What books should you read before you get a dog?

You can read a hundred books or zero and your dog will probably be fine. If you love him, feed him and throw the ball sometimes you’ll definitely be on solid ground. People have pretty much had dogs since the stone ages and I don’t think they were etching pictograms onto cave walls about how puppies need three meals a day until they’re six months old and should be taken to the Neanderthal dog park twice a week but only after getting their rabies shots.

That being said, you can get a dog and try everything until you find some tactics that work, or you can read about other people’s trial and error and at least take it under consideration. So while you don’t need to read any books, you might as well use your resources. Even if cavemen weren’t sitting down to write Marley and Me, they probably chatted about how CaveLady with ChinWhiskers down in number four smacks her dog when he’s bad and CaveMan with TinyEyes over in cave eleven gives his dog pieces of wooly mammoth liver for good behavior and TinyEyes has significantly less urine mud in his cave than ChinWhiskers does. I figure cave ladies had some serious whiskers, they can’t all be Wilma.

Wilma puts a bonnet on Dino

Reading book after book calmed me. I didn’t think it would, I thought I knew how to handle a dog, but once I started (Nate forced me to before agreeing to letting a slobbery mongrel into our hearts) I couldn’t stop. It just helped me feel prepared, like I knew what I was getting into. I totally had no idea what I was getting into, but reading and re-reading the books made the weeks leading up to Bender’s arrival much more manageable.

I loved the The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete. These monks live in a monastery in New York state and do monk things like make bread and pray and contemplate stuff. They also breed german shepherds. Really, really awesome german shepherds. They keep them for a long time to do some preliminary training to make sure their obedience is started off right. Their dogs just lie down at their feet at dinner, even the puppies! Bender is not so polite…but, before we got him, this book gave me a lot of hope. Now that I’m thumbing through it again I still think there’s a chance.

dog and monk

The monks say “obedient” comes from the Latin root meaning “to listen wholeheartedly’.

The monks, as you might imagine, are more philosophical than other dog training books, this one is less of a manual and more of an education. They go into a lot of detail about your puppy’s life before she comes to live with you, the meaning behind behaviors, and wolves and their pack mannerisms that have been passed down to dogs. It helped me understand Bender despite the whole language/species barrier thing.

They don’t get too pushy about the religious agenda, they mention grace and meditation and throw in a few “divines”, but that’s about it. They say dogs are fundamental and necessary building blocks of the human experience. I don’t know about all that. But I highly recommend the book.

Bender the Golden Retriever on a bed full of clean laundry.

Don’t mind me, I’m a necessary part of the human experience.

I read a few other books too, Good Owners Great Dogs (a little dated), How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With, and 14 Days to a Well Behaved Dog (short and sweet, slightly misleading). These were all manuals on training and care. My favorite was How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With but generally they were all helpful.

There is really only so much you can do to prepare and then you kind of just have to cope. I definitely recommend reading the monk book, but, because it’s very philosophical and not really a manual I’d recommend a second “bringing a puppy home” book as well. There are lots of great options out there and I’m sure they are all full of good advice. I say read the books, then see what works for you and go with it. I also can’t say enough good things about training classes. Books are all well and good but a real live trainer can’t be beat.


By their very make up and need, dogs draw us out of ourselves: they root us in nature, making us more conscious of the mystery inherent in all things. We become more compassionate and less arrogant, more willing to share our lives with another life…..Think of a dog greeting her owner after several hours of separation, her body showing effusive yet controlled signals of joy….Could we ever merit such affection? Its sincerity draws the best out of us, encouraging us to respond by trying to live up to such love.

– The Monks of New Skete

How do you choose a puppy?

My mom would tell you that your puppy will pick you. That you should just sit down and see which one wanders over to you, or which one curls up for a nap in your lap. Or say the name you want to give your dog and see which puppy responds. She’d also tell you that a puppy that lets you flip him over and hold him in your arms on his back is a great dog. And that, if your puppy is a golden retriever, he will grow up to be the same color as his ears. She would tell you to talk excitedly, whisper quietly, shout happily or speak sadly and see which pup tumbles over to hear what you have to say.

I was decidedly less zen about the choice.

cute puppy

Pick me!!

I would tell you to determine the type of dog you want. Active? Calm? Assertive? Submissive? And then use the Volhard test to narrow down your selection BEFORE employing my mom’s soul-mate/puppy-fate instructions. The Monks of New Skete (these awesome monks who have written a few great dog training advice books) use this test to place the german shepherds they breed. You basically put a 7 week old puppy through a series of activities, calling him, opening an umbrella near him, dragging a dishcloth around him, etc and rank his reaction on a scale from one to six. His scores will define the personality you can expect from him when’s he grown up. (You can also use a truncated version of this test to see the personality of older dogs if you are adopting!)

monks of new skete puppies

The Monks of New Skete

For me, determining the dog I wanted was easy. I wanted a big guy. A lazy guy. Easily trainable, non-aggressive, block headed, dopey and lovey. Mostly I just wanted a good dog. Honestly, I wanted Suds reincarnate. If you knew him, you would too.

It seemed to me that a puppy who consistently slept a lot, more than his litter-mates, and scored a lot of fours on the Volhard test would be the one for me. I say “consistently” slept a lot because I know that sometimes you’ll see a bounce-around-the-room puppy right when she’s winding down. Or calm puppy who just got up from a nap and is ready for 15 solid minutes of frolicking. It is definitely important to visit the litter a lot, and be sure each pup has on a different colored collar to make sure you know which one is which. They DO have VERY telling personalities at that age!

how do know what kind of dog your puppy will be

This puppy, Gordon, with the black color, was an observant little man. And still is.

I couldn’t visit the litter until I took my puppy home, they were in New Jersey I was halfway across the country, so I enlisted a crew to investigate the litter for me.

My mom, my dad, my mom’s friend Gail, her daughter Emily, my aunt, my cousins, my cousins’ friends, etc. (I had a pretty huge puppy picking brigade) visited the litter at least once a week for me. We’d video chat while they played with the puppies.

picking a puppy

Face-timing with the puppies

Around week 7 they did the Volhard test for me. They weren’t really steadfast believers like me, and hadn’t done all the reading I had, so they weren’t 100% on the ball. For instance, I don’t think anyone brought an umbrella to Volhard Testing day. But both of the big males in the litter scored well, so, in the end it was just up to my mom’s puppy choosing techniques. And I just had to choose, which one would be the one we would love for the next decade or so?

The hardest part about choosing one puppy is that, in choosing one, you reject all the rest. That’s how it feels. And, really, that’s how it is. All those watery little eyes look up at you and you can’t help but love each and every one of them. It makes it almost impossible, but you just have to accept that fact and make the choice. You are allowed to love them all. But only one can go home with you. (Ok maybe two…)

how to choose just one puppy

Here are the three boys with our puppy picking brigade! (We picked the one looking away)

And there’s always that question in the back of your mind, what if that other puppy would be a better dog? But don’t worry, I have the answer: there’s no such thing as a better dog. There is only your dog, and everyone else’s. Once your puppy is yours he’s yours, and just that makes him the best dog for you. So you just have to make the choice, and once you know he’s yours it gets a whole lot easier. That’s a big fat lie. It gets really really hard. But at least choosing will be over and you can get down to training and 3AM potty breaks.

Ultimately Bender just ended up being the one my aunt and Gail fell in love with on choosing day. I guess your heart just kind of tugs you slightly more in one direction than the other. He was the calmest, snuggly-est one. And once they felt that tug they just went with it. The next day my parents visited and felt it too.

adorable dopey puppy

Dopey puppy? Yes.

Is he big? Yes. Lazy? Somewhat. Easily trainable? When you have treats. Non-aggressive? For the most part. Block headed? Yes. Dopey? Yes. Lovey? When he wants to be. Is he Suds reincarnate? Not yet. Is he a good dog? Of course!

He’s not exactly what I was expecting. He’s a lot harder to live with than I thought he’d be. But he’s still a puppy, and puppies are energetic and stubborn. More importantly, he is teaching me to be selfless, patient, fiercely loyal, and more cognizant of the world around me and around him. He’s making me redefine my parameters for unconditional love. Would a different puppy have been a different experience? Of course, but Bender is my dog. And he is the best dog there is.

Ok buddy, you're mine. And we're in this for the long haul.

Ok buddy, you’re mine. And we’re in this for the long haul.

So anyway, my advice is just to do all you can to determine the puppies’ personalities but, really, you can’t go wrong.

Things to know about getting Puppy

I recently got an email from someone who had stumbled across this Bender blog. She had a few questions about getting a new puppy. I’m sure she had scoured the internet for answers but honestly the web is kind of a terrifying place when it comes to puppy questions. People get really really really opinionated and self righteous on the internet, with no room for discussion.

For example, we got Bender a dog door and now he goes outside whenever he wants. He has taken to sleeping on the couch in our (un-insulated) sunroom, even last week when it was less than 10 degrees outside.

Golden Retriever puppy, Bender, lying down in the snow

Excuse me? It’s too chilly? I’ll come down with a cold? These things mean nothing to me!

So I googled “how long will my dog be ok outside in really cold weather?” I found one slightly helpful article from a sled dog vet. And a slew of comments like this on Yahoo Answers (for the record, I heartily advise against ever going on Yahoo Answers, it’s a terrible terrible place):

“Livestock lives outside. Dogs and cats are called house pets for a reason: they live in the house. Tomorrow take him and your cats to a shelter so they can be adopted by someone who actually wants to take proper care of their pets.”

“If I was your neighbor, you’d already have animal control over at your house ticketing you. That’s how serious this is.”

“If it’s too cold for YOU to be out, it’s too cold for the dog.“

Similarly, I googled “Ways to keep my dog off the couch” here are some choice answers:

Golden retriever puppy, Bender, on the couch practically clinging to it

This couch is comfy, and I REFUSE to move

“Dogs mean more to me than the sofa. I also ditched fabric in favor of leather. Much easier.”

“My dog has free reign of the house. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Why would you want to keep the dog off of the sofa? I enjoy my dog sitting next to me with her head on my lap.”

“If I didn’t want a dog on my furniture I wouldn’t own a dog.”

First off, I’m not LOCKING Bender outside in when it’s 2 degrees, he goes out there and plops down on the couch! I’m just wondering when I need to go out and scoop him up because he forgot he can come inside. And “just let him on your couch” is not good advice for “how to not let him on my couch.” Come on people.

Not to mention the fact that, on a daily basis, the internet likes to tell me I’ve poisoned, spoiled, harmed, or otherwise ruined Bender forever. “You fed him a whole almond?! He’ll be dead by morning!” “You gave him a dog door?! Too much independence, he will never love you!” “You let him outside by himself?! Say goodbye to at least one of his legs!!” People are bonkers.

Golden retriever, Bender, poking just his head through a dog door

Just checking in but I think I’ll stay outside this time.

I think in general everyone’s best bet is just talking to a trainer or a vet, and, like I said, staying far far away from Yahoo Answers. Anyway, the questions this reader had for me were as follows:

1. How did you choose your puppy?  I know the part about the lineage of the pup, but when you went to see the litter, what made you chose Bender?

2.What reading can we do to help prepare for bring our puppy home?

3.What supplies are absolutely necessary and what do you feel like you bought but did not need?

4.What kind of dog food do you use and why?

5.Best advice?  What would you have done differently?

So I sent her back essentially a novel talking about my answers to those questions, probably way more than she bargained for. But I thought they’d be good blog topics, so this is your heads up, I’m going to write out my answers and share them with you all in some upcoming blog posts. Stay tuned.

12/18/13 ADDENDUM: Check it out! The company we buy Bender’s food from, Eagle Pack, (their food is awesome!) just wrote a blog post on dog safety in the cold. It is full of lines like this: “A St. Bernard will be thrilled with the drop in temperature.” and “While many dogs will be prefer to be inside during the winter, the cold weather breeds (and some cats) will want to enjoy the snow more than you.” (Don’t worry, they also include lots of love for pups who might not be digging the snow so much.)

Dear Eagle Pack, thanks for not thinking I’m a terrible, heartless pet owner for letting Bender hang out in the snow. Sincerely Yours, Matty.

A Lesson on Dog Doors (and how to install them)

You know what sucks? Waking up at 7AM to let a whining puppy go outside. You know what REALLY sucks? waking up at 3AM to let a whining puppy go outside. The latter only happens when he’s not feeling so good 🙁 poor guy. But the 7AM thing is every day. Not that waking up at 7 is the end of the world. But not getting to decide when you get out of bed is pretty much the worst. Especially when you let him out and crawl back into your warm bed, only to hear him barking and whining to be let back in 10 minutes later, and let back out half an hour later, and back in three minutes after that.  It is for this reason that some genius invented dog doors (aka portals for raccoons to come in and ransack your house – but we’re not worrying about that).

Raccoon coming through a cat door

This is my nightmare…

A little background on the modern dog door for you (cat door actually but who’s counting?). Apparently they’ve been around for quite some time. Google tried to tell me that Isaac Newton invented the concept but I feel like that guy just gets credit for any unattributed awesome idea so I dug a little deeper. Some painstaking investigation into the matter (I read the wikipedia page) led me to find that, in fact, an anonymous guy was trying to posthumously prank Newton by publishing a very embarrassing story about him inventing the pet door. The story went that Newton’s cat had a litter and so Newton cut two holes in his door, a big one for the mother cat and a smaller one for the kittens. The kittens showed Newton what a dummy he was by walking through the adult cat hole and snubbing his kitten-sized hole.

What a good joke, anonymous author! Outsmarted by kittens! And Newton never even had a cat! Sweet fabrication. You really showed that Newton jerk.

Isaac Newton, inventor of the dog door

Newton is not impressed by his future prankster

Further reading however led me to this passage in some dude’s diary from 1827 (this guy may have been overly obsessed with Newton, the evidence is inconclusive).

“Whether this [cat & kitten door story] be true or false, indisputably true is it that there are in the door to this day two plugged holes of the proper dimensions for the respective egresses of cat and kitten.”

This stalker’s testimony may have just been some kind of revenge for his unrequited love for the long-dead discoverer of gravity. Or maybe Newton did invent the idea but was SO embarrassed by the kittens outsmarting him that he denied ever having done such a thing and tried to hide the evidence by boarding up the holes. We may never know.

Depiction of a snobby kitty walking through a cat sized door

In case you needed a visual of this snobby possibly-fictional kitty.

Reputed historians note that, for centuries, farmers in rural areas have cut holes in the walls of their grain storage buildings to invite in feral cats to keep the rat population down. And we all know how much Egyptians loved their cats so I’m guessing they had diamond gilded cat doors made of gold in their pyramid shaped houses. People have probably been fed up with letting their pets in and out for thousands of years, and ever since there have been doors, there have been holes in them for animals to come and go freely. Even cavemen hated getting up from the couch to let the dog in.

Two mummified cats

Cat mummies….Egyptians were bonkers.

So that was a just a roundabout way of saying, we installed a dog door! After a very frustrating Friday I drove to Home Depot and bought the biggest dog door they sell (the size is SUPER Extra Large for dogs up 120lbs). I immediately ran into some problems when I got home. Basically the back door has panels in it. So the dog door can’t lie flush. This DYI article told me that was no big deal. We just had to buy some pieces of molding to shove in there and caulk it. So we set off!

The first thing we did was trace the dog door cover onto the door (that’s the size hole you should end up with) and measure the spaces we’d fill with molding later (where the panels are on the door). We went to Home Depot, spent like an hour sawing off the 10 pieces we needed and headed back home. We realized that we hadn’t measured how thick the wood should be so we eyeballed it at about 1/2 an inch. (It turned out 3/4 would have been better but we just caulked it all together.) Then we took the door off the hinges and got started!

Using a hammer and screwdriver to take a door of its hinges

Due to many makeshift beer pong tables in my past I’m pretty adept at this particular skill.

Me drilling holes at the corners of the hole where the dog door will fit

Then we drilled holes at the corners of the opening tracing.

We took an electric saw and cut the hole out of the door.

We took an electric saw (lent to us by our awesome neighbors!) and cut the hole out of the door, then lined up the filler pieces to make sure they fit.

Bender looks on as we do construction out on the deck that sunny afternoon

Bender was very helpful. And not afraid of the loud construction sounds!

Door with the hole cut into with glued on filler pieces

We used caulk to glue all of the filler pieces onto the door.

Door with the pieces all screwed together and dog door installed

Then screwed the inside and outside pieces of the dog door together and caulked all the holes to seal out any winter breezes!

Nate demonstrating how to use the dog door. He is halfway out with Bender looking on from the sunroom skeptically

Nate demonstrated proper dog door use to Bender.

Bender is not quite sure how to handle this development in his independence. He’s pretty good at going in and out when we encourage him. But making the decision on his own has been an adjustment. He does a lot of sticking his head through and whining. But I think he’ll get it sooner or later.

Bender peeking his head through the door. Not sure what to make of it.

You can do it!

How Much does a Puppy Cost?

So, not including the emotional wear and tear of worrying about him ALL the time (seriously, it’s like he’s a five year old walking by himself to the first day of kindergarten through lava fields and across busy streets), and not counting the time we spend on him because he literally gets into everything (we pulled a 2 inch piece of broken glass out of his mouth three weeks ago) I’m trying to figure out exactly how much we have spent on this mongrel so far. 

Piles of things for a dog, treat ball, leash, accident clean up spray, tennis balls, brush, kong, nail clippers and dog bowls

The first shipment of puppy stuff…not off to a good start

I tallied it all up and, excluding time, energy, stress etc, he has cost us $1601.99 in slightly less than 3 months of living with us.

Books Before we Got him – $45.19

The books I read were invaluable for helping me prepare for the B-Man entering our lives. Invaluable because it gave me an outlet for the stress of welcoming a puppy into the house. All that reading made me feel like I was doing something to prepare. I felt like I had a handle on what to expect, how to deal, what kind of parent I wanted to be, and some good insights to the  psychology of a dog.  But, that being said, I think the classes we took at the Humane Society helped me learn how to train him WAY more than any book did. So after reading the books I’ve listed below, I would recommend reading the monk book (The Art of Raising a Puppy) and finding a reward based training class to take a dog to. 

The Monks of New Skete the art of raising a puppy

The Monks of New Skete The Art of Raising a Puppy

The Puppy $158 ($808 without help and without presents)

Bender and his siblings cost $600 for some people, but since we had an in with Brady’s owner (her mom was my dog so we took care of Brady for 9 weeks!) her owner sold her son to us for $400. And my parents bought him for us! So that fee was waived. It also cost a lot to get back to the East coast and bring him home. A golden retriever puppy from the Humane Society would have cost $300, a grown up golden would have been $200, of course that’s without traveling to pick the little guy up too, but I wanted a dog from a line I know and love.  The dogs I have known from this family are calm, friendly, smart, and healthy. So I thought it was worth it to know those things, but obviously I totally support adopting pets!!

Bender sitting on the porch steps at his 2nd home, Gail's house.

Bender at his 2nd home, Gail’s house.

Medical $476 ($568 w/out help)

Obviously he’s going to need to go to the vet, and a lot of people advised us to get pet insurance, but at $30 a month it seemed (and seems) like a rip off. We did decide that $10 a month was worth it for accident insurance. That’s like if he gets hit by a car, gets in a fight, or swallows an entire sock and needs surgery. It kind of seemed like that was the most worthwhile thing to have covered. Other than that we went with a plan from our humane society that is a serious deal. It basically covers everything for a puppy’s first year of care including getting fixed and microchipping. 

Things he wears $30.12

Collars are necessary…bow-ties etc.? maybe not so much. But come on. SO CUTE!!

Bender, a golden retriever puppy, wearing a dapper bowtiw

Bender’s looking very dapper in his bow tie.

Things he Eats $111.68

I did a lot of research on dog food. Mostly because I do marketing for some premium dog food companies. It came in handy! I learned that the first ingredient in any good dog food is going to be some kind of meat meal. Chicken meal, lamb meal, beef meal, etc. That means meat that has been dehydrated and ground up and used at the main ingredient in the food. If the first ingredient is just meat, like “chicken” “lamb” “beef” it means fresh meat. Fresh meat sounds great! But in reality it means most of that ingredient is just water. So even if “chicken” is the first ingredient in a food, it doesn’t mean that there is a lot of protein and nutrients from that chicken in the food because when it goes into the recipe it’s mostly water. So look for foods with meat meal, but watch out for by-product meal! That means all of the inedible parts of the animal ground up to be the main ingredient. Not good. Also in general you want to look for potatoes or rice in favor of corn or wheat. Foods with high quality ingredients are more expensive, but your dog will eat less of it because it’s so packed with protein and nutrition, also his stools (that means poops) will be more sturdy and easier to clean up. 

Eagle Pack large and giant breed puppy food

We feed him Eagle Pack Large & Giant Breed Puppy dry food (6 cups a day!)

Things he Chews $166.37

The best way to keep Bender from chewing our shoes, socks, etc. was to get good treats and toys. I refuse to buy him squeaker toys. I don’t want to listen to it so he doesn’t get to partake — when he visits Tom and Beth he gets to squeak all the toys he wants though! And Leo has brought a few over for him. Other than that, tennis balls are obviously great, in a surprising turn of events he LOVES felt toys (I’m going to start buying felt and making them) and recently a great purchase has been the toys you can fill with treats. When he was little he didn’t have enough motivation to keep chewing on them and get the treats out. He’s learned though, and is really into them. We use them to stop him from barking in the yard and to keep him happy when he’s in the crate.  

For treats we are using “high value treats” which means they are soft, fragrant, and delicious (aka horrible). Basically the main ingredients are protein packed without a lot of extra sugar, wheat, and bullshit that you find in things like milk bones. We’re cutting up pieces of Natural Balance logs into treat sized bits. Bender freaking loves them. He goes bonkers for them. So they have been great for training.  One day we will probably swap to milk bones, but for now while he’s growing so I like to be giving him stuff that’s really beneficial for him. 

Things to call Home $135 ($195 with gift)

We wanted to crate train him, it’s been great being able to put him in there when we leave. We won’t always, but it’s nice for now when he’s a puppy and we can’t 100% trust him in the house. And he loves being in his crate. As much as we feel ok leaving him there because we know he can’t get into anything or hurt himself, he also seems to feel safe and secure in there. Additionally his dog beds have been great. He loves them 80% of the time (the rest of the time he sleeps on cold tile).

Training Classes $200

These classes are amazing. They are way more informative than any of the books I read. It helps teach us how Bender is perceiving our actions. The main thing I love is that they tell us to wait for Bender to do what we want him to instead of telling him what we want him to do. That way he figures out how to anticipate what we want, without us continually commanding him. 

Other things he needs $274.63

Ok so I got tired of making categories for things he needs and just jumbled the rest into this section. I also included $100 for stuff I probably forgot to include below. 

Before we got Bender I asked a lot of my friends how much their dogs cost them. Everyone agreed that the first year was exponentially more expensive than the subsequent years, and that the main cost was food. That was helpful information. My mom replied  “if you have to ask you can’t afford it” that was decidedly unhelpful.

After compiling the info from my friends I came up with $800 the first year and less after that (this was a gross underestimation). I don’t think I spend exorbitant amounts of money on him. I’ve never spent more than $12 on a toy (and felt ripped off – thanks a lot Kong). For the most part I think I have only bought him things he needs (exclude the $5 bow-tie from that statement). I could have gotten him 1 regular bowl instead of two elevated bowls, but big dogs are prone to a fatal stomach condition that can be avoided by elevating their food. I got the cheapest giant crate I could find. All in all I think I was fairly frugal with my purchases for him. 

But still In total, in 3 months he has cost us: $1601.99 and if we had not had any help, he would have cost $2408.99. Of course that will taper off, even his food costs will go down when he isn’t eating 6 cups a day and he will need less and less new stuff as he gets old, but still it’s a pretty amazing number. 

How much does your dog cost you??

And for those of you who are wondering, here is a broken down list: 


Paperback Book – Good Owners, Great Dogs $15

Paperback Book – How to Raise a Puppy you can Live with 14.20

Kindle Book – The Art of Raising a Puppy (the Monk Book) 10.00

Kindle Book – 14 days to a well behaved dog $5.99

BENDER $158 ($808 without help and with presents)

He cost $400 (waived – he was a gift from my parents, thanks guys!! Best present ever!!)

Flight to New Jersey to pick him up: $50 (I had a voucher and miles, it was $300 w/out vouchers)

Cost to take a puppy as carry on on the flight: $75 on Southwest

Carrier for the plane: $30 

Pee pads for the airport (which he didn’t use) $3

MEDICAL $476 ($568 w/out help)

1st round of shots: $92 (Waived – gift from my parents)

Vet Puppy Package including 2 exams, parasite screening and all necessary vaccines, microchip & neuter: $310  at the Boulder Humane Society

Additional Vet Visit for cough: $66

Accident Insurance: $100/year

THINGS HE WEARS: $35.12 ($40.12 w/ gift)

1st Collar: $5 (waived – gift)

Name Tag: $8.12 at Petsmart

Harness for walks: $14 at Target

Training collar (that we’ve never used) $8 at Amazon

Bow tie: $5 at Target


Three 30lb bags Large Breed Puppy Food Eagle Pack: $111.68 on Amazon (with subscribe and save)

THINGS HE CHEWS: (bones, toys etc) $166.37

Himalayan cheese blocks $8.76 at Amazon

Treats (meat logs) 4lb $26.91 at Amazon

Raw hides and other chew toys: $22.67 at Ross

Kong, Chew Toy, Kong stuffers, $30 at Petsmart

5 Chew toys $20 at Target

1 felt chew toy, 1 cow ear $5 at Humane Society

3 Pig Ears $5 at Safeway

2 Kongs, 1 sm, 1 med $18 from Amazon

18 tennis balls $13.15 from Amazon PS did you know you can get these for free from tennis clubs?!

Chuck it $7 from Amazon

Treat puzzle ball $9.88 from Amazon

THINGS TO CALL HOME $135 ($195 with gift) 

Huge Dog Bed #1: $60 (gift, waived) from Costco

Dog Bed #2: $10 at Ross

Tall Elevated food bowls $55 from Amazon

Midwest Large Double Door Crate $70 from Amazon


Puppy classes at the Humane Society $200


1 Roll of Poop bags $2 at the Humane society

30 Rolls Poop Bags $30 on Amazon

50 qt Food bin $33.34 at Petsmart

6 clickers $8 from Amazon (1 from humane society)

Puppy Shampoo – $6 at Ross

24oz Bitter spray (this stuff is a lifesaver) $18.50

Brush $10

Nail clippers $9

PooperScooper $8.80

6ft leather leash $18

Odor removing spray for in-house accidents: $10.99

60ft line and two clips from HomeDepot (long leash for recall training) $20

Miscellaneous stuff I forgot: $100

What happened to a good old thump on the noggin?

So I’m beginning to realize something here, this positive reinforcement thing is a real pain in the ass. It goes like this: your puppy jumps up on the couch, you lure him off with what they call a “high value treat” also known as a tiny stinky piece of a horrifying meat log made of beef lungs, turkey liver and potatoes. This meat log situation is seriously enough to make you rethink the whole pet ownership thing in the first place. Anyway, sooner or later your dog realizes that whenever you see him up on the couch and start coming for him he is going to get a treat so he makes the decision, on his own (read: tricked into it by me and my horrible meat treat), to get off the couch. Once he has started making that decision, you add the command “get down” “off” “stop ruining my couch you asshole” etc. and he starts to associate that command with his decision to get his dirty-from-digging-up-the-garden-you-worked-on-all-Spring paws on the floor where they belong. Before long every time he jumps on the couch you can tell him to get down and he will!

positive reinforcement doesn't seem to work on bender, the golden retriever puppy with two paws on the couch looking like he's done nothing wrong.

Don’t mind me…

Of course that doesn’t solve the problem of him jumping up there in the first place… Or the larger problem that I’m coming across: when he wants a treat he goes and jumps on the couch and then gets down and comes and sits next to me expectantly. So that’s awesome, I’ve successfully trained him to hang out on the couch for a few seconds. Bravo me!

Bender, two paws on the couch, looking like he's done nothing wrong

I’m just here for the treats

 What happened to the good old days where a thump on the noggin was allowed during dog training? Now it’s all about you manipulating him into making his own decisions. They tell you to be the alpha in the relationship, but doesn’t letting him make his own decision to remove his furry butt from my couch make him feel like he’s in charge? I guess only time will tell. And, to be fair, I trained him to sit using positive reinforcement: treat by his nose, back it up so he sits, click the clicker and give him a treat. And now he sits all the time without me asking. Maybe he’ll start not getting on the couch all the time one day real soon. Or maybe I’m just supposed to give him treats whenever he isn’t on the couch? That doesn’t seem very efficient….

Bender with a mouthful of white down comforter


But let me tell you the most demoralizing part. Sometimes, in moments of weakness, all I want is to hold that little furball on my lap on the couch while I rewatch the 3rd season of Futurama for the fifteenth time. I mean really that’s why I got a puppy in the first place right?! So I scoop him up from the floor by our feet, he yawns and, half-asleep, he flops into my lap hiccuping every few seconds. 

Bender in my lap for a few short seconds


For a few moments it’s fantastic, and then the other shoe drops, his hiccups wake him up more fully, and he realizes “Oh gross! I’m on the couch! This place is the worst!” and squirms his way back to the floor to sleep on cold tile with his head resting on a chair rung. I take this to mean that he’s just a treat-junky jerk who never even wants to be on the couch at all! At this point all my optimism flies right out the window and in my frustration I decide to write a grumpy blog post. 

bender with his head asleep on a chair rung

That’s more like it.

Disclaimer: No dogs were thumped on the noggin during this blog post. Or any other time.

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