Although Brody and I are not real parents (yet), we consider ourselves parents of Moose and Frankie. Having dogs teaches you so much and, in a way, helps prepare you for some aspects of being a parent of a human being.
Moose came from a breeder in Portage. He was basically the last puppy in the litter. When we went to pick him up, all of the other dogs our breeder owned came running towards us with lots of energy. Where was our dog? Sleeping under a chair. For some people, that would’ve been a turn-off, but we were psyched to have a chill dog to bring home. Lots of people ask us about his name; did we know he was going to be huge? Nope. We had no idea we would end up with a 105 lb. dog with long legs. Over one hundred may seem large for a Golden, but Moose is not overweight at all. He just grew into his name. 🙂 He will be four years old in April.
After two years, we decided Moose needed a friend. The original plan was to wait until the summer to find a puppy because I would be home to train him or her. Randomly, Brody looked on Craigslist and saw an ad for a Golden Retriever. I contacted the family, and we arranged a time to meet at our house. A few minutes into the meet and greet, Frankie pooped on our floor! The owner was mortified, and it was obvious this wasn’t a normal occurrence. To make sure it would work permanently, Frankie came to visit for that weekend. Brody and I said the weekend needed to be absolutely perfect in order for us to keep him.
Frankie was almost five years old, and we weren’t sure how Moose would deal with having an older dog “invade” his turf. From the beginning, we could tell these two dogs were meant to be together. On Sunday, Frankie’s owner called to see how it went; I told her we loved him and would adopt him. It has been two years, and they are like long-lost brothers. They wrestle, clean each other’s ears and faces (kind of gross but sweet), and follow each other around.
Now that you have a little background information about the dogs, here is what I have learned or realized about what I can do to be a good dog-parent.
1) Exercise your dogs often
Almost every weekday, I bring Moose and Frankie to the local dog park. We do two to four laps, which takes thirty to sixty minutes. One lap is approximately two-thirds of a mile. The park is completely fenced in, so the dogs run free. My dogs are pretty anti-social and just play with each other, but they love this place and will never get sick of it. Our almost daily dog park trips keep them healthy and happy. Plus it is great exercise for me.
2) Give your dogs good food
The breeder we got Moose from was adamant about using good dog food. We received multiple handouts and a recipe if we wanted to make our own treats. Moose started out on Eukanuba, but we switched over to Fromm’s. Many cheaper dog foods have corn listed as the first ingredient, which is just a filler and has little to no nutritional value for dogs. We liked Fromm’s because they do not include corn, they have multiple flavors (that do not upset the dogs’ stomachs when we switch), and they are a Wisconsin company. They also have a rewards program; if you cut the UPC codes from each bag, you get a free bag for every twelve bags. I want my dogs to be around for a long time, and I believe food is an important factor…just like it is for humans.
3) Find a good day care
There are nights when we will not be able to get to the park or we have plans after work. Goldens are extremely social animals and do not like to be alone. We found a fantastic day care, and the dogs go about once a week in the winter. The owner and workers are so friendly and seem to really love Moose and Frankie. They also offer nail trimming and other services and have overnight boarding.
4) Talk to your dogs
Yes, people who do not have dogs may think you are crazy, but you (and all other dog owners out there) know that it is completely normal to have conversations with your dogs. I even pretend to be my dogs and speak for them. Who knows what dogs can understand, but I believe the sound of my voice is somewhat comforting to them. Even though they cannot communicate with words, they do tell us things. This article discusses how dogs communicate with us through nonverbals.
5) Do some things that experts say are “wrong”
Moose and Frankie get quite a bit of human food. Leftover taco meat, peanut butter-filled pretzels, and pepperoni all end up in their mouths. With all of the activity they get, their weight stays in check. We also notice if something is off based on their…uh, poop.
The Dog Whisperer says you should not greet your dogs when you get home if they jump up on you. When you bend down to pet them, you are reinforcing this behavior. Sorry, but there is no way I could not immediately pet my dogs for a few minutes right when I walk into the door after being at work all day. I love how excited they are to see me, and I want to show them that I am excited to see them too.
Just like with parenting kids, I believe there is not a right or wrong way to do (many) things. You just find what works for your “family” and roll with it.
Have you ever adopted an animal?
What do you do to be a good parent (animal or human)?