My Advice To New Puppy Parents

Puppies Are Everywhere!!

Tami, Heather, and Sara all just brought (or will soon be bringing) home new additions to their families of the canine variety. Tami's was kindaaaa by accident but still the puppy factor is now one of the main factors in their lives! Steph, Sami and Cortney got puppies within the past year.

Sara and I started our bloggy friendship turned love affair because we went back and forth emailing about puppy tings. (Which seems like so long ago now!) I have wanted to do a post like this since I started this little bloggy of mine but now I think would be a great time to do it! So here goes, and PLEASEEE email me or comment or tweet me or WHATEV if you have questions, want advice or just need someone to vent to. (I did a lot of venting) I'm NOT an expert. I'm just basing this off my own experience with Lil and my family dogs growing up. We got Lil from a shelter and had a lot of help from our friend who is the animal behaviorist there (tanksss A!) which is where I'm getting most of this from.

Here are the biggest things that helped Tom and I survive Lil and vise versa. It's a long post but I hope it's helpful! I may do a post about getting the right dog/how to go about it sometime in the future if there is interest!

Puppies are so. much. work. I know you've heard that but it's a pain in the arse for a whileeeeee! House breaking (esp in an apartment) can be quite a nightmare. Puppies can only hold their bladder for a short time.

HINT: a good rule is Age In Months + 1 = # Of Hours Your Pup Can "Hold It"

It's amazing once they get it tho! You have to be as understanding as possible. It's HARD not to yell and get frustrated. Especially when they are chewing on your expensive shoes and peeing on your bed. Try and remember they're are figuring things out as they go. Yelling can make them upset and want to hide when doing their "bad things" and you don't want that, believe me! Most pups wanna please you so go nuts when they do something great! They know when you're upset with them and when you're proud of them but don't let the tough stuff over shadow the exciting stuff! I promise, it gets better. And easier. Keep in mind they don't speak English. I mean I know, DUH, but really. I have full conversations with Lil but she only can understand her commands and my body language and tone. Just keep it real and take about 309745834 deep breaths.

2. Bring them everywhere, show them everything!
This is HUGE. Really. As soon as you get you're little pup home have everyone you know come over. Guys, girls, family, kids. Expose your pup to EVERYONE. When you take them on walks invite people over to say hi, give them treats to give to your pup, and praise, praise, praise! People in uniform? GREAT. Shove the pup in their face. At the vet, go nuts with praise and treats. You can even go before (and/or) after your first appointment just to say hi and treat them! Creating positive relationships with people is SUPER important. After the vet visit, introduce your pup to every other dog ever. (ones that are dog-friendly) and treat and praise.

HINT: it's probably common sense but ALWAYS ask from a safe distance if another dog is friendly. THEN approach. Some dogs seem fine until you get too close to their owners and then they freak.

Lil and my grandmother's dog, Oscar. When she was tiny.
Lil and Tom's family dog, Hobbs

A Parvo Convo: I've heard a lot about how people are SUPERRRR worried about parvo. It's a fair concern but, Generally, the first vaccine is given at 6-8 weeks of age and a booster is given at four-week intervals until the puppy is 16-20 weeks of age, and then again at one year of age. (source) That means your pup is ok to roam the world. Watch out for other doggy doo-doo and be cautious of other pups (which you should do anyway) and maybe avoid dog parks for a few months but if you have friends/family with dogs DEFINITELY don't hesitate to have your pup interact. It's incredibly important!

3. Help me, help you
aka set your pup up for success! They can't hold their business too long, so don't push it, go out all the time. Their attention span and patience are SUPER low. If you ask them to "sit" the SECOND they do it praise them! Gradually you can work your way up. Puppy proof your house. Don't leave food at pup level, close doors to rooms you don't want them in. If they jump all over the place, keep their leash on and step on it so they physically can't jump. They'll learn (farily quick) to just not do it. When they do something bad or wrong (at least in Lil's case) it's to get attention. Ignoring your pup is one of the hardest and most effective ways to shape their behavior!

4. Make sure everyone is on the SAME page
A united front is so important. I literally can't stress this enough. Tom and I didn't fight until Lil came into the picture. It's still our biggest source of tension. Why? Because we love her. We both want what's best for her and sometimes we have different opinions on what those things are. It's important to talk about anything and everything you can think of regarding the pup and come to a compromise or at least a final desicion you can both get behind. This goes for vets, kenneling, food, toys, commands, rules, and how other people interact with the pup. If you are not on the same page, not only can it cause issues between you and your significant other, but the poor pup will get confused and start to disobey and act out.

5. Don't give up/ Try, try again
Training a pup is a  l o n g  process. Don't get discouraged. Just because your pup isn't getting it doesn't mean they won't get it eventually. They're babies. And even if they aren't actually babies, when a dog gets into a new environment they have to start from scratch. It's hard. REALLY hard but it will pay off.  I know this sounds like be patient, and it basically is. Again. More likely than not your pup is working really hard to do what you're asking of them. Keep a goal in mind (although maybe not a time table) and keep working towards that. The pay off is so incredible.

6. Tell people off
DO NOT be afraid, embarrassed, shy or apologetic about telling people how to act around your pup. You know your dog better than the vet, your friends and family and obvisouly strangers. If your pup get nervous around certain objects (umbrella's in Lil's case) or people who look a certian way (men in hoods cause panic attacks for Lil) let them know before they come and shove their hands in your poor, and now scared dog's face. It isn't a good idea. Friends and family are typically more forgiving but if your dog bites a stranger you are in BIG trouble. My girlfriend tells people her dog has the Dog Flu. No kidding. In reality her dog just doesn't want people in her face! And really if people get offended, who cares? They're strangers. If they're friends or family, it can be more of a conversation than you telling them off but it's SUPER important pups get consistent treatment as much as possible. It helps them learn quicker and they behave a lot better!

HINT: plain Cheerios and kibble are WONDERFUL training tools! Mix them and some kibble sized treats and bring that mix with you everywhere.

7. Figure out what works
Dogs (obviously) are pack animals. BUT there is no reason to go Cesar Milan on them and be an asshole to your pup. You need to be the dominant one because that's what your pup needs! They need you to be their guide to the human world they live in. Treat your pup like he's a part of the family not a new hire. It's important to keep in mind tho that, like children, dogs NEED structure. Make rules and follow them. If certain rules need to be tweaked, do it. If praise isn't enough incentive, get treats. If certain treats work better, keep that in mind. If ignoring a behavior makes it go away awesome! If it makes it worse, try distractions. This all takes time and is trial and error. Certain things will work for your dog that won't with Lil, or your friends dog, or your childhood dog. That's just the way it works!

IMPORTANT: Understand the breed
A big part of figuring out what works is understanding the breed(s) your new pup is. YouTube Dogs 101: {Your Breed} They are 3 minute videos that totally help explain what to expect as far as energy levels, health concerns, grooming and personality! Keep the breeds in mind when trying out what works. It will be easier on you and the pup if your anticipating behaviors.

8. Tire them out!
An exhausted dog is a well behaved dog. When Lil is tired she's pretty much an angel. Not even kidding. It's like she's a different dog. Her vice is fetch but some dogs would rather go for walks, or play tag or freaking dock diving. Find what they like and work it! If they're reallllly tired tho make sure you're gentle and understanding with them. Again, they're like kids and over tired means cranky and whiny.
Tired Lil aka manatee Lil.
9. Poke and prod them
When you're playing with your pup, touch them everywhere. I know that sounds creepy but you really have to. Get them used to people putting their hands all over the place. Mess with their paws, "check" their eyes, ears and teeth. Yank on their tail a bit (I'm talking, whatever an excited toddler may do, do it.) Roll them on their backs. Give them baths/play in water. Anything you can think of that they may need to deal with later- get them used to it now. Praise them the whole time, make it a great thing when you look in their ears! The owners DEFINITELY should be able to do all that stuff and it would be AWESOME if other people could too. Eventually, vets, kids, strangers, other dogs and whatever else will be up close and personal and it's better to have your pup be ready for it! Because we were good at some things, I can pull Lil's tail to get her attention (not hard, just like I would tug your arm) and it doesn't bother her. On the other hand she gets really upset when we touch her paws sometimes.

10. Love them unconditionally
Ok, if you just invested (and yes it is quite an investment) in a pup you better be prepared to love them thru thick and thin. When they're assholes and teething. When they have the runs at 2am and HAVE to go out (that happened last night). When they ruin your jellies because they look yummy. When you have scars and bruises from when they get SUPER PUMPED to see you. When they are sick. When they get recurring ear infections that end up costing thousands of dollars. When they decide they HAVE to sit on your lap when you're trying to right a 5 star blog post. When people say they suck. When you feel like they suck. When you're arguing with your boyfriend about whether you can afford a weekend trip to Boston because you'll have to kennel them. When you're in your PJs and you can hear all the college kids outside but you know they gotta go out. When they have the runs (yea it happens pretty often) in the middle of the courtyard of the apartment complex and you have to go back upstairs and get a pitcher of water to wash it off. LOVE THEM. They deserve it because those days when you feel like nothing can go right, and you hate everyone and you just wanna sleep forever, your pup will be there, loving YOU unconditionally.
annoying? still love her.
The last piece of advice I'll leave you with is one that has probably saved Lil's life (or at least saved us all from an emergency trip to the vet):


This is super useful. Some dogs (labs, retrievers etc) are bred to hold things carefully in their mouth. Lil does NOT have that instinct. She wants to swallow everything. Tennis balls, rawhide pieces, wine corks, corn cobs, cigarettes, socks and anything else she got ahold of. When she has something she shouldn't we yell "TRADE ME" and throw super yummy treats away from what she has. She then drops what she has (for the most part) and goes after the treats. This also works when she has a bone and is getting too possessive. eventually you can call "trade me! come get a treat!" and she drops whatever she has and comes running! Some dogs you can grab things out of their mouth without issue. Lil isn't one of those dogs.
One of my favorite pictures of Lil.
She tried to swallow this too.
And as an added bonus for all you new puppy mommys and daddys, I have the top 3 tips from an ADORABLE puppy mom who will be guest posting here on the 25th!
1. Get a kong. Fill it with treats and peanut butter and let the dog struggle with it play with it for
hours. Have wine!

Kongs are SO AMAZING. It's the only toy we can leave in Lil's crate with her because she eats thru everything else (we get the black ones, for serious chewers)

2. Nap when the dog naps. Seriously. You aren’t going to sleep much the first few nights, especially if you’re crate training (which you should), so nap with that mofo naps. Or you’re gonna regret it!

So ture tho. Tom said if he knew about the sleep deprivation he may not have gotten a puppy

3. Learn to love poo. Because you’re going to be talking about, encouraging it, cleaning it up, and focusing it on it way more than you can even imagine.

There is always at least one daily update on Lil's bowel movements. It happens guys.

Ok, she's awesome already right? Visit her at her blog, Understated Whimsy, and then read her puppy advice guest post (BECAUSE YOU NEED TO) PLUS we will be making a big announcement!


  1. holy crap. you just changed my life. i was excited for this post when you told me you were writing it, but this is going to be my best friend in july! i am scared/nervous/excited and now anxious to get our little boy (even WITH all the scary stuff like sleep depravation!) thank you, thank you!

  2. yay! i love that you made the same point i ALWAYS tell people now. i pretty much warn every couple now that when you get a pup be prepared to hate each other temporarily. like omg yay we drink and brunch and are in love now we have to care for this thing?! TENSION. woooeee. it gets better :) also your paragraph on loving unconditionally made me tear up.

    so. true.

  3. all such good advice!! we literally brought fred everywhere we went (still do) and he is great in any situation and doesn't need to be on a leash. I also could not agree more with tiring them out...dogs usually act up when they have not had enough exercise.

  4. Wonderful advice. Seeing the cute puppies on your blog makes me miss my puppy. My dog of 8 years died a couple months ago and I still miss him so much.

    Tracy @

  5. Aw Lil is so pretty. I didn't get Hawkeye til she was 1 so I had no puppy years. She's great though, great with other dogs, people, kids, the vet, she's just a happy little camper. She does not like window washers, that's the only thing. It's like she knows it's not natural for them to be hanging around out there.

  6. Lil is so cute. This is great advice. We adopted both of our dogs after their puppy period when another family just couldn't handle it anymore. They gave advice on dogs yesterday on the blog, but we know nothing about puppies.

  7. oh my gosh so good! It really is so much harder than people think a lot of the times. When we brought Bella home I felt like we had an infant. At least with a baby they don't move all over the house right away! Getting up several times a night for months and always keeping a constant eye on her every day was tough but you're right - everyone has to be on the same page! It is SO worth it now that we're two years out and she's so much easier.

  8. oh I want a puppy so badly now. I haven't been able to be a responsible pet owner but that should change in about 6 months!

  9. Such great advice! My little corgi is three months old now and an absolute terror 50% of the time, but I love him more than anything! I'll miss this terrible little puppy stage.

  10. saving this post for when i actually can get a puppy !!! until then i will keep living through your #lilproblems

  11. This is great advice about puppies.

  12. New follower from the Blog Hop! I would love if you would follow me also!
    Love Me, Dani Marie

  13. I love love love this post! We recently added an adorable big (or will be huge) fur baby to our family. Those first few months were hard and that was with him staying outside. (We live in the middle of the country with a huge fenced in yard so the dogs stay out)

    You wouldn't think that you have to potty train a dog outdoors but you do! Well unless you want poo on your porch lol.

    Found you and am following from the Collective Blog Hop. You can check me out at your leisure at

  14. So true that it takes patience to a whole new level when you are training a new pup! But it is so worth it to have such an amazing companion in the long run! Great information! New follower from the Collective Blog Hop!

  15. AHHHH I don't know why but I missed this post when it was first published and it is amazing amazing amazing! I NEED these tips, and any others I can get. We are doing great so far with potty training and sleeping through the night, but not so great on tearing things up around the house and getting rowdy when he's not getting what he wants. It is so great to hear you reinforce that it's a slow process, because it sure does seem sloooow. But then again, it's been all of two weeks so we've got a long way ahead! Again, thank you so much for this!

  16. I love this post! Seriously if more people did these things, especially the patience and unconditional love, there wouldn't be so many dogs dumped in shelters. :( I love my babies sooo much, even when they drive me crazy!