What do you do with your dog?
As faithful readers know, we got a dog last summer! A puppy! Bonnie came to us from St. Huberts down the road, the last of her litter and frankly, looking like the cutest little runt.
For the first few months, it was all about getting through the night! For like, a week, one of us would sleep with her in the living room and take her out to go to the bathroom every two hours. Which seems ridiculous now. Early on we hit upon the strategy of having my night owl son take care of her until he went to bed sometime after midnight, depending on how the Fortnite battles were going, and then me taking over when I woke up early. For a few months, I actually did wake up early 6:45 or 7:00, even on weekends. I thought maybe this dog would make me a morning person (I usually sleep in as late as possible if I don’t have to get kids to school, something I reverted to as soon as I realized the dog could wait for me to wake up and not have an “accident” in her crate).
So my takeaways from puppyhood are two-fold. One: this too shall pass. We haven’t even had the dog a year and she’s really changed and grown up a lot. She is pretty easy when it comes to being potty trained and sleeping through the night and sometimes late mornings. Two: dogs are good influences. She is at her best when I’m at my best. If I get up early, she’s my companion and loves to do chores like feed our chickens with me. She is best behaved when she’s been “properly exercised,” as the dog trainers say, and that means I get properly exercised too, usually. She even wants my snacks so much that it stops me from having that second or third helping of tortilla chips or cookies, and she gets half as long as they don’t have something in them that will kill her (notably chocolate or grapes — but I’m forever googling whether nuts/pasta/cucumbers/bbq sauce/whatever I happen to be eating or preparing is bad for dogs).
Even though the puppy months are behind us, she still needs care and attention. There are several ways of dealing with this. Here’s what I have found out so far.
Train, train, train
I think this is a big winner. We signed Bonnie up for Puppy Kindergarten a few weeks after we got her. She was three months old and probably not really ready to learn too much, but it was a lifesaver. We took her to St. Huberts. The teachers are very knowledgable and kind. Its really 90 percent training you and 10 percent training your dog, but this didn’t fully dawn on me for several weeks because they’re so clever about it. The puppy kindergarten class is half play time with the other puppies, which is both very beneficial for socializing your dog and impossibly cute. We have continued with classes both because it took her a few tries to get some of the basics and also because it’s a nice activity to do with your dog. And the teachers and fellow students are great sources of info and tips on everything from weird behaviors they’re not specifically addressing in class (Bonnie scratches the floor a lot, so we’re working on that) to where good dog parks are located. St Huberts isn’t the only option for training, but it has worked very well for us and I also feel good supporting such a wonderful organization.
St Huberts also hosts age appropriate dog play dates for puppies and “teen-age” dogs, which is a great way to get your dog’s energy out in a safe, supervised environment, pick the moderator’s brains (they are also dog trainers) and meet fellow dog owners.
Take them out to play!
A great way to have a well behaved dog is to properly exercise him or her, as I said above. Luckily, there are some great places you can take your dog. We have enjoyed walking around the paved path on Woodland Road along Giralda Farms (it goes right past St Huberts, where you can park and also get a bathroom break if you need it). There are also paved trails in the Loantaka Brook Reservation that you can join from Woodland Road (across from the relatively new trail opened that goes into Giralda Farms), Loantaka Way, Kitchell Road or South Street. Dogs are allowed, on their leashes. Other possibilities include the Traction Line Recreation trail along the NJ Transit train tracks in Morristown and the trails in Memorial Park, at which there are plans to make a dog park in the near future. For now, the nearest dog park we’ve found is in Florham Park. It’s very nice, with two areas to play and some charming for (ahem) placement only fire hydrants. If you want more, you have to travel. There’s an excellent dog park in the South Mountain Reservation, which has elements dogs can use for agility tricks and an extensive pebble (which means much less mud) lined park. It is a 20 minute drive. There’s also a dog park in Central Park of Morris County in Parsippany.
That’s Bonnie having tons of fun at the South Mountain reservation dog park.
There’s so much more to dog ownership! Next week: what to do when you need someone else to watch your dog.