I have been wanting to write about my experience with Freddy for a while, but it’s one of those things that I’ve kept putting off because I had so much to say. Lately, I’ve had more people asking about our experience with him and about getting a dog in general. I thought now would be a good time to share what I’ve learned, since I know there are a lot of people thinking about adding to their family this time of year. I’ll tell you how we ended up with Freddy, and what I’ve learned since.
If you’re one of those who’s thinking about getting a puppy for Christmas, you’ll find this post helpful!
We got Freddy on August 30th, 2014 when he was almost 10 weeks old. We drove down to Lititz, PA (about 6.5 hrs) and picked him up at a farm. Actually, we ended up selecting “Frisky”, but renamed him “Freddy” after his brother who we originally went there for. Frisky (now Freddy) kept coming up to us and when I sent this picture to my brother to help me pick, he right away said, “the one on the left with the funny face!”
Nico was a solid semester into his MBA program and it was around the time I was finally comfortable living away from home (I can’t believe I was home-sick when I still live in the same state as my parents! #embarrassing) The truth is I WAS homesick – basically because I grew up with parents who did everything for me — from laundry to cooking to cleaning, I never had to worry or do anything around the house (so appreciative of how hard my parents work to take care of us!) BUT looking back on it now, it did not give me the chance to prepare for living on my own. Luckily, I lived in college (a mile away from home) and babysat since I was 12 years old so got my experiences there of keeping a house clean, making dinner, entertaining, doing laundry, using a dish washer etc, but it’s not the same when you own a condo and officially call somewhere else home. When I finally got the hang of living with Nico and being okay with the normal living on your own things, like grocery shopping (I cried my first few times from being overwhelmed), I had to now deal with really being alone and not having Nico home for things like dinner — night classes and his busy work schedule on top of my (then) corporate job was A LOT and I felt lonely.
We’ve been reflecting about the last few years as Nico’s MBA program comes to an end (yay!), and we are realizing how much I actually needed Freddy. He ended up being the best gift ever, and literally changed our lives for the better. Who knew we would become crazy dog people? I went from being afraid of any dog I saw to hanging out at dog parks on the reg — It’s funny when we really think about it!
When we decided on the right breed for us (a hypoallergenic/ non shedding/ family dog type) and I knew there was a 99.9% chance we would be getting Freddy, I started researching like crazy. I wanted to go about everything in the right way. Now I’m so grateful that I put so much time in in the beginning – it has definitely paid off.
To start, I ordered some books off Amazon like: HOW TO HOUSEBREAK YOUR DOG IN 7 DAYS and TRAINING THE BEST DOG EVER. I highly recommend these books to anyone thinking about getting a dog – it puts you in the mindset you need to be in. Once you select the breed that is right for you and your family – you really need to establish your training method. We focused primarily on the power of positive reinforcement so Nico and I both read these books to really help the two of us get on the same page, which is also very important! We also found the methods that Cesar Milan (yes, the dog whisperer!) teaches very helpful like in this article about bringing your dog home for the first time. That first moment they walk through your door is SO important! He will take you through 8 steps to establish some super important ground rules and boundaries.
Another thing we did once we got Freddy was decided that we wanted to take him to a training program aka puppy school. I really wanted to make sure I was doing the best I could to make sure I was setting the dog up to succeed. We went with the New England Dog Training Academy. If you live in the Boston area, I couldn’t recommend them enough. Freddy started in the puppy-kindergarten class, where they not only teach the pups what to do, but more importantly, teach the owners how to train and how to present themselves when training. SO important! He moved so quickly through the classes, breezing through most of his classmates to the agility programs (#proudparents). He got both his American Kennel Club (AKC) STAR Puppy and Good Canine Citizen certification in about a year. The training treats they can be bought here — you basically just cut up the log into bite size pieces and have them with you on walks and any training opportunities (which are all the time, so take with you!) All the dogs absolutely love these so just get the 4 lb size so it lasts longer — you can keep it in the fridge!
POTTY TRAINING & CRATE TRAINING: These two go hand in hand – and I started out with the crate, but after observing Freddy, Nico and I decided the crate was not a tool we wanted to utilize. The books I recommended above talk about crates, but you can also find several helpful resources online. I went through a cycle with Freddy for two – three weeks where we left a puppy pad out in the same spot. We got these because they don’t leak like some of the cheaper ones out there. Focusing on positive reinforcement, we praised Freddy every time he went on the puppy pad and we were home to see. Sometimes, I would come home to accidents under the dining room table, and would just immediately take Freddy to his puppy pad and say siu-siu pronouncing it “shee-shee” (this means pee in Polish (and in Portuguese!)) so he would go to the bathroom. If we were home and saw Freddy go (not on the pad), then again, we would immediately pick him up and take him to his puppy pad. On the weekends when I was home all day, I could dedicate the time to take him outside every 2-3 hours and say siu-sui. I left the pad out for maybe a month so that when I had to be at work, he would go there, but when I was home he would go to the door (sometimes he would jingle these poochie bells so I could hear!) and I knew he had to go to the bathroom. He learned really quick! My cousin lent me a larger crate with a divider inside to allow for growth, you want to keep them snug so they don’t go to the bathroom in half of their crate and then sleep next to it all day until let out. We left the crate out with the door open, but he hardly went in there. The crate is supposed to make the dog feel safe, but we saw it more as a little jail. I hear great things about crate training and Freddy’s school even endorses it, but we just did not like the idea of it and did not go through with it. If your dog is a danger to himself when you are not home, (I have this cheap camera I got on Amazon so I could check in to see) then definitely use a crate or isolate your dog somewhere so he is safe. Freddy would just lay by the window or in our bed, so I didn’t see a need to use the crate.
TRICKS: Dogs want to please us and they want to do what we ask them to do! It might not seem that way at first, but they love to feel appreciated. So far Freddy has learned to sit, lay down, crawl, stay, stand up, touch (different objects), treats on your bed, paw, other paw, high-five, fetch, silent-bark, speak, kisses, and his latest, hug. He will do these now, even if you don’t have a treat in your hand. A simple belly rub, or just positive attention works! We learned how to teach him most of these from his school and from his monthly PupBox subscription. Each month, we would get a box filled with educational pieces like how to teach high-five, how to teach stay, how to brush your dog’s teeth, as well as some new toys and treats to try! Use code: Freddy15 to get 15% off your order. We don’t get PupBox anymore because Freddy will be 3 next July, but I saved all the laminated training cards that came in each one and use them as reference every now and then. Make sure the tricks are all about POSITIVE reinforcement and make them fun! If the dog is not getting it, just take a break and try again the next day.
FOOD: With so many options out there for food, it can be overwhelming. I wanted Freddy to have something healthy, and something he would actually like to eat. We started on Wellness Complete Health: Puppy, and we loved it. Freddy has proven to be quite the picky eater, so I have experimented with many options out there to make his kibble more appealing, like these meal mixers and also these that I just crumble on top of so he eats it all up. After a recommendation from someone at Freddy’s training school, we switched to a brand called Fromm. I liked that you could switch up the flavor each time and it wouldn’t cause any adverse reaction. We’ve been switching up the flavors every time to keep him interested. Recently, we completely changed Freddy’s diet due to an allergy – goldendoodles are known to have super sensitive stomachs – more about that and recipes for what Freddy eats now in an upcoming post! Fromm is a great brand though and only can be found at specialty boutiques which I like because I know it isn’t being over commercialized. I highly recommend it and to buy on Amazon because it is a lot cheaper. I buy his absolute favorite treats (he gets one every day after our morning walk) from Amazon too. You can’t find a better deal in any store (trust me, I’ve researched).
BONES & TREATS I started out giving Fred all kinds of bones but now that I learned more about them and monitored his reactions to some, I have eliminated many due to choking and/or his sensitive stomach. I do get him raw bone marrow bones from the butcher shop! I try to get the ones that are cut small so he can get all the marrow out. BE CAREFUL though, dogs with longer snouts can possibly get them stuck, so opt for the longer cuts if that is the case. When he eats all the marrow, I re-use them and make frozen treats that I posted about here. He loves the cow, buffalo and lamb ears, so I get those on occasion. Also, I treat him to a bully stick once in a while. I used to get them all the time, but he eats them SO fast and they can be pricey. They even make odor-free ones, which are key because they can stink! I try to buy bones and chews from local pet stores to support local businesses but I linked some places you can get them online too! Please, make sure whatever you’re getting is made in the USA — have you heard about all the nastiness that goes into some of these bones and treats when they come from China or somewhere overseas? Gross, so many dogs were getting sick.
TOYS: Fred LOVES his toys and definitely got spoiled in the beginning with his monthly Pupbox coming in and always getting a new toy surprise! We ended up donating a lot of them to shelters or gave some away as gifts. The Pupbox was also great for me to see what kind of toys Freddy really likes and which he doesn’t bother with. Like I would’ve never knew about a treat dispensing peanut or this treat dispensing ball if he didn’t get them in his box. He goes around the entire house with it, rolling it, getting treats (or kibble) as he goes. It keeps him busy and out of ALL the ones we’ve had and tried, this one works the best and it’s only 5$! (definitely getting some more because it’s a pain when we can’t find it or I left it at my parents house). His favorite toy in the entire world has become a stuffed moose that he picked out himself on a trip to VT. I linked a similar one here (I swear you can find everything on Amazon — I’m kind of obsessed). He seems to like the soft and fluffy ones, like his elephant, fluffy dog and kitty. We also got him this frisbee, because he was playing with the hard plastic ones so much that he cut his tongue on it. It’s made of rubber so he can pick it up easily too. I can’t throw far so we got this ball launcher and then a pack of 3 rubber balls to go with it!
LEASH & COLLAR: I wanted a basic/plain collar for Freddy, so we started out with this simple leash and matching collar ($3!) from Target. I got this tag engraved on Amazon too. The leash is still Nico’s favorite out of all the leashes we’ve got. He likes that it’s not too long, so we can keep Freddy close by on walks (like he was trained to do in school – always walk them on your left BTW). It also has a little loop so you can attach a poop bag holder! The quality of the Boots & Barkley line at Target is really good compared to a lot of the stuff at chain pet stores. We have since added seasonal ones like this one for summer. You may want a specific kind of leash/collar for training as well. All the dogs getting trained at Freddy’s school had these to help with pulling and occasionally I take it out if Freddy needs a refresher on not pulling during our walks 😉
BREED-SPECIFICS: When you’re deciding on a breed, do your research! While every dog is different, there are several things that are inherent/characteristic to each breed. Goldendoodles don’t shed much or at all and are hypoallergenic. This means they require a LOT more grooming than other dogs or they will get mats SO this can get expensive (every 6-8 weeks to the groomers) and you need to maintain their hair in between appointments too. They are also prone to hip dysplasia, and have sensitive stomachs, hence why I went through a couple of different food brands to where we are now.
DAYCARE: For the most part, I would come home on my lunch break to take Freddy out for a walk and give him his lunch, so he would be at home for 4 hours tops each day. For the times Nico and I went on vacation and couldn’t bring Freddy, we were lucky to have my parents watch him for us (it’s like his second home now!). But with us being around him so much, he developed separation anxiety which was VERY stressful for Nico and I. I have been working on a post to talk about the process we went to in getting him back to “normal”. It was NOT easy and he is still not 100% BUT one of the things that helped was finding him a great daycare. I suggest finding a daycare where the dogs are allowed to be free and socialize. Go visit the daycare (to make sure it looks okay) and ask for reviews. I love ours but it took a while for me to get there — I did a lot of research and asking around! You know the place is good when they are very persistent on health records and in doing a “trial” to see if your dog is a good fit. One of the first places I took Freddy to, they just took him in with no questions. I didn’t know any better than until he got sick and after checking the place out myself, I knew why! I wish I looked at them beforehand, so my advice is to do some research first. You want this place to be comfortable for your dog and for you! It really helps with separation anxiety too.
APPS: I use BringFido when we are on the road and are looking for some dog friendly spots (outdoor restaurants, parks, hotels etc). I also use PetDesk to keep track of when I need to give Freddy his heartworm and tick/flea medicines!
BIRTHDAYS: YUP, we celebrated Freddy’s 1st birthday and I went a little crazy because it was fun! Pupbox sponsored his party with raffles, as did 2DogsTreats (a local treat company that Freddy loves and I mentioned them in this post) and J.P. Licks gave us a whole tub of peanut butter sherbet made just for dogs. It was hilarious and I’m glad I did it. For his 2nd birthday, we got him a bone and celebrated with the family while we were at the Cape #lowkey.
SOCIALIZE EARLY! We socialized Freddy early on — my vet offered “puppy socialization classes” on Wednesday nights which were PERFECT! Freddy still loves going to the vet (kinda) because of it and I learned what signs to look for in dog aggression and what it means if they are just playing. We got him used to large crowds, kids, travel (this wasn’t easy until we got this booster seat– it changed everything (thanks Kristen)!), etc. I’m so glad we did, because we want to have a dog that we feel safe bringing anywhere and everywhere, which if you follow Freddy on Instagram (@Freddy_doodle) or me on Snapchat (KPMroczko), you’ll see a glimpse of our life with him.
SO if you read this post and you were thinking to yourself, “I don’t have time for all of that!” then please DO NOT get a dog! Seriously! Aside from that dogs take a LOT of time, especially in the beginning. It was really tough for us to balance our schedules and it was a lot for me to be coming home on my lunch break. I am lucky now that I get to work from home but because we don’t want his separation anxiety to come back, we continue to send him to daycare once or twice a week ($$) and put a lot of time and money into him. However, if you have the time and are willing to put in the work, dogs are seriously the greatest blessing in your life. Sounds cheesy,especially if you’ve never had a pet before, but Freddy really has become part of our family and we are so grateful for him.
Please let me know if you have any questions, I’d love to help!
**P.S. You can click on the thumbnails of every item I mentioned and it will take you directly to the info page for that item**