by Tara Bone, contributing writer
“Mom, the greatest dream of my life is to have a dog.” These words from my 6-year-old son changed our family’s life. How could I not grant his life wish? It was at the top of his Christmas wish list, and he even pretended to play with his dream dog. As you can imagine, my doggie defenses melted.
On Christmas Eve 2015, there was his dream come true: Hunter, a Labradoodle puppy with a red bow and big puppy dog eyes. He even barked on cue when the boys met him under the Christmas tree. Perfection, until reality set in.
I thought I knew what we were in for, but nothing could prepare us for the coming adventures: chewed up shoes, holes in the kids’ clothes from “playful” biting, kennel potty breaks at all hours of the night and (gulp) chewing that involved a family heirloom.
The most recent adventure was a broken leg. While following neighborhood kids to the school bus, unbeknownst to us, Hunter was hit. But all is well, and Hunter is still playful as ever.
I won’t sugar coat it, our family’s first (and potentially last) puppy experience has been hard, but Hunter’s part of the family. The boys are learning responsibility, and they love him and their adventures with him. So I’ll focus on that and remind myself that a 6-year-old’s dream came true.
Things to consider when considering a dog:
- First, really evaluate your lifestyle. Does your family have time to walk a dog every day? How much time can you spend with a dog? Do you have a yard/fence? How much of a budget do you have for vet bills? If you leave town, will you have to find a boarder? Will the dog need to be groomed? Your answers will affect the size and breed of dog you choose.
- Unless you’re already a dog expert, you’ll need help. The book 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance is fun and helpful, but our best find was right here in Cache Valley. Haley Jensen, owner and head trainer for Dog Pro Secrets (dogprosecrets.com), offers classes and in-house dog training. She saved our family’s sanity.
- Haley’s “Top Dog Tips:”
- Give your dog or puppy limits. Don’t allow them free run of the house, furniture, people’s personal space or guests. Decide as a family what those limits and boundaries are and stick to them.
- Nothing in life is free. Teach basic commands such as come, sit and stay. Always require your dog to perform these tasks before getting anything he wants: food, play, petting, attention, treats and toys.
- Never waste a leftover. Families with children have ample scraps, crusts and leftovers. Tear these yummy tidbits (especially meat and cheese) into tiny pieces, put into snack baggies and stash them around your house so you always have something handy to reinforce good behavior. The more often you can reward throughout the day, the quicker your dog will learn.