Top things to do to have the best dog of your life and be your dog's best friend
Bonding is the first thing to do when you want a great dog and aim to be your dog’s best friend. Some dogs will seem to bond with their owners instantly. Others will take longer to warm up. They need to feel safe to have a good bond. If the dog is afraid of you, it may obey you — but it won’t always do what you want when you are not around. A good way to bond when you first bring a new pet home is to provide a safe, quiet place for the new pup to rest. A crate is preferred by many dog owners. It should be large enough for the pet to walk into, stand up and turn around. A larger crate is not advised because the pet may urinate in a larger space. A dog will normally not urinate or defecate in a smaller crate because they do not like to sleep near their own waste. Crates are cozy to dogs and remind them of dens which are used in the wild to protect them from the elements and other predators. A blanket or cover over the crate increases the feeling of safety for a dog. They do not think of crates as a jail or confinement the way people would. Instead, to a dog, a crate is a safe space that they can go whenever they need a break or a nap. Children should not be allowed in the dog’s crate. A crate is the dog’s space. Do not use a crate to punish a dog. Giving a dog special treats and toys in their crate make this space even more desirable when crate training. I have written a separate article with more details about crateshere.
When you first bring a new dog home, do not smother it with attention. Get on the floor with it. Allow the dog to sniff around a little and come to you. Many dogs are naturally afraid of children. Train the children to be gentle around dogs and to allow the dog to sleep in peace and that the crate is off-limits. A dog that is allowed to spend time in the home with all family members will be better bonded and everything else is easier with a good strong bond.
Exercise is very important to all living creatures. It is especially important for dogs. A dog that does not get regular energy is more nervous and will try to occupy itself in ways that you may not like such as chewing furniture, toys and shoes. Different types of exercise satisfy different needs in animals. Walking a dog is great for building your bond and allows a dog to explore with all the sights and smells. It is also a chance to work on training which is good for dogs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFgtqgiAKoQ Playing fetch and letting the dog run around is also a wonderful thing to do with your dog. It is a different type of exercise. Both are great. One is not better than the other. Some dogs love to learn to play Frisbee or agility. The more you can teach your dog and share with it, the better.
Training is the next building block to create a wonderful dog. Now that you have a good bond and your dog has gotten some exercise, it is ready to learn some potentially life-saving commands. Potty training is a must for any family pet. Teaching your pet to come when called can save their life. Basic obedience training is a wonderful way to teach your pet some basic commands. Many people teach their dogs themselves. There are many wonderful videos on YouTube and online. There is no reason to not teach your pup the basics. The next step in training is to train around other dogs. Once your dog will listen at home, practice in the yard around a few distractions, take them to a park for more distractions. Group classes are wonderful if you find a trainer that uses positive treat-based reinforcement. Scientific studies have shown that the more modern positive reinforcement treat-based training is the most effective to train dogs without increasing aggression. http://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/2012/08/positive-reinforcement-and-dog-training.html
Feeding a good quality diet is common sense. Good quality dog foods can be found at modest prices. Check the labels. The first ingredient should be meat. Many dogs are allergic to grains and chicken. If your dog has diarrhea for longer than two weeks when changing their diet, there may be allergies. Another sign of allergies is excessive paw-licking. Many pets thrive on brands that have fewer ingredients. A popular website to check the comparisons of dog food is http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/ Puppies need three meals per day. Adult dogs need 1–2 meals per day. Measure your dogs food and don’t free feed if your dog might overeat. Plus if your dog is ever sick, it comes in handy to know how much your dog is eating — which you cannot determine accurately when free feeding. Obesity in animals will shorten their lives and reduce their quality of life just like it does in us.
Get your family on the same page. Let everyone in the family know the commands that will be used and the normal daily routines. Dogs thrive on predictable rules and boundaries. The rules of the house must be enforced by all family members. For example, if you do not feed the dog table scraps but one person sneaks them to the dog, the dog's natural instincts to seek food will be conditioned by receiving scraps at the table. This will manifest with a dog that begs and seems obnoxious around meal times. Be consistent. That means everybody. Let the kids practice with obedience training. If the dog doesn’t listen to the children, stand behind the children to help the dog know that they must follow the children's directions just like they follow yours. Make sure the children know how to treat a dog. No kicking, no tail pulling, eye poking, or climbing all over the pet. Sleeping dogs should be allowed to sleep. Even if you trust the dog and the child to be good around each other, never leave children and dogs unsupervised. Also make sure that you and any other adults agree on how to train a dog. If you use positive reinforcement but your partner wants to smack the dog, you will not get great results and you will be frustrated with each other.
Socialization is great for dogs just like it is for us. Dog parks can be great or terrible. It really depends on the park, your dog’s personality, and the other dog at the park. There are a lot of variables that you cannot control. For this reason, the dog park is not my first choice for early socialization with your new pet. Walking around the neighborhood is a great start. Once your pet can walk nicely around the neighborhood, visiting friends with pets is another great way to socialize a new pet. We like to visit friends and so do our pets. Exposing your pets slowly and safely to a wide variety of people and places is great for our dogs. It is never too late. If your pet shows aggression toward new people or places, take a step back and reward them for good calm behavior. Go at your pet’s pace. Don’t take a scared puppy to a dog park as a first outing. You want to take him or her to places that will challenge them but not overwhelm them.
Exploring is another great activity to enjoy with your dog. Most dogs are happy to explore new places. An active dog will enjoy hiking while a less energetic breed will enjoy a car ride or a nice coffee date with their owner. Match the activity to your dog’s energy level. Dogs can make wonderful travel companions. When I adopted my dog, Betty, she was a rescue border collie. The only time she had been in a car was to go to the shelter or the vet. She had never been on a walk with a leash. The leash and the car terrified her. Now she loves to go for walks and is happy to go in the car with me whenever possible because she knows that we just don't go to the vet. We go lots of fun places too. She has traveled cross country many times. She has learned that both are fun and is eager for the adventure.
Commitment is easy for dogs. For people it does not come so naturally. This is something we could learn from our pets. Your dog will never wake up one morning and decide he or she does not love you anymore.
Commit to giving your pet a good life for their entire life. Too many pets end up in shelters because someone thought having a pet was easy. Dogs are not born trained and bonded to you. It takes commitment and the last item on this list…
Patience. Patience. Patience. You will not get your dog trained in a week. You will probably not have a great dog at one year. It will be better at two years though. It will be much better at three years. Then one day when you least expect it, your crazy rescue dog that never listened to you and ate your favorite shoes becomes this really great dog that you can’t wait to spend time with when you get home. Your dog will reflect the amount of time and training that you invest. It happens and it is worth every chewed up shoe and potty accident that you survived to get here.