It’s been almost 2 years since I brought home my sweet rescue puppy Charlie! If you follow me on Instagram, you know I am madly obsessed with him! I’ve LOVED dogs ever since I can remember. My dad was super allergic to dogs growing up so we could never have one, but I used to go to my next door neighbor’s house and lay on their golden retrievers everyday after school! I dreamt of having my own dog and when I saw Charlie in the window of Vanderpump Dogs it was love at first sight!
I know so many of you have dogs or want a dog, so I wanted to share my own personal experience with Charlie, i.e. things I’ve learned, food/treats he loves, and more. Hopefully this will be a helpful resource! I’m still learning and experimenting with new things so this guide will get updated as time progresses. I am by no means an expert – and everyone’s parenting style is different so again, this is just my own experience! I really wish I had a basic how-to guide from someone I trusted when I first brought Charlie home!!!
How To Take Care Of A Dog
Where To Buy A Dog
I’m sure many of you have heard the phrase “Adopt Don’t Shop.” I do recommend – and believe in – rescuing a dog versus buying them in a puppy store/from a puppy mill. There are so many wonderful animals that are abandoned and sitting in a rescue shelter that need a home! I rescued Charlie from Vanderpump Dogs in West Hollywood. The space is equally as adorable as the dogs! To be approved for the adoption, I had to fill out an application and FaceTime with the shelter so that they could see my home. I’m sure each shelter has their own set of requirements so be sure to check!
How Much Do Dogs Cost?
Prices vary widely based on city, shelter, type of breed, etc. My high school boyfriend purchased his dog from a newspaper listing for $300. I paid $800 for Charlie from Vanderpump Dogs. It really just depends. In terms of annual costs for things like vet visits, food, treats, toys and medicine – I don’t know the *exact* costs I have paid to date, but off the top of my head, I’d estimate it’s been about; $100/year for food, $250/year for treats, toys, water bowls, leash, collar, car seat, bed, and travel carrier, $500 for the *first year of vaccinations/exams* (it’s a lot less after that!), $250 for an emergency vet visit because Charlie ate something bad off the street that made him sick, $250 for grooming/year, and $1200 for a tooth extraction and professional dental cleaning.
That last cost was INSANELY high and a huge shock to me, but hopefully I won’t ever have to pay it again (besides an annual tooth cleaning fee!) Charlie had a tooth grow in sideways that was causing a lot of problems so the vet recommended we pull it immediately. Dental work for dogs is crazy expensive! FYI I am in no means trying to scare anyone from getting a dog – your dog may never need to have a tooth pulled! It’s always just good to have an emergency fund or be aware of these unexpected costs.
I’ve had friends who didn’t get pet insurance and wished they had, so I signed up for it immediately. I have Embrace and haven’t had to use it yet, but feel better knowing it’s there. Unfortunately most pet insurance plans do not cover any dental work.
There are so many varieties of dog food out there. Do your research before choosing one – many are full of crap! I’ve given Charlie a few different kinds of dog food and our favorite one is; Castor & Pollux Grain Free Organic Small Dog Breed Chicken. I say “our” because this is the one that is easiest for me to feed him and that he actually eats. I did give him Farmer’s Dog food for a month, and he really enjoyed it, but the extra step of defrosting it, keeping it in a container in the fridge, and heating it up was a bit too much work if I’m being honest. Plus, I’ve heard dry food is better for a dog’s teeth long term. So I’m sticking with Castor & Pollux for now.
I do sometimes mix in plain white rice, chicken, sweet potato, scrambled eggs, coconut oil OR a little mashed up treat with his 1/2 scoop of food in the morning and evening. He gets spoiled and has come to expect it, which is a tricky thing…so I probably shouldn’t have started that in the first place, but oh well. I used to mix a little bit of this wet food in. But it gives him diarrhea every time – poor guy – so I don’t anymore. I also don’t give Charlie any gluten/grains. He is allergic sadly, which I found out after he kept breaking out in a rash when he had anything with grains/gluten in it. Charlie likes to graze and doesn’t scarf his food down in one sitting unless it’s chicken.
All dogs are different that way.
Charlie prefers when I sit next to him while he eats – I think it makes him feel more safe/comfortable? So sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. Many dog owners have a set feeding schedule where they put down the bowl and pick it up after a certain amount of time, but I leave Charlie’s bowl out all day- that’s just our style. He gets fed once in the morning and at night.
I like these Natural Balance treats, and these treats in the Sweet Potato + Chicken flavor. Also, I like these Honest Kitchen Chicken + Cranberry treats for something special every once in a while. I give Charlie 1/2 of these dog bone shaped dental chews to clean his teeth (he goes crazy for them!) every other day. Some people like to go the more natural route and give their dogs plain carrot sticks to clean their teeth. I’ve tried that, but Charlie kept throwing up the carrot. My vet said that rawhides/bones aren’t good treats or toys because they’re way too hard on their teeth so I don’t give Charlie anything like that.
I used to drop Charlie at Dogromat in LA every other month. If I don’t have time to drop him at the groomer, or if he’s really dirty, I give him a bath using this soap. I use these wipes to clean his paws after we go for a walk since the street is so dirty. I give Charlie NexGard flea medicine once a month prescribed from my vet. Charlie got fleas a year ago (before I knew about the medicine) and it was an actual nightmare. Hundreds of little black bugs crawling all over his body – pure HELL.
I’ve heard that NexGard can be harmful long term to dogs, so it’s something that I need to research more, but some people do opt for a topical medicine versus oral. If you have any insight please feel free to share below! I brush Charlie’s teeth 2-3 times a week with this brush using this toothpaste. It’s so important to brush dogs teeth, but it’s hard and I honestly forget or get preoccupied. Charlie doesn’t like it at all, but I try to just quickly give his teeth a brush down so he doesn’t get too much plaque build up.
I bought Charlie when he was 3 months old. He wasn’t completely potty trained and he did have a few accidents at my house the first month or two, but he got the hang of it really quickly. It helped having a backyard and working from home, because I kept the door open and constantly reminded him and coaxed him to go outside – probably every hour and a half. I kept repeating “Let’s go potty, let’s go potty!” and “Good boy!” when he went, then rewarding him with a treat.
Charlie can now hold it for 8 hours when we sleep or travel, but I generally try to take him out every 4 hours if I can. I use these bags for when he goes to the bathroom. I recently got this patch of artificial grass for my balcony, but he hasn’t really gone on it yet – he’s still getting used to it. If he ever has an accident or throws up, I use this Nature’s Miracle cleaner – it works SO well!
I take Charlie out about 5 times a day. 3 out of 5 of those times I usually take him on a very short loop around our block where he feels familiar and has already marked his territory. 2 out of 5 times I take him on longer walks to meetings, run errands, or a park. I really like having him be a part of my schedule and day and I feel fortunate that I have the flexibility to do this since I work from home. When I lived in LA, I used to take him on fun hikes every few weeks, or to the beach to run in the sand (which he LOVED!) Now that we are in NYC, I try to schedule puppy play dates and long walks with friends at the park on the weekends so he can get out + about and socialize.
I keep Charlie pretty close to me at all times since big dogs scare him. And you never know if another dog will be aggressive or jump towards him. He sometimes still does stop and shake because he’s scared of large objects and loud sounds, but when that happens, I just pull him closer and in a deep, stern voice let him know it’s ok and that I’m in charge. Basically, he’s trying to protect me and gets overwhelmed. So I just remind him that I’m in control and that he doesn’t need to worry! I’m still working on building up his confidence and hope that the gets more acclimated to city life soon!
I bought a crate for Charlie and planned on fully crate training him after reading about all of the benefits, but I couldn’t stand hearing him cry night after night for a month straight. Eventually, I gave in and let him sleep in my bed, and I have never regretted it. He snuggles up right next to me every night in bed and it’s such a special bonding time for us. He is sooooo cuddle-y and sweet, and I love giving him kisses and belly rubs in the morning.
I can’t imagine not sleeping with him. It really is one of my favorite parts of the day. He can’t get enough of this fuzzy blanket which I’ve had since I got him. It’s like his security blanket and he feels comfortable and safe every time he lays on it. I recently tossed Charlie’s dog bed because it was falling a part. But I picked it up from Petco and it looks similar to this one!
Charlie is IN LOVE with this lamb toy. He has several other toys like this rope, and this bear toy, but he just can’t get enough of the lambs. He shreds every single one a part and stuffing gets everywhere, but I put up with it haha. Just be careful. They do have plastic squeakers in them which dogs may be able to choke on so I always throw it away when he rips it out. For leashes and collars – I use this really simple leash. Charlie got freaked out from the large retractable leash.
I think it’s best if you keep small dogs close by your side when walking anyways, so this little leash is perfect. I got his collar from Petco along with a custom name tag with my phone number on the back. Also, I got him a micro-chip through my vet. I use a harness to walk him because it’s better for his neck. I bought this anti-anxiety jacket for him since he gets nervous walking sometimes, but it didn’t really do a whole lot… I’ll continue testing it though!
Traveling with Dogs
If you’re flying with dogs, each airline has a different set of rules. So make sure to read the fine print, and always call your airline to ask them if they have room for your dog/will allow your dog on board. I know that American Airlines charges a $125 fee each way if your dog isn’t an Emotional Service Animal. You’ll need to get a certified carrier for them – I got this one. Charlie was totally fine traveling back and forth from LA to NYC. He wouldn’t use the designated potty area in the airport, but ended up going right before and after we stepped outside the airport. He refused to drink water on the flight, but I brought a little water bowl anyway.
I learned the hard way – not to feed him before boarding a flight because the motion made him throw up after we got off the plane. I highly recommend spending a little more on the *extra legroom* feature because it does get cramped with the carrier. When I’m in the car with Charlie, I have a car seat for him. I used to drive with him on my lap, until I researched and realized how dangerous that was! He’s been great on long road trips and I just make sure to let him out when I stop for gas every 4 hours or so, and again not feed him because of the motion sickness.
Even though I never grew up with a dog, and didn’t really know what I was doing when I first got Charlie, I adapted quickly and learned as I went. Your animal instincts do kick in when you bring home a dog – and you just sort of figure it out! I read part of Cesar Millan’s book, but ultimately put it down halfway through because I like my own personal parenting style. Cesar does have tons of helpful tips and I absolutely respect his expert opinion, but I couldn’t realistically see myself implementing most of the things he suggested. Just being honest!
I think listening to your own intuition, instincts, and lifestyle is key. Each dog has such a different energy though! If a dog is really problematic and acting out, then training of course is a great idea. I’m personally looking into training for Charlie to adapt a bit better to the loud noises of city life. But I’ve never done any formal training classes or programs with Charlie.
Dogs really are a (wo)man’s best friend! Charlie completely changed my life in the best way possible. If you’re thinking about getting a dog – I hope this post helped clarify any questions you may have!