned the cue in the first place. Recreating the meaning of a cue is a lot harder than giving it the wrong meaning in the first place. Of course, it’s not Lilly’s fault that the reshaping took so long. It’s my fault because I should have known better.
However, on a positive note, I now know how to reshape a cue and as a result, so do you!
You won’t find it in a pet store and you may not even see it at the groomers. But this safe and inexpensive doggy shampoo is as easy on your dog’s fur as it is on your pocket book.
Most people don’t want to spend the time it takes to create homemade goodies for their dogs, but homemade is almost always better than commercial products because you know exactly what’s in it. The truth is that the guidelines for pet products and what’s appropriate for them are extremely lenient. There are many questionable and downright scary items in pre-packaged canine shampoos that we wouldn’t want to put on ourselves, let alone our dogs.
With that said, there are plenty of natural, safe and chemical free shampoos and conditioners in the pet market too, but the costs of these designer items can be ridiculous! So, instead of breaking the bank or taking a chance on the cheaper stuff, why not try this simple do-it-yourself concoction.
It’s cheap, it’s safe and it’s a smart choice for both you and your dog.
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