A few months ago, my boyfriend and I decided we were financially ready for a puppy, and made a plan to adopt one sometime this summer. Initially, we thought we might get a puppy from a breeder, because we didn’t think shelters got puppies very often. But as we did more research, we discovered that it’s nearly impossible to figure out if a breeder is truly safe, or if they’re a puppy mill—especially in the state of Iowa, which is notorious for having puppy mills. We weren’t comfortable with that, so we shifted our focus to finding a puppy at a shelter instead. We both felt much better about rescuing a dog than paying a lot of money to get one from a place that may or may not be reputable.
At this point, I was a bit desperate to find a puppy (patience is not my virtue), so I spent every free moment I had over the next few days searching through literally every shelter in every state that borders Iowa, trying to find our perfect fit. And then I found him, at a shelter about five hours away. He was absolutely adorable, just the right size, and the right type of breed for us. In short: we needed him, desperately. We applied and were approved, but we found out that he was supposedly already spoken for.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that many tears were shed, because I knew in my heart he was perfect for us. So I stalked their site all week, secretly hoping that he wouldn’t be picked up on the day he was set to go to his new family (which happened to also be my 24th birthday). We kept checking in with the shelter, and noticed that the day after he should have been picked up, he was still pending. In a last-ditch effort, we emailed them again, letting them know how interested we were if he was still available. That Sunday, I was feeling especially dejected since my heart was still set on him.
Clearly, someone was looking out for us, because about an hour later we got an email that he was ours if we could get to the shelter that day. After a bit of scrambling to clean up around the house, we hopped in the car. Twelve hours (and a very long car ride later) we arrived home with our new, perfect pup: Joey.
We’ve now had him for about a week, and already I’ve learned many things as a new puppy parent. If you’re planning to get a puppy, you can expect quite a few things.
1. You will probably get less sleep
For at least the first few nights you bring your new dog home, you will likely get less sleep. Many puppies whine or cry when they are away from the surroundings they are used to. So, expect that you may be woken up a few times the first few nights after you bring one home. A lot of puppies need to go out at least once, if not twice, in the middle of the night too. Plan accordingly. We chose to work from home the first week after we got Joey so that we could give him time to adjust to our home (and to us), and so we could work towards getting him comfortable in his crate so he would sleep in it without much fuss.
2. All of your meals will be interrupted
Puppies demand a lot of attention, especially if they are teething. You really can’t take your eyes off them for even a few seconds, or else they’ll get into something—cords (even if they’re covered in cord protectors), end tables, furniture—you name it, they’ll try to bite it. So sitting down for dinner is a bit difficult. We’re trying to train our pup to sit in his bed while we eat, but it’s a process.
For now, every time we sit down to eat, we have to get up every two minutes to stop him from getting into something if he isn’t napping. So say goodbye to quiet meals with your significant other (or yourself) for a while if you plan to have your puppy loose in the house in the evenings.
3. Everything is a chew toy
Literally, everything. Puppies are extremely curious (especially terrier mixes). They will try to bite and chew anything and everything until they learn what objects are their toys and what aren’t. Before you bring your new puppy home, take a look around your house and remove things that are unsafe or that you don’t want to be chewed on.
Get cord covers for loose cords on the ground, and block off areas you don’t want them to go with baby gates. You might want to cover furniture with blankets if you don’t want it to get chewed on or scratched up. Beyond that, Bitter Apple Spray will become your best friend (unless your dog loves it for some odd reason). We’ve had to spray the legs of our bar stools, the edges of our rug, our cube organizer, our end tables, and our fake plants, among other things.
4. Training and a consistent schedule are key
We are learning that keeping a consistent schedule is important for helping our dog adjust. After talking with our vet, we decided that crate training is the best option for us since we work during the day and it gives our dog a place that feels secure and “his own.” But you can’t just throw a puppy in a crate and leave for eight hours. You have to help get your dog comfortable with being in a crate, and that takes time.
This book helped us learn how to start the crate training and potty training processes (among many other things—it’s a good resource). You also can’t leave a puppy in a crate for eight hours, because their bladders are likely too small to last that long. So, my boyfriend lets ours out over his lunch since he often comes home to eat anyway.
You also need to prepare for accidents while you’re potty training. Accidents will happen, no matter how closely you watch your pup or how hard you try to prevent them. When they do, keep calm and clean it up. Don’t yell at your dog or stick its face in it if it has an accident; they literally have no idea what or why you’re doing that, so you just scare them. Instead, keep a good cleaner on hand for when accidents happen, and give your dog positive reinforcement every time it goes to the bathroom where it’s supposed to. Slowly but surely, it will learn.
You also might want to consider obedience classes to help you learn how to train your dog with basic commands. We want our dog to be social and play with our friends’ dogs, so we drop him off at dog daycare sometimes, too. Plan to expose your dog to everything you want it to do as early as possible –the vet, the groomer, daycare, its boarding facility if you plan to go on vacations. Getting a puppy used to things early in life helps it be more comfortable with those places later in life.
5. It’s all worth it for the puppy snuggles
I’m sleep deprived, our house is a wreck, I have teeth marks on both wrists and scratches on my legs, all from our new little monster. But I love him to pieces, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Puppies are a lot of work, so be sure you’re ready to commit the time and energy to one. But when you do, it’s so worth it.
You get a new companion, a built in snuggle buddy, and you can give a dog in need a great home if you choose to adopt.
It’s truly a win-win for everyone, and the work that goes into training one is so worth it at the end of the day.