Sunday, July 5, 2009

Dear New Dog Owner...

Dear New Dog Owner...

(If time travel existed, this is the letter I'd send to myself when I first became a new dog owner.)

Congratulations! Right now you are fascinated, anxious, and excited that there is a living, breathing dog in your condo. There's a whole world of fun ahead of you and tons of emotional growth you'll experience over time. You have no idea how good it'll be and how your life will change.

I have to warn you though - there are many things about dogs that aren't common sense and you really should know now on day one.

1. Dog socializing is not forcing your dog to meet every dog on the sidewalk, every dog at the park, or any dog tied up outside the supermarket. You wouldn't allow a 10 year old child to "go play" with all the kids standing around the corner store, so why would you do that to your dog? Socializing your dog is about making him feel comfortable just being in the company of other dogs, which may or may not mean a meet and greet. In fact, two dogs meeting on leash on a narrow sidewalk is a very tense situation - kind of like when the mafia and the yakuza meet in a warehouse for a drug deal. There's a good chance somebody will get nervous and accidentally pull the trigger, setting off a big kerfuffle.

2. The books about dog behavior stocked at your local bookstore are generally garbage - save your money. Start by reading Patricia McConnell's "The Other End of the Leash". If you pick up a book that talks about Wolf packs or Dominance, put it down.

3. Ditto with the programs on TV. I admit, I do watch Dog Whisperer and End of my Leash, but mainly because I think the dogs are cute. The training is abusive - you won't be able to tell at this point, but the dogs being "trained" there are under intense psychological stress and trauma. If you are lucky enough to get Animal Planet, do watch Victoria Stillwell's "It's Me or the Dog" though.

4. Don't be in such a rush to let your new dog off leash. Off leash is a privilege for both YOU and your dog - one that must be earned with work.

5. You'd think a dog park is exactly where your dog would want to play. You'd be surprised though, I think he'd rather be playing with YOU somewhere quiet. But you need to learn how to play with your dog and be interesting to him. Start with Tug of War and Fetch.

6. This may be a lot to ask early on, but kibble is terrible for him. For now, can you just add some table scraps on top of his food bowl each night? Just no onions or grapes.

7. Get pet insurance. You will spend more each year than the premium.

8. Work with a private dog trainer that uses positive reinforcement NOW - don't wait. An ounce of prevention is a pound of cure.


Me in the Future

PS. You know when he's doing that - he's rolling around in poop or rotten food.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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