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I was excited when my boyfriend and I started talking about adopting a dog.

We didn’t know what breed was right for us, so we started approaching strangers to ask them about their dog. The cool thing about dog lovers is that everyone is more than happy to chat about their dogs. 

Today, four years later, we have four dogs and a lot of change in our lives, including learning to laugh at the things I didn’t know before adopting a dog!

1. Everyone has opinions – a puppy has his own gravitational pull and will suck everyone in. Most of those well-meaning people will want to give you advice. Just keep in mind that people are coming from a place of wanting to see you and your puppy happy. Some people are a little more aggressive in sharing their opinions than others. I have learned to smile, be gracious, and set boundaries.

2. You can never have too many poop bags – the feel of relief and pride that you had one last dog poop bag is quickly overshadowed when your dog takes one more poop. And it’s bigger than the last. And there's a jogger passing, watching, judging. Always judging.

3. "No Odor Bully Sticks" is an oxymoron – I have fallen for this marketing ploy many times, because I expect "no odor" to mean just that, but what it means (I think) is that they don’t smell as bad as other bully sticks. They all stink, but the smell is a nice exchange for the 20 minutes of peace in a multi-dog house.

4. That is not your dog’s guilty face – one of my dog training friends has repeated this to me so many times that it now runs through my head whenever I think my dog is "feeling guilty." Instead, dogs react to our tone of voice and energy. When we’re unhappy, they submit – when we’re happy, they wag their tails and wiggle their butts. They do not "feel guilty."

5. Learn to read the labels of food and treats – just because a package says healthy or natural doesn’t mean that it’s a good product for our dogs. It’s important to understand what’s in the food we give our dogs, because they count on us to provide them with a healthy, happy and safe life. I’ve found that it’s easier to find a few healthy brands I trust and stick with those.

I’ve learned a lot over the past four years, but I’m not an expert – something new comes up daily. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that we owe it to our dogs to give them an amazing life, because they give so much to us in return. Anyone who has felt the loss of a dog understands the value they add to our lives. That’s a huge debt that I’m happy to repay every day. 

For more tips on raising dogs naturally, visit Keep the Tail Wagging.

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