So, we’ve cooked, gardened, done first day of school, even worked on some reading skills. Which left me with the last blog in the series, and no clue what to do. I went with something near and dear to my heart—dogs. Or to be more specific, the responsible ownership of dogs.
If you’ve got a dog, you’ll know you have a friend for their tragically short lives. In exchange for that, you provide a home, security, love, attention and stability. What does the dog bring? Everything he has, unconditional love and his life if you ever needed it.
Your dog is descended from the wolf. Yes, even sweet, little fluffy Snowflake farting on your bed right now. As such, we need to honor the pact we made with the wolf when we domesticated him. He would work for us, we would help him take care of his young and old. Together we would hunt.
Take your dog hunting! I joke! A little humor.
I AM WHAT MY MAMA MADE ME
You get what was bred into your dog. I cannot stress enough the importance of choosing the right dog for your lifestyle. Border Collie’s are adorable, who doesn’t love that face. But they’re working dogs. If you haven’t got the time to work with that dog, walk him daily, and about 100 acres for him to run his energy off, this is not the dog for you. Research your breeds, choose the right dog for you, especially if you have children.
As much as I love the idea of rescue dogs, a bred dog is more predictable. You get to meet the bitch and dog who had the litter of puppies, and a good breeder will make sure they aren’t breeding genetic defects into the puppies—hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, skin allergies, diabetes. The list goes on and on, and so will your vet bills and the heartache of an unhealthy dog. If you are going to rescue a dog, and God knows enough of them need it, also look at breed, and where they found the dog. Taking time to learn his history will save you a lot of frustration.
I LIVE TO WORK AND PLEASE YOU
Here’s what I see too often—untrained, bored, frustrated dogs. Dogs love to work, and they love to please you. When you train your dog, you give him the chance to do both at once. Even that little command to wait for his food—in his mind, your dog is working.
I’m not a dog trainer, animal behavioralist or anything like that. I’m someone who has owned dogs all their lives, loves dogs and wants to see them happy. I’m also one of those people you will see on the trail with their two dogs walking nicely at my heel, off leash. **GASP**
Yes, I know you need to leash your dogs on the trail, but I trained mine to walk obediently—stress OBEDIENTLY— off leash. It took time and effort on all our parts to get to that point. And it’s not my dogs snapping and snarling at other dogs. They don’t rush off after wildlife, destroy vegetation or pay any attention to your dog. They’re with me, they’re working and we’re all happy. But we went through a lot of basic obedience training before I even tried walking off-leash. For most people. I would suggest you stick with the basics.
So, what do I mean by basic obedience training? No jumping through hoops, or leaping after frisbees. I mean these commands:
- Come on command
- Lie Down
The advantage to basic obedience training is not only that they do all those things (and you can name the commands whatever works for you and your dogs, just be consistent), it makes them a better stimulated, easier to manage pet. They know their place, and they like it there. Let’s go back to the wolf to illustrate my point. Wolves accept the hierarchy. There is an Alpha male and female, and what they say goes. The Alpha is not always the strongest dog in the pack, but the most effective hunter. It’s only when another dog fancies itself as stronger than the Alpha that trouble starts.
Most big dog owners I know, get this about their dogs A 200-pound rottweiler can do a whole lot of damage. It’s important for them to understand who’s boss, and never question it. But fluffily, farting Snowflake is as much a wolf as Rottie. That cute furball sitting on your couch and growling at anyone who comes near—she thinks she’s Alpha, or at least vying for that position. It wouldn’t be nearly as cute if 200-pound Rottie was on your couch doing that, now would it?
And just as an aside: your dog should NEVER growl at you, not even over food. These YouTube videos of people laughing about their growling dog—don’t get me started. Growling can be a sign of dominant aggression. And a dog that bites its owner is all too often a lost cause. Unfortunately, by the time the dog gets to that point, there is not much you can do. You should have done the work earlier and helped your dog-friend out, and helped him know his place in the pack. Before I move on from training, let me also say poor breeding can also lead to a lost-cause dog. Pitbulls, for example, suffer too much from irresponsible breeding. A pitbull in the right home, with the right training is probably one of the most WONDERFUL AND LOYAL dogs of all.
WHERE’S MY PACK AT?
Dogs are pack animals. They thrive in the pack, and feel secure amongst it. You are your dogs pack. When his pack is around him, everything is cool in Dogland. How often does your dog lie close to where you’re working? Mine spend their day at my feet or following me around. And FYI, if you’re considering more than one dog, do it. I have two golden retrievers and they’re not double trouble. When the rest of the pack is off doing life, the dogs keep each other company. I wouldn’t recommend two puppies at the same time. Get one dog through house-training, and basic obedience, and then get the second. Again, take into account your dog’s personality. If you have a submissive dog, a dominant will be fine. My female, Rosie, is clearly the dominant dog in our house, even though Jack, the male, outweighs her by 50lbs and could take her in a fight. Rosie is top dog, so another female would be a bad idea. If I were to get a third dog, it would be a submissive male. A breeder or a good rescue center will help you work out the dog dynamics
I’M NOT A PERSON
Your dog is a dog is a dog is a dog. It is not a person. It does not belong tucked in your handbag, sitting at your dinner table or on your lap as you drive. Let me deal with the driving thing first because it makes me want to go postal. If you have an accident the dog on your lap will take the impact for both of you and will go straight through the windscreen. The fact that you are distracted by a dog on your lap, increases your chances of having that accident. Do us, and your dog a favor and put your dog securely in the back of the car.
Dogs do not eat human food, it’s not good for their digestive systems or their teeth. Buy a high quality dog food, I get mine from my vet, appropriate for the breed, age and any health issues your dog might have.
Those handbag dogs! EGH! As much as your dog isn’t human, its not an accessory either. The reason those small dogs quiver and quake—insecurity. They have no idea what they are and where they fit in. Treating your dog like a person doesn’t make it a happy dog. Remember, pack animals, hierarchy, is what they understand and are most comfortable with.
I’m going to just go back to the off-leash thing before I finish. Even though I often walk my dogs off-leash, I never do it on a new trail where I don’t know what’s behind the next bend, beside a busy road or close to a lot of small children. Any dog, even the best trained dog can suddenly see another dog they want to beat the crap out of (who knows why?) or go after squirrel or something else that moves fast and looks like prey.
And they do dog stuff—eat gross things, crotch sniff, fart, chew your best pair of shoes…dog stuff!
And there you have it, the four things I think you’re dog needs you to know. There is no better friend than a dog, and I couldn’t imagine my life without a dog in it. Take care of yours and love him like he needs to be loved.