Despite what the entire Internet claims, you can actually raise a well-mannered dog while keeping your 9-5 job. Here is how we did it…
As soon as we considered getting a puppy, I started looking for good Puppy Kindergarten classes. A lot of people don’t realize the benefit these classes can have; it’s not about getting perfect obedience from your puppy (well kinda, but that’s not the main point), it’s about training you how to teach your puppy. It’s also a wonderful and safe place for your puppy to meet new people and puppies. I signed up for our puppy class before we brought Jackson home. Our first class was when he was 3 months old.
Because we worked far away from our home, Jackson had to come with us on days we had puppy class. I found a wonderful dog sitter who had a few dogs in her home that took excellent care of him while we were at work. There he learned how to play with gentle bigger dogs, which is great because they told him “no” when he’d start getting too feisty.
We also tried to give him lots of play dates with friends who had dogs so he would learn to play nicely. It turns out that our friends’ dogs were actually very high energy and we learned the signs that he was going to need a break. When he started to get tired, we would give him some food in his crate for a 10 minute time out and then he would be good to go again.
Prior to our first class we had already taught “sit” and “down”, but we got great practice in a new setting when those commands were taught in class. We also learned to walk “with me”, “stay”, “leave it”, “drop it”, and “go to your rug”. Our trainer focused on teaching us how to properly correct issues before they were real problems and was very proactive with getting our dogs used to being handled, including being handled by other people. She taught us how we can train our dogs to accept pills and correct other behaviors that were undesirable. My favorite part was that she set goals for us to work on for each class.
According to Dr. Ian Dunbar of Before and After Getting Your Puppy, the goal for socialization is for your puppy to meet 100 people by the age of 12 weeks. This was rather difficult with our work schedules, but I kept track of everyone Jackson met and we got to 100 by about 14-15 weeks (kinda crazy looking back at it now).
I think the best thing we did for his socialization was taking a trip to go visit my sister in college. We did a 500 mile road trip where he learned to ride in the car like a champ and met a ton of people at rest stops and on the college campus. We met all sorts of people: leather-clad bikers, college students, screaming toddlers, tall men, and old ladies. We also went out to restaurants where dogs were allowed and he fell asleep under our table and got comfortable with more bustle than he was used to at our little house.
Apart from that, we also took him on other trips to both parents’ houses and invited people over to meet him there. It was good getting him used to being in strange places with strange smells, and also learning that we had to show him which door he should scratch at when he had to go out. (It’s not easy being a puppy! Why are there so many doors anyways!?)
Because we have a small farm, I also wanted to make it super clear that the chickens and ducks were not toys to attack. Our yard is not fenced, so we always had him on a leash whenever we went outside. After initial interest in the ducks, Jackson grew bored of watching them and would start ignoring them whenever we went outside. At one point he did run up to one of the ducks, which he licked once, then ran back to me, tail wagging as if to say “Look, we’re friends!”.
The chickens in their pen were a little different because when he ran up to them they would startle and flap around, being highly interesting. But after they’d settle down he would sniff around a little then be ready to move on. Whenever I fed them, I had him sit by their coop so when I was done he was more than ready to move on to anywhere else.
He also met our pig which he was terrified of when she made noise, but after a couple visits he tried to play with her through the fence. The rabbits were his favorite though, whenever we’d go by their cages he’d play bow and when I’d open a cage and one would stick their head out, he would lick it and try to play.
One annoying habit Jackson had was chewing on the carpet and grabbing shoes and socks to chew on and run around with.
To solve the carpet issue, we tried everything from lemon juice to tabasco sauce, unfortunately he loved them all. Eventually we just started putting large items over the areas he liked to chew to prevent him from doing it, and if he did manage to start taking some samples we’d distract him with another toy. We tried to keep lots of interesting toys around and rotate them through his accessibility so he wouldn’t get bored of them.
For the socks and shoes, we would tell him “no” take the item away and immediately give him one of his toys to play with. This was also a good opportunity to work on “drop it”, but whenever we did that we made sure the reward was extra special (a treat and a toy) so we didn’t burn him out on the command by getting his prizes taken away all of the time. While he completely gave up on the shoes pretty quickly, the socks were a harder temptation for him. He’ll also grab any paper/tissue that happens to be on the ground and watch you, just so you can tell him to drop it, which is annoying. So we’re still working on that one. Mostly we just need to pick those things up better ourselves. (Maybe he’s trying to train us…?)
So although Jackson spent his days alone for the most part, I would say he did have a rich and varied social life in general. On weeknights after we’d get home from work we would often have friends over to meet and play with him or go out to visit Home Depot, Petco, or other stores that allow dogs. Later, once his vaccinations were complete, we went to the beach a lot or other little trails near our home. Our social lives were definitely enriched by having people over more often and going to others’ houses for his socialization!
However, many evenings we just spent time cuddling and playing games with him ourselves, because when all is said and done, that’s the whole point!