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Raquel, James and the Truth About ‘Lazy-Faire’ Dog Owners

Cesar Millan shares how to avoid becoming one

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James Kennedy and Raquel Leviss with Dog Graham Cracker
Rodin Eckenroth/frimages/Getty Images

Even if you’re not a reality TV afficionado, you’ve most definitely heard of the love triangle that shook the cablesphere: Scandoval, where Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules cast members Tom Sandoval and Raquel Leviss engaged in a months-long affair right under the nose of his decade-long partner, Ariana Madix, who also happened to consider Leviss a best friend.

There were plenty of repercussions from the affair, but one of the more puzzling ones is the case of Graham Cracker, the goldendoodle Leviss and then-boyfriend/fiancé “DJ” James Kennedy brought home in 2018. After Leviss and Kennedy broke up, Leviss took sole custody of Graham. Flash forward to Scandoval fallout, and the summer of 2023 witnessed yet another scandal: Grahamgate, in which Kennedy was now full-time caregiver to the pup after Leviss’s family placed him in a shelter. The reasoning was that he was biting and needed more care and training than they could provide.

Who’s wrong, who’s right—who truly knows? But the spectacle did reveal a larger problem: Lazy-faire dog ownership, where humans bring pups home, even post them on Instagram frequently, but don’t realize how much work—and money—a canine really requires.

As the Washington Post reports: “More than 23 million American households—nearly 1 in 5 nationwide—adopted a pet during the pandemic, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).” This is a beautiful thing! Except…as we’ve returned to normalcy post-pandemic, dog owners aren’t home all day, doggie daycares are booked up (and expensive to boot), and the fallout has seen lots of folks surrendering their pets back to the rescues. There’s also the likelihood that if pets with overwhelmed humans don’t return them, they’ll become neglected and uncared for.

The key to not becoming lazy-faire? Making sure you’re ready for a dog before you get one, and doing the work to keep both pup and owner ready to co-exist. Below, we (along with the one and only Cesar Millan) take you through the anti-lazy-faire dog owner basics.

Before You Bring Home a Dog, Ask Yourself These Questions

Is there anything better than bringing home a new pup? The answer is no. It's the best! But hold up. We're trying to avoid being lazy-faire pet parents here. So slow your roll and evaluate your next move thoughtfully. PureWow pets writer, Sarah Ashley, advises that you ask yourself these seven questions before bringing home a dog. So start here:

  1. How much will a dog cost monthly and yearly?
  2. How does a dog fit into your lifestyle?
  3. How will a dog fit into your family?
  4. How much grooming do I have time/money for?
  5. How will you train the dog? (We'll expand on this below)
  6. What will you feed your dog?
  7. Should I get a puppy or a senior/adult dog?

You Don't Have to Be a Professional Dog Trainer, but You Do Have to Try

Does your dog have to be able to jump through a ring of fire or rescue a drowning bunny? Of course not. But a dog that follows basic commands is much safer to be around others. In fact, Cesar Millan, dog behaviorist and co-founder of Halo Collar the GPS dog safety system, emphasizes that one of the biggest misconceptions about being a pet parent is not providing dogs with proper rules, boundaries and limitations, which instills trust, love and respect. Per Millan, this communication and connection is the foundation for dog training that we can build through exercise, discipline, and affection. “Even a dog who knows the basic ‘sit’ command will be much calmer and easier to control than dogs who aren’t taught this simple command,” Millan guides.

Even Millan, rockstar dog trainer, admits that training a pet is no easy feat. But the bright side is that there’s no right or wrong way to go about it: “I would suggest taking the time to properly train your dog using resources available whether it be books, local classes, etc. I also co-founded Halo Collar, which includes my easy to follow 21-day training program for dogs all within the Halo app.” Most importantly, get yourself some treats to have on hand at all times.

Think of It as Continuing Ed…for Your Pup and Yourself

Bringing home a dog is a lifetime commitment to your pet, which means that even after you housebreak them and sternly teach them that we do not eat shoes, the behavioral check-ins should continue throughout their lives. Why not take your pup to another basic training class? And speaking of…why don’t you take a refresher on dog training? Sign up for a MasterClass in dog training (yep, it exists); check out your community park district for classes; or ask around the dog park for local tips.

Working to understand your dog as you both grow and change is really important. In fact, in her research regarding dog behavior interpretation, Professor Parkinson, co-director of Edge Hill's Center for Human Animal Studies (CfHAS), said, "Dog bites are a growing public health issue, and my research sheds light on why. The findings clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding of dog body language." Your dog may be a family member through and through, but ultimately Sparky is not a human. He’s a dog who communicates his stress and discomfort much differently from you. Knowing how to read your dog’s cues means you can keep them—and those around them—happy, healthy and safe.

There is no such thing as a perfect dog owner—or perfect dog! But as long as we continue to actively create a safe environment for both humans and pets around us, we can at least say we’re not lazy.


DaraKatz

Executive Editor, Frazzled Mom, Bravo-Holic

Dara Katz is PureWow's Executive Editor, focusing on relationships, sex, horoscopes, travel and pets. Dara joined PureWow in 2016 and now dresses so much better. A lifestyle...