Kona turned one-year-old last month, which means that she’s lived with us for just short of a year. Let me tell you, friends, I wouldn’t go back to those early days if someone paid us! While we’ve been lucky in many ways–she’s always slept through the night, she’s relatively low maintenance during the day, she loves other animals, she’s generally quiet–in those first few months it was tough. We were up and down with her every hour-and-a-half during our waking hours. She tried to eat everything from our baseboards to our rugs to ear plugs, and when we sprayed them with bitter apple, she only liked them more.
But over the months she’s mellowed out, and even though she’s a quirky little thing, we love her to bits. As I type this, she’s curled up in her crate behind me, making little doggie dreaming noises and kicking her paws every once in awhile. We can’t imagine life without her.
For anyone who has a new puppy, or anyone considering adding a new four-legged canine to your family, I came up with this list of things we learned during Kona’s first year:
Doggie Daycare = Balanced Dog. But be careful when you’re choosing one. We first tried the one that’s right across the street from our house, but in the end convenience lost out to quality. We then took Kona to a wonderful daycare with a huge outdoor play area, but when we discovered that she was sneak-eating other dogs’ poop there (despite their low staff-to-dog ratio) we had to pull her out because she kept getting sick. We then reverted to hiring a dog walker on days when I go into the office, but I noticed Kona was getting overly anxious after a few weeks. Now we use a combination of dog walking and indoor daycare, which seems to be a good balance. Long story short, you’ll get to know your dog and that will help you find the right one. But in my opinion, a good doggie daycare is a great way to make sure your puppy grows into a balanced dog.
It’s essential to introduce a puppy to as many things as possible. Kona met all kinds of people and dogs right off the bat, but she didn’t meet many kids, and now she’s scared of them. While she’s all bark and no bite, it’s still hard to explain to kids who are so excited by this real-life teddy bear. We’re slowly including more kids into her life, and after about an hour she thinks they’re great — but it does take that hour for her to feel like, yes, these are humans. No, they aren’t zombies.
Dog probiotics are a (very good) thing. When Kona was getting sick a lot, our vet put her on antibiotics and, later, a probiotic. It’s made a huge difference in Kona’s digestion, which has always been problematic for us. We sprinkle half a capsule on her food each night, which she scarfs down so quickly that she doesn’t even detect a difference.
YouTube is fantastic for dog training. We went to puppy kindergarten, and our teacher actually said, “Geez, you guys didn’t need to come to this class at all!” We began teaching Kona commands the day she came home, based on information we learned from YouTube trainers. My favorite is this series on dog training by VetStreet.com.
Neighbors are nicer when you have a dog. We didn’t really talk to any of our neighbors pre-Kona. Since she came home with us, we know almost everyone. And while we’re pretty sure no one knows our names, they definitely know Kona’s! It helps that she greets them by running full speed down the hallways toward them, flopping on her back, and kicking her legs in the air. Who wouldn’t like such an enthusiastic greeting? Also, if they’re sane people and they offer to watch your dog, let them. They really want to, and you’ll really need a guilt-free break.
Everything outdoors is more fun with a dog. I’m really finicky about temperature. Anything above 80 or below 60 and I would be hard pressed to get outdoors. But Kona and I go for a two-mile walk almost every day, unless it’s icy or raining. We’ve also loved taking her to restaurants with outdoor patios, on walks around lakes and the beach, to the dog park, and on long car rides. We’re experiencing a whole new layer of enjoyment in these warm months!
It’s essential for everyone’s sanity to take breaks. Although Kona sleeps through the night, she does wake us up at around six or seven every morning. She also likes a lot of play time and attention. And we, used to our relative freedom to come and go when we pleased, found that we were missing the Fridays that I’d travel into the city to have date night with James (too late) or quick overnight trips around New England. We were so grateful to discover DogVacay early on, and we continue to look to our dog sitter on a regular basis. Kona gets to run around with the sitter’s dog in her “second home” and we get to run around without worrying about feedings, walks, or a lonely pooch.
P.S. Do-it-yourself doggie “ice cream” bites!