Getting a new puppy is a chance to start fresh and take everything I’ve learned about dogs in the last 30 years and apply it.
I’ve given my 10-year-old dog Ace a good life, but there are some areas I’ve learned I could’ve done better.
The following are 6 of my goals for our puppy (he’s now 9 months old!) based on what I know today.
The way I raise my puppy does not have to be the way you would raise yours, but I’m hoping these ideas will inspire you. I’ve ranked these in order of importance with #1 being the most important for me personally.
We won’t all agree with this list, so chime in with your ideas in the comments. Do you think I have it right? Are there others you would add?
How to give your puppy the best life possible
#1. Lots of consistent exercise.
Exercise is my number one top priority with my dogs beyond providing basic needs.
The number one behavioral problem with dogs in the United States is pent-up energy. The number one health problem? Being FAT.
I have done an excellent job exercising my dog Ace over the years. Hell, I even started a dog running business as my full-time job.
It goes without saying that hiking, running and walking with our young dog is my top priority. It’s the easiest way to improve his behavior, keep him socialized and keep him fit.
#2. Training and socialization.
Training is another area I’ve done really well with Ace. A trained dog gets to experience more and live a more fulfilling life.
I’ve spent thousands of hours working on the basics with Ace, taking him to training classes and challenging him. Because of this, I can take him almost anywhere.
A trained dog is also capable of being left home alone without destroying the house and he can be trusted meeting new people and other dogs.
A trained dog is less likely to end up re-homed or in a shelter.
I believe a raw dog food diet is the healthiest option for most dogs because we’re talking real, fresh food in its natural form. Dogs are meat eaters!
We can’t control everything, but a healthy diet is one thing we can control.
I introduced Ace to a raw diet when he was about 5 years old. He’s had some trial and error as I learned how to feed homemade raw and whether or not it would work to mix dry dog food (kibble) with raw. Today, he’s back on a high-quality kibble diet because of some health issues.
I’m not comfortable feeding my senior dog a raw diet, however, a raw diet is the way to go for most healthy dogs such as our puppy Remy. You can read my list of pros and cons to a raw food diet here.
#4. Brushing the dog’s teeth.
I don’t brush Ace’s teeth, and I know I don’t provide him with enough things to chew either. So I’ve failed with him in this department.
Thankfully, his teeth don’t seem that bad most likely because of a good diet and the luck of the draw with genetics.
I do plan to start brushing our puppy’s teeth every day in addition to providing him things to chew daily like bully sticks and Nylabones.
This year I learned I will spend just about anything possible on my dog, and I don’t want to be in a position again of choosing between a lot of debt vs. not helping my dog.
For good and for bad, the veterinary health care industry is becoming a lot like the human health care industry.
While I’m glad there are treatment options available to pets that were not available in the past, the costs are skyrocketing. I learned this year that specialty veterinary hospitals charge A LOT because they know people have pet insurance now and will pay it. I believe some of these hospitals are taking advantage of pet owners and pet insurance companies. (This will have to be a future post.)
I wish I could fight this system by not buying pet insurance but that is no longer a gamble I’m willing to take with my pets.
I’m looking for accident/illness coverage, not routine care coverage. Any suggestions?
#6. Titer testing instead of over-vaccinating.
My dog Ace has always received the recommended vaccinations for our area, which is a rabies booster every three years and a Parvo/distemper combo every two.
Obviously I want my dog to be protected from these diseases, but the research says most dogs are immune for several years after their initial round of vaccinations as puppies. Some are protected for life! Meanwhile, vaccinations can have negative side effects over time and some dogs can have immediate reactions to them.
So the best alternative is a titer test, which is a blood test that measures the concentration of specific antibodies. Learn more here.
I was not able to afford this option with Ace. Titer tests are more expensive than vaccinations, but I’m going to make this more of a priority with our pup when possible.
While this post is focused on puppies, many of the above are things we can all start applying or considering for our dogs no matter what their ages are. It’s easy to sit back and say “should’ve done this” or “should’ve done that.”
Truth is, we can make changes with most things at any point in our dogs’ lives.
A dog’s digging is one of those habits that’s really hard to break unless you can supervise your dog every time he’s in the yard.
In this post, I’ll go over how I would stop a dog from digging in the yard as well as how to train your dog to dig in one, specific area.
If you’re dealing with a dog that digs, it helps to ask yourself three questions:
1. Why is my dog digging?
Usually it’s out of boredom and the habit can be fixed by increasing exercise and interaction. Other times, it’s a habit linked to a strong prey drive.
2. Is the digging really a big deal?
Can’t you just put up with some holes in your yard and muddy paws?
Some people can. Some really can’t.
3. Would you be OK with providing your dog a specific place to dig?
Like his own sandbox?
If your dog were actually trained to dig only in that one area, would you be OK with that?
Now I’ll go over both options: Teaching the dog to dig in his own area and teaching the dog NOT to dig at all.
First, here are some reasons why dogs dig:
It’s fun! Wooo! It’s a natural way to release energy.
Instincts – Some dogs are bred for digging and have a prey drive!
It helps them cool off on hot days by digging into the cooler dirt
A response to excitement! (See above, “It’s fun!”)
A way to deal with boredom, nothing else to do
Trying to bury bones or toys
How to teach a dog to dig in one area
This is as simple as putting together a sandbox for your dog and then encouraging him to play and dig in that area.
The best way to do this is to simply engage with your dog in that area and reward him for playing/digging in the sand box while preventing him from digging in other areas until he learns.
You can do things like:
Place his toys in the sandbox & play with him there
Hide treats and toys in the sand and play “Find it”
Teach him a command like “Where’s your box?” or simply “Box”
How the heck do I make a sandbox?
Buy a plastic sandbox designed for kids and fill it with sand for your dog. These typically come with a cover so you could keep cats and other animals out of it at night. Others just fill a cheap, plastic pool with sand.
Another option is to build a sandbox with lumber placed in a square and fastened together. My parents built me a sandbox like this one when I was a kid. It was awesome!
How to stop a dog from digging.
You might be thinking, there’s no way in hell I’m building my dog a sand box! I understand.
My method for stopping a dog from digging goes like this:
Reduce freedom and supervise.
Prevent unwanted behavior by re-direction.
Reward good behavior.
Very slowly increase freedom as the dog is successful.
(Weird, it’s the same as potty training … and teaching a dog pretty much any concept.)
But first things first – make sure your dog is getting enough exercise and general obedience training!
By reducing freedom, I mean supervising your dog at all times in the yard temporarily. Leave him indoors while you’re not home and put him on a long leash when you’re in the yard together.
2. Re-direct his attention and praise.
With a long leash (20 feet+), you can “reel him in” as needed and re-direct his attention away from digging.
Calmly say “no” if he is about to dig, and then re-direct him to something appropriate like playing with a toy or lying in the grass. Reward him for good behavior with treats and praise.
3. Give him other things to do and reward him.
I recommend treat-dispensing, puzzle toys or Kong-type toys, assuming your dog is not going to try to bury the toy! You can also hide treats around the yard and play “find it.”
4. Slowly increase freedom as your dog is successful.
Do this in small steps. For example, after a few days of keeping your dog on the long leash, try dropping the leash but remaining in the yard with your dog.
Then, maybe a week later, remove the leash completely but stay in the yard with your dog (possibly carrying highly valued treats). Then, leave him outside alone but watch him from a window.
The key is not to increase freedom too quickly. Don’t leave your dog in the yard when you’re not home until he’s been successful for a few weeks with closer monitoring.
Other ways to stop a dog’s digging
Use an e-collar.
Some people will say they would never resort to punishment when a dog is digging. That’s fine. Others are so frustrated with their dogs they really need to put a stop to the behavior very quickly.
An e-collar with a remote can be helpful because you can correct your dog very clearly and instantly reward him for stopping. It also allows you to be standing indoors watching from a window. Most dogs should only need one or two corrections to learn not to dig in the yard.
Putting your dog’s poop in the hole!
I have not tried this method but it always comes up. Basically, when your dog is not looking you fill his usual digging spot with his own poop and then cover it up. So when your dog goes to dig, he finds his poop and is like, “Yuck, I don’t want to dig here!” Do that enough times and he’s like, OK, digging is not so fun!
I have had professional trainers tell me this works. Has it worked for any of you? Nothing wrong with giving it a try.
OK, let me know in the comments …
What ideas do you have for stopping a dog from digging in the yard?
There are so many reasons dogs dig and I can’t address them all in one post (prey drive, trying to escape, burying bones, etc.). What’s worked for you?
I want something safe for a puppy but interesting to him. What worked the best for you in the past?
For edible chews, my plan is to get some bully sticks and beef tendons (because my senior dog Ace likes these!). I’m comfortable feeding these because they’re natural, they don’t seem to break or splinter and apparently they’re easier for dogs to digest than rawhides.
For non-edible chew toys, I plan to have some Nylabones and Kong toys on hand. Ace likes both of these. I’ll stuff the Kongs with treats or peanut butter.
I’ll also have all sorts of other soft toys too like rope toys and stuffies.
… And we have a box of 50 tennis balls.
2. Can an 8-week-old Weimaraner puppy hold it from about 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.?
I guess I’ll find out!
3. Is the puppy less likely to cry at night if his crate is in our bedroom?
I don’t mind having his crate by our bed, even if he whimpers and cries some the first few nights.
Do you think having him near us will make him cry less or more?
We’re in an apartment so I want to keep the crying to a minimum, but, you know … puppies.
4. How often do you de-worm a puppy?
Our breeder recommends every month for the first few months and then putting him on a monthly heartworm/roundworm/hookworm prevention at six months. Seems like a lot to me, but I’m sure she knows what she’s talking about.
I give Ace a heartworm preventative every 6 to 8 weeks April through December.
5. Does diatomaceous earth actually work to prevent fleas?
I currently use K9 Advantix II for flea prevention on my adult dog. I hate putting this on him, and I really don’t want to use chemicals on our puppy. However, we can’t use natural, topical flea prevention products in our home due to allergies. It’s out of the question.
However, what about food-grade diatomaceous earth? I’ve heard many good things about it naturally and effectively killing and preventing fleas, but I’ve never tried it. I’m pretty skeptical.
My question: Does this really work? And does it really work in areas where there are a TON of fleas?
I feel like some dog owners “think” their natural flea “prevention” is working but really they just live in an area with no fleas. For example, in North Dakota I never used any flea prevention and never once saw a flea. After a month of living in San Diego, all 3 of my pets had fleas. Hence, the K9 Advantix.
6. Is there any reason to take our pup to the vet right away at 8 weeks?
Should I bring our puppy in for a checkup that first week or just wait until he’s due for the next round of vaccinations + de-worming at 12 weeks?
I wouldn’t want him to get sick from something he picks up at the vet. Also, really don’t want to spend the money on an exam if it’s not needed.
Alright, your feedback is very welcome! Thank you in advance!
Also, leave your own puppy questions in the comments. I’ll get them answered for you!
Blogger Lindsay Stordahl Lindsay Stordahl (with her mutt Ace) is the blogger behind That Mutt.
Blogger Julia Thomson Julia Thomson (with her mutt Baxter) writes regularly for That Mutt.
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