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"Am I a Good Dog / Puppy Parent?" Use This Checklist

Updated: Jan 16

There are extremes to dog ownership. You let your hair grow and flow to the floor to match your Afghan Hound. You bring your dog to any and every party whether they were invited or not.

Most of us fall into the normal bounds of puppy possession. We take our dogs to work on Friday. We enjoy a good run around the park. We introduce everyone we meet to our “fur babies.” There isn’t a real litmus test on a regular basis to know if our complimentary canine is thoroughly satisfied with our parenting. (Some people even compare raising a puppy to raising a baby.)

How do you know if you’re a good dog or puppy parent? Let’s go over a short checklist to ensure that you’re doing what’s best for your pup or if you need to stop barking up the wrong tree.

1. A Good Dog or Puppy Parent Always Educates Themselves

We should never stop learning about the world and our surroundings throughout our lives. This same thought process should be how we approach our puppy parenting.

Before bringing a puppy home, you need to know what breed is right for you, your family and the space and time you have available. You’ll may want to reconsider if you plan on setting up a Great Pyrenees in your one-bedroom apartment in the city or have your teeny chihuahua stuffed in between your 5 kids.

Besides size, you’ll need to consider temperament, as some breeds are great with children and others won’t respond to anyone but you. Have you considered how much time you have in your day outside of work and how much exercise and interaction they’ll need? These are all points that need to be considered before your puppy is brought into your home.

Another option might be to change your lifestyle to suit your dog. Unorthodox, but always an option.

If you’re putting in the effort before and during the time in which a dog is taking up residence in your space then you’re doing right by your four-legged friend. In short, know before you go.

2. Trust and Training is Essential for Puppy Parenting

The better part of the first year with your dog will be about building trust between you and your pup and teaching it about the ways of the world. You’re spending time to potty train and to endorse acceptable behavior within your home. Are they listening? Are they obliging your commands? A great deal of this has to do with how much they trust you.

It will be tough - but don't forget this is the puppy stage, one of the hardest to survive, and it's all downhill from here.

Dogs are empathetic creatures. They’ll sense your frustration, anger and fear. The more that you keep those emotions in check when dealing with your puppy, the more willing he or she will be to listen. Be patient and gain trust while building these initial relationships.

3. Good Dog Parents Keep Their Pets Clean and Stylish

Grooming can be a bigger chore for some breeds than it is for others. Some need an intense brush at least once a day to prevent matting and tangles. Others can survive the better part of a week. Then there are the hair cuts. Will they require a shearing every three to four weeks? How about just once every couple of months?

Washing and grooming your dog might seem a little tedious and sometimes frustrating in the short term but you’re saving yourself a world of hurt and pain long term. Men and women of a certain age need to get checked to make sure that nothing abnormal is present on their persons. Dogs are no different. A regularly scheduled grooming will allow everyone to remain happy and healthy.

This process also gets rid of dead skin and wards away parasitic vermin that only want to feed on your best friend. Dental and skin infections can be kept in check. Those furry little ears will be cleaned right out at the same time, which is important as almost every dog breed has an issue with ear infections.

We could even talk about how our pets need the touch of not only their family but newly found friends. We’re gonna save that for the next section though.

Keep your dog well-kempt and happy. It promotes proper hygiene which prevents illness.

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4. Cool, Communal and Collected

Letting your pet get to know the family contained within your four walls is essential. It can influence how they react to the introduction of new dogs, people that may drop by or other animals invited to live with them. This is called socialization, and it's important for other reasons as well.

There are two words we always want to avoid with our favorite canine chum: anxious and aggressive. Those who are not socialized early and often could be frightened of outside stimuli.

While you want to spend time with them, you don’t want your dog hiding behind you any time it's meeting someone new. Even worse, you don’t want this stress leading to an event where they lash out at someone who could be their new play pal.

Does your pet have a large circle of friends and acquaintances of the bi and quadrupedal type? Then count yourself as a great parent!

5. Puppy Parents Should Set Rules and Regulations

Boundaries are important for friends, family, children and puppies alike. While your gentle and understanding hand directing during their training is important, teaching and reinforcing the rules of the house is also a big deal.

Some dogs are allowed in every room of the house, some aren’t. Some dogs are allowed on the furniture, others might not be. With each of these situations among thousands of others, your dog will need to be kindly but sternly reminded.

This also links to how much they trust you as mentioned prior. There will be vet visits that will be stressful. In many situations, they’ll look to you for your steady and reliable companionship. Maybe they won’t cry when getting that shot knowing that you support them and have set up a structure where uncomfortable situations are only passing moments in time.

6. Happy and Healthy

Did you know that dogs can be emotional eaters in response to anxiety or stress just like you? They lack self-control and physical intuition to let them know that long term this can have an adverse effect. They’ll get sick. Sometimes, we as people can lack that same control. But we can help our dogs by keeping them on the nutritional straight and narrow as much as possible.

If you have the resources, use a nutritionist or work with your veterinarian to come up with a dietary plan to keep your dog in tip-top shape. One that will need to be adapted as your dog moves from puppy-dom into the terrible teenage years and then into adulthood and their twilight years.

You’ll have to be the flexible one making these decisions as your dog might not be on board at first. For those of us who are not as well off financially, there are plenty of services online such as the American Kennel Club to outline what your puppy may need nutritionally.

Food isn’t the only part of this equation though. Exercise is equally as important. Work with your dog to see that it's happy and healthy and it's not over or under-exerting itself. This will obviously include brisk walks or yard play with toys. Even Frisbee or fetch with a favorite mangled tennis ball will work.

Devote the time to keeping them healthy and you’ll have that much more overall time with them in this life. External human validation can be quite nice. We need a good pat on the back from time to time. When going through each of the changes in life whether it be in physical or dietary needs, make sure your dog knows you’re there for him or her every step of the way. Just know that for them, while a pat on the head is nice, a belly rub is best.

7. Love in the Long Term

There’s never enough time in the day. The same goes for an entire lifetime. We can never predict the future, but we can do our best while we're here. You’ve given your dogs shelter over their heads and food to feed their bellies. And that’s most of it. They’ll still need constant contact and reaffirmation that they’re important. Short-term, cuddles, kisses and wrestling with them are always great choices.

There are also those things that they won’t ever understand that you’re doing for them. Life happens. That can mean a new baby or a new job that requires changes in schedule or a new house altogether. Work with them to understand what’s happening so that each of these transitions is as seamless as possible. They won’t know why necessarily, but they’ll appreciate it all the same and love you all the more for it.

Are you doing best by your dog on a daily basis? Then the answer is simple. You are a good dog / puppy parent. Love them and they most assuredly will swear that you’re the best at what you do, paws down.

Jenna and the JLDD Team

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