Our lives changed in September 2014 when we rescued Shadow, then a tiny black and brown ball of fluff. We had no plans on having any pets while living here in Korea, but we have very little control over who and what God places in our lives.
We spent 3 weeks deliberating over what to do with him, mainly because it costs thousands of dollars to take a dog back home to South Africa, and also because we had no idea what owning a puppy really meant.
This post will hopefully help you with the basics of what you need to keep both you and your pup happy while living in an apartment here in Korea. I am by no means a dog expert, but I have spent countless hours watching youtube tutorials for training dogs, and have had the past 3 months (not a huge amount of time but a LOT of time when you get a puppy) to learn a few things.
These things will also be useful for anyone getting a dog (not just a puppy) but there will be a few things you won't have to worry about if you live in a house with a garden. Here in Korea we live in relatively small apartments and so choosing to have a dog needs to be well thought out and planned process to ensure minimal stress for everyone.
*I will be doing another post on getting a health check for your dog here, heart worm medication as well as all the vaccinations they need*
Farmboy and I live in a relatively large apartment, and so have converted one of the rooms we have into the dog den. Not everyone will have this luxury, so I suggest getting a 'play pen' of sorts to contain your puppy/dog while you are out the house or can't keep an eye on him. This has been the most important thing we have done, and has really helped us relax when we are gone to work 8 hours of the day. We bought this dog gate off Gmarket (W45 000 or $45 click here for the link) which means he can see us, but he can't escape. He cried a lot the first few days we locked him up, but now he is happy to be in there and just sleeps when we aren't at home. This keeps him safe, as well as protecting the rest of our house from puppy mayhem. This also helps with housebreaking your puppy, as they tend not to mess where the sleep (the same is said for crate training...see below).
His crate goes in his room as well as a cheap little bed we found at Daiso. He doesn't like blankets or anything that most dogs like to snuggle in. Even now with it snowing outside, he doesn't like the underfloor heating and chooses to sleep on the cold stone floor by the front door when he isn't in his room....strange pup.
I had never heard of crate training before, but as we will one day leave Korea, Shadow will have to travel in a crate for over 20 hours and so getting him used to it as soon as possible was very important for us. The sooner your pup gets used to the crate (and hopefully to see it as a happy and safe place to be) the easier it will be when they really have to be in it. There are lost of great videos on crate training (just google it and you'll find hundreds of great resources) and it took Shadow a while to be comfortable being inside it. He still doesn't like being locked in it for hours at a time, but he is getting used to it and it's only to help him in the end. We feed him in his crate, and put him inside it with some treats while we watch TV. He will eventually fall asleep in it and then we leave him in it over night. With crate training it's important to start off slowly, and progress gradually. Don't rush it or your poor pup will start to hate it. Also, never 'banish' your pup to his crate when he is naughty. You want the crate to always be a safe and welcoming place for him to be in.
Finding the right size crate can also be difficult. We had no idea how big Shadow would be and so had to make a guess. Crates are also super expensive here (this is one of the largest sizes and cost W165 000 or $165 on Gmarket. Click here for the link). If your pup is going to be traveling by air, the crate needs to be sturdy, IATA approved, and your dog needs to be able to stand up and turn around comfortably. Our crate is still a little too big for Shadow, but he is probably going to grow into it and we would want his journey home to be as comfortable as possible.
This has been a tough one as there are soooo many different opinions and different kinds of foods. I had done a lot of research and decided that I wanted to feed Shadow grain free food (a lot of the super market brands use grains as fillers, leaving far fewer nutrients in the food and leading to huge poos). We were feeding him Taste of The Wild grain free puppy food until the stockist ran out on Gmarket and have resorted to Kirkland Nature's Domain food for all life stages until we can order more Taste of The Wild. Click here for a great comparison of dog foods as well as star ratings for quality and nutritional value.
We buy in bulk and store the food in large kimchi containers to keep it fresh. I got this 13litre containers from Daiso.
You can go wild with all the fun things you can buy for your dog here in Korea. Shadow loves his homemade toys the most (the tennis ball alien thingy that Farmboy made using old rope and a drill) and the grey t-shirt. We bought lots of toys that have rough edges on so he can chew away and help relive his itchy gums now that he is teething.
Here are the links for the toys above:
Black Squeaky Food/Treat Dispenser (this makes dinner time fun and keeps them occupied and their brain stimulated as they have to work out how to get the food out).
Purple food dispenser: bought at a pet shop in Gwangju
I mainly use treats for training (I follow Clicker Training which is based on positive reinforcement). You can find treats online through Gmarket, or at most marts and all pet stores here in Korea. When we leave the house for the day we also always make sure we give Shadow a Kong (the red toy pictured above) which will save your lives and keep your pup entertained for a good amount of time while you are gone. You fill the kong with treats, peanut butter, cheese, meat, carrots, bananas apples etc and the pop it in the freezer over night and voila! One very happy pooch! Click here for a link to them on gmarket.
I found all of these things at my local DC mart. The orange brush helps to really scrub and remove the dirt from Shadows thick fur. I also have a bunch of old small towels for drying him off after baths and for putting over his bed when we give him frozen bones. That just stops the yucky bits of blood and tissue from the bones messing everything.
I have been very strict with Shadow from the moment we got him and it has led to us having a very calm, well behaved dog. He doesn't jump on people, he has good manner, waits to be let in and out of doors and most importantly doesn't snap or grab things from people. It hasn't been easy but it has been worth it, and using a clicker (pictured above) has been life changing. This being said, we have only had him for 3 months and it's important to stick with your training, especially when you feel like your dogs knows all the tricks you have taught them. It's especially important to keep changing up the environment in which you ask your dog to do things for you, thereby helping to cement their learning. I can highly recommend Kiko Pup on youtube & Training Positive. Clicker training used food based rewards, but these videos give lots of advice for weaning your pup off the treats and ensuring your dog continues to do what you want him to do even without the treats.
One of our biggest challenges has been to train Shadow to walk nicely on the lead. Using a harness instead of his just his collar has helped a lot but he still pulls and is a bit of a pain to take on walks. We do have a car, so luckily we can drive off to a field to give him his exercise but lead walking is a very important skill your dog needs to know how to do, and to do well. Click here for the link to where we bought this harness. It's soft and padded and doesn't cut into him like other harnesses have. They also have all sizes and colours and so you should be able to find one to fit your dog.
We only use the extension lead when we take him out to go to the bathroom.
Deciding where or how you want your dog to use the bathroom is another big decision to make. A lot of people use pee pads for their dogs, but we don't want our dog to get used to those and then have to be re-trained to go outside when we move back home. It's not easy having to wake up in the middle of the night in the freezing cold and take your dog out for a walk in the snow but it's a decision we have made. Shadow was pretty much housetrained from the moment we got him (something that is a common trait of Korean Jindos) and only pooed in the house on the first night we got him. Since then he has only had a handful off weeing accidents, mostly due to us not taking him out after he has eaten, slept or been playing. Puppies should be taken out to the bathroom after each meal, ,nap, or play time until they are about 4 months old.
Shadow is growing like a weed and has outgrown two collars already. This is one I found on Gmarket (click here) for him that included laser engraving for his name and for my number in case he gets lost. It comes in a variety of colours and sizes (it can be very hard to find a collar for larger dogs and this company were super easy to deal with!).
There is alot more I am still to learn about having a dog, but these are the basics that have helped us over the past 3 months. Do you have any other suggestions of tips for having a dog here in Korea?