Dear Puppy Parents,
I know what you’re going through. The excitement of adopting a brand spankin’ new puppy, hot off the assembly line. You weave in and out of aisles at the boutique pet store, stocking up on gluten free foods and blankets with higher thread counts than your own sheets. You seek out the brightest, squeakiest toys. You swear your pup will never be allowed on the bed, because your bosses dog’s trainer said that was too invasive of the dog. You posted adoption photos of the puppy on Instagram and watched with tear filled eyes as it gathered 72 Likes. All the while the anticipation building, knowing soon your little one would be blessing your home with the pitter-patter of puppy paws.
The drive home is the slowest drive you’ve ever taken. No fast turns, you don’t want to disturb the snoring bundle of snuggle that is now in your lap. The puppy wanders into your home, sniffs the toys, bounds through the living room into the kitchen, darting around the couch and plops into your lap for well deserved rest.
Your baby. They’re home.
A day goes by. There has been an accident on the carpet. It’s okay, you think, they’re a baby. Another day. Fido hasn’t eaten breakfast or dinner. Could they be sick, you wonder. Another day. They haven’t slept through the night yet, and three straight nights of having to get out of bed to potty your dog at 3 AM has started to manifest in an itch under your right forearm. Fido starts to nip your fingers when you’re playing with their toys. Another accident. A chewed table leg. A week passes and still only blank stares when you request a “sit”. A week later you’re curled up in the corner of the living room, sheltered behind the couch that Fido hasn’t been able to climb yet, the menacing image of splintered furniture pieces and shredded flip flops waiting for when you’re brave enough to emerge.
Please. Remember the advice of one Douglas Adams: “Don’t panic.”
I promise everything is going to be okay.
Puppies need time and guidance from us. They are babies, still learning and still trying to adjust to the new, scary world that is around them. They need to learn how to eat kibble and things that aren’t their mother’s milk, they need to learn that the carpet is not a potty pad, and they need you to show them the proper way to interact with society. Though these things may seem daunting, and they are, in the end you have to remember that, well, you have a puppy. A cute, loving, loyal ball of floof that was brought into your life to bring joy and happiness, not dark clouds and misery.
I’ve helped raise two puppies of my own, helped raise a dozen foster puppies, and have counseled countless new puppy parents on how to raise their new babies. Yet, for me, raising a puppy can be the scariest thing ever. It took awhile to calm down and see the bigger picture of what they need from me. Between the 3 AM wake up calls, the two bouts of kennel cough and several encounters of giardia that Pickle has been through, I’ve had to remind myself that “holy shit, you have a dog, the living, breathing embodiment of love and she cares about you more than anything.”
Three things you can do to alleviate some of your stress is to (1) buy pet insurance for your puppy, (2) research good vets in your area, and (3) track down a good, positive reinforcement trainer who also does puppy social time. The guidance you can receive from these resources is invaluable, and having insurance means you don’t have to worry if something does happen (kennel cough isn’t scary when you can walk into a vet and can get antibiotics).
But here’s the thing. I can give you a list of resources and tips on how to handle your puppy, but in the end, I always end by telling new parents the same thing: have fun! You brought a new member into your family for a reason, and it was to raise and nurture and well balanced dog that will be part of your family for 10, maybe 15 years! Make sure you are taking time to play in the back yard, go for walks in the park, go hand them to your friends in a bar, and take time to snuggle. Don’t worry if Fido makes it onto the bed. If you’re okay with it, then no trainer has any right to tell you otherwise. I say, as long as it’s dog approved, even table scraps are fine for a well mannered dog.
This is the time to spoil your pup, to build a long lasting bond that will extend beyond the next decade. The time and effort you put in now will pay huge dividends into the type of relationship you develop with your dog down the road. You have an excellent opportunity to shape your puppy into the dog you want them to be, but don’t forget to enjoy the goofy, fuzzy baby that has stolen your heart with every stare. Enjoy this time, because it will flash by in an instant and you won’t be able to get it back.
A Fellow Puppy Parent
PS: Don’t forget your towel 😉