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What I’ll Do Differently With Our Next Dog

The greatest thing that Baxter taught me was that I’m a dog person. I always knew he wasn’t going to be my one-and-only dog. During this time between dogs, I’m taking some time to think and plan for the next addition to our family (in addition to being a dog person, I’m an organized, analytical, planful person).

One of the things I’m finding helpful is to think about what I’d like to do differently with our next dog and what I hope will stay the same.

I’d appreciate your input as well. What do you do when you’re thinking of getting a new dog? What changes have you made—for better or worse—with the dogs that have been part of your families?

What I'll do differently with our next dog

What I’ll do the same with our next dog

Adopt our dog – We went the adoption route with Baxter and could not have found a more perfect dog for us. I know that we can find the right dog for us again through adoption. I’m not picky about breed or sex. I want a big (not giant) dog with short hair. And she/he needs to obviously get along with our two-year-old daughter, Ellie. Adoption also makes sense for us because we are not looking for a puppy.

Choose an older dog – I still have no desire to go through the puppy stage. Maybe someday. But for now, I like the idea of adopting an older, but still young dog. Ideally, I’m looking for a dog around 3 years old. Still young enough to hopefully have good health and a long life with us.

Select for energy level – I have written before how low energy Baxter was. For us, it made him a very easy dog to live with. I know that I do not have enough energy to properly care for a high energy dog.

I like to do two walks a day, mixed with some longer walks or off-leash hikes. But, like most of us, some days it’s hard to juggle walking the dog with everything else that I have to do (especially while single-parenting an independent-minded two-year-old). I need a dog who can adapt to the activities we’re doing on a given day.

What I would do differently with our next dog

What I’ll do differently with our next dog

Prioritize “good with children” – The big difference from the last time we adopted a dog, is that we now have a child. Ellie loves animals and is very well-behaved and gentle with them. But kids are still freaky to some dogs.

Bax was described as good with children, but it wasn’t a huge concern to us as we didn’t have little kids in our life when we adopted him. And after a few years of not being around children, Bax struggled sometimes with little kids (though he eventually became rock solid with Ellie). I am not expecting rock solid right away, but whatever dog we bring into our house needs to be very, very okay with Ellie.

See our post: Adopting a dog when you have kids

What I will do differently with our next dog

Train recall – Bax was not always the best at coming when we called him. He was pretty well-trained and very well-behaved. But if he wasn’t in the mood—and he was independent minded—or if his prey drive kicked in, we sometimes couldn’t make him come. Come is such a critical command. Something I will do differently with our next dog is do a better job of training recall.

Invest in good food – For most of our time with Baxter, we fed him kibble. At first, we started with a bargain brand, but when he seemed to be itchy, we upgraded to a better quality kibble. Towards the end of his life when we were struggling with a mystery illness, we switched to a raw diet. I feel there are benefits to a raw diet, and it’s something I’d like to give to our next dog.

Skip the training class – This one is a maybe. We loved our trainer and felt that the classes we took helped us a lot with Bax. However, I took very detailed notes during our classes, and I also learned a lot with Bax. I feel like I should be able to replicate at least some of the training on my own. But class creates a level of commitment that I can’t replicate. And training is so important for bonding. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do. I feel like a lot will depend on the dog that we get. For other second time dog owners, do you do training classes with your subsequent dogs?

Use our outdoor dog run – Our original plan was to give Bax some freedom and fresh air on days when we weren’t at home by putting him in an outdoor dog run on our property. Bax vehemently vetoed that plan when he hated the dog run and constantly escaped. I still feel it’s a nice place to spend the day, so I’m hoping to try again with our new dog.

Crate train – Bax was never crate trained, and we didn’t really miss it. (There was one separation anxiety-esque incident in his early days, but it never happened again.) He had the run of the house every day, and it worked out fine. But I can see benefits of being able to crate my dog, so it’s something I’m considering.

Each dog is different. So I know that my experience with Baxter will not transfer entirely to our new dog. But I’m hoping that as a slightly more experienced dog owner, I can provide a good home for another dog. And that with a bit of thought, we can find the right dog for our family.

What advice do you the rest of you have?

What would you do differently with your next dog? What have you kept the same for all of your dogs?

Related articles:

Choosing the right dog for my family

How to choose the right dog

Julia Preston writes for That Mutt about dog behavior and training, working dogs and life on her farm in Ontario, Canada. She has a sweet, laid-back boxer mix named Baxter. She is also a blogger at Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and DIY renovating.

Barbara Rivers

Thursday 17th of September 2020

That's so funny that Baxter taught you that you're a dog person because that's exactly what my first pups Missy and Buzz taught me as well. The main difference between them and my current pup Wally is that I'm more relaxed with him. I remember that I wanted to do everything perfectly with Missy and Buzz, being a new and inexperienced dog owner.

Now I'm like "oh, you threw up and want to eat it again? Sure, go right ahead. Bon appétit." Before I would have stressed out over the fact that one of the pups threw up and would have tried my best to keep them from eating it.

What has remained the same is their type of coat, lol. I knew I wanted a wash 'n go kinda coat and no long fur that requires a ton of maintenance and cleaning up after. The food I'm feeding is also the same - I made the switch from kibble to raw with Missy & Buzz, and immediately switched Wally over to raw as well after I adopted him.

I took a basic obedience class with Missy and Buzz, but haven't done that yet with Wally. I still want to though! I liked that it was an opportunity for socializing with other pups and people, and that I got objective feedback from the trainer.

I'm looking forward to finding out all about your new furry friend once you'll bring him or her into your lives, Julia!

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 17th of September 2020

I prefer shorter coats as well! Haha. My family had golden retrievers and while their fur is not "that" long, even that seems like a lot of work. With Remy, the dirt just sort of falls off. So sorry, some of the comments have been going to trash and that's where yours was. I always check my trash so that's why it took awhile for your comment to appear.

King Charles Spaniel

Tuesday 15th of September 2020

After my first dog died, I couldn't buy a new puppy for a long time. My first dog was a true friend of mine. We walked a lot together, he even slept with me. However, three years later I realized that my first dog could not be returned and bought a new puppy. But I will always remember Kenny, my first dog. I still have our photo together and I often mention Kenny.

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 15th of September 2020

Hi Julia, I know most people don't take their dogs to training classes but I prefer to take all my dogs to at least a basic training class. I really enjoy the classes but I do think it helps the dog work with distractions and learn to focus with other dogs and people around. I'm just not able to replicate that in the real world in a safe way. But mostly I just enjoy the classes! (I'm sure you'd be fine if you didn't do the classes as most people don't.)

When we get another dog, I plan to start training for agility and hunting earlier. With Remy, I started agility when he was 2 and we just started bird dog training this year and he is 4. I would also like to see if I can train our next dog not to jump on people as a puppy (by being firm about not allowing it & telling people to ignore or stick a knee out). Remy has a terrible jumping habit that's difficult to correct at 4 years old.


Wednesday 16th of September 2020

I feel the same way about group classes! I want my dogs to be able to focus on me and the task at hand regardless of who or what is around. My trainer offers outdoor classes, and those have been fantastic for this. My poor puppy is in 2 puppy kindergartens at the moment (2 weeks of overlap between the initial indoor class and the outdoor class), and I think this is going to be a huge help for him, especially when we think toward outdoor search areas.


Tuesday 15th of September 2020

One of the big differences between our first and second dogs is that my first dog was very much planned (a year in advance), and my puppy was very much NOT. His litter was announced, I knew the dam well and what she brought to the table, and a long talk with my breeder and the description of the sire led me down the path of, “I need a puppy from this breeding.” Three months later, I brought him home.

Our basic structure is much the same, but these two are different dogs and what works for my puppy aren’t all the same things that worked for my older girl. Even taking into account that he isn’t our first, he’s an easier puppy than she was. My older dog was a gregarious breed ambassador during her puppyhood. My puppy has more of the shepherd aloofness and prefers to assess before deciding to make friends. We socialize him with more exposure and fewer meet and greets. (This dovetails with my preference for a more handler-focused sport prospect anyway.)

We are doing group training classes with him, partly because we have wonderful and ongoing relationships with our trainers and enjoy taking classes, and partly for that exposure; pandemic socialization also looks different from pre-pandemic. Plus, they’ve evolved as trainers in the last six years and we benefit from that growth as well. I would personally encourage a good group class if you have a trainer you trust, just because it’s another set of eyes on your dog and an ally in any troubleshooting.

As for sports: The puppy was purchased specifically for Nosework/scent work, with a goal of trialing at a high level. My older dog didn’t get into the sport until she was 2 and we didn’t start trialing until she was 4. I plan to start a Nosework foundation with the puppy next year or so. I’d like his foundation to be in place by the time he’s 2, versus just starting out, so even if we don’t trial until he’s 4, he has that much more training under his belt.

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 15th of September 2020

Thank you so much for sharing all of this. I was hoping to hear from you! I'm sorry your comment went to "trash" the first time. My website has been randomly putting real comments in the trash, so that's why they seem to "disappear" from your end. But I do see them (and make them live) so you don't have to re-type them. They just won't go live right away. I'm sorry about that issue!


Tuesday 15th of September 2020

Julia, I honestly agree with all points in the article. I love the fact that you want your next dog through adoption same as you got your Baxter. God bless people like you :) What would you do differently with your next dog? - I would definitely give her much more of my free time and much more attention.