Tips for First Time Dog Owners

Are you thinking of getting a puppy?  Or maybe you already have one? Well, you’re in for a wild ride with both ups and downs.  In this article, I’m going to share with you the reality (10 tips) of owning a puppy.

Reality 1: You will lose sleep

Sorry, I hate to tell you this, but if you think you’re going to get through potty training, sterilization surgery, the teething phase, or any possible illness, all without missing a night of good rest? That’s not happening. Your puppy can hold his bladder about an hour for every month of age. So that means if you are bringing home a puppy about 8 weeks old, he’s going to need to go out every 2 hours during the night! Even more frequently during the daytime. You’ll get more time between potty outings at night, and less time when he’s active and playing.

But new puppy parents usually need to go out at least 2 times at night at the beginning. Don’t worry, that gets better with time, training and maturity. The crate will be the best tool to help your puppy learn to hold his bladder longer. Now…There will surely come a time when your pup isn’t feeling well, has had a medical procedure like a spay or neuter surgery, or maybe has about of an upset stomach. These are all times when you’ll likely need to be more attentive, including in the middle of the night. Yeah, expect a little less sleep.

The good news is that as your puppy grows, he will better be able to sleep through any possible physical discomfort and hold his bladder until morning. Puppies usually start sleeping through the night around 14 weeks of age, but it really varies a lot on the dog and how much training you’re putting in. Remember that we don’t recommend puppies in a human bed until they are much older, and I think that having only one crate in a spot other than the bedroom is best. You can use a pet camera or baby monitor to hear when he is ready to go out.

Reality 2: You will have messes

Yep, your home will be the sight of lots of potty oopses, which is why we suggest you choose the flooring for your puppy pen carefully. We usually recommend a piece of linoleum or even a piece of plywood. Even if you have tile floors, the urine can soak into the grout and the smell remains. Remember that just because you can’t smell it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t smell! Your dog can smell it! Definitely clean up all messes with enzymatic cleaners. And soft squishy areas are really just asking for trouble with a new puppy, so keep him off the carpet until he’s older. This means you may have to remove or pick up any area rugs including those by the kitchen sink or under the kitchen or dining room table. Another mess that is likely to happen is that puppies are also world-class chewers! I’m not kidding, if there was a chewing competition, puppies would win! If you give them access to all the things, they will likely chew them! This means furniture legs, baseboards, plants, shoes, gym bags, couches, curtains, you name it, they can and will chew it! This includes electrical cords, phone charging cords, and remote controls.

Reinforcement builds behavior and that means the more your puppy does it, the more it’ll keep doing it. Even if it’s the wrong thing. Especially if it’s the wrong thing, because that creates engagement from you. Do yourself and your puppy a favor – give him the RIGHT things to chew and restrict his access from the wrong things. Chewing isn’t a behavior we have to correct, it’s a behavior we have to REDIRECT.

reality 3: You will have inconveniences

You will have inconveniences of space. Yes, having a puppy can be an inconvenience – at least for a while! This means that you have to manage their space so you can better protect them and your household. Most people have to use some configuration of baby gates or a puppy pen, maybe blocking off stairs or an entire section of the house. This management of the environment will be there for a while so I would try to get the things that work the first time. Keep in mind that your puppy will get curious and might try to climb or move gates. Just like I said before, the more they do it – and succeed – the more they will try

it. I like to use this gate that has vertical bars that make it harder for your puppy to climb. In addition to gates, you’ll have to think like a puppy, and that means look at everything that is low to the ground; curtains, rugs, garbage cans, shoes, kids’ toys? They probably all need to be tucked away or up for a while. You can definitely train your puppy to leave them alone but while in training, it’s important that he doesn’t have access to them and accidentally reinforce the wrong behavior. We often say “manage the environment, not the animal”. Your puppy doesn’t know the difference between that Nyla bone and the kid’s Legos. It’s up to you to help him understand which one is better to chew on

Reality 4: You will be confused and misunderstand Him

Sorry, I hate to tell you that; you don’t speak the Puppy language!

Dogs speak a different language than we do. And it’s even more confusing for us humans because it’s not even a verbal language – it’s a BODY language! He definitely won’t know what you’re saying and YOU will likely miss cues that he’s giving off about his thoughts and feelings. But, that’s OK, it gets better – with time and training. Canine communication can be hard to understand but if you dig in a little, you’ll start to notice patterns that can help you decipher it. As an adult, a dog’s brain is really about the same developmental age as a   1-year-old human. So, they aren’t super complicated if you know what you’re looking for.

 Reality 5: You’ll probably have some regrets

Don’t worry, it won’t last forever.

But a lot of people report a period of what we call “the puppy blues” at least once or twice in the first year of owning a new puppy. It’s SO normal, but that doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating. But I’m here to tell you that you’ll get through it. How?

With Time and Training!

Reality 6: you will have vet bills

Yes, it’s going to happen and it’s something you’ll definitely want to prepare for. Vaccinations, check-ups, ear infection, maybe a bee sting, s/he ate something she / he shouldn’t. It’ll happen to even the most diligent puppy parent. Many people buy pet insurance to help offset some of the more serious costs. We strongly recommend this! People underestimate just how much it costs to raise and train a puppy. Without any emergency vet visit, it’s likely you’ll spend at least $ 2500 within the first year of owning a puppy. That’s going to include vet bills, food, supplies, and other necessary things for your puppy

Reality 7 you are going to have to buy stuff

Thankfully we don’t have to buy clothes and shoes for our dogs like we do our kids, but they still need STUFF. From the very beginning, they need a crate, a puppy pen, a leash and collar and a harness for the walks. Of course, they need FOOD and definitely, they need toys! The right toys to help redirect from biting and engage in good healthy play is so important. Toys are only one piece of the whole pie of a dog’s needs, training is more important, but you do need some very specific tools like chew toys and enrichment activities to help keep your dog’s mind and body healthy.

Reality 8: You will have to work his needs into your schedule

This means you will likely be inconvenienced from time to time. Sometimes I have people reach out to me and say “I work 10 hours a day but I really want a sweet dog to greet me when I get home. How can I manage a puppy who needs a potty break every 2 hours?” The answer:  // You can’t //.

You can’t expect a puppy to suspend his physical limitations beyond what is normal because you have to work or go to school. It will be important to examine your lifestyle and the realistic needs of a puppy before making that commitment. You also want to think about your lifestyle outside of the day-to-day. Maybe your family takes a lot of vacations… You’ll need to evaluate where your puppy goes when you are gone. Boarding, house-sitter or taking him with you are options. But they all have costs and preparation; so think that through a little bit! And did you know that some breeds of dogs are not able to be transported via airplane because their nose shape could put them in jeopardy, or sometimes dogs can’t be transported at certain times of year because they could get too hot or too cold? That’s definitely one thing to think ahead on!

Reality 9: You will have to go outside when it’s hot/wet/cold

I know those ads like to make you think that pee pads are a super convenient option when you don’t want to leave the house but it doesn’t work like that. Teaching your puppy to go outside means being consistent with taking him outside. You can’t teach him to pee outside, except on rainy Thursdays, snowy mornings, and weekends. Puppies don’t think like that! We want our puppies to be like the postal service and go potty in rain, sleet, snow, any weather! Also, keep in mind that your dog’s exercise needs don’t change just because it rained. They don’t really want to curl up with a bowl of soup and a blanket and watch movies all day like you do.

In fact, the rain or the snow might carry some new smells that are super fun to explore!

Reality 10: You will have to train Your Puppy

Dogs that don’t know what we expect of them are confused and often exhibit behavioral problems not because they are bad dogs, but because they are confused dogs that lack training and manners! If you want a dog that doesn’t bark when guests come over, doesn’t chew up the furniture, doesn’t jump up on counters and beg while you eat dinner, you have to train him! The good news is that training isn’t complicated. You just need a little guidance. It can actually be a lot of fun and helps you both build an amazing relationship together too. I have some final important thoughts to share. In addition to all of those realities, you’ll also have a best friend, you will have a companion who loves you even when you look/smell your worst, you will meet others who have dogs and be part of a community of dog owners, you will have the pride of accomplishment that you raised a well-mannered, well-balanced pup, and you will have a loving forever friend.

To me, all those realities are well worth it!

In the comments below, tell me which reality was most surprising to you?