This was originally going to be about training but ended up being way too technical and I decided to just condense it into a few points I always harp on.
1. Puppy or Dog
Are you willing to get shit and piss on your carpet? Do you know how to train dogs? Willing to spend more money on vet expenses? No? GET A DOG. There are so many adult dogs rotting away in shelters who are already fixed, house broken, and trained. Get one of them.
BREEDS ARE IMPORTANT. There, I said it. Yes, it’s “all in how you raise them” but it’s “all in how YOU raise them” because raising a Belgian mal is not the same as raising an American lab or a chihuahua. You need to consider breeds. And this is someone who is 100% pro mutt. I advocate mutts. But knowing what kind of mutt they are is important. Look at this fella.
ADORABLE! But is he for you? Because I know he’s half husky, half Australian shepherd. Those are both HIGH energy working dogs. That tells he that this boy will probably be a quick learner, easy to train, and a perfect running companion. It also tells he he’ll be prone to anxiety, and if not properly exercised and stimulated he would DESTROY my apartment and that he’ll likely be LOUD.
3. Know What You Want
What’s a dog to you? To some people, a dog is a dog that will play fetch, be derp, and trustworthy companion. To some people, a dog is an adorable cutie who will be by your side 24/7. To some people (and me) a dog is safety, who will protect you if you’re being attacked and will alert you to danger. You HAVE to know what you want because not every dog can be molded into it. That’s why it’s important to….
4. Spend Time With the Puppy You’re considering.
I don’t mean just having it on your lap. Feed him. See how he behaves around food. Take him outside. How does he act? Move away from him. Move where he can’t see you. What does he do? All of these things you’ll want to know.
5. Decide the Diet.
Raw or kibble? What kind of kibble? Starting them young will help but in each category you have to know what you’re doing.
6. Male or Female
It does matter, especially if kept intact (not recommended). Even if not, are you willing to run the chance of your dog humping people or things (female dogs may do this too, but it’s more common in males) and spays are much more invasive than neuters.
7. IT’S A BABY
It does not have the cognitive abilities of an adult dog. It CAN’T control its bowls and urine like a adult can. It doesn’t UNDERSTAND like an adult. For fucks sake REMEMBER THAT. DON’T punish them. Put some work in and TRAIN them and yes, at this age, that can be done without punishment.
8. Tired dogs are good dogs.
Think about it. If your dog is so exhausted from playing with you, how’s she going to tear up your apartment? But be careful with puppies! They’re growing babies and too much exercise can hurt them. Don’t worry, they’ll also be tired sooner.
9. Decide the Training and STICK WITH IT
I recommend clicker training. Seriously, look into it. That being said? I don’t use it because after 5+ years of training dogs professionally I have a vocal repertoire that functions just as well. How does it works as well? Because my ‘yes!’ and ‘sit’ and ‘NO!’ and my others have sounded the same for 5+ years. Consistency, consistency, consistency. Decide how you want to train your dog and STICK TO THAT.
Dogs don’t get English. I doubt most English speakers get English. Dogs go on SOUND. If you say ‘sit’ in 10 different tones, your dog is going to have a hard time getting it. Pick one way to to say ‘sit’ and I guarantee your pup will pick it up faster.
11. Socialize, Socialize, Socialize.
People. Other dogs. Vacuum. Cats. Trees. Whatever. Don’t overwhelm the little one, but a few minutes in the proximity of all of the above can save you from a lifetime of pain.
12. Desensitize, desensitize, desensitize.
Touch the pup. Touch his feet! touch the beans, wiggle the toes, touch the claws. Touch his ears! Touch that nose! WATER!!!! Get the pup in water and reassure him, give him toys to play with. In 5 years when everyone else is struggling to bathe their dogs, trip their nails, and clean their ears, you’ll have no trouble.
One last note. Whenever I introduce someone to animal training I tell them this:
“You ever seen a toddler fall down, but they don’t start crying until the mom flips out? That’s like training animals. They feed off your energy. If you flip and try to comfort your dog when they see something scary (like a plastic bag) you’re telling them that the plastic bag really IS dangerous. If a horse spooks and you flip out, you’re telling them that YES, they should be afraid! Your puppy will look to you to know what to make of the world and you must be conscious of that.