Five Things Every Dog Owner Should Know!
Owning a puppy is not an easy job. It's a full-time responsibility that requires patience, understanding and consistency. I wish I would have known those key factors when deciding to buy my Husky, Niko.
Before buying my adorable little guy, I did months of research on everything from training to caring for dogs. What I should have included in my research is the actual breed... this is how I ended up with one of the most difficult breeds to own. Don't get me wrong, Huskies are loving and fun and sweet and definitely among the most beautiful of breeds, but they are high-energy and very independent.
I wish I could say that Niko was different, that he was easy, but the truth is, he's exactly like every other Husky out there... energetic, independent, stubborn and way too smart for his own good! So what's different? Our relationship. There is a mutual respect between the two of us that has grown through my many mistakes and successes as a dog owner. If you are thinking of buying a puppy or currently own one, this article is for you! Here are five steps that will change your life as a dog owner. Enjoy!
Crate training is a popular method used to potty train dogs and keep them from tearing up the house in your absence. At first, I didn't want to try this method. I thought it was kind of mean to keep your dog in a cage at night.... When we reached the four-month mark and Niko still hadn't learned to whole go-outside-to-potty thing, I decided that I would have to give crate training a try.
To start, I put the crate in a quiet spot in the house. I left the door open and let Niko explore. If you try this, DO NOT close the door. Let your puppy explore and get used to the crate. Another helpful idea is to give your pup treats so that it associates the crate with a positive safe space. Another extremely effective way to make the crate a "happy place" for your puppy, is never to scold it when it's in the crate. Think of it as your dog's safe space. If you do, the dog will see it the same way.
I was a little unsure of using the crate but quickly became a believer when Niko became potty trained in a WEEK! Every time I let him out of his crate, we would immediately go outside and he would go potty. Every time he did I would praise him like crazy and give him treats. This magical method really is that simple. Why does it work? Animals will not soil the area in which they sleep so the puppy learns to wait until it can go outside to potty. Make sure that the crate is big enough for the pup to stand up and turn around in, but not so big that it has somewhere to potty in the crate.
If you're like me and you don't want to shell out money every time your dog grows a little bit you can go to PetSmart or Amazon and find crate dividers there. This will allow you to gradually expand the puppy's crate as it grows AND it'll save you some money!
Crate Divider from Amazon
Consistency Is Key!
One of the things I hear all of the time when Niko and I are out is, "He's such a well-behaved Husky!"
Now, as a dog owner, that's music to my ears especially because I've worked consistently to make sure that Niko is well trained. You may not have the time or the inclination to teach your dog all sorts of commands, but training is VERY important for a number of reasons. It's a great way to bond with your dog and to show them that you are the alpha leader in the pack. Remember, dogs are pack animals and as they grow in your home they try to figure out where they fit into the pack...it's important that they see YOU as the head honcho. Training is also important because if your dog is going to be large, that boundless unharnessed energy will make life difficult if you don't put in the time to teach your dog what is acceptable!
Niko has become my pride and joy in the training department. Don't get me wrong, he can't ride a bicycle and juggle bowling pins or anything...but he knows quite a bit! I stuck with the commands that are useful and it's really made things easier as he gets bigger. Sit, stay, come, lie down and no, are the most important things your dog should know. Once you teach these things you have to constantly reinforce them....puppies forget! One of the most important things I've learned is that consistency is the most vital aspect of training. If I tell Niko to, "sit", and he decides to go lay down in the kitchen, I have to continue stay on him until he performs the action. Now, it can be tiring and at first I felt like I was nagging the poor guy to death but my consistency has paid off! Nikos has learned that if I tell him to do something, he's not off the hook until he does it.
Treat time is a great time to practice commands. It's also a good idea to do little mini training sessions two or three times a day. These sessions only have to last five to ten minutes because you can imagine that a puppy's attention span is almost non-existent! If you're looking for more ideas on exactly HOW to train your dog, check out YouTube. These videos are great for showing the step-by-step process.
Every breed is different and requires different kinds of attention. Huskies are a very high energy breed just like Australian Shepherds and Terriers, and they need plenty of space and time to run and play. It seems pretty simple, but this is a key component of a well-behaved dog. If you allow your dog to play and use its energy in a positive way, it'll be much better in the training and obedience department. At a minimum, you want to give your dog an hour of playtime or running time a day.
Play time is also a great time to practice recall. Have you ever seen someone (or maybe you've been that someone) who is running after their dog screaming its name? Well, recall might be just the thing to teach your dog. It's very simple but it'll take some dedication and time. At first, I used to get so frustrated when I'd take Niko out back and he wouldn't come back inside when we were done playing.... I would physically have to pick him up and bring him inside. That worked well enough when he was a puppy but at 60 lbs and still growing, that simply won't do! What I began to do was offer him treats to get him to come inside... this is a great way to START but not something that is reliable. Once your dog knows its name and, for a treat, will come when called, you can start to try it without one. This will teach your dog to come because you called, not just because there's something in it for them. If you don't have a back yard, find a wide open space and use a very long training line. I promise that this will pay off in the end! Niko, by nature, is a runner and luckily we worked on this extensively so the few times that he's escaped or been off of his leash, he came back immediately. It truly is a life saver.
Play time is also a great reward. I have a special toy that Niko loves (it's just a rubber ring but he's obsessed with it!) and when it comes out he knows it's time to PLAY! His excitement over the toy has been a great way to incorporate training into play time.
The Dreaded Leash
Before I owned a Husky, I secretly judged those people whose dogs were walking them, instead of the other way around.... What I quickly realized is that Huskies are the WORST when it comes to this. Think about it, they're sled dogs, they love to pull! I decided that Niko would be the exception and, with a lot of walks around the neighborhood, he does very well on his leash!
To start, simply hook your dog up on its leash, preferably in the house, and let the dog get used to it. It'll probably sniff and eventually become uninterested. Next, you can pick the leash up and start walking with your dog around the house. At first, you'll probably experience a little frenzied puppy but eventually the dog will get used to the guided house tour. Your posture is extremely important. Make sure that you stand up straight, look ahead (not at the dog!) and walk quickly and confidently.
This all worked well inside the house but going outside is always a different story. There are so many sights and sounds and smells OH MY! Your puppy will inevitably be on an the hunt for adventure and pulling ahead of you in no time. When this happens, simply stop. This, over time, will teach your dog that patience is the key to getting where it wants to go. Remember, the more you take your dog for walks the better the dog will be. Stay consistent in your commands and don't allow the dog to pull you along. Some people have done the stop, walk a few steps in the opposite direction, and then continue on your walk method. This teaches the dog that if it pulls to get to the next tree or exciting mailbox, it'll take twice as long to get there than if it just has patience.
You Are What You Eat, So Is Your Puppy!
Feeding your puppy seems pretty simple, right? You go to the grocery store, find the "dog food" aisle and select a food package depicting a happy pooch frolicking in a wide open field. Simple. Or so I thought....
I didn't pay much attention to what Niko was eating until I took him to get groomed for the first time. He was shedding like crazy and, even though I brush him, he still needs a good grooming once every few months. When I got there, the groomer immediately asked me what he ate....I was embarrassed because I couldn't seem to answer the question. As I stammered on she finally revealed to me that what my dog eats can directly contribute to how much he sheds. I seriously had no idea! And this little factoid can be true for all sorts of things... food can impact their joints, fur, skin, vision, muscular health and even their mental clarity. So I went home and took a look at the ingredients.... I was essentially feeding my dog McDonald's every day. Now, I love a good cheeseburger but only once in awhile I couldn't believe that's what Niko had been getting every day, TWICE a day!
I went to the pet store the next day and started really looking at the options out there. What I found is that, just like with human food, eating right can be expensive!!! I'm not going to lie to you and say that I feed my dog the most expensive, all natural, all organic dog food, but I have made smarter decisions since that fateful day. My favorite brand is Rachel Ray's dog food line. I know, it seems silly, but for the price, the ingredients are pretty good and I've noticed a definite change in Niko's coat and shedding. If I have one shred of advice, try to use brands where the first ingredient is chicken or fish or at least something that you can pronounce!
Happy Puppy Parenting!
I hope you enjoyed reading some of the things I've learned as a novice puppy owner and that you can use some of the information here! Owning a dog is a big responsibility but it pays off! Dogs are wonderful animals and can be a fantastic addition to any family.
Enjoy your puppy and please feel free to add any tips or ideas you may have in the comments below!