I got a puppy. She’s an 8-pound, 3-months old Chihuahua/dachshund mix. Her name is Dottie.
She is adorable and playful and snuggly. Here are my notes on this so far, for those thinking about adopting a puppy:
Seriously think about whether or not you want an actual puppy or an adult dog
If you’re looking for a small and cute dog, there are tons of small, cute adult dogs on Petfinder, and most small breed dogs live 12-15 years. This means you can get a 1-4 or 5 year old who will be with you for a decade plus. And no matter how old a dog is when you adopt it, it’s yours. I adopted my last dog from my brother when the dog was 4 years old and believe me, he was MY dog the minute I began feeding him and taking him out. But if you’re still not convinced, let me detail what it’s like to adopt a puppy.
Puppies need to be housetrained (housebroken or potty trained—whatever you want to call it).
Housetraining is great for the puppy and owner in the long run (unless you like cleaning up pee and poop), but terrible for the owner in the short run. Housetraining involves taking your puppy outside to his/her designated “spot” and waiting until she/he pees and poops. Sometimes they get distracted by a car, or another dog, or a leaf and they forget to pee/poop so you take them back inside only to have them immediately assume the position on your carpet, which means you have to interrupt them in the act, grab them, put your jacket back on, grab the leash, keys and potty bags and run them back outside to finish the task. Sometimes this happens at 11 o’clock at night when you just want to go to bed. Sometimes this happens right after you took them for a 45 minute walk and really, really need to leave for work.
This means that even if you have a fenced-in backyard, you have to accompany your puppy outside to see if she “goes”.
The Housebreaking Bible is a great resource for training your dog to go outside and not on the couch. A lot of her tips are very helpful, and I encourage you to read through her FAQs before bringing your dog home both so you can get started on the right foot and because she outlines just how often you’ll be taking your dog out.
My puppy Dottie is 3 months old currently goes out:
- 6:45am with me
- 11am with dog walker
- 3pm with dog walker
- 6pm with me
- 8pm with me or Mike (This is the next walk to be eliminated as she gets older and better at “holding it”)
- 10pm with me
So even though I have a dog walker, I’m still out there with her a minimum of 4x/day and 6x/day on weekends. I say a “minimum” because the first few days I was rushing her outside even more often. I’m very lucky that she sleeps through the night (although last night she woke up at 4am to puke on my bed)—most puppies under 12 weeks need to be taken out at least once overnight. Think about that. Do you want to get up at 3am and then 5am for a dog?
I seriously considered this before I brought her home. I thought about whether or not I was up for multiple walks during the day and if I could afford a dog walker so she didn’t spend 8+ hours in her crate. I decided that bringing home a puppy that I could have a greater influence on was worth the tradeoff for all of these potty breaks and extra cash for the dog walker.
What I was not prepared for was….
Life would be easier if I were not crate training her. Here’s the definition of crate training from Wikipedia:
Crate training is often practiced with new puppies as a method of house-training. Puppies naturally do not want to dirty the place where they sleep, so they will try as much as possible to hold it while they are in their crate. Of course, young puppies cannot control their bladders for long: about one hour for every month of age. Owners of young dogs will have to continue to take the puppy outside frequently. The crate is the only space in the entire house that truly belongs to the dog, and if used appropriately, will become a safe haven for your dog for years to come.
This means that every time she is inside and not being supervised, she has to go into her crate. More than the 6 walks a day, this has been the most challenging aspect of bringing her home. I have to watch her every single second because puppies are cage-y little beasts and can easily scoot out of your line of sight and onto the carpet to pee.
Every time I need to walk to the kitchen from the living room, I have to carry her with me or put her in her crate. When I need to go to the bathroom, she comes with me. If I take a shower, she gets locked in the bathroom with me and curls up on the bathmat outside the shower—and I still peek out to make sure she’s not peeing or pooping behind the toilet. If I need to get dressed, she has to sit on my very high bed while I change. If I’m cooking, she is on her leash which is wrapped around my waste. Cleaning? I haven’t gotten around to that since she’s been home.
Sounds awesome, right?
Day Three was the hardest. I brought her home on a Saturday and was perfectly content watching and reveling in her cuteness for the first 48 hours. But by Monday I needed to actually get stuff done. I worked from home and by Monday evening I was near tears. The stress of having to keep my eyes on her every second, coupled with two accidents on the carpet almost put me over the edge.
After a few days of this, I ordered a Puppy Playpen from Amazon. This way I can put her in the playpen with a couple toys while I take a shower or, heaven forbid, want to go to the bathroom by myself. She definitely whines when I put her in and walk away, and it’s large enough that she may want to pee/poop in it, but I’m taking my chances for a little freedom. This morning I threw a bully stick in there with her and she didn’t even notice when I walked away to make breakfast.
Here’s my list of what you need to have in place before you bring your puppy home.
- Dog Walker. If your puppy is under 6 months old, you will need to give her a mid-day potty break. Even if you’re not going to use them every day, hire a dog walker as a backup in case you can’t make it home in time. Hiring a dog walker has reduced my stress immensely. Plus, my dog walker, Kate Molloy from Happy Feet Pet Sitting is awesome. Dottie currently does two short walks a day with Kate and once she’s older that will change to 1x/day longer walk.
- Puppy Playpen. This has been a life-saver—especially when I’m getting ready for work in the morning. She still has room to move around but I don’t have to watch her every second.
- Bully Sticks and/or a Kong. In addition to treats, you need chews to keep them busy or distract them sometimes.
- Pumpkin + Peanut Butter Balls. Dottie is on powdered antibiotics for a pre-existing infection. This is pretty typical, and the vet usually recommends switching to soft, canned food if you have to administer medicine via their food. I hate canned food; A, because it’s gross, and B, because kibble is so much better for their teeth. So I’m making these peanut butter-pumpkin balls. I mix peanut butter, canned pumpkin, oats and the antibiotics together so she doesn’t know she just ate her meds.