Tomorrow marks the two-year “anniversary” for me and my dog, Gatsby. When I got him, I was a senior in college, had a fairly light semester, and wanted to have time to train a puppy before bringing him with me when I moved to Boston. While my mom had gotten a puppy a couple of years before, I wasn’t around much while she was training her—and so I was in for a rude awakening. Training Gatsby was not an easy process, but I survived, and he’s now a fairly well behaved dog.
While I am no animal behavior expert, here are my tips (and things I wish someone had told me) for making the transition to dog owner a little bit easier:
- Read everything you can. Search the internet, visit your local library, check out pet magazines at the local vet or pet store. Take in as much information as you can, and make your decisions from there. Not everyone is going to say the same thing about training and owning a dog, so choose what fits best with your lifestyle—just be sure to have what’s best for your new puppy in mind, as well.
- Get used to cleaning up. From chewing to eating to having accidents, puppies are experts at making a mess. Keep a bottle of carpet or pet cleaner (such as Nature’s Miracle) and at least one extra roll of paper towels on hand, and be prepared to use them.
- Puppies take a lot of time. Say goodbye to day trips, sleepovers, and long workdays without a quick trip home for at least the first few months (if not longer). A puppy can be left alone for the number of hours equivalent to its age for the first year of its life: so, a three-month-old puppy can only be left for three hours. This requires a lot of planning and schedule-juggling. And even when a dog is grown, you’ll have to consider finding a pet-sitter before taking any vacations.
- Give lots of love. While you should be firm with a puppy when disciplining, it’s even more important to give lots of praise and treats when he does something right! You’re not just training a dog, but you’re building a lasting relationship.
It’s no secret that training a puppy can be a challenge, but don’t give up. There will come a day when he doesn’t have an accident in the middle of the living room just minutes after you’ve come in from a walk. And it is so worth it. Few things at this stage in my life compare to coming home after a bad day to a dog who is genuinely ecstatic to see me. There’s a reason they say that dogs are a man’s (or woman’s) best friend. It’s true.