A dog can be a wonderful addition to your family, if you understand what to expect and prepare accordingly. Read about our journey with our 2 furbabies Baxter, and Luc!
We have an 11 year old, Baxter (1/2 Maltese, 1/2 poodle) who has been with us since before we got engaged. He has been with us through our first apartment together, a few moves (1 cross-country), welcoming 3 children, and has been a part of so many memories. When Baxter came into our lives he was 12 weeks and weighed 3 pounds. We took him to puppy training with a dear friend when we lived in the Northeast and he has been pretty good since then. All the puppy issues seemed minor with him because a 3 pound puppy can’t do much damage and he thankfully never liked biting my shoes! His barking could use some help so we are working with a dog trainer to help us with managing this. Will from, CIT, has helped us to understand that even older dogs can learn new tricks!
A few years ago, my best friend entrusted us with watching her lab-mix dog when she would go on vacation – the way her dog got along with Baxter and the kids made us melt and we knew eventually we wanted to add a larger dog to our family, specifically a Lab. We focused on the Labrador Retriever breed because we had read how they are amazing with children and were frequently used as service animals as well as seeing eye dogs. We thought, if they could be trained to help people with needs then they would surely be great to be around for a family with smaller kids. Last year around Christmas, my husband and I decided it was time to bring a new furry addition to our home. We visited a list of dog shelters as well as pet adoption events in the Houston area and even went as far as Austin in search of our next family pet. We came across the organization Lucky Lab Rescue during our search – while we didn’t find our next family pet from them, we were extremely impressed with how well they operate and also all the good they are spreading to help these dogs. They really do such a great job to help dogs find good foster homes and forever homes. Through Lucky Lab, we met a sweet foster couple who was caring for a litter of 9 puppies and their Mom. We ended up falling in love with one of the puppies and had our heart set on bringing him home once he was able to be adopted. They were adorable beyond words, but despite the great care they were fortunate to receive from the foster family, they ended up getting distemper and were taken off the adoption list. Around that same time we found out about a family who were not professional breeders, but had recently bred their 2 AKC registered labs and the puppies would be ready to go to their new homes shortly after Christmas. We took a drive to meet them and fell in love with all of them instantly. Breed and temperament was a large focus for us since we have small children – we spent a few hours there meeting the Mom and Dad as well to see their temperament and also got to cuddle the litter of puppies -we were in puppy heaven! Last January, Luc (Lucien Mariano Skywalker to be exact: We discovered he needed a long name to be registered with the AKC and our kids were happy to provide options).
What has been the best part for your family?
Our 11 year old furbaby is definitely not amused that we brought a 90lb (and still growing) puppy into the family last year, but we’re hoping they become besties soon…In the meantime, these tiny hands keep them happy (or alert) with all the chasing and hugging. One thing they do have in common, they’re both fans of our youngest who constantly drops food from her high chair. Seeing our youngest get so excited with each of them is the best feeling. She greets both puppies in the morning before she even says hello to anybody else :). They both are true loyal lovable family members and though it is chaotic during the puppy stages, the love they have for us and the kids is like nothing else in the world.
How did you prepare and do you have suggestions on how others can prepare if they’re thinking of bringing a dog into their family?
Visit a shelter or breeder first.
Check to see the temperament of the dog while you play with them. A tip we got from our trainer is that any dog can be trained and that even old dogs can learn new tricks! If you are expecting your kids to pick up after them or wash them, let them see how they like doing it by visiting with the dogs. Also – be realistic with yourself and partner on who will be doing the heavy lift of taking care of your new family pet. Small kids might not be able to fully help with the large tasks, but they can certainly help with cuddles or going on walks.
Get the right food
Potty training will be easier if their food agrees with them. Talk to your vet for best food recommendations for their breed. Both our dogs have different food based on their size and needs. We have found that studies change, when we first got Baxter we were told grain-free was better. We are discovering that things can change pretty quickly and it is good to keep up-to-date with the recent recommendations.
Consider Crate Training
Potty training has been easier for us with both dogs when you crate train. Luc is in the crate when we aren’t home mostly because he is still in the puppy stage and can chew up a lot of things when we aren’t around – mostly it is for his safety. Baxter hasn’t had a crate in years, once he was fully past the puppy stage he graduated to being left outside his crate when we weren’t home. He can be trusted around the house and has no interest in getting into any trouble – he loves napping and sunning himself when we aren’t home.
Understand that certain breeds might need a longer period before they are fully over the puppy phases.
This has certainly been the hardest part for us with Luc. He has chewed up more things than we can list, the largest was he chewed up our whole downstairs step which was carpeted. We thought we were going to have to replace all the carpet on the stairs, thankfully we found the previous owners left extra matching carpet and were able to hire someone to replace just that one step. I wish we had meet with Will, our dog trainer, sooner because we think this may have been able to address a lot of his behavioral issues sooner.
Consult a dog trainer and understand each dog might need different amounts of training
With Baxter we only needed a few training sessions when he was a puppy.
With Luc, we tried a puppy training class for the basics and are now meeting 1:1 with a professional training company, Canine Initiative Training (CIT), here at home. For us, life started to feel chaotic with the behavioral issues we were experiencing with Luc. At one point it felt like Luc was giving us a run for our money, even more so than our 3 young children. We were so grateful to come in contact with Will, the owner of CIT – we have had a few different sessions – training US and Luc. It’s really helpful to all be on the same page and understand what they need and how to handle the issues we wanted help with (Jumping up on people, proper leash walking so that I could walk with him and the kids without him dragging us across town).
Plan a home staycation
This is so you can all bond with and enjoy getting to know your new family member. Make your weekend calendar local especially while you are potty training so that you aren’t away longer than they are able to hold it. I was told they can hold it for 1 hour per month – so if they are 3 months, they should be going about every 3 hours. If you are away at work during the day, make sure to find a dog walker or look into a dog-care facility so they are watched during the day.
Find a good veterinarian
There are so many important vaccines that puppy or dogs need. It is also important to make sure what is important in the area you live in. When we lived in Connecticut, fleas with lyme were a huge concern and we made sure to always have Baxter current with his tick prevention treatment. Here in Texas, heartworm prevention is huge. We also discovered that if we lapse on their preventative flea treatment it can truly backfire down here! We forgot to put Baxter’s flea treatment for about a day and took him to the park and next thing you know we had to treat the house for fleas….so better to keep their preventative treatment on at all times!
Allocate time to get them the proper exercise
Do your research on how much exercise your new family member will need. We went from having Baxter, who needs little exercise and who flat out hates walking longer than a few blocks to having our young Lab who needs tons of exercise daily. With Luc we have to mix up our routine but the goal is to make sure he gets what he needs despite our schedule: taking him for walks (he needs a few miles), taking him to a local dog park, finding a doggy day care facility for the days we aren’t able to take him on walks or to the dog park. Letting him out in our backyard is great and might get better when he is older but he is very curious and tends to get into trouble when he is left alone so for him it isn’t always a safe option.