As any parent will tell you, raising kids is a journey. There are several different milestones that parents reach that are the hallmarks of parenting, from hearing their baby’s first word, to potty training their toddlers and teaching their teenagers how to drive. Sure enough, there are also many important milestones that dog owners go through when they raise their first puppies. Some of these include their first birthday (or Gotcha day, if their birthday is unknown), their first holiday season (cue the adorable dog outfits), and the annual national dog day (August 26th, if you’re curious).
Nevertheless, all dog owners have unique stories with their pets, and some milestones will almost certainly be more meaningful to them than others. These are some of the most important ones that I’ve experienced with my dogs, and the stories that make them so special to me.
When it came to potty training Koa (my mini dachshund), my family used a bell. We’d have her touch the bell with her nose and then give her treats before taking her outside to pee or poo. We were very strict with making her touch it before she went outside, but she was a very quick learner and picked this up in no time. After realizing she could have a treat every time she rang the bell, she soon became very fond of going outside (even if sometimes it was just for the treat). Now, two years later, whenever she needs to go, she rings the bell, and we go open the door. She has never once peed or pooed inside the house after we taught her this. I moved into a new apartment this last month and brought the bell with us. She continues to ring it even in our new location, which is AMAZING. This bell has become somewhat of an icon for our family, a memory of the progress we’ve made in training Koa.
My great dane, Ursula, is a rescue that we got in January of 2020. For the first few months she was absolutely terrified of most things—all people, any loud noises, other dogs, and basically anything else you could think of. She wouldn’t eat her breakfasts or dinners and would just sit in one spot all day. After a few days she started bonding with my mom and would let her pet/walk her. My mom started to feed her some yummier food, like pasta and chicken for her meals, which she slowly started to enjoy. After weeks and months of caring for her and welcoming her to her new home, she started to get used to our family and her new environment. A big milestone for us as her owners was seeing her grow to love people again. She developed a deep bond with my mom and didn’t ever want to be apart from her, but she eventually started to like my sister and I as well. She began eating her food with a bit more excitement and she grew accustomed to seeing other dogs at the dog park. Now after a year and a half in our family, Ursula has completely regained her confidence. She goes up to every single person we see while walking or just in the elevator of my apartment building. She is way more food-motivated and will even drool for it now. She gained a bunch of weight (which she needed) and sometimes she even barks. This growth has been one of the most wonderful things to see as a dog owner. She came from an abusive home where I am not entirely sure what went down, but she never recovered after having puppies. Luckily, we were able to love her back to her true self.
Seeing your dog recover from an injury is one of the most rewarding things a dog owner can experience. My other dachshund, Emmie, has had back problems for a while now. She was diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) a few years ago when she hurt herself and couldn’t use her back legs. She was almost completely paralyzed. We kept her on crate rest for weeks at a time, gave her pain medication, and took her to dog acupuncture. She has had many episodes like this, but it is so wonderful to see her still thriving to date. Her back legs don’t work as well as a normal dog’s, but she manages to get around and we help her whenever we can. As heartbreaking as it is for your dog to get hurt in the first place, nurturing them back to health, no matter how long it takes, is a milestone that no dog owner should overlook.
Without a doubt, there are many, many more milestones that a dog owner will experience besides the ones listed here. As you raise your furry little friend, try to notice the many firsts you have together—from their first swim to their first hike or their first visit to the vet; you’ll get a sense of which ones were the biggest and most meaningful milestones for you and your dog’s journey together. Each and every one of these are moments to celebrate!
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