To raise a well-trained dog, you need a great plan. The best ones include communicating with everyone in your family about the basic expectations you have of your dog, the goals you hope to achieve, and the strategies you're ready to use to get there. In short, you need to talk honestly and openly about what to expect from your dog and how you are going to train them – all BEFORE you get your dog.
Having a dog is a lifetime commitment. That's why it is important to understand what's really involved with having one before you make that choice. Take a few minutes to consider what you want from your new dog and how you are going to introduce the dog in your home.
Thinking about the following points can really make the process of getting a dog and helping them transition into their new home a successful and happy process.
- Do you know what to expect from your desired dog breed in terms of energy levels, behavior, temperament, and health needs? Really consider whether this is consistent with what you want in a dog or have time to address.
If you expect to place limits on your dog's behavior (as most people do), you will need to invest time in training your dog. What rules will be in your home?
- Where do you want your dog to sleep (dog bed, child's room, your bed, a crate)?
- Where do you want it to eat (kitchen, laundry room, another room)?
- Will you feed them table scraps?
- Will you tolerate begging? (This answer should be consistent across the family.)
- Will you leash train your dog?
- Do you want your dog to know commands e.g. “sit” or “stay”?
- Do you want to be able to trim your own dog's nails or brush their teeth?
- How will you respond to inappropriate barking, jumping, or nipping behavior?
- Understand the importance of consistency in training and rules. If one person in your family discourages bad behavior and another rewards it, your puppy can easily become confused. For example, if one family member ignores the dog when they bark but another tries to comfort the upset pet, that attention functions as a type of reward and the dog can easily become confused by the inconsistent reaction.
- What is the punishment for bad behavior? One effective and humane way to correct bad behavior is to simply withdraw your attention when your dog behaves in an undesirable way.
- Learn the basics of crate training, including what size crate to purchase and how to make your puppy love the crate. The use of a crate can be a huge help during housetraining and other crucial parts of your dog's training. The time to prepare for crate training is BEFORE you get your puppy so you can start training on day 1.
- What, when, and where will your dog eat? Who is responsible for purchasing the food and feeding the dog?
- Don't forget to think about treats: how many, what kind, and when your dog will get them. Again, it is very important for everyone in the family to stay consistent.
- Who will train the new dog (you, your entire family, a professional trainer)? Who is responsible for any costs incurred?
- Understand the process of housetraining a puppy, especially the amount of time that a puppy can hold their urine. Many owners fail at housetraining their dog because they overestimate how long a puppy can hold their waste. For example, a 4-month-old puppy can only wait about 5 hours before needing to go to the bathroom. If you are going to be gone for 12 hours, it's almost unavoidable that your puppy is going to have an accident.
- Can you afford a dog? To that end, do you know how much having a puppy costs? Really think about this; puppies are expensive and veterinarians constantly see sick puppies and well-intentioned owners that can't afford to treat the problem. Consider the cost of not just food and toys but also routine healthcare, any boarding or training costs, as well as an emergency fund for treating injuries and illnesses. If medical costs are a potential concern, pet insurance is a great option for owners that want the best for their puppy but are on a budget.