When we adopted Derby, we truly had no idea what we were getting into. Zac and I had both had dogs growing up, but they were never our dogs. Honestly, I don't think I ever even fed any of those dogs.
We always said that we'd be open to adopting a dog if it found us, but that we weren't going to looking for one. When a friend of mine had a friend who had puppies that were going to the pound if they weren't adopted, we were interested. We made a list of pros and cons of having a dog, and could only think of one or two cons in contrast to our tons of pros. Decision made.
A year and a half in, I'm so grateful that Derby is part of our family. There are some lessons we've learned along the way that might be helpful to those pondering adopting a dog, or who find themselves totally overwhelmed with a new puppy...
Crating is a good idea. I don't understand why anyone doesn't initially crate a puppy when they aren't home. Puppies don't mean to destroy your house, but they often do. Get a crate from Craigslist (we paid $40 for ours) and lock up that sweet puppy when you aren't home.
Listen to advice, but be willing to throw the book out the window. We listened to advice about crating Derby at night and not letting him sleep in our bed. And he hated it. And cried. A lot. All night. For an embarrassingly long time. We put his crate in the dining room downstairs and would go upstairs to bed and listen to him whine. We finally moved his crate into our room - and he immediately started sleeping all the way through the night. He just wanted to be near his mom and dad!
Go to an obedience class, but you probably don't need more than one. You learn a lot in an initial obedience class about your dog and how he learns, but in your first series you'll master sit, lay down, and make progress on stay. You can probably figure out the rest of what you want your dog to learn, especially if he is a natural pleaser.
Socialize the heck out of your dog the first year. Go to the dog park, a lot. Expose him to kids and adults and anyone you possibly can. The more comfortable your dog is with other people and dogs, the less worried you'll have to be about him.
Handle that sweet puppy. Play with his ears, stick your fingers in his mouth, pull his bowl away when he's eating, take toys away and bones out of his mouth. Pull his tail, touch his feet. Make sure that none of that will seem scary when he's older. Make sure he won't snap if a child pulls his ears or trys to pull a toy. We did this obsessively with Derby and I'm so glad we did - a two year old neighbor grabbed Derby's face the other day and Derby couldn't lick that little guy enough in response.
Know that the "rules" you have will be broken. I don't know a single person whose "no dogs on the couch/bed" has actually worked. If you feel really strongly about this, find a way to make it work.
There's no way to prepare yourself for how much you will love your dog. Or how much your dog will love you. It doesn't take very long for your heart to go to mush over these sweet creatures.
Do you have any other advice to share with first time dog owners? What do you wish you'd done differently?
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