How to make your dog perfect
If you have a dog already, you might think it is perfect. I do think that Ounce is pretty perfect. She’s certainly pretty! I love her sooo much, almost more than my sons and my husband (well I couldn’t love her more than them, could I?) Is she perfect though? Is anyone really perfect?
Before you get a dog, you have a picture in your mind of ‘life with a dog’. It includes long country walks, kicking up the leaves, with your dog trotting at your side. Is the dog running around off lead, but quickly returning to you when you call it? Or do you imagine a dog like Fenton?
Your ‘perfect dog’ picture might have you sitting on the sofa in front of a fire, with your dog’s head resting lovingly on your knee, while you stroke him. Is the dog farting? No, didn’t think so. Is your dog sitting ON you, so that you can’t really see the TV?
When you have children, they usually want a dog. They imagine a cuddly, fluffy puppy, who snuggles up to them and plays games with them. Perhaps it will be dressed up and pushed around. Or it will run around with them in the garden. Do they see it chewing up a favourite teddy? Or their shoe? Is it being sick on their bedroom carpet?
Here are my 4 key points to help you prepare for life with a dog:
1. Be realistic
Get real. A dog is not a toy. Nor is it a person. A puppy that is cuddly at four weeks does not stay that way. So by the time your puppy arrives home with you, it bites – a lot. The only way to stop this is to manage the behaviour, through distraction and plenty of downtime.
You will need a crate or cage (paid ad) to keep your puppy out of danger while you are not actively watching it. A dog run, or playpen, is ideal to help you manage your puppy. You can make sure they are safe, not chewing up the house, but they have room to run about and play.
2. Be realistic
A friend with a puppy and a young dog shared a picture of both dogs covered in mud, having been digging in the garden. What a brilliant game for a dog! She did see the funny side of it, but also said “they know they are not supposed to do it”. Er, no. Dogs do NOT understand the difference between right and wrong.
A dog will dig. It will chew. It will destroy things. That is how they work. I was reminded of a little quiz I wrote a while ago about when you should punish your dog. When Busy was a pup she chewed a hole in my curtain. I moved the curtain. She chewed another one. I moved that one. She did it TWICE MORE! Why didn’t I learn the first time? Silly me.
3. Be realistic
Dogs need stimulation and exercise. If you leave a dog on its own at home all day, don’t expect it to be a model of perfection. I have written about separation anxiety and there are many sources of information and advice covering this topic.
Dogs do naturally want to be lying at your feet all day long. But they don’t have to do this. You need a lifestyle that is manageable for you and your dog. Being consistent is perhaps the best thing you can do, whether that is going out for 6 hours a day or just popping out now and again.
If you work away from the home, it is pretty straightforward to find a good dog walker. You need someone who understands dogs and is able to come regularly. A dog walker also has the advantage of walking a number of compatible dogs together, which ensures additional interaction and engagement.
4. Be realistic
Hopefully by now you have realised that getting a dog is NOT a perfect experience. It will only live up to expectations if your expectations are pretty low (and realistic!) You need to imagine the mess, the mud, the wees, the poos, the chewing and digging, the hair. Make sure you include plenty of disaster and a fair amount of heartache.
When I receive an enquiry from someone, I send them an Application Form. I ask them what their selection criteria are for their dog. They must tell me what kind of dog they want, so I can see if they are being realistic and specific about what they want. Do they know that they want a particular breed and why? Have they done some research about what makes their breed so special? Please read my breed blog for ideas on what makes dog breeds different? Or checkout the Kennel Club website, which has mases of information.
I ask people what is the best and worst thing about having a dog. My favourite answer is “getting distracted from chores because all you’d want to do is play with your dog”. Dogs definitely are a good reason not to get on – cuddles and play are always available! Of course the actual worst thing is when they are ill and dying – they’re not here for long and losing your dog will break your heart, I promise you that.
It is hard to imagine something we haven’t had and often the reality does not match our expectations. If you feel overwhelmed, there is plenty of help out there. It is essential to get support from a good dog trainer, such as Delders Dogs. I love that Adam focuses on building a community of people going through the same pain and sharing solutions to all the common problems.
It is hard, having a dog. Not just a puppy, any dog. There is a period of adjustment and sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Much better to admit defeat and find a better home for your dog, than to keep struggling and making you and your dog miserable. I’m not going to say that all problems can be dealt with, because some things are just too difficult to solve.
Is it worth it?
Yes. Yes. Yes. A million times yes. Having a dog will improve your life. For better and worse. For richer for poorer (definitely poorer). In sickness and health. Till death us do part. The joy of having a dog is hard to imagine, but once experienced, almost impossible to live without.
When people say to me “I wanted to wait until the time was right”, it makes me sad. There is no better time to get a dog than right now. Well not right now, because there is a pandemic and we’ve run out of puppies. Because dogs do make things better, especially in troubled times. Good luck with your dog!
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