Getting my first dog. Advice? Help?

Around christmas-time I will be getting my first dog. I’m looking for any kind of “dog 101” resources that’ll really explain to me what it is to be a dog owner. How to train, when to feed (and how many times), when to exercise, how to teach to play games and know his name, etc… I’ve always wanted a dog, but my mom has a phobia or something and would NEVER let us have one. Now that I’m moved out and have a bit of money that I don’t mind spending, I’m gonna get one. I know it will be a pretty big lifestyle shift, but I really don’t mind it, and I think it’ll add some structure to my life.

Really though, I’m worried I don’t know enough of the doggy-basics to make him be a really good dog. Anything else I need to consider? Any resources I can look at? I’m serious about this, so don’t be nice, be truthful.

What breed have you decided on?
How big is your home?
Will you be getting a new puppy or a young dog or an adult dog?
Do you have a fenced-in-yard or will you be walking the dog?
How much will the dog be alone during the day?

Keeping/housing/raising a dog is one topic, and the first topic you need to plan out when you get a dog. Training is secondary to that. First tell us about the dog and the living and exercising situation.

one thing I have found as a good part of housebreaking, is to feed the dog its meal, then take it for a walk (or outside in the yard, whatever) so that it gets used to going and “conducting business”.

We had a dog that wouldn’t pee when he went outside, but as soon as you brought him in, he would. So we took out a glass of water, and dribbled it on the ground thinking that maybe the sound would give him a hint, and it actually worked! He peed and we praised him up one side and down the other - you would have thought he just tap danced or did a somersault! But that pretty much ended that housebreaking problem.

Dogs generally (each breed is different so YMMV) like exercise, so be prepared to take the dog for walks.

If its a small dog, don’t let it get into bad habits just cause its small. I have a min pin and that dog is a terror because we didn’t do a good job correcting annoying habits when he was a pup.

Don’t let your dog get used to the idea of biting people as play time. That’s a hard habit to break once its started.

I have heard clicker training is effective - and a cheap way to approximate it is a few coins in a can with the lid taped on. When doggie is naughty, shake the can and say “no!”. the noise from the can should be startling enough to help stop whatever action is the problem.

Most importantly love your dog and have fun playing!

Seriously though - get a book from the library. or check out a website, this is a pretty big topic, and on a MB, even this one, you will get lots of advice. Hell there will be people telling me I’m all wrong probably!

The one thing I’d say is don’t succumb to the temptation to anthropomorphize the dog’s behavior. I know they’re very smart and very human-like sometimes, but it doesn’t do the dog any good. I once had a friend who insisted that his dog had ripped up his curtains as revenge for scolding it about something, which obscured the real issue–the dog was bored while he was out. I also know people who won’t crate their dogs because they insist it’s “cruel,” but dogs are different than adult humans. Humans also “crate” even their own babies anyway, but I digress. Evaluate its behavior from a dog perspective and not a human one.

I’ve done clicker training with my puppy, and coins in a can is actually the complete opposite of what you are trying to accomplish with a clicker.

A clicker is used to reinforce positive behavior- i.e. reward the behavior you want the dog to continue doing. So when you ask for a sit and the dog sits, you click and feed a treat. When you ask for a sit and he doesn’t, no click, no treats. If a dog is naughty, that means he isn’t being closely supervised.

My suggestions: Get a dog who is older and already trained, and then attend a brush up class to train you.

thanks for the clarification!

And a proper clicker costs like 3/$1 at Petsmart - your “cheaper alternative” is probably more expensive, after you figure in the soda. :smiley:

The most important animal handling advice I can give is BE CONSISTENT. Don’t reward the dog one time, then turn around and punish him for the same thing. This = crazy dog.

For example, you can’t praise the dog for jumping up on you, then punish him for jumping up on guests. If you don’t want the dog jumping up on people, you have to correct and eliminate the jumping-up behavior, even if you personally kind of like it, and even if the jump-on person kind of likes it. A lot of people don’t like it and find it scary. You can’t train 99.9% of dogs to interact with people on a case by case basis like that.

I agree with ZipperJJ - we need to know a bit more about your situation before we can offer meaningful advice.

Having said that, here’s some advice :slight_smile:

Find your local off-leash dog park, and just go and visit. Tag along with a friend and their dog if you feel awkward in going solo. See what the other dogs and owners are like, and read the posted park rules, so when you bring your own dog you’ll be properly prepared. I think most dogs benefit from the socialization and excercise they get at dog parks - and it’s just fun, for dog and owner.

I used the pennies in a can to train one dog and it was a disaster. He was forever afraid of any unexpected noise after it. It may be personality dependant so YMMV. My current dog is a holy terror and nothing worked. I had some slight success with reward based training but nothing to brag about. He’s just a stubborn brat. But I love him anyway!

**What breed have you decided on? **
Looking for a mutt, medium sized, probably something with some lab in it. Right now, I’m in talks with the owner of an 8mo old Beagle/Lab mix. Assuming she can’t find someone to adopt it by Christmas (when I’m getting my puppy, I want to have a few solid weeks to dedicate to it where I’m not in classes at all), I’m really considering getting it.

**How big is your home? **
I live in a fraternity house. 20 rooms, lots of hallways and big public rooms. After a while I’d be comfortable with it roaming (we’ve had lots of dogs live with their owners in the past and they’ve been allowed to run around, people aren’t stupid enough to let them out of the house and everyone enjoys the company of a dog). However, my actual room (where the crate will be and the dog will spend a good amount of time) is fairly small, which is why despite the fact that I like big dogs more, I’m getting a medium sized dog. I move out in about a year or so.

Will you be getting a new puppy or a young dog or an adult dog?
Looking for a dog around ~1 year old. Still young enough to grow up with, but past the initial puppy stage. I don’t think I’m expert enough about dogs to raise a puppy from the few weeks/months stage.
**Do you have a fenced-in-yard or will you be walking the dog? **
Walking. We have a good bit of green space on campus for me to take him to, as well as a dog park down the road. Do not have a fenced-in-yard at all, unfortunately. I completely understand that a dog needs its exercise, and I’ll take him out multiple times a day for walks and play-time, not including fetch in the long hallways and all the running around he’ll get in the house.

**How much will the dog be alone during the day? **
After a while, not much. Only when I’m at class, so a few hours a day. By summer-time, I’ll be working 9-5, but there’ll be people around to take him out (I’ll make sure of that!), and also by that time, hopefully he will be comfortable enough with the house to be able to be outside of my room by himself. If he’s not, obviously I won’t let him, but earlier dogs in the house were completely ok on their own around the house. Regardless, I will be taking him out before work and when I get back, so I think it should be fine.
How are those answers? Am I too naive about this? Am I missing things? Please, be critical, I truly understand that this is a living creature that I will be responsible for, and I don’t want to do it wrong.

So what sort of dog are you planning on getting in about a year or so?

(Seriously - I can’t in good conscience recommend someone get a dog while living in a frat house. I don’t know you, your frat brothers, the environment, etc. - but I’d say hold off a year.)

I can completely understand your viewpoint, but there have been numerous dogs that have come through the house and been raised in the house. They’ve all lived great lives, were great dogs, and had no problems. People in the house aren’t dumb, and the dogs always end up very social and well loved by everybody. Considering I’ve seen it done at least 5 times in my house, and there is at least one dog in most of the 36 fraternities on this campus, I’m not going to take the fact that I live in a frat house to mean that I can’t get a dog.

I didn’t mean to imply the environment would be bad for the dog - but that if I lived in a dorm next door to a dog and it was a barker, I’d want to kill you in your sleep. :slight_smile: No way would I want to subject the rest of the inhabitants to that, regardless of how well other dogs did. But again - totally your call.

As for feeding him - the instructions are right on the bag. Choose a good dogfood (higher in protein, actual animals high on the ingredients list), weigh your dog, and check the chart on the bag (they all have them).

As far as specifics go, and I know that wasn’t what you were implying, but I’m gonna reply to it anyhow, the house is buzzing with excitement about the dog, and I actually have to get everyone to sign a slip of paper to approve it, so I think it’ll be fine.

Thanks for the responses!

On the beagle mix- make sure, in your situation, that the person is not getting rid of it because it’s a barker. As a (former) vet employee, by far the most common barking complaints came from beagle owners and it’s really hard to stop, especially if you won’t be with them 24/7.

I wouldn’t worry so much about the frat house situation so much as the fact that you are in a transitory part of your life- just make sure you will want the added problem of finding pet-friendly housing when you graduate, keep in mind if you are not in a relationship, that things may change. It does no favors to the dog if you are not in a position of life long commitment. I don’t say that as a judgement- I made several animal related mistakes when I was college-age (took care of and kept for life, but if I could do it over again, would have been a little less dog crazy! Now we have 7!!) so believe me, I know about “having” to have it. Just make sure you are ready.

Get a crate, read up on crate training. Do obedience classes. Teach your dog to “go lay down” and stay there. Sounds simple, but as the owner of a 5 working border collies, that is the most important thing they learn in the house. Once they get used to the idea that they don’t have to “do” something every minute of the day- of course we keep them busy with work- they learn to have an off switch and just hang out with you.

You’re already getting good advice and it sounds like your dog will be coming to a good place, so all I have to add is something I read last week that surprised me. I was googling about teething, and found a site where a vet warned against dogs playing with tennis balls. Tennis balls are really popular dog toys, but this vet said that they’re not good for their teeth. He said the fuzz on the ball attracts grit/dirt, and chewing on them is like rubbing sandpaper on their teeth – it gradually wears on the enamel.

Getting an older dog is a great idea. A baby puppy as your first dog can be a disaster.

I would not bring a new dog into a frat house simply because then I would have to spend the rest of his life fighting all the bad habits that other people taught him. Eight months is still pretty young, but by the time you move out he’ll have some deeply ingrained habits. Not to say that a dog can’t be retrained, but it’s a regal PITA. Just MHO, tho.

I wouldn’t have nearly as much problem with bringing a dog I had already raised/trained into that environment - he’d already have formed the habits I wanted to live with and, at worst, I’d have to remind him of those. Again, this has to do with bringing in a new dog to a new environment. How many of the dogs that have lived there were new dogs as opposed to people bringing their dogs from home?

If you can, take the time to get to know the dog before you agree to adopt. Can you bring him home for a day or two on a test run?

This would (1) give you some idea of the habits already trained into the dog that you might want to consider before deciding on that dog (e.g., barking, nipping, etc.), and (2) let you see if this is a dog that would be happy in the frat environment. Training a dog is usually fairly simple (although beagles tend to be difficult), but breaking bad habits can be a real bitch.

Definitely crate train the dog. Although it can be miserable at first to train an older dog, it’s absolutely terrific later when the dog has a safe den to go to whenever he wants. It also makes moving/traveling much easier - home is where his den is.

Do give some serious thought to what happens after you graduate. It can be very difficult to find pet-friendly housing in some locations. What will you do if you can’t find an affordable apartment that allows dogs in the same city as your dream job? I live in a college town, and it’s absolutely disgusting the number of dogs that get dumped at the end of the year by college students who suddenly realize that they don’t have any way to keep it after they graduate.

The most important thing to remember is if you go up to the dog and it says “meow,” it’s a cat :slight_smile:

An excellent tip, picked up from The Dog Whisperer, regards introducing the dog to your home.

When you bring him home, don’t let him run right into the house when he’s all excited, or nervous. Stay outside with him, on leash, and get him into that calm/submissive state … basically sitting and looking at you and not excited. Then lead him into the house … don’t let him lead you.

So they say, this goes a long way in the dog psyche for learning exactly who’s house it is in the first place. If you let him go hog wild right out of the gate, he’ll get the impression that he’s in charge and you don’t want that.

A puppy won’t work well in that environment because you’re going to have too many people giving it training messages and you need consistancy above all else in training. If you’re telling the dog not to drink the bong water but your roommate’s OK with it, the dog is going to learn that the rule is not to drink the bong water only when you’re around.

Also, be prepared for horrendous vet bills. I’ve had a pup for about 9 weeks now and due to a case of salmonella that keeps recurring I’ve had to spend over $3000 in vet bills and I think that he’s getting sick again, two weeks after he finished his course of antibiotics. Sure, I’m on the upper tail of the curve, but there’s a chance that you could be, too.