12 Experts Feature

12 Dog Experts Weigh in on How to Raise a Healthy and Happy Pup

How many of you brought your dog home for the first time, only to realize raising him or her was much harder than you thought it’d be? Trust us, no judgement here. We get it. 

We’ve all been fortunate enough to have the companionship of loving dogs throughout our lives, and each one has had their own unique personality traits and quirks. 

If you’re currently learning the ins and outs of raising your pup, or are considering adding one as a new member to the family, keep reading. 

We’ve rounded up 12 dog experts to weigh in on what they think are the absolute most important aspects of raising a dog! From bringing a new puppy home, to teaching important behaviors, to vital health considerations, these dog authorities lay it all on the table for you.

1. Beware of Puppy Mills

We’ll start out at the very beginning: when you bring your new puppy or dog home. Dr. Peter Dobias, who runs PeterDobias.com, offers the following advice, and urges readers to heed the warning:

If you are planning to get a puppy, the most generous way is to choose one from a rescue shelter. You will feel great about your decision and also give a home to a dog that would otherwise continue to suffer or be euthanized. If you would rather get a puppy from a breeder, you need to stay away from puppy mills, suspicious ads and pet store puppies.

This might be old news to you. However, many people (understandably) don’t even think twice as they head to the local pet store to bring their new puppy home. 

The dangerous and heartless practices of puppy mills make this a situation to avoid, though. Listen to Dr. Dobias, and head to the shelter or a reputable breeder instead.

2. Expect the Unexpected

Erin Ballinger of BringFido.com offers an excellent, everyday tip that most of us are quick to forget when we're full of excitement with our new friend:

Generally speaking, expect the unexpected. Dogs will be dogs, so be prepared to clean up messes, get up in the middle of the night to let Fido out, and deal with behavioral issues you didn't foresee. Be patient and take the time to work with your new dog to establish a routine (for meals, walks, behavior, potty training, sleep) and teach your dog what behavior is acceptable.

She goes on to say:

"While you are training your pup, check out BringFido.com for lists of local activities to get him out for some socialization, bonding, and fun! It's also a good idea to start saving funds for routine expenses like vaccinations, grooming, flea and tick treatment, and unexpected trips to the vet so you can be financially prepared."

It can be tough to get into the mindset of “expecting the unexpected.” Most of us want to hope for the best and not think about the rest. Erin is spot on with this one, though. If you’re not prepared, you’re going to be in for some big surprises.

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3. Feed Them Well

The experts at Canine Journal often talk about the importance of feeding your dog an all-natural diet. Here’s a vital tip to keep in mind when finding the right food for your dog:

"All dog foods claim to be nutritionally balanced with your dog in mind; however, not all nutritional balances are equal."

It is important to research the nutritional needs of your dog based upon their special dietary needs (check with your vet) and their life stage in order to find a good food match.

They go on to remind us that, "some all natural foods have higher levels of protein than your dog may be used to, others may have higher carbohydrate or fat contents – these are all things to consider."

4. Don’t Forget to Crate Train

Stacie Grissom from BarkPost.com shares a tip she learned from raising her own dog, Pimm:

The most crucial piece of advice that I have to give for dog parents is to crate train your pup. 

"My dog, Pimm, had horrible separation anxiety when I adopted her and the only thing that made her calm down and feel safe was her crate. It took a few weeks, but slowly and carefully I taught her that the crate was her safe space, her little den to retreat in when things got too crazy or she felt overwhelmed. It was really stressful to see her so anxious all the time, but the crate training was a magical solution!"

Many people see using crates as a way to punish their dogs for bad behavior. However, crates can easily become a dog’s best friend if you properly train them to see the comfort and good in their crate - not the isolation.

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5. Speak up for Your Dog

Kimberly Gauthier, Certified Pet Food Nutrition Specialist for Keep the Tail Wagging, knows how important it is to act as your dog’s voice. After all, if you don't, who else will?

Her tip gets right to it:

Harness the power of a dog parent and speak up and speak out! You are your dog's voice. Learn as much as you can about dog behavior, training, nutrition, and health so that you can speak up and protect your dog at the right time.

"No one can make you do anything - feed a certain food, agree to an unnecessary vaccination, or introduce your dog to strangers.  

You will find that you know your dog better than anyone and that knowledge gives you the power and responsibility to speak up and speak out."

6. Be Patient

Colby from PuppyInTraining.com spends his time raising and training guide and service dog puppies. It’s no wonder his best advice is short, simple, and to the point.

#1 for me is patience.

Colby must have a lot of it, that's for sure! It couldn’t be said better, though. Dogs won’t understand what you want them to do the first, second, or even tenth time you tell them. 

Losing your patience or getting irritated with them certainly won’t help. Follow Colby’s advice; incorporate it into both training and everyday life with your pup.

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7. Practice Safety First

Carrie Noar from TalesAndTails.com shares her expert tip, and we couldn’t agree more:

The first thing we teach new dogs here is to "wait" at the door before we give the okay to go out. I've heard way too many sad stories about dogs getting out the back door and tragedy striking.  

"We also teach them that coming to us is always a good thing. If I'm going to scold them or do something they don't like, like a nail trim or a bath, then I go to them. When I call them to come to me, there's either going to be something good to eat or a whole lot of love going on!"

This tip isn’t one that comes to mind for most pet parents, but it’s not hard to see the importance. Our dogs quickly learn what we do and don’t want, but our intention doesn’t always correlate with their understanding. 

Follow Carrie’s advice; keep your dogs safe and happy.

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8. Head to the Dog Training Center

If you follow adorable dogs on the internet, you’ve probably heard of Ammo the Dachshund. His mom, Kyley, offers up wonderful advice for pups and their humans:

"Your Local Dog Training Center is a wonderful resource for finding fun classes for puppies and even older dogs that you can do together."

Classes are a great way to socialize a young puppy, exercise an energetic dog, and even teach an old dog new tricks all in a safe environment.

Kyley makes a great point. This tip applies to everyone, whether your dog is young or old. In fact, even well-trained adult dogs can benefit from this environment. 

No matter how perfectly behaved they already are, dogs thrive when their minds are engaged, so learning a few new tricks can be fun for both of you.

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9. Teach Them to “Stay”

Laura, mom of Bentley, and owner of the site MyPitBullFriend.com, offers her two cents to new and old pet parents alike:

"The most crucial thing you can do as a new dog parent is to teach your dog how to "stay." I cannot tell you how many times this command has come in handy for me personally. 

It can be extremely beneficial in many settings, for example when you take your dog for a walk and see a squirrel pass by. Instead of your dog chasing the squirrel you can tell him to "stay" and let the little guy make his way past you without a problem. 

Another perfect example of how this command can be used is when having guests over. A well behaved dog that stays and doesn't jump all over your guests is a good thing to have. Some people do not like this behavior or may be scared of dogs."

A good way to teach your dog to stay is while giving treats. You can reward your dog after he stays and waits patiently for the amount of time you choose. You can also start walking away and even leaving the room once you have the basic command down. 

"This way your dog always knows that you are in command and will learn to stay in different situations, whether treats are involved or not."

We couldn’t agree with Laura more. Teaching your dog to stay, even in the most exciting situations, can truly be a lifesaver. Commit to practicing this with your pup, and continue to reinforce the good behavior regularly.

10. Be Generous With Your Love

Serena Nelson of PrettyFluffy.com definitely knows what she’s talking about when emphasizing the following:

My #1 tip would be to always use positive reinforcement rewards and train in short, consistent timeframes - as well as a lot of LOVE.

It doesn’t take much explanation, and Serena is right on the money here. Using positive reinforcement when training your dog is of the utmost importance. Dogs are sensitive and emotional, just like people. 

When they feel loved and rewarded for doing something good, they’ll want more of that loving attention, again and again. Use this advice, and watch how strong your relationship with your dog grows.

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11. Train Them Not to Mooch

The Pet Blog Lady, AKA Lisa Taron, is a strong believer in keeping your pup away from the table, and we think you should be, too:

One of the most important things is to not have a new pet near the dining area. As much as we all love dogs, the habit of "mooching" can be stopped very early on. Before it even becomes a habit for a dog.

"It's hard to resist those puppy eyes, but in the end, the dog doesn't end up stressed out, as what happens when mooching, and the pet parents can eat in peace."

This one is all too easy to let slip until you throw all efforts out the window entirely. That’s why, as Lisa says, it’s important to reinforce this behavior early on. 

Breaking bad habits is much harder than forming new ones, so be diligent about training your dog to leave the dining table alone. You’ll thank your patience (and your dog) later.

12. Good Relationships and Behavior Take Time

Minette Boyd, highly acclaimed Dog Trainer and Writer at TheDogTrainingSecret.com, has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to raising healthy dogs. She offers up two pieces of crucial advice for readers:

“The first is to understand that like any relationship, having a good relationship with your dog takes time and effort. If you are too busy, you aren't likely to end up with a well behaved dog."

The other is this:

Dogs don't come pre-programed. In order for them to understand what we want, i.e. don't chase the cat, don't steal my underwear, don't jump on people, we must teach them alternate behaviors and what we expect of them.

Minette couldn’t be more spot-on. Dogs need love and attention, just like humans. They also don’t know what to do or how to act until you show them. 

They, like us, must go through a learning process. Not only that, they need to feel like they’re part of the family. 

Dogs are loyal pack animals. Treat them right and show them the way. They’ll repay you with an unbreakable bond.

You may be wondering, what now?

Raising a healthy and happy dog isn’t easy. It takes time, effort, practice, and a lot of patience. When you commit to caring for a dog, be ready for all that comes with it. 

Each expert above has spent years learning and growing, just like you will. Follow their advice, and you’ll soon share a new or even stronger relationship with your trusting pup.

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