Thinking of Getting a Puppy?
Are You Ready For A Lifelong Commitment?
Getting a dog is not all fun and games. You are dedicating yourself to being responsible for a living, breathing, child for 15 years or more! They'll bring you so much love and joy, and will always be your loyal friend. But they also come with a lot of responsibilities. You have to feed, walk, groom, and pick up their poop every single day! And that's only the bare necessities.
When I adopted Evie and Yuki during college, I pretty much said goodbye to my social life for two years while juggling to balance school, work, and friendships. During our move from DC to SF, I chose to drive cross country because I wanted the girls to be comfortable during the transition. I had to find a dog friendly apartment, and almost got evicted due to noise complaints because they whined and barked while acclimating to the new environment and city life. Thankfully they were fine after one month, but you get the point.
Time, Patience, and Lots of Consistency
Did you know that a puppy can control their bladder one hour for every month of age? So if your puppy is two months old, they can hold it for about two hours. That means, if you want to potty train your new puppy to not have accidents in the house... You must take your dog outside every two hours for the first month (even at 4am), immediately after they wake up, during and after playing, and after eating or drinking. So if you have to be away from home more than four or five hours a day, you have a few options:
Adopt an older dog who can hold their bladder longer (6-8 hours max). I wanted to raise a puppy so this was not an option for me.
Arrange for someone else (roommate, neighbor, dog walker) to take them out for bathroom breaks. Thankfully, we got lucky and had five amazing housemates who helped!
Train them to go indoors on a specific area using potty pads. Doing this, however, can prolong the housetraining process because it'll confuse them. But it is definitely possible with patience and consistency! I had to train the girls to go on potty pads after moving into the city because we don't have a backyard anymore.
Are you ready for housetraining, and the accidents that will happen before training is complete? Will you be patient when they are crying when you're trying to sleep, and begging when you're trying to eat? Are you mentally, physically, and financially prepared for this responsibility?
Finances : Guess How Much It Costs
Food, treats, and grooming are just the basics. Veterinarian bills for regular checkups, vaccinations, and dental care. Monthly medicine for flea, tick, heartworm prevention. You must also be prepared for unexpected illnesses or accidents - like a sprain, torn paw pad, or food poisoning.
Our Costs :
Kibble : Orijen Six Fish - $30/month, $360/year
Treats : Orijen Angus Beef - $15/month, $180/year
Chews : Barkworthies Beef Tendons - $10/month, $120/year
Heartworm : Novartis Interceptor Brown (2-10lbs) - $50/year (per dog)
Vet : Annual Checkup, Vaccines, Tests - $500/year (per dog)
Grooming : $90 roughly every two months - $500/year
All of that, plus various items like accessories and toys total up over $3000 every year. Thankfully the girls are both small (around 10lbs) and very healthy.
For puppies, first year costs are even higher. They need 3-4 sets of puppy shots, surgery to get spayed/neutered, puppy and socialization classes, and new puppy supplies like a crate and other miscellaneous items.
Positive Reinforcement Training
Being responsible for your dog also means being responsible for their actions. You must be prepared to control your dog's behavior at home, with guests, in the park, on the streets - at all times. Teaching basic good manners requires time, dedication, and consistency.
Which method is right for me?
The popular show "The Dog Whisperer" by Cesar Milan encourages dominant, pack leader training using confrontational methods like staring down dogs and intimidating them physically. However animal behaviorists have disproved the outdated pack leader theory derived from wolf social behavior. Studies have shown that dominance-based approaches do little in correcting improper behavior, creates an atmosphere of fear, and can actually cause more aggressive responses.
Punishment for bad behaviors using adverse ways like spanking, is scientifically referred to as negative reinforcement. Studies has shown that punishment does not change the tendency to engage in the behavior that was punished. Instead it makes the dog want to avoid the source of punishment, in this case, you. Sometimes punishment is necessary. But it can only be reinforced if you catch your dog doing the act, or else your dog will have no idea what it is being punished for. Often times owners will come home, see that their dog made a mess and yell at them. Even worse, some will bring their dog in front of the mess and spank them. Your dog might look scared and guilty because they sense that you are upset, but won't understand why. Negative reinforcement is only effective if you catch them in the act, and redirect them to the correct behavior. For example: if your dog is chewing on slippers, yell NO! and take the slipper away, then give them a toy to chew on instead. If you catch your dog in midst of having an accident in the house, immediately yell NO! and pick them up, then redirect them to where they're supposed to go (and reward them when they do to create a positive association).
Animals do whatever is rewarding to them. To change behavior we have to remove the rewards for undesirable behavior and focus instead on rewarding good behavior. This is the basis of Positive Reinforcement Training, the scientifically proven method to making your dogs motivated to learn. I use this method on Evie and Yuki to build a relationship of trust by training them to like doing what I want. The overall goal is to train your dog to respond to your commands (come, sit, be quiet) the first time you ask without nagging, yelling, or forcing them. This way, training becomes a bonding activity rather than a chore! And we stick to the plan until good behavior is a habit. I'll elaborate further on positive training methods here.
Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right by Dr. Sophia Yin
How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves by Dr. Sophia Yin
Helpful YouTube Channels:
Other Things to Keep in Mind:
Are you prepared to use a trainer or take your dog to training classes? Learning how to use proper body language and getting the right timing for to effectively train is hard! You may want to join a puppy class or hire a trainer to help. A behaviorist may be required for more difficult or stubborn dogs.
Can you tolerate damage to your possessions until your dog is trained? During Yuki's first year, she destroyed countless things - furniture, shoes, clothes, electronics, cosmetics, etc. You name it, she's chewed it! She also had plenty of accidents in the house, and even a few on my bed. It was extremely frustrating and even infuriating at times, but the experience taught me patience and to proactively take preventative measures to avoid further damage to both my wallet and her wellbeing. Evie on the other hand, was perfectly potty trained by 3 months, rarely ever had accidents in the house, and never destroyed anything. She does have a tendency of jumping onto places she shouldn't to steal food, and picking up random old food off the floor so I have to always watch her like a hawk. Every dog is different, with their own unique personalities. You have to learn your dog's habits and learn to tailor training methods accordingly to make it work for them. It definitely takes a lot of trial and error, but be patient and don't give up!