I have been wanting to write about our experience with Lo for a while, but it’s one of those things I just put off because I had so much to say. Lately, I’ve had a lot of people asking about both our experience with her 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 pulling the trigger this time of year. I’ll tell you how we ended up with Lo, and what I’ve learned since.
If you’re one of those who’s thinking about getting a dog for Christmas, you’ll find this post helpful!
Lo came to us in an unexpected way, at a time when we weren’t planning or looking for a dog at all. One of my best friends had gotten her for his little girl just after Christmas last year. He’s actually a huge dog lover himself, so when his work situation got crazy and a housing situation changed, he knew it wasn’t ideal for a puppy. He asked if we wanted her, and looking back on it now I realize he knew how much I actually needed her. She ended up being the best gift ever, and literally changed our lives for the better. Who knew we would become crazy dog people? We laugh at ourselves for it daily!
When we found out Lo was coming to us, 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 definitely pays off.
To start, I ordered Cesar Milan’s (yes, the original Dog Whisperer!) book called How to Raise the Perfect Dog: Through Puppyhood and Beyond. I highly recommend this book to anyone thinking about getting a dog – it puts you in the mindset you need to be in. Cesar’s principles are amazing – he will tell you how pick a breed that’s a good fit for your family and then goes on to help you establish yourself as pack leader from the very beginning. Blake and I both read this book and it really helped the two of us get on the same page, which is also very important!
Another thing we found so helpful from Cesar is 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.
Crate Training + Potty Training. These two go hand in hand – do both!! Cesar talks about it in the book I recommended above, but you can also find several helpful resources online. I went through a cycle with Lo for probably two weeks where I literally had her in her crate, took her out to go to the bathroom, and then followed her around constantly to make sure she didn’t have an accident. She is so good about it now! My favorite crates are these I found on Amazon – literally a quarter of what it would have cost me to buy the same one in a pet store, and I love that it’s collapsible for easy travel. If you’re getting a puppy, you can get a larger crate with a divider to allow for their growth. You can also get the washable pad to match the size and a cover to help your puppy feel like their crate is a safe little den.
Tricks. To me, one of the best parts about having a dog is teaching them tricks! I know this isn’t important to some people, but I kind of love it. I also feel like most dogs love it, and it’s fun bonding time for you both. So far Lo has learned to sit, lay down, roll over, stay, high five, shake, “do yoga” (downward dog), spin, fetch, and her latest – stand up on her hind legs (she’s got pretty awesome balance for a top-heavy french bulldog!) Granted, she will usually only do these if you have a t-r-e-a-t in your hand, which I choose to attribute to her breed instead of our training ;). We learned how to teach her most of these from watching YouTube videos, specifically videos from Zak George. He’s a little bit of cheeseball, but his videos are SO helpful and he has videos about just about anything!! I love that he’s all about POSITIVE reinforcement.
Food. There are so many options out there for food, it can be overwhelming. I wanted her to have something healthy, and I knew I needed something that could be ordered easily online because of our busy lifestyle. We settled on Wellness CORE, and we’ve loved it. I even have a Dash Button set up that we can press to reorder when we are getting low, which is so awesome because running out of dog food is kind of the worst. Lo’s been on the puppy formula since we’ve had her, and now that she’s a year we are switching her over to this adult version. We’ve also loved using these treats for training – I love that they are so soft since Lo isn’t the best at chewing things ;).
Toys. Lo LOVES her toys!!! Her favorite toy in the entire world has become this frisbee, and I love that it’s rubber instead of hard plastic so she can pick it up, fetch it, chew it, and play tug-of-war with it. She’s also loved her stuffed animals (her moose, Chewy, and pink elephant are favorites!) and these Kong tennis balls (but I have to be careful because she eventually chews the squeaker out and will swallow it!).
Crates and Beds. I already mentioned that I love this combo of crate, pad, and cover. As far as beds, I’ve tried to mix it up with cuter options but Lo’s very favorite bed is always this one – she loves to have the sides to rest her head on (and it helps her not to snore as much!) and I love that I can throw it in the wash every once in a while.
Leash and Collar. I wanted a super basic/plain collar for Lo, so we started out with this one, and got this matching leash. They were such a good price compared to what I saw in pet stores and way higher quality. There are so many other cute ones out there, so I’d start basic and then go crazy when you see something you like later on! You may want a specific kind of leash/collar for training as well. We’ve found that this collar has helped SO much for Lo – Frenchies are prone to pulling which can cause neck problems later in life, so I love that she’ll stay right next to me with it on. I’ve also heard amazing this about the Gentle Leader, although we can’t use it for Lo because she doesn’t really have a snout ;).
Breed-specific needs. 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. French Bulldogs are hilarious and don’t require much exercise. But they do require a LOT of companionship (aka they are very needy!), are prone to hip and neck problems, and have lots of respiratory issues because of their flat faces. Also, we found out they can’t swim very well – I read awful stories of Frenchies drowning and realized we needed to be careful Lo actually swims almost completely vertical to keep her face out of the water because she’s so top-heavy! She’s fine for short distances, but we did some research and found her a great little life jacket for when we are out on the boat ;).
Healthcare. We signed Lo up for the Puppy Wellness Plan At Banfield (usually located in PetSmart), which I totally recommend for their first year! It covers all of their vaccinations and neuter/spay, so it saves you a ton. It also covers a monthly pill, Trifexis, that will keep them from getting fleas and ticks. After the first year I’ve heard it’s best to get pet insurance, especially with French Bulldogs, so we are currently on the hunt to find a good plan for Lo.
Daycare. For the most part, either Blake or I can be with Lo and she’s not left home for more than a few hours at a time. For those rare days where neither of us can take her, we found a daycare that we love. I suggest finding a daycare where the dogs are allowed to be free and socialize. When we are in Orange County we LOVE The Bone Adventure, and when we are in Utah we love Unleashed. Lo loves them even more than we do and she gets so much energy out – she sleeps for days after spending time there!
Apps. There are so many helpful apps – one that our neighbors love to use is called Wag. You can have someone come walk your dog or let them out for you if you can’t make it home!
Lo’s Birthday. Ok, so we celebrated Lo’s birthday. Mostly because we thought it would be funny, and it was! I made her a cake from this mix I found online and it was so easy.
Other tips and tricks. We socialized Lo early on, got her used to kids, used to travel, etc. I’m so glad we did, because we want to have a dog that we feel safe bringing anywhere.
If you read this post and you thought, “I don’t have time for all of that!” then please DON’T get a dog! Seriously! (Except for the birthday part, that part is definitely NOT necessary and a little weird!) Aside from that dogs take a LOT of time, especially in the beginning. I was lucky to have that time to spend with Lo, and we continue to put a lot of time and money into her. But, if you have the time and are willing to put in the work, dogs are seriously the greatest blessing in your life. Sounds cheesy, I know, but Lo really has become part of our family and we are so grateful for her.
Message me if you have any other questions that I can help with!!
**Family photo by Ryan Haack of Foxes and Wolves.