21 January 2015

Becoming a dog person*

I have a dog. I never wanted a dog. My husband, however, did.

I figured I'd share some things that have helped me adjust, because I sure wish someone had written A Comprehensive Guide to Reluctant Dog Ownership-- it might as well be me!

My main issue with having a dog is/was the cleanliness. My home is my sanctuary-- a clean, fresh sanctuary. A smelly dog running through the house, leaving slobbery toys everywhere, jumping up on me, and pooping in my backyard sounded like a nightmare. I was also apprehensive about the dog's behavior- nobody likes a shithead ill-behaved dog that destroys their fresh, clean sanctuary.

Fortunately for everyone, our dog happens to be pretty well-behaved. A few bad habits here and there, but for the most part she's pretty chill.

After reluctantly living with a dog for a little while, I've found some tips that are making it easier for this non-dog-person to adjust to having a dog.

1. Accept the fact that you have a dog.
-The day she came home, I accepted it and didn't try to fight it. She's part of the family now. End of story. I didn't even entertain the idea of giving her back, because that option would only drive both my husband and myself crazy and create tons of fights.

2. Give the dog attention.
-Play with the dog, give her a pet or a brush, greet her when you come home, talk to her, feed her. Make an effort to connect with the dog and like the dog. Remember, she's part of the family and shouldn't be ignored-- especially if you expect her to obey your commands and treat you like you're her owner.

3. Understand that there is an adjustment period.
-Give everyone time to find their groove. The dog will most likely test and learn household rules and boundaries. Some things will stick right away. For Andy, she immediately learned that the master bedroom and the furniture were off-limits. She learned to stop on the rug when coming indoors on rainy days so her paws can be dried. She is still learning that digging holes in the back yard and eating cat food are no-nos. More on that later.

4. Control odors.
If it bothers you that your house smells like dog, you have to keep things clean. The dog, the bedding, and the floors. Constant vigilance!

To control odors on the dog itself:
-Baths, wipes, sprays. Use in the combination that works for you. Caution: don't overdo the bath part, as the pup may develop skin issues. Wipes and sprays and brushings in-between will help and are gentler on our dog's skin.
-I found that brushing/wiping the dog helped us sort of bond- she got some direct attention, it reinforced that I was the owner taking care of the dog, and also it made me happy to have a clean dog. Win-Win. Chris still handles the baths because that's way more involved and messy than I want to get.
-Get chews that claim to freshen breath and clean the teeth. Can't hurt.

To control odors on the dog bed(s):
-Place a designated doggie blanket on the bed itself. It's easier to wash the blanket than the cover.
-At least weekly, wash the blanket and vacuum the surface of the bed. Spray with vinegar or febreeze to freshen.
-When that stops working, remove the cover from the bed (most of them zip off) and wash with warm water (and of course, bleach!)
-Sniff the stuffing. If that reeks, air it out, spray with vinegar or febreeze, or give up and get a new one.

To control odors in the house:
-If the above two are controlled well, it will go a long way to keeping the house itself from smelling like dog.
-Sweep and vacuum. Get that dog hair off of the floor. On a daily basis. The Roomba has been a game-changer. I empty a disgusting amount of dog hair and dirt from the basin every day. Not only has it helped with my sanity, the house doesn't stink. At all.
-We are lucky enough to have hardwood and tile in the main living area, and the dog doesn't venture onto the carpet. For rugs, a sprinkle of baking soda and a vacuum will work wonders when they get funky.

Overlook what you can:
-It would be absurd of me to expect zero evidence of a dog in the house. Some things will have to change.
-Nose prints on the windows, a dog toy here and there, a splash of water on the floor from the water bowl... not so important to me. I focus more on the odor and dog hair, since it bothers me the most, and I let the rest go. For everyone's sanity. Although the turds in the yard that my husband doesn't clean up are starting to make my eye twitch...

Above all, remember:
-Deodorize the source, don't mask the smell. Air fresheners make your house smell like hawaiian breeze dog funk. At this point, by keeping things clean I don't need or use air fresheners.
-Like I said before, the trifecta works: wash the dog, wash the bedding, sweep the floors. If they're maintained, it won't get out of hand.

5. Training:
-Google the crap out of dog training techniques, and if possible hire a trainer. In my opinion, a dog can never be too trained. From what I read they enjoy mastering "new tricks," pleasing their owners, and it gives them a sense of accomplishment. Again, a well-behaved dog is a win-win for everyone.
-Consider the dog's age, intelligence, and temperament.We were frustrated with Andy's progress, until we reminded ourselves that she is still a puppy, and she is incredibly timid. Consistent reinforcement and time will eventually work things out. She's not going to turn into a perfectly trained dog in a day.
-Try different things. We were having problems with Andy 'getting into trouble' when we left the house. It occurred to us that she might get lonely and bored and that's why she finds stuff to destroy. So we tried leaving the TV and lights on, and giving her something to chew on to keep her occupied when we leave. So far, so good. The chew toy thing has worked when we leave her both inside and outside. I doubt it will be a perfect solution but we are seeing small differences on a daily basis.

I will surely have more to say about dog ownership later, but that is all I have for now!

Evidence of dog: Exhibit A


Ashley Bennett said...

It's been two years and I still haven't accepted the fact that I have a dog. I don't do anything you said except make sure my house doesn't smell like dog. Maybe if I had a dog I liked it would be different. I envy your dog acceptance. Btw that picture is cute. Haha in my house that would have annoyed me because, well, Charlie.

Suzy said...

I will forever and always hate dogs lol kudos to you for acceptance bc my solution would be making them live outside 24/7 bc DOG. EW.

Of course we, the only three ppl on Earth who don't like dogs, have to live with dogs lol