My 2-Month Crash Course on Raising a PuppyPosted: August 1, 2012
A few of you have asked me what I’ve been up to lately, aside from having a puppy. Which I’ve made abundantly known. Sorry about that, guys.
Funny story about that, actually. Growing up, my parents discovered that I had a tremendous soft spot for animals when I “won” a goldfish from a carnival, brought it home, and subsequently raised it for the next 8 years. No one even knew a carnival fish could grow to be eight years old, but that fish definitely did. Well first, it grew big and gnarly and some of its scales flaked off, but it was still kickin’ til the day it died. When it died, I cried for about two days and buried it in my backyard. Since then, I went through aquariums of fish, about 6 parakeets (white, blue, yellow, green, another blue, then green again, I believe), and I cried and stared out the window for days EVERY FUCKING TIME one either died or flew away. Either way, I was a complete and utter mess when it came to my pets.
Long story short, my parents knew I’d completely fall apart if I got a real pet, (like a dog), so they refrained from getting one until I was in college. I also never had my own dog until now, so this has been a LONG time coming. That said, it’s been about 12 weeks with this little guy named Barley, and he’s become a permanent fixture in my life and my best friend. He’s a needy little best friend, but he’s adorable as hell and I love him to pieces.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! In addition to taking the puppy to class, and puppy social three times a week to get him properly socialized and edumacated, I’ve probably been to every vet in San Francisco. Between his vaccination shots and minor freak outs, I’ve been to five different vets in a matter of 12 weeks. Yes, I am *that* person. I’ve also read two books regarding dog-rearing, How to Raise the Perfect Dog: Through Puppyhood and Beyond, by Cesar Millan, and Cesar’s Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems. To get another perspective, Carlos read Ian Dunbar’s Before and After Getting Your Puppy: The Positive Approach to Raising a Happy, Healthy, and Well-Behaved Dog, so we could discuss the different approaches. We both also listened to The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New Skete, just for good measure.
Maybe this was overkill, but being responsible for this little life stressed me out more than anything in the world. It also became very clear that I had absolutely *no* idea how to train and take care of a puppy. So, between these books, lots of discussions, 6-weeks of puppy class and reading lots and lots of information online, I’d say I have some idea of how to take care of this thing.
That said, here are a few things I have learned:
1. 75% of pet owners are TERRIBLE pet owners. This includes myself, in my previous pet-owning experiences. People tend to use human logic to approach their pets, and they think that’s what’s best for them. But guess what? They’re not humans. I still catch myself projecting sometimes.
2. Your dog IS what he eats. I was skeptical at first, because Ginger (my 10-year old Lab Retriever back home) eats good ol’ Eukanuba kibble and has been totally healthy, plus I am not of the means to splurge on overpriced foods… but after reading tons of studies regarding pet food, here’s what I found: http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-reviews/eukanuba-labrador-retriever/ Most of the “healthy” pet food found in regular pet stores are complete crap. http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com is a good third party review site that rates each type of dog food and breaks down its ingredients. Most of these brands stay competitively affordable by adding a bunch of corn, wheat, and rice into it which makes dogs fat and gassy. But that’s not the worst of it. According to this article, corn fillers are the least of your worries. Literal garbage, euthanized animals, and animal by-products including animals waste, and litter feed (chicken shit) can be sanitized and ground up to be put into pet products as “beef or chicken.” No joke. I read this article in disbelief, so I looked into the FDA site which essentially told me that they don’t regulate pet food at all. Think about the crap humans eat these days, which the FDA regulates, and imagine what kind of literal crap pets eat when they don’t have *any* FDA regulation.
I’ll get off my soap box about this, but if there’s anything I have learned, it’s this: FEED YOUR DOG A QUALITY, GRAIN-FREE DIET. I promise it’ll make the biggest difference in the world. After switching Barley from a high quality kibble (Blue Buffalo Premium) to a raw diet (Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw), his poops have been completely solid and doesn’t smell NEARLY as bad, he’s been much more active, alert, and engaged. We also give him raw bones to gnaw on, and this cleans his teeth so we don’t have to brush them. Vet says he’s a bill of health, and he doesn’t smell like crap either. Also, no allergies. I really think spending the money upfront on good food will save us on vet bills in the long run. This is important.
3. It’s all about energy management. If your dog is a terror and a pain in the ass all the time, you’re doing it wrong. 99% of the time, it means your dog has too much pent up energy and needs exercise. Get off your ass and take him on a walk or engage him on mental exercises to drain some of that energy. It makes the biggest difference in the world. This matters regardless of breed, but breed matters. Barley goes out on a walk or a dog park 2-3 times a day, and luckily it tires him out. Bulldogs are known to be lazy little mofos, but even still, Barley needs about an hour each day to simply be a dog outside. Other breeds need more. Get a dog that has a lot less energy than you. Even if you think you’re an active person, you are no match for an active dog. Trust me on this.
4. Dogs are the best companions in the world. Seriously. I mean, I have never had a cat so I can’t say they’re not great companions, but I honestly can’t imagine a cat can make me laugh as much as my dog has. There is a reason dogs are “(wo)man’s best friend” since the beginning of time, and why, despite all the stress, effort, and friends threatening to end our friendship due to my obsession over my dog, it’s all worth it.
Oh, and PS. If you’ve read this far you’re a good friend. I have a solo art show coming up in October and a new social media client that I’m really excited about. More on that in other (less long and obnoxious, fingers crossed) posts.