10 Tips for Surviving the Early Puppy Months

A puppy’s first few months of life require a lot of work from the eager new owner.  We brought our girl Lucy home just before Christmas, and I had no idea how overwhelmed I would feel by every detail of her care.  Being first-time puppy owners, we did a lot of research, and even more learning by trial-and-error.  I am by NO MEANS an expert, but if I can save even one person 10 minutes of struggle by sharing what we learned, this list will be worth it.

10-Tips-for-Surviving-the-Early-Puppy-Months

  1. Crate train, crate train, crate train.  Since dogs will not void where they sleep, a crate is invaluable in teaching your dog to hold her bladder and helps immensely in the housebreaking process.  Dogs are den animals by nature, and a crate gives your puppy a safe place to retreat to or relax in.  And since puppies need constant supervision, a crate can provide a safe place for your puppy to stay if you are not able to watch her.  Our puppy’s crate has literally saved my sanity – sometimes I just need to know where she is, know she is sound, and not have her under my feet when I need to attend to other matters.  (and by the way, our puppy loves her crate!)
  2. Do not assign human rationale to your puppy.  So many of us see our pets as members of our family and actually as little “people” in animal form.  The mistake here, though, is to think that when she disobeys or doesn’t listen or has an accident in the house, she’s doing it on purpose or to push your buttons.  Dogs have personalities for sure, and as they get older sometimes they’ll play with your emotions a little, but puppies are pretty much a blank slate and need to LEARN what is expected.  I read somewhere that if a puppy has an accident in your house, it’s your fault, not hers.  You were not paying attention to her schedule or her signs.  Don’t get mad, don’t yell, don’t think that your puppy should have known better.  Your puppy is not reasoning things out, she’s just trying to learn.  Teach her.
  3. And speaking of your dog as an animal, establish pack leadership early and often.  This is not some mumbo-jumbo dog psychology.  Pack order is a REAL principle in the animal world.  You should be the first to walk out the door and the first to enter the house.  You should eat before your dog eats.  You should have a calm, dominant demeanor, and expect (not request) your dog’s calm submission.  Otherwise, your puppy will be running your house in no time.
  4. Decide on commands, use them, and have every member of your family use them.  Cesar Milan, better known as “The Dog Whisperer,” is a hero of mine when it comes to dogs.  I have learned so much by watching his show, reading his books, and visiting his website.  He does not use word commands, but more regularly a series of sharp noises and deliberate touch.  This might work for you, too.  Our family has decided to use verbal commands like “Bed” (for when she needs to go to her crate), “Outside,” “Go Now,” and others, and they’ve worked well for us.  The tricky part was getting all the kids to say them regularly.  But puppies seem to notice every detail, so you need to be a unified front when teaching.  This takes effort, time, and patience.  And more than anything else:  consistency.
  5. Get your puppy used to being handled.  Touch her ears, her eyes, her paws, her tail.  Everywhere, and from day one!  Let her know that you have that right.  Let her know that you will handle her responsibly.  Our puppy had only been home a few days when she got sick and I had to start shoving huge pills down her throat.  I’m grateful for that experience, though, because it assured me that I had the nerve to handle her however I might need to, and it let her know that I was allowed to do that.
  6. Which reminds me, establish a relationship with a vet you trust.  Unfortunately, I learned right away that not all vets are created equal.  Puppies need a lot of instant care.  It’s common for them to contract worms, and they need a lengthy series of puppy shots in order to be considered fully vaccinated.  If not just for your puppy’s own care, you need to keep them healthy if they are to be around your children, your neighbors, or other dogs.  Find a vet you can consult with, ask questions of, and who will work with you for your puppy’s well-being.
  7. Provide your puppy with a VARIETY of chewing options.  One, two, even three toys does not a puppy toy box make.  We had to buy several different toys to see what Lucy would gravitate to.  A puppy’s need to chew is insistent, though, and if you don’t want her heading to the 1890 piano legs anymore, you need to invest in finding toys that will do the trick.  And a word to the wise:  don’t think you’re past it all if your puppy’s chewing subsides.  You get a second round of it when they lose their puppy teeth and the adult teeth start cutting.
  8. Be as physically active as you can with your puppy.  Before your puppy is fully vaccinated or has her rabies shot, she may not be allowed in dog parks or even for long walks in your neighborhood.  That doesn’t mean you can’t tear it up in the house, though!  Or the backyard, for that matter.  Get her used to a collar and leash in your own yard, and run her in circles if you can.  Puppies experience a bizarre phenomenon known as “FRAPing” – Frenetic Random Activity Periods.  Usually twice a day – once in the morning, once at night – their whole demeanor changes and they begin running around as if possessed.  Even their eyes looked glazed and distant.  Helping them to release their pent up puppy energy may help with these times, and may get her prepared for regular walks and activity outside your home.
  9. Connect with other puppy owners.  We also own a cat, and I have never in my life felt the need to talk to another cat owner (specifically about the cat, I mean).  That’s because practically all you need to know is to feed it, put a litter box out, and there you go.  Dogs – and especially puppies – are a whole other matter, and can sometimes feel like the biggest mystery you’ve ever tried to unravel.  I think it has helped me to ask other people questions, compare stories, even ooh and ahh at cute puppy pictures.
  10. Last, but NOT LEAST:  Have fun.  I mean, why did you get a puppy in the first place?  They’re sweet, they’re cuddly, and they add so much to life! Our Lucy can be silly and surprising, and she has seemed to bring out something unexpected (in a good way!) in every one of us.  I take her and my 2yo for a walk every morning, and the way they communicate with each other side-by-side is so charming.  Amid cleaning up the accidents and getting them to sleep through the night and teaching them what is expected, there’s a ton of fun to be had with owning a new puppy.
  • Thanks for sharing these tips! We’re looking at getting a dog “someday”, and these tips will definitely come in handy!
    .-= Ashley´s last blog ..60/60 Week One Recap =-.

  • We don’t have a puppy mostly b/c I’m all “puppy’d out”. (I worked as a Vet Tech for 5 yrs & a groomer for 1 yr) But these are great tips! I, too, love Cesar!
    .-= Catie´s last blog ..Saturday Skinny =-.

  • We don’t have a puppy mostly b/c I’m all “puppy’d out”. (I worked as a Vet Tech for 5 yrs & a groomer for 1 yr) But these are great tips! I, too, love Cesar!
    .-= Catie´s last blog ..Saturday Skinny =-.

  • I really love the look of your blog, btw!
    .-= Catie´s last blog ..Saturday Skinny =-.

  • I really love the look of your blog, btw!
    .-= Catie´s last blog ..Saturday Skinny =-.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing these tips! We’re looking at getting a dog “someday”, and these tips will definitely come in handy!
    .-= Ashley´s last blog ..60/60 Week One Recap =-.

  • Excellent suggestions!

    One other one that you might want to add is work on “no bite” as soon as you can. Building their bite inhibition early can make a world of difference in the dog’s quality of life. My younger dog was never a problem (she has the softest mouth in the world; I’m convinced you could ask her to carry a raw egg and it would arrive at its destination in the same condition you gave it to her in, well, until she dropped it on the floor). My older dog, though, never did get the whole bite inhibition thing. I believe, though, I could have saved us both some misery if I’d worked with her earlier on it.

  • Excellent suggestions!

    One other one that you might want to add is work on “no bite” as soon as you can. Building their bite inhibition early can make a world of difference in the dog’s quality of life. My younger dog was never a problem (she has the softest mouth in the world; I’m convinced you could ask her to carry a raw egg and it would arrive at its destination in the same condition you gave it to her in, well, until she dropped it on the floor). My older dog, though, never did get the whole bite inhibition thing. I believe, though, I could have saved us both some misery if I’d worked with her earlier on it.

  • I think this could be written about a newborn or toddler, too, right? 🙂 All great tips- I just need to do all those things more frequently. Sounds like Lucy is getting a lot of love and care- that’s great!

  • I think this could be written about a newborn or toddler, too, right? 🙂 All great tips- I just need to do all those things more frequently. Sounds like Lucy is getting a lot of love and care- that’s great!

  • Great list! Especially create a pack leader. SOOO important.

  • Great list! Especially create a pack leader. SOOO important.

  • Doing the Mom Thing

    Great list. Especially the tip about chewing options. I had to sacrifice a lot of shoes before I learned that one.
    .-= Doing the Mom Thing´s last blog ..10 Words The Munchkin Says (that aren’t swear words) =-.

  • Doing the Mom Thing

    Great list. Especially the tip about chewing options. I had to sacrifice a lot of shoes before I learned that one.
    .-= Doing the Mom Thing´s last blog ..10 Words The Munchkin Says (that aren’t swear words) =-.

  • oh my goodness gracious sakes alive—this is why i do NOT want to get a dog. i am not up for all that! it’s hard enough having two kids!

    but seriously, what a lot of great info. i’m going to stumble this!

    a
    .-= oh amanda´s last blog ..Warm Fuzzies =-.

  • oh my goodness gracious sakes alive—this is why i do NOT want to get a dog. i am not up for all that! it’s hard enough having two kids!

    but seriously, what a lot of great info. i’m going to stumble this!

    a
    .-= oh amanda´s last blog ..Warm Fuzzies =-.