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7 Things I Learned About Raising Dogs in 2013

We rang in the New Year with 4 dogs under our roof. All 4 dogs were stretched out on the sectional while we were each squeezed into corners afraid to move. We didn't want to wake them up.

We're raising 2 sets of littermates; 2 adults and 2 puppies. Someone once told me that when you have 2 dogs, adding more isn't much different. They were mistaken.

2013 was a learning year for us. We switched from kibble to raw, we lost our heart, dog and we adopted puppies - again. Dog ownership gifts us with lessons every year and 2013 was a doozy…

Dog training never ends. Adding puppies to our family changed the dynamic - our pack had grown and we had to learn to co-exist with 4 dogs and 2 cats. We take every opportunity to practice our recall. The dogs now sit patiently for their meals. We're still working on the bum rush out the door when it's play time.

We now connect with dog trainers a few times a year who work with us so that we can work with our dogs, because each is different. Rodrigo has leash aggression, the puppies are - well - puppies, and Sydney…Sydney is perfect. Everyone has one.

Feeding raw isn't cheap or easy. We feed raw dog food. We switched in April 2013 and it's been one of the best decisions we've made for our dogs. What I didn't expect was that it would be expensive, it would require lots of study, and one year later, I'm still learning.

Raw feeding involves a careful balancing of meat, bone and supplements to make sure that our dogs get proper nutrition. It also involves an additional freezer, lots of storage containers, and a cabinet in the kitchen for the dogs.

Losing a dog never gets easy. Last year we lost a dog. Blue was our heart dog; that one dog that comes into your life and changes you. We're still mourning that loss, which is something that I didn't anticipate. Of course, it's never easy losing a dog, but it will always amaze me how strongly we feel their departure.

Scout and Zoey are Australian Shepherd, Blue Heeler mix (same as Blueberry) and every day they do something that reminds us of our heart. It's like he's still here. Those memories are sweet, but I guess we'll always miss the original.

Once you let the dogs on the furniture, dog beds are a novelty. My boyfriend came home one day and said that he didn't want the dogs on the furniture anymore. The mish -mash of non-matching throws and blankets that covered our furniture looked tacky. And we couldn't sit on the sofa together.

We bought comfy dog beds and spent several weeks trying to convince the dogs how lucky they were. Once we gave up, the dogs started sleeping on their beds all the time. There are always at least 2 dogs on the sofa; at least we can sit on it now.

Open communication with your vet is key. We came out to our vet about feeding raw last year. I was nervous; anticipating a lecture on the dangers of raw meat. Our vet told us to do our homework and when she was satisfied that we took it seriously, her tone changed and she gave us advice.

Not what I was expecting.

Not all vets agree with the raw food diet, but communication is important, because they want to help us raise healthy dogs.

Jumping puppies are cute, jumping dogs aren't. Our puppies are cute. What wasn't cute was when Zoey took a piece of cooked chicken (with bone) off the table. My boyfriend caught her quickly and she dropped it.

What I didn't do (and I'm proud of myself) was remind my boyfriend of the times he fed Zoey from the table, from his plate, with his fork and thought it was so cute. It was cute then. Not so cute now that she can serve herself.

Another learning experience.

The best time to clip a dog's nails is after a long, busy day.

I did the paw massages. I wanted to get our dogs used to having their paws handled and their nails clipped. They still hate it. Well, I think it kind of tickles Scout, because he thinks it's a game.

The best time to clip our dogs' nails is right before bedtime after a long day of exercise. When they can barely keep their eyes open; I walk around with the Miller's Forge clippers clip away. I can clip everyone's nails in 10 minutes.

Living with dogs provides plenty of opportunities to learn new things. I know what each bark means and who it belongs to. I love each of their unique personality traits. And, of course, the training never ever ends.

Kimberly Gauthier

Kimberly Gauthier is the Fur Mom to 4 dogs and founder of Keep the Tail Wagging, an online magazine for dog lovers. She shares her experience raising dogs naturally while feeding raw. When she’s not laughing with her boyfriend or playing with her dogs, she can be found writing, taking pictures, reading, or watching movies.

Apr 29, 2014

Tags:   pet tips   pet parenting  


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