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 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’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
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?
Choosing the right dog for my family
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.