I have some very fond memories of my dog "Sparky" when I was a kid. She followed me everywhere; if I was riding bikes with friends or playing in the woods, she would follow us. If I went into a friends house, she would wait in front of their house for hours until I came back outside. She was by my side nearly every second I was home. She even stayed next me outside as I waited for the school bus each morning. When I got onto the bus, she would wander off to hangout with the other dogs in the neighborhood. Back in those days, the community seemed a lot closer and we all knew each other. All the neighbors were our friends and most of them had pets, so it was common to see dogs just walking down the road together. No one called the police, no one complained, and nobody got mad about it. If there was a leash law, no one paid attention to it when I was growing up. Life in that way was much less complicated then it is today, but it seemed especially easy to have a dog through the eyes of a 8 year old boy, who never cleaned-up the puke, fed the dog, or brought him to the vet. Also, I was so young when my parents got her that I didn't remember what she was like as puppy. The peeing on the floor, the whimpering, non-stop high energy, etc. All I remembered was the perfect dog that followed me everywhere.
In 2006, when Heidi and I brought home our first pug "Shakka" (see picture), I was stunned at how much work she was, how little we knew about having a dog, and how difficult the puppy phase was. If you're a first time dog owner or it's been 10 years or so since you've had a puppy, here is some general advice for training, common puppy issues, do's and don'ts, and recommendations for products and insurance.
Advice on training: Start working on gaining their attention
This video is a perfect demonstration of that. To give you context, there are about four people next to me, and the dog is a 10-week-old Belgian Malinois puppy (the daughter of Tony’s dog Gregor). Tony (Our Schutzhund Trainer) is moving around the building and rewarding the puppy each time she gives him attention. Notice how animated and excited Tony sounds when she gives him attention and returns to him; To the puppy, Tony is the most exciting and rewarding thing in the environment. You’ll see she does get distracted and starts to explore but notice that Tony doesn’t call to her. Instead, He waits for her to realized there’s nothing more interesting in that building other than him. After she explores, she realizes Tony is more exciting than the thing she’s sniffing, and she sprints back to him. He did just that activity for about 5 minutes (video only show the end). Tony is establishing that the best things come from him! If that is true, why would the dog pay attention to anything else? Think about it !!!
There is one thing no trainer on this planet can help you with. It’s really something very personal between the dog and the owner, and it holds so many people back from having a trained dog. Yet, it’s really the easiest thing to work on and you can start working on it right now with only 5-10 minute a day of training. You should work on building your dog’s attention to you.
People always say, it’s so hard to train my dog because they’re so easily distracted. In a training class, they want to play with the other dogs. At home, they run after the kids. Outside, they want to run and chase everything that moves. They’re constantly sniffing around and not focusing on me.
Attention (i.e., sometimes referred to as “engagement” or “Relationship”) to the owner is the backbone of all training. It’s more important than sit, stay, down, etc. Those are just commands, but those commands mean nothing if your dog isn’t paying attention to you. Attention should be the very first thing you teach your dog. You need to establish that you are the most exciting thing they will ever encounter and giving you attention is good.
Be exciting and animated with your dog in order to keep their attention. Most dogs (and certainly puppies) will interact with the most rewarding and exciting thing in their environment. Be the most interesting thing in the room, and your dog will focus on you. when they pay attention to you, reward them with special treats, their favorite toy, or some play time. Simply do the exercise in this video for just 5-10 minutes a day and your dog will become more interested in you than the other distractions around them. You’ll establish that nothing they’ll find anywhere is more rewarding than you. If you do this enough (and find the right reward), you'll eventually establish that ALL GOOD THINGS COME FROM YOU! If that's established, Training your dog on commands (e.g., sit, stay, come, etc.) becomes so much easier, especially in a group class with other distractions.
Pet Insurance has become very popular these days. Back when we had Shakka, it really didn't exist or wasn't really cost effective. However, I wish we did have it back then. When Shakka was only 2 1/2 years old, she had a pancreatic attacked that took her from us. It was one of the worst nights of my life. It was so sudden. She was perfectly fine one minute, and near death's door the next. After a night at the animal hospital, she wasn't able to pull through and passed in the early hours of the morning.
On top of our grief, we had a $2,000 bill to pay. I would have gladly paid that amount to bring her back home happy and healthy. However, that wasn't the case. She was gone, and we had a large bill on top of it; a bill that we paid with our credit card. Going forward, we'll always have pet insurance. It will give you piece of mind when the unexpected happens.
Trupanion Pet Insurance
The Trupanion policy reimburses 90% of covered veterinary costs that arise from a pet getting sick or injured. Reimbursement is based on the actual cost a veterinarian charges for diagnostic testing, surgeries, medications, hospitalizations, supplements, prescription pet foods, orthotic devices, prosthetic devices, carts, and other treatments, less the exam fee and sales tax where applicable.* The policy includes coverage for hereditary and congenital conditions as well.
Coverage applies to supplements and prescription pet foods prescribed by and purchased through a veterinarian for the treatment of injuries and illnesses.
They cover ½ of the cost of prescription pet foods for up to two months of feeding.
What is not covered?
Any applicable taxes
Wellness and preventive care (parasite control, spay/neuter, vaccinations)
Certain alternative therapies and treatment types are also excluded unless the Recovery and Complementary Care Rider* is added to the policy prior to the onset of any condition to be treated with the alternative therapies. See applicable policy overview for details.
Flea and Tick Protection
Back in the day when I had Sparky as a kid, the only flea and tick protection came in the form of a collar. The collar smelled really bad like chemicals. Nowadays, you get it it in the form of a liquid that you apply just once a month. After the liquid drys, there isn't any smell and it provides protection for 30 days.
Not only does Tick and flea prevention keep your pet healthy, but it saves you time and money in the long run, potentially dealing with infestations or worse, tick related disease. Not only will your dog be in serious discomfort (think itching, dermatitis, etc) but your home will be at risk as well.
Infestation in your home is the biggest reason to get flea and tick protection. While adult fleas are the ones doing the bloodsucking, the adult insects are the least of your worries. It’s the eggs, larvae, and pupae that can cause the real problem. Adult fleas and ticks can be killed relatively easily, but eggs and larva are almost impossible to detect until it’s too late. They hide in carpets, yards and various other places causing a very expensive exterminator bill.