How to Raise “A Good Dog.” (Shelter Dogs Included)

How do you raise a good dog? 
The short answer?

Be a good owner.

But the more I learn about the ins and outs and whys and wherefores about animals and why they end up homeless so we can come up with solutions that improve the numbers and outcomes, the more I realize that I have been downright ignorant about a lot of it.

Sure I have been a great pet lover, putting a lot of time and care into my pets’ physical and emotional needs. Giving and getting good kisses. Spending time picking out nutritionally sound dog food . And treats they would LOVE.

But some things I didn’t pay great attention to or downplayed. Like the importance of nipping bad habits in the bud. Whether that seemed innocuous, like begging for more treats or stuff that was embarrassing (or potentially harmful). Like letting my dog jump up on people or running up to strange dogs and pulling an “alpha leader.”

I am not proud to admit this, but I expected pets (after choosing “the right breed” and “personality”) to glide almost seamlessly into my life and adapt or adjust. My dogs loved me and I loved them. But was I always doing the right thing by them?

Thanks to articles like There Is No Such Thing As A Good Dog.: Only a Good Dog Owner by Wes Siler over on Outside Online, I realize the answer is “not always.” So I wasn’t as good of a pet owner as I could have been. For my peace of mind. And theirs.

I’m soaking up knowledge to become a better pet owner-parent the next time I take the plunge.


1) Keep Exposing Your Dog to New Experiences

‘A big reason Wiley is calm around other dogs, kids, loud motorcycles, gunfire, parties, and you name it is because I put a lot of effort into exposing him to those things during the critical first few weeks after he came home. And because I continue to allow him to explore those circumstances on his own terms.’

2) Take Advantage of the “Window of Opportunity”

A puppy’s most sensitive period to learn about the outside world starts at about three weeks of age and continues until 16 or 20 weeks. During this time, it’s critical to deliberately seek out new experiences and allow your dog to grow comfortable with them. Take your dog for walks, find some kids to play with it, take it for rides in your car, expose it to loud noises. Take your dog out in the world and find new stuff to see, smell, hear, and feel. The more stuff your dog can experience, the wider the array of situation will be where it will feel comfortable.

3) Create Trust

Like any relationship, your relationship with your dog is built on trust. Dogs understand the concept of fairness, can read your emotions, and depend on you for virtually everything. Develop a good relationship with your dog, and you’ll be able to rely on it, too.

4) Be Patient…Dog Training (and Ownership) Is NOT a “One and Done”

I didn’t stop exercising Wiley when he became an adult. I didn’t stop training or socializing him, either. I don’t forget to feed him, or neglect the quality of his food, or leave him at home when I go do fun things…Dogs also need ongoing training to adapt to changes in their own lives.

Btw, all this advice applies to shelter dogs too.

Hopefully with this increased understanding of “animal nature” and what our pets need from us combined with this type of practical information, there will be fewer relinquished animals and more “pets for life” pet owners.

And of course, more adoptions of shelter and other homeless animals.

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