The bad news is that this is not a manual for dogs. The attempts at getting dogs to read the first draft were frankly a complete waste of time. Distracted and preoccupied, all subjects showed more interest in being a dog than learning more about standard operating procedures of dogs.
With that initial round of research being so fruitless, the executive decision was made to rewrite the dog manual for humans to read and pass on to dogs. So, let’s begin. Well, before we jump into things, our experiences are anecdotal and all details shared below do not qualify as professional dog advice. Your home may be at risk if you do not keep up with regular dog maintenance.
We worked with Jennifer at Bone Ball Bark because she’s amazing. Our training was 1:1 with Jennifer, but she also offers online courses too. She helped us with consistency in our signals, understanding our dogs body language, adding variation to play, recall and attention. We recommend working with a trainer on and off over the first 18 months so you get to build up your handling techniques as the dog matures. There’s a ton of information on YouTube which can become contradictory or overwhelming. One channel that we would recommend checking out is https://www.youtube.com/c/McCannDogs. They tend to get straight to the point and focus on training over brand building and advertising.
We love daycare because dogs are pack animals. All the walks and park trips you can squeeze in won’t add up to the equivalent social and stimulation benefits of daycare from a young age upwards. Dogs learn their place in the pack, interact and play with all ages and you’re reducing the chances of your dog being reactive or challenging around other dogs. Well, perhaps. Ours has some bizarre territory guarding around our home in her teenage years even though she’s chill at daycare.
You’ll hit the jackpot if you can find one that also offers overnight stays so you can go on holiday. We highly recommend also finding a pet kennel / hotel that is near to you or on the way to an airport too. The sooner they learn to stay away the easier it will be.
Grannick’s Bitter Apple Chew Deterrent
We like this spray Amazon | Pets at Home because it stops unwanted chewing. During puppy training you need to do a lot of redirection from your stuff being chewed to their stuff being chewed – their toys. You can’t be everywhere all the time to redirect and your student can also be stubbornly in love with your sofa/shoes/anything within reach of its razor teeth. Spray this on items you need to protect and spray a cotton wool ball and pop it in their mouth so they form a sensory connection. It saved our sofa.
Halti Lead and a Canvas Poop Bag Holder
We like this because it is a multi-use lead – Amazon. The clips make it really easy to shorten and secure when eating out, clipping into car boots, making it a longer lead for roaming in grasses for doing the business. It’s soft and won’t rip your hands like alternatives. You can also use it for two point harnesses, we haven’t used it much for that as we’ve focused on reward and audio signals to be near us for walking (when it works). We use a soft canvas poop bag holder – Amazon – as the plastic ones crack and are clunky to use on a lead when handling lead positions.
Kong Teething Toy
We like this toy – Amazon – because it works off energy and placates a dog being left alone. Buy at least four of these and get the small size ones for early puppy days. We buy pre-cooked chicken thighs, chop the meat into tiny cubes and stuff it into the end. Buy a stopper for the end from etsy, now you can fill it with a bit of water as well and freeze it easily with no mess. Whip this out when the puppy needs to go down a few notches or you’re off out or leaving it alone. We use chicken as it makes no difference to how much kibble we feed in a day and we won’t end up with the dog having the runs from too much fibre. Also, wet kibble is rank. Recipe ideas ?
We like these clippers – Amazon – because puppies’ claws are like razors. You’ll want to spend time desensitising your puppy to touching paws, claws, tail, ears and mouth so they don’t get surprised by this later on in life and misbehave when touched. Clipping claws at home is a good skill to acquire. Watch lots of YouTube videos, look at Google Images and do it in a brightly lit room so you can see where the nail ends and the blood vessel starts. Only do it when your puppy is in a low energy mood and comfortable being handled, or else it’s a battle you won’t win.
We like this mat – Amazon – because you can distract your dog. Slap some dog peanut butter or meat paste on this, pop it in the bath or on a window and you have a dog completely distracted while you wash them, carry out any inspections, do something important or leave them on their own for a bit. We found too much peanut butter gave her wet poos, meat products tend to be the calmest thing for her tummy.
Washable Dog Pee/Poop Mat
We like these mats – Amazon – because you can transition off disposables sooner. We used a mix of the disposables and then went onto reusables which are now for any sick days. It took us a while to realise that when you’re mat training, don’t chuck out a pad after one pee, leave it so the dog can smell where it went and go back and do it again. We got through heaps of mats because we wanted it to be clean for her and us, turns out it’s better to be consistent and remind them by smell.
Microfibre Towels and a Cleaning Station
(no link, just buy the stuff) We like these as you can towel off a wet dog quickly and they dry out quickly too. We have a few large microfibre towels for when she goes swimming, has a messy walk or a shower. When she was a puppy we had a whole box dedicated to her cleaning stuff for the home, paper towels, flash wipes, spray, baby wipes, poop bags – this box was on hand at all times to keep on top of it all.
Simple Solution Enzymatic Cleaner
We like this spray – Amazon – as it uses enzymes to remove urine smells only dogs noses pick up. You might get through a lot of this so I’d be tempted to buy the four litre one and decant it into a spray bottle. Use it as per instructions, it needs time to work. It should stop that random place they once took a piss becoming their favourite place to drown in their pungent wee every day. We’ve never had carpets so I can’t vouch for its stain removing powers.
Mess Free Chicken Training Treats
We like these treats – Amazon – as you can put them in your pocket with no mess and little smell. When you’re out walking or in the park you need some currency to train the dog with. We settled on these as chicken is low impact on her gut, she can eat as many as she likes and her poo won’t change, we can keep them in any coat or trouser pocket and don’t have to carry a training bag or keep them sealed in a hard to open plastic bag. Note: some dogs are allergic to chicken, you’ll soon know if that is the case. Some dogs are really fussy, and you’ll need to experiment with different treats till you find the one they want.
Pocket Ball Launcher
We like this ball launcher – Amazon – because it is small enough for bags. I honestly didn’t think I needed a ball launcher, but they are great for wearing dogs out. If you buy this smaller one you can easily fit it into a trendy sling bag and stop yourself looking like a walking dog shop. People might even think you’re a normal cool person and not some neurotic puppy person.
We like these probiotics – – Amazon – because they help balance dog gut when they are sick. They eat bad stuff and they get infected with parasites. Vets will always tell you to put this on some chicken and rice and charge you lots of money for it. Buy it from Amazon ahead of time and when you notice their poop looking bad get straight on it and add this to their next meal of bland chicken and rice.
Real Fur and Toys
It’s easy to buy a lot of toys, get to know what your dog is interested in over time and you’ll save on filling the house with the unloved and rejected. Ours is really into fur toys – Real fur for working dogs – because they are really high value to dogs with prey drive. We have ended up rotating toys so she focuses on a few at a time and enjoys them more. Kong makes high quality toys that last. Avoid cheap Amazon brands as they won’t have been tested with dogs, even at a safe material level. Generally it’s better to pick them out at a quality pet shop.
We like this harness – Amazon – because it fits working dogs well. There are a lot of harnesses on the market, some really interesting designs and colourways, however for the size and shape of our dog this harness had the best fit and large surface area for her comfort. We would recommend buying a few brands and trying them out. Working dogs tend to need utility over fashion when it comes to harnesses due to their weight, size and willingness on a lead.
Eden Dog Food
We like this food – Eden – because it is high quality food. Avoid any of the trendy direct to consumer “custom” pet foods, they are low quality and spend their money on marketing. Eden can be bought from My Pet Warehouse with next day delivery, it’s very high fibre, protein and calorie per gram. So much so we have to weigh exactly the right amount for each feed. You will want a puppy mix to cover the nutrients needed for growing dogs and then you can switch over to adult dog mix when they are grown. Never switch a food instantly, always migrate over several days or you will have a sick dog.
We like long lines – Amazon – because you can build up your recall and off leash confidence. Long lines help you transition from your normal walking lead to a longer and easier to grab lead in the park. The first few times letting go of the lead can be scary and a longer line helps build up your confidence. However, you must be really careful not to use them in busy gatherings with other dogs. It’s very easy for a tangled mess to happen and some dogs have had their legs broken by other dogs long lines. Figure out quiet times in the park for using them, build up bit by bit while you’re getting your recall and reward cemented in dog brain. If you notice a park getting busy, switch back to a short lead. The majority of dogs can be off lead when around other playful dogs with no problems, they tend to stay in their pack playing and sniffing.
Dog Chew Buffalo Horn
We like this buffalo chew – Amazon because it lasts ages. When your dog is over three months old you can give them tougher things to chew. They will enjoy chewing and destroying these with low mess, no calories and provide stimulation for the dog on a daily basis. Check what age your breed can start to enjoy these.
Dog Chew Antler
We like these antlers – Amazon – because they are compact. When you travel or just to have around the house, these provide good stimulation, no smell and help with teething. Check what age your breed can start to enjoy these.
Stuff I wish we had done differently
- Never prepared food for dog where human food is prepared. Dogs are laser focused pattern spotters and place their bets every time food could ever possibly be presented again. I wish we had made a space in the hallway cupboard for storing and preparing her food. Potentially, the association with the kitchen and food never would have happened. You can’t get around the smells of food though, so who knows.
- Store dog treats or food in the same brand of tupperware we use for human food. She knows the sound of that Tupperware opening and instantly places her bets on it being for her. Luckily she’s very polite, but it’s irritating when cooking.
- Spent more time on recall at a young age. We spent a fair amount of time and got some great results, however with some breeds it is a lifelong practice and her recall is now a bit selective depending on the park she’s in. Squirrels are our main competition for attention.
- Eased off on how many dogs she greeted when she was a puppy. This one is hard to balance, not enough socialisation can make a dog hard work around others and too much can make them over interested in every dog. We have ended up with dog being highly interested in every dog, which can be tough when walking or needing her to follow commands. She only really wants a quick sniff, so it’s not the biggest deal breaker.
Things we Don’t Think are Worth it
- Clickers. It’s easier to teach “yes” than it is to have a clicker in your hand at all times.
- Pet health food from the vets. We had much better success with chicken and brown rice, most vets are paid to dish out the “special food” which can take days for your dog to settle down eating, we stick to low impact chicken and rice.
- Internet flea and wormer. Always go to the vets and get the subscription from them, they have access to the more advanced and comprehensive chemicals than the direct to consumer brands do. You’ll have better coverage and a medical history when required.
- Puppy carry accessories. We bought a bunch of things to carry dog when she was young, she outgrew them so quickly and the usage was probably minutes in total.