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What I Wish I Knew Before Bringing Home a Dog

I don’t want you to have to learn the hardway. That’s why I’m giving away some of the best advice a trainer can give… for free.

(Let’s get this out of the way.)

1. Hire only a Certified Professional.

Don’t give a trainer a penny until you read this.

  • If a trainer does not does not have enough experience and education to earn this certification, it may mean they are not the right choice for you.
  • Check reviews online. If you are looking into a place with more than one trainer, know their reviews are not necessarily trainer specific.
  • Ask for references, discuss professional memberships (and required ethics agreements), and validate credentials.
  • Grill the trainer on their training philosophy. If they use forceful methods such as prong collars, you need to know right away. If they’re vague, move on.
  • Expect the trainer to be insured, a formal contract, and the ability to pay with out cash. If someone asks you to pay cash only, it is a red flag that they do not own a legitimate business.

2. Find the dog that fits your family. 

  • Is the dog social or aloof with people or dogs? Is the dog easily excitable or relatively relaxed?
  • What job was the dog born to do? Dogs that were bred to herd… will herd.
  • Learn about the grooming, training, and veterinary care your dog will need ahead of time!
  • Don’t expect to totally rehaul your lifestyle to fit a dog’s. Try to find a dog that will fit in with your family.

Don’t pick a breed due to its popularity.


This doodle is incredibly high energy and social. Plan to dedicate yourself to training if you bring home one of these cuties!

3. Be prepared to socialize. For life.

  • Begin as soon as your dog receives his first set of vaccines. Don’t wait one second!
  • Socialization is not just exposing your dog to new things. It’s teaching the rules of life, and making new experiences positive.
  • If you keep teaching, you’ll have a better life with your dog!

4. Use a Crate

  • No use it, seriously.
  • Teach your dog to love the crate by practicing teaching him to love and relax in the crate.
  • Use it to prevent unwanted behaviors when you’re not able to supervise.
  • This is the easiest thing to tell your dog “what to do” if a break is needed.

5. Supervise, constantly!pencildog.jpg

Treat your dog like he’s got a crayon and a freshly cleaned wall.

  • Listen, your adult dog is as intellectually developed as a toddler. Treat them like it.
  • Use the crate (or a tethered leash) when you can’t fully supervise.
  • Supervise in the backyard as well!

6. Exercise

  • Dogs need 30-60 minutes a day varying by age, general activity level, size, and breed.
  • Your dog will not exercise by himself and likely will not play with toys by himself or  in the backyard. If you think this counts, you’re in trouble.

7. Learn to read dog body language.

  • Be prepared to rescue your dog from a situation if your dog displays excessive fear or inappropriate behavior.
  • If you are seeing stress, anxiety, or fear, reach out for help as soon as possible.
  • Learn this information to keep your dog happy in any situation!


8. Don’t expect your kids to do all of the work.

  • Dogs require extensive supervision, socialization, exercise, and training which is difficult for children and teens.
  • Dog training is a family affair. Expect for everyone in the family to be involved! If you aren’t involved too, it will not end well.

9. Create rules for your house and consistently follow them. Here’s a handful of mine.

Tank still hogs the couch.
  • Rule #1 Privileges must be earned.
  • Rule #2 Say Please when you want attention, toys, play, food, anything really.
  • Rule #3 If you don’t ask politely, too bad. Out of luck, kid.

11. Begin teaching loose leash walking immediately.

  • Look into alternative exercise while teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash.
  • Always use a regular leash (not a retractable) with buckle collar with tags (or harness) unless in a safely contained area. No exceptions.
  • Hire a trainer or take a group class to learn how to do this quickly, efficiently, and in a way that makes the most sense to your dog.

12. Do Happy Visits at the Vet and Groomer

  • Go to the veterinarian and groomer to happily socialize your dog.
  • Desensitize your dog to handling including frequent nail trims and nail grinders.
  • Seek out  a FEAR FREE certified veterinarians and staff such as St. John Animal Clinic


  • If you haven’t trained a puppy before, or its been a few years, it may be time to learn current training methods.
  • Do not rely on Google searches or unprofessional YouTube videos.
  • Ask a professional trainer or veterinarian. We are all here to help.

I’ve learned from my mistakes. Doing so has given me the opportunity to expand my relationship with my dog, Tank. May you seize the opportunity to grow with your dog. Here’s to a better life with our canine partners!

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