To read before getting a dog
January 10, 2018 10:12 AM   Subscribe

We are probably getting a dog within the next year. I know nothing of dogs. Please recommend books.

My husband and daughter have always wanted a dog. Since I'll be off on maternity leave for a year (Canada) starting in June, that year off seems like the ideal time to get and train a puppy (not until the baby is old enough that I can handle the very considerable demands of the puppy, of course). So, I want to start putting a plan together.

I know only the most very basic sorts of things about owning and training a dog, so I'm looking for some books to read on the subject. My husband has owned dogs, but that was on a rural property. This will be in the city, in a reasonably large house, with a very large backyard, but in a climate with a very short Spring and Summer. My husband really wants to get a large dog - I talked him down from a golden retriever to a chocolate lab. So that is probably what we are getting. Also, we both work full-time jobs. I may need to hire a dog walker for the middle of the day once my mat leave ends. I definitely need to understand the energy level and exercise needs of a large dog.

**This is really a question where I'm seeking information and resources - I'm not asking for opinions on whether we should get a dog or not, or what kind of dog we should get. Suggestions of things I might be unaware of and should be considering, however, would be appreciated. Thanks!
posted by kitcat to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Inside of a Dog, by Alexandra Horowitz, is an awesome primer on dog psychology and relating better to dogs.

The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell was and remains extremely influential in approaching the dog-human relationship in a science-based and modern way. I haven't read it but I'm sure her book The Puppy Primer is also great (and probably gets into the dog-choosing and routine-designing stuff).

After those, there are a whole bunch of training books that are all pretty great. All the "related items" I'm seeing on Amazon on the pages above are from well-respected authors. Don't Shoot the Dog is a modern classic, but there are plenty of others. Just be careful - there are some awful trainers and awful-to-dangerous advice out there, so I'd be careful to make sure you're looking at advice that's based in the new and modern school of training.
posted by mosst at 10:29 AM on January 10, 2018 [6 favorites]

I [also, upon preview] strongly recommend "The other end of the leash," Patricia McConnell. I think I've read some of her other stuff and it's great, but "The other end of the leash" really helps you to understand canine behavior. Read it now, and then pick it up again 6 months into having your pup.

There's another great book by a guy with border collies that I can't quite recall the name of. I'll have to get back to you on that one.
posted by hydra77 at 10:32 AM on January 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't have resources off the top of my head but I'm offering a suggestion of things you might not be aware of:

Speaking as a non-human mom, from what I understand, puppies can be as much or much more frustrating than babies. Often, puppies will whine all night for a while (in their crate) preventing you from a good night's rest for a good portion of the early time. They require frequent outside visits for house training and a lot of patience for crate-training. They also require constant supervision or strict cordoning to prevent them from chewing on everything you own.

You MAY want to consider adopting an adult dog, based on your circumstances. You can totally find the kind of dog you want from a shelter. It's still a good idea to do this during maternity leave but I would not get a puppy as a new parent. No no no. Only exception is if your husband will also be be home for a significant portion of the time after you get the puppy and he agrees to do all the dog stuff. Neither of you will sleep much, though.
posted by ancient star at 10:43 AM on January 10, 2018 [11 favorites]

I currently have a a 16-week-old GR puppy playing at my feet. The "[Dog Breed] for Dummies" books are not a bad place to start . As far as advice and what-to-expect, your best bet is probably to reach out to a breeder first.

This is for two reasons: First, many of the more reputable breeders I contacted had wait-lists six months out(!). Like you, I was on a timeline--in my case, I wanted to get a puppy raised prior to getting pregnant and having a baby, so I wish I would have gotten on a list a little sooner (we ended up lucking out when someone dropped off a list).

More importantly, the breeder will be able to give you a much more specific picture of what to expect in that first year or so (and they really are "puppies" for the first year). When I explained my plan/timeline to one breeder, they actually discouraged me from getting a puppy and spelled out the difficulties of having a puppy and baby at the same time. They said something along the lines of both needing a certain amount of attention, and the puppy is always going to lose out to the baby. And I will say, I love my puppy, but he definitely needs A LOT of attention (in terms of love, positive reinforcement, and just general monitoring to make sure he's not getting into something)--more than I expected, and I have had these dogs growing up and I tend to overestimate how difficult things are going to be. Honestly, at this moment, I am very, VERY glad that I am not dealing with a baby on top of this other little creature (and he's a pretty well-behaved dog, too!)--I cannot imagine have to look after both and not losing my mind (and being able to sleep, ever).

Sorry--I hate when people give answers like this that circumvent the original question. I don't say this to burst your bubble; I just strongly encourage to run this scenario by breeders who have raised many, many dogs (often with families), as they will be able to give you the best guidance for your specific circumstances (and as a responsible pet owner, one should realistically take their circumstances into account). It totally likely that they'll say "It will be fine, just make sure you do A,B, and C to make life easier on yourself". But better to have the full picture now, than realize too late that it's more to handle than you might have wanted to sign on for.
posted by lovableiago at 10:47 AM on January 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

Superpuppy by Daniel Pinkwater and Jill Pinkwater.
posted by Flexagon at 10:52 AM on January 10, 2018

Response by poster: (You guys can consider me warned. I know that dealing with a puppy is going to suck. Dealing with a baby is going to suck too. Together, they will suck extra hard. I like the advice to ask the breeder what can be done to make it easier, though).
posted by kitcat at 10:53 AM on January 10, 2018

I found YouTube tutorials for dog/puppy training useful, especially kikopup’s channel (though I didn’t do exhaustive comparative tests of training tutorials). Doggos love learning tricks and being able to do tricks to make you happy, so it’s a great way to focus their energy.

By all means give crate training a shot, and your breeder may have suggestions for good strategies. Our retriever pup resisted crates from day one and eventually we gave up, relying on baby gates instead. She’s totally fine and does not destroy the house.
posted by Drosera at 11:22 AM on January 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just want to second the idea of getting an adult dog. They can end up stuck in the shelter while cuter puppies fly out the door. As a first-time dog owner I was glad to take a dog that had already been potty trained and was past the chewing stage. If you're worried about the dog dying while the child is young get a smaller dog that's under 5. Large dogs generally live around 10 years while smaller dogs can last up to 20.

I was strongly encouraged to take my dog to organized classes. It can really help both the pup and you, giving you both more confidence in each other. It also gives you a trainer to ask questions about things that come up.

Good luck and have fun!
posted by irisclara at 11:53 AM on January 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

If you decide not to adopt from a rescue and instead purchase a puppy from a breeder, please ensure that they are reputable and highly ethical - that they breed for good health and temperament (and know how to do this), do not overbreed bitches, and consistently maintain an excellent standard of care for all their animals.

Apologies if this seems condescending - I appreciate you're not going to knowingly buy from Torquemada Puppy Mill, Inc. - but there are so many unscrupulous or ignorant breeders of pets who treat their animals like printer cartridges/keep them in appalling conditions/don't know how to breed or raise happy, healthy, well-socialised pets...and some of them can be very convincing in their spiel.

I'd recommend finding an online group that is Very Keen on dog welfare, and can advise on spotting a poor breeder or puppy mill.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 5:51 PM on January 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

I adopted a purebred Lab from the pound - she is downright AMAZING with my 1- and 4-year old niece and nephew. The four year old can give her commands and she obeys. She adores the kids and even if they are accidentally too rough (pinching or pulling over tail or ear or something), she is totally gentle and patient. She was 2.5 years when I got her - highly recommend! She’s a female so about 30 kg - smaller than a male. Getting a good temperament is crucial, and is a big perk of a young adult dog vs a puppy (plus they’ll likely be house trained and know basic manners) - you know their general demeanor. She loves to play and needs a couple good walks/dog park/fetch sessions a day, but is content snoozing at your feet otherwise. Plan on going to an obedience class with the dog either way, but the older child can definitely participate in training if you go the puppy route. There are lots of rescues whose families had to move or something and with a little training, they’re great dogs.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 7:23 PM on January 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Patricia McConnell's books are great; so's Dr. Ian Dunbar's Before & After Getting Your Puppy.

Be aware that post-partum puppy blues are an extremely common thing, like... everyone gets them and no one talks about them. EVERYONE. The first few months of a new puppy are not spent frolicking through fields with a sweet pupper; mostly it's cleaning up feces, urine, and other things that emit from or are brought by the pup into the house, with a side order of intense socialization and training before the malleable behavioural windows close. Sprinkle meeting and exceeding exercise needs while not overstressing a growing dog's bones and muscles, and voilà - one year of puppy life.

I wish dog people would talk more about the puppy blues, because they're a lot easier to get over when you realize it's just a step on the ladder.

Anyhow, you will need a dog walker, and you will need to look into crate training, and you will need to re-evaluate what you think your dog's exercise needs are. I can walk my 12 lb chihuahua for 10 km and still run her around the dog park for 45 minutes a few times a week, and we regularly hike the river valley on weekends.

You and I are in the same city. Look into the Alberta Force Free Alliance for training. Great folks, great perspective, great attitude. And, final advice: take pictures every thirty seconds because omg they will grow up so fast and you'll be wondering where your little sof pup went because there's this big grumbly DOG in her place. *snff*
posted by Nyx at 8:09 PM on January 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

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