Everyone wants a happy, healthy dog. When we decide to bring a dog into our lives we have already formed a picture of wonderful walks, fun playtimes and total loyalty, we seem to expect these things. What we skip over is the level of commitment required to attain such a relationship. There are steps that everyone needs to be aware of to increase the likelihood of having a good dog. The more you are able to answer ‘yes’ to the following questions the more likely you will have a dog who is confident and happy and therefore easy to live with. If you are reading this and don’t have a dog yet, you are my favourite person!
Did you make a conscious decision and deliberately plan for your new dogs arrival for at least three months prior to bringing your dog home?
Dogs are probably the most high maintenance pets we can have. They require daily food, daily water, daily walks (even when its freezing cold or raining), daily training and interaction, and over a 10-15+ year commitment. All of this is for a happy, healthy dog, some dogs and breeds require even more maintenance. Before adopting a dog or puppy you and your family must prepare for this level of commitment. Planning yourself emotionally, financially and time-wise is a must if you want to avoid neglecting or rehoming a dog because you underestimated the demands he would bring.
Did you adopt your dog from a registered breeder who raised the puppies inside their home and where you could meet at least the mother?
Two things that make up a dogs personality are breeding and environment, the old nature and nurture thing. If your puppy had the best start in life then all that’s up to you is to continue the good work. In my opinion, puppies purchased from pet stores or through internet, adverts are at greater risk of developing behavioural issues. You will never have the dog you could have had if you are starting with poor breeding. Any ‘breeder’ who would be willing to send their puppies to a pet store has no care for what happens to them, the sad reality is that it’s all a matter of money-making, with dogs suffering and well-meaning people having to deal with the long term consequences.
Planning and breeding are two very easy parts of the equation. You can tick these off with minimal effort but they make a huge difference to how your will dog turn out.
Has socialising your dog or puppy been your first priority?
Many more people come to me needing help with developing their dogs confidence than concerns over basic obedience. A confident, happy dog is far more likely to succeed quickly with basic training than a scared, anxious dog.
Socialising your dog must be your number one priority.
A vital part of socialisation is the word ‘deliberate’ socialising your dog is not about going into an environment blind, make assessments on what you are exposing your dog to before you do it. Always start with calm dogs to have your dog around and always start at safe distances from noisy traffic or ‘scary’ people. Being deliberate about socialisation will create great confidence and resilience in your dog and you will be forever grateful you invested the time into this. Deliberate socialisation continues for the first three years of having your dog.
Remember, socialisation comes first, even before some training. A dog that can ‘shake hands’ is nice but a dog that is confident and happy in all situations is the best!
Have you had the support and advice from a reputable trainer/club for the first three years of having your dog?
Yes, three years! Just for the basics. It takes three years for a dog to mature, to be exposed to all manner of worldly experiences AND learn to work through these experiences. Recall, ‘focus on me’ and ‘heel’ are the three basic skills every dog and handler should learn. With these three skills comes the ability to manage your dog in almost every situation and gives your dog the freedom of off lead time.
Have you answered ‘yes’ to all of the questions? Congratulations! You are well on your way to having the dog you envisaged. If there were some ‘no’s’ in there don’t be afraid to contact a trainer or club, roll up your sleeves and get working on helping your dog be the best he can be. Dogs are high maintenance, and the more effort you put in the more you will get from them.
*Please note this article has focussed on adopting a puppy from a registered breeder. I do support adopting an older dog as a ‘rescue’ also.