It’s puppy season! That’s not actually a thing (unfortunately), but with the new year upon us and goals to get more active, what better way than to open your heart to a new four legged family member? I waited for four years to get a dog—four years of researching how to make puppy comfortable in their new settings, four years of investigating how to introduce puppy to my opportunistic cats, four years of comparing the best methodologies to train my new fur-child without turning them into a submissive robot (four years gives you a LOT of time to overthink things, okay?).
When I finally got my bundle of love last March, I thought I was prepared. Surely, all of my hard work would pay off and this whole “puppyhood” would be a breeze, right? Well, yes…and no. there was so much about owning a dog that I was not ready for.
1. Your puppy (or dog) is not a blank canvas.
By the time you bring your fur-babe home, they already come with an abundance of knowledge. 8–10 weeks of watching other dogs do doggo things like how to sit, how to fetch, and may even be potty-trained. Obviously this is not true of all dogs, but keep in mind that when you take your bundle of joy home, they are coming with weeks (or years) of life experiences and they just may surprise you. Speaking of surprises…
2. Your puppy will eat its own (or others’) poo.
This was something I was faintly aware of- growing up with a house full of animals; it was always difficult to keep our dog out of the litter box. My S.O. thought this was just something my family’s dogs did, and assured me that it wasn’t a thing—joke was on him (and me)! Our Murphy loved the little bonus “treats” he found in the cat box as well as his own little nuggets and any other dogs’ droppings he could find.
We. Were. Mortified.
It turns out, however, that this isn’t so uncommon and actually something fairly natural that puppies do. He’s pretty much grown out of this vom-worthy habit and we are back to allowing puppy kisses.
3. Crate training can be harder on you than on the puppy.
Everything you read on the internet about puppies speaks to the importance of crate training: it’s good for the dog, it’s good for you(r sex life), it’s good for your favorite pair of heels. Everyone wins, right? What some don’t take into account though is how nice it is to have a cuddle buddy. Once puppy has proven themselves capable of bowel control, closing the metal door on those sad eyes may get harder and harder—and it may come to a point that your dog is more trained to “let’s go snuggle” than “get in your bed”. Not speaking from experience or anything…
4. Obedience class is more for you than it is for them.
Especially if this is your first dog on your own, even the quickest intro class can show you how to communicate to your pup in a positive way that’s going to stick. For example, learning to not repeat myself was one of the hardest lessons for me in puppy class, but once I stuck to it, I noticed that Murphy understood and followed the command so much better. (Bonus: just the act of training a dog tires them out extremely well, guaranteeing a bit of R&R for yourself).
5. Your dog is not going to be an Instagram celeb.
Or they might—who knows? But most of all, don’t force it. There is nothing more painful than someone trying to make their dog perform for likes. Having an Instagram account for Fido is a great way to document their growth (not to mention bless everyone’s timelines with the cutest dog pic of the day), but know the difference between a fun setup with your new puppers and putting them into uncomfortable, or potentially harmful, situations for a few likes. Dogs aim to please and love learning new tricks that get them love and attention, so work on building a bond with your adorable pooch and practice their agility early on so that when you post that #dogsofinstagram-worthy pic, it’s because they enjoy it as much as their followers do.
6. Socialize, socialize, socialize (with the right company).
Many people already know that you should expose puppy to different people, noises, etc. (puppies learn the most between 1–5 months), but make sure that these experiences are successful for them—taking them to a public dog park might not be the best idea if the other dogs—or humans—don’t have the best manners. Similarly, finding friends or family members with toddlers and kids who are used to dogs can be a great way to introduce your baby to the little humans without worrying that the child will get spooked by an excited pup. Making sure that your dog has socialization with different types and sizes of dogs is also important. Puppy and obedience classes are an excellent tool for socialization, and many trainers offer “supervised socialization” where they can correct any negative habits of an unfriendly participant.
7. They’re great for your anxiety…but also bad.
There is no doubt that dogs are stellar for our mental health—whether it’s a ruff day at work (I make no apologies, it had to be done) or feeling under the weather, (wo)man’s best friend knows exactly what you need and when you need it. But for those who experience anxiety, a dog may at times add to our nerves, rather than take them away. Vacations or trips without your pet may be stress inducing when looking at boarding/pet sitter options—not to mention the expense. One sign of your dog not feeling right may send you into the black hole of pet WebMD, leading to a $500 Sunday afternoon emergency vet visit in fear that there’s an obstruction in their bowels only to find out that your dog was slightly constipated (not speaking from experience, of course…). Just be conscious that there are certain scenarios of dog ownership that are going to be less than pleasant, and that is why we don’t pay them to be our therapists.
8. Getting a dog does not mean you’ll get fit.
Actually, it may be the complete opposite! If you are used to a set workout routine, you may find that it is abruptly interrupted when you get a puppy. Since pawternity hasn’t caught on as quickly as we would’ve hoped, most new pet owners are stuck with helping their new family member adjust in between their already busy lives. Your job schedule is not always going to be flexible, and dog walker visits add up, so somethings gotta give. And sometimes that “give” is your Wednesday night cycling class, or your Saturday morning barre class, or the little bit of energy you have left for a run—but you can’t bear the thought to move your sleeping angel out of your lap (guilty). Make sure that extracurricular activities are scheduled around puppy beforehand—or, better yet, adapt your exercise regimen to at home workouts and long walks with your new exercise buddy. ☺
9. You won’t be allowed to bring your dog everywhere.
Pet-friendly establishments differ from city to city, but a lot of places have “no dogs allowed” (read: “no joy allowed”) or extremely vague protocols on the subject. Nothing screams first world problems like getting to a bar with that insta-worthy patio only to be told that it’s an animal-free zone. Call ahead, ask around, or check Bringfido.com beforehand.
10. You will learn to love on a whole other level.
Not news to many already dog lovers, but hear me out: the feels are SO strong. From cute aggression, to being an hour late to work because your dog “looked sad,” your new family member will melt your heart every. damn. day. Although there will certainly be times where you ask yourself “what did I sign up for?” getting a dog was easily one of the smartest moves I’ve made in the past 27 years. It’s as simple as something that humans are still trying to figure out: unconditional love. If we learn one thing from having pets, it’s that we should strive to love ourselves and others as effortlessly and as merciful as our dogs love us.