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My Dog & I: Making Space

A friend recently described her new building addition to me and talked about the new spaces she was putting in to make extra room for her growing family…It occurs to me that this is a very good idea – to think about an event before it becomes a “traffic jam”!!

I would like to talk about the REAL changes that are going to happen when you bring a new dog into your home. I think we have mentioned this before but it still seems to be the case that we humans are never really prepared for the changes that come about when a small thing like a puppy or even an older dog enters your life!

To start with, remember that the most valuable resource in this picture is your TIME. We only have so many hours in the day, unfortunately and if your hours are pretty filled, be prepared to move some things around and maybe even to the back burner while your new addition is becoming part of the picture.

I take many, many calls from folks with new dogs who are asking for training help when what they really need are a few extra hours in the day! Why don’t we realize that in order to put something new into the mix, something has to change??

Again, blame Disney, who certainly did not give us all the gory details but happily glossed over the middle of the night, freezing rain, joyful destruction and inconvenient exercise routines that go along with dog ownership.

It’s so much fun to do the shopping for dog stuff, choose names and buy dog beds that match the décor! The excitement is great fuel for the initial first few days and maybe even weeks but when we come to understand that caring for this being is going to take a certain amount of our day…every day…

Now that’s when the real commitment begins.

Even the best partnerships have growing pains but the faster we come to terms with the terms of our new agreement, the better the picture will look.

Sit down with your partner, your children, your roommate and be clear about what your new addition is going to mean to everyone.

Try to include unforeseen events such as emergency care and bad behavior.

Outline your vision for this new partnership and then try to imagine what it will look like when things don’t work out the way you want them.

Be honest about how much available time and ambition you have to contribute to this new “project” and factor in bad weather, sickness and disinclination!!

If your kids are the ones clamoring for the new puppy, insist that they commit to a certain amount of the responsibility but do NOT expect them to train your dog for you! A seven year old child is not going to be able to effectively exercise your new dog and a teenager will have many other important things to attend to.

Remember the cost of health care. Remember that you will have to continue to feed the same food for many years so pick one that you will not resent paying for in three years!!

Will your dog need to be groomed? How often? Will someone be at home to make sure the little guy is not alone for more than a couple of hours when he is a pup? What are his exercise needs? Who is the main care giver? What are the requirements of this guy? Will he be expected to be a babysitter? A companion? An emotional support dog? How will he become these things?

And once everyone has come to some sort of agreement about what their new lives will look like – GET IT DOWN IN WRITING!!! There is a lot to be said for a reminder on the Fridge Door about what everyone’s “job” is – including the dog!!

It should not be an option to simply decide that this isn’t what you wanted and shift the responsibility over to someone else. Our shelters are full of “second thoughts” so try to make a decision you will not have to renege on. The addition of a new dog to your home can be one of the most satisfying and delightful events you have made happen so take the TIME to make sure that you have the TIME to fully participate in the party…

– Janine Lazarus, HashtagWV #106. October 2018. Follow Janine on instagram @goodladd_dogtraining and hire her at!

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