What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Puppy
Puppies bring unending joy to a home, but they’re also a handful. Experts say dog owners are often surprised by just how much time and attention puppies require.
If you’re preparing for a puppy, there’s so much more to think about than buying a crate, toys and food. Here are seven things to know:
YOU NEED A PUPPY EDUCATION PLAN.
“The best thing people can do is organize the puppy’s education,” says Andrea Arden, founder of Andrea Arden Dog Training in New York City. Arden has trained dogs for 24 years, and says owners can become overwhelmed if they don’t have a training plan by the time the puppy arrives. The best course of action, she says, is to hire a trainer you and your puppy can work with in person. Also, seek out reputable books and websites to help you learn the best training practices.
“If you do it right,” says Arden, “You’re raising a dog that is going to be a really fun, stress-free part of your life for hopefully 15 years.”
Matt Gecht and Allie Gottlieb, who run the Instagram account @otter–doodle for their 7-month-old goldendoodle, Otter, say that before his arrival, they had a friend help them prepare a comprehensive Excel document containing everything from toys to budget to training.
Socialization is also an integral part of a puppy’s education. Once your puppy is settled in, regularly take it for walks in populated areas to meet other people and dogs. Dog training expert Sarah Wilson of St. Louis notes, however, that until your puppy is vaccinated, avoid taking it anywhere there might be unvaccinated dogs.
YOU WILL LOSE SLEEP.
“I can’t tell you how many phone calls and emails we get that people are shocked they’re losing sleep because the puppy is waking them up,” Arden says. “For me there is no surprise in that. It’s a little baby creature. It’s in a brand new environment where the puppy is expected to spend time alone, and they are not prepared for that.”
YOU WILL NEED TO CONTAIN YOUR PUPPY.
“Get gates,” says Wilson. “Supervise the puppy the way you would supervise an 18-month-old child with a pair of scissors in one hand and an indelible marker in the other.”
Puppies need constant supervision so they don’t swallow something unsafe. It’s impossible to keep your eye on them if they’re not contained.
And not containing puppies sets them up to fail, says Arden.
“Most people bring puppies home and think the puppy needs to investigate the house in order to become comfortable,” she says. “A young puppy wandering a living room is likely to just stop and squat.”
YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE MORE THAN YOU THINK.
Nancy Bear Karger, who along with her husband and kids is raising Dolly, a 1-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, says that needing to be home for the puppy was a big adjustment. When planning trips or even going out for the day, a plan must be in place — and it’s more than just stopping in briefly. “We can’t just come home, let her out and put her back in her crate,” Karger explains. “That’s not fair to her.”
Arden says to expect life to change “pretty dramatically” for at least the first six months of your puppy’s life, when it will need the most time and attention.
EXPECT THE PUPPY TO BE CONFUSED.
It’s easy to become frustrated when your puppy does something wrong, but remember it’s still learning.
“This little being has only been on the planet for 100 days,” says Wilson. “If the puppy isn’t doing what you want, it’s because the puppy doesn’t understand. Your puppy is not dominant. It’s just a confused baby.”
Puppies are overwhelmed when they arrive in a new home, Wilson says. “As far as your puppy’s concerned, they’ve been beamed up by friendly aliens. You took them away from the only home they know and dropped them into another home which is completely different, so be ready to coach them on making the right choices.”
She suggests minimizing stress on the puppy through tactics like giving it the same food it’s been eating, and waiting a few days to introduce it to your friends.
IT’S (REALLY) EXPENSIVE.
Between vet visits, food, toys and everything else, Gottlieb and Gecht said that even with the budget they prepared, they were not expecting Otter to be so expensive. “We were financially prepared going into it, and we were still surprised at how much we were spending,” Gottlieb says.
DON’T FORGET TO ENJOY THE GOOD PARTS.
Raising a puppy is hard, but there are so many wonderful parts of the journey — especially the unconditional love. “Dolly instantly was a member of our family,” says Karger. “You can just hear and see the joy in each one of us.”
When feeling exasperated, Gottlieb says, “Remind yourself there’s a reason you got a dog and the reason is for that love. While training can be frustrating, once you get through it, it’s going to be amazing.”