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Many families choose to live closer to nature because it is simply a healthier lifestyle. Others aim to protect the earth. I’m sure most natural-living folks do it for a combo of those two reasons. Well the same values hold true when it comes to caring for a pet.
We adopted this adorable goldie boy (AKA golden retriever if you don’t know my doggie talk) a couple of months ago, and while we owned a dog for many years before now, this was our first dog with two kids. Let me tell ya, it’s a whole new ballgame! Especially since this guy was only 9 months old (our last dog was 18 months old when we adopted him), so he is still VERY much a puppy.
But really though, the basics are the same. Before you get a dog, you’ve got to prepare. What is he going to eat? Where will he sleep? What are the rules about dogs on the furniture? Who is responsible for taking the lead on training? Who’s duty is it to make sure he doesn’t chew up toys or shoes or pants or bras? Yeah, I’m speaking from experience. There are so many things to think about. This list is surely not everything you’ll need to consider, but if you are looking for a place to begin, I hope this helps!
We are fortunate to have a little local shop nearby that specializes in all natural and holistic products, training, and grooming for dogs. That is where we get most of our “dog stuff”. For those of you who don’t have that convenience, I’ll share some links to where you can buy certain products online.
What will the dog eat?
I’d love to sit here and tell you all about how we feed our dog a truly natural, whole foods diet similar to what we’d feed our children (there are people who do that, by the way). But for real? That’s not in the budget and as a working momma, I feel like I’m doing pretty great to get home-cooked meals on the table every night for my human kids. So we buy processed dog food. When choosing a dog food, we look at the ingredients list first. We look for real food ingredients and meats as the main ingredients. Next, we look for dog foods that don’t get their ingredients from questionable sources. Call me paranoid, but I’m leery of dog foods from China.
Our first dog, Samson, was a rescue. We knew nothing about his background (other than he had clearly been badly abused). He was always a little itchy. But the first summer we had him, he got so itchy that he would literally chew on his paws and his belly until they were raw and he would paw at his ears relentlessly. His ears would fill with nasty gunk and had to be cleaned every other day. This was before we knew anything at all about dog food ingredients. The vet gave us ointment for this, but I knew that was only a band-aid and not a solution. We thought maybe he had an allergy to grass since it came about in the summer. But then come fall it didn’t get much better. Completely unrelated, I went to this new store specializing in green dog products. I told them about our guy and they thought it sounded like an allergy to corn. We switched his food very slowly, starting out with ¾ old food and ¼ California Natural and slowly changing the ratio until he was switched to the new food. By the time he was on the new food he was 100% symptom free and never had those issues again.
What you feed your dog matters. Figure out what your budget will allow BEFORE you get a dog and see if you can afford a food you feel good about feeding him. And all of the above goes for treats too!
Get some toys!
I sorta see buying toys for a dog as similar to buying toys for an infant or toddler. You want to be super careful about what you give them because the toy will spend 90% of the time in the kid’s mouth while it is being played with. You don’t want them chewing on anything harmful. And if you have kids, that’s even more reason to make sure your dog’s toys are safe! Look for toys that are free of BPA, PVC, and phthalates.
Where’s he going to sleep?
Are you a dogs-on-the-furniture family or dogs-on-the-floor family? That’s something you gotta figure out ASAP! We keep ours on the floor for many reasons, but one really big reason is so that we have dog-free space. We have an 18 month old and a 3 year old and sometimes they need to be able to just sit on the comfy chair and read a book with mommy without a 70 pound dog getting in on the snuggle-action. But for the record, we actually spend lots of time on the floor just so we can snuggle that guy. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen the snuggliness. And yes, I’m pretty sure that’s a word.
What’s your training style?
I’ll tell ya now, negative reinforcement does NOT work for dogs. They aim to please and respond when they know they’ve done so. When they “get in trouble”, they don’t understand why. They are not humans. (Not that I support negative reinforcement for humans – I don’t!) But there are many non-negative ways to train. I’ve tried clicker training and had great success with that. Also, using training treats for a food motivated dog works well. If you plan to try training on your own, I strongly encourage you to pick up a book on dog training. It isn’t as easy as you’d think! This Kindle book on dog training is free right now: Dog Training: Strategic Dog Training Tips For A Well-Trained, Obedient, and Happy Dog
When it comes to house training, I discourage using those disposable pads that allow the dog to potty in the house unless that is what you plan to do long term. Once you teach them they can go inside, it is difficult (if not impossible) to un-teach that. The best thing to do, in my experience, is to take them out every hour. Have you ever noticed that dogs always potty in the same place, even in the backyard? If the dog poops in the house, put the poop outside where you want him to go. This has worked like a charm for us.
Stock up on cleaning supplies!
Pet messes are one of the few things we use paper towels for. When we got our Harvey we stocked up at Costco and I’m so glad we did. I was surprised, however, that we didn’t go through them more quickly! Harvey had some tummy issues when we first got him that made for some big messes.
That is another thing to consider. Sometimes just the transition from one home to another can be stressful on dogs and cause tummy issues. Be prepared for that.
We’ve tried many cleaning products for pet messes, including DIY recipes that are supposed to work miracles, but there has only been one product that I’ve found that truly works to get the smell out. That is Nature’s Miracle. You can get it at just about any place that sells pet products, or you can get it online here: Nature’s Miracle.
Find a doggie doctor!
Otherwise known as a veterinarian. I have read other bloggers talk about their holistic healing veterinarian, and I’d love to say that we have one like that too! But unfortunately, none exist in my area. If you are in my boat, my advice is to find a veterinarian that supports natural and holistic pet care even if he/she is not an expert and doesn’t use those methods as a general practice. Set up an initial visit with your dog to get to know the doctor. Let her know up front that you want to use natural and holistic pet care methods and explain some of your priorities. Follow your gut. A doggie doctor should be chosen with as much care as a people doctor!
Getting a dog is so exciting! But it can be stressful too, if you are not prepared. In addition to the above, I strongly suggest saving up a “pet fund” for all of those initial expenses. They can really add up. Also, don’t forget to add pet food, treats, toys, vet bills, and grooming into your monthly budget. If you have kids, find a way to store all toys small enough to chew out of sight completely. And get in a good habit of keeping all shoes and clothes off the floor as well (you’re hearing this from someone with experience! 😉 )
Linked up at Inspire Me Mondays!
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Do you have a dog? How did you prepare to bring your furry friend home? Do you use natural and holistic pet care? Do you find it challenging or easy?