6 Things I Tell New Dog Parents I Wish I’d Known Myself
Growing up, my parents refused to let me have a dog. “Who’s going to take care of it?” they’d ask. “Me,” I’d say naively. The movies and cartoons made it seem so easy, so I thought I could take on the responsibility without issue. Dogs are great but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking they’re easy to raise — at least for the first few months.
There’s a huge learning curve but the rewards are worth it: I’ve had three dogs in my life and each turned out to be a sweet, loving, affectionate furry friend. Still, most dog training materials didn’t fully prepare me to raise them.
Here are six things I learned about caring for a puppy that I wish someone had told me.
1. Take Time for Yourself
Bringing a new dog home will be chaotic, whether it’s a puppy with endless energy, or an older dog getting used to new surroundings. I thought I could get away with just working from home, but between walks, house training, crate training, and more, it was a nightmare. In hindsight, I’d definitely dedicate at least a full week to only dog things, like getting them acclimated, taking them to the vet, and simply taking time to bond with them. Otherwise, the training process just gets prolonged.
If you’re not able to take time off from work, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t get a dog. Designating certain tasks to members of the family can help, or just allowing yourself to focus on the dog when you have free time is good, too. The idea is to make time in a way you haven’t had before. Tell friends and family members you might be MIA on evenings and weekends until you feel comfortable and rested enough to socialize more.
2. Create a Dog-Safe Wardrobe
I learned quickly how important it is to have “Shelby clothes” when I adopted my first dog. Between walking her several times a day, playing with her, running after her, and more, it was clear that comfort would prevail over fashion. I adopted a uniform of stylish sweatpants (so I could look and feel good at the crack of dawn), neutral-colored tops (to hide her fur), and a few pairs of comfortable walking shoes, as well as layers I could quickly get in and out of during the house training period. I didn’t wear my normal clothing for a few months, but I also didn’t ruin my favorite outfits, either.
3. Put Everything You Care About Away
Seriously. Lock it all in a closet or designate a room for your treasured possessions. Don’t assume your dog has no interest in even the most mundane things because dogs love to mess around with everything and anything. It’s like they can read your mind, know which objects you love most, and then destroy them before your very eyes.
You can have a million toys to entertain your doggo but he or she will want to chew up stacks of paper like important tax documents you left on the coffee table, those cashmere sweaters you have just folded with one sleeve casually fallen over the side of the bed, etc. They will get the zoomies and knock over glasses, vases, lamps, and more. The floor is literally their playing field, but many breeds can also jump up as high as your kitchen counter, so be diligent about where your stuff is, especially if it’s irreplaceable or can harm your dog.
4. Don’t let your dog on the bed until it’s housebroken
This is the hardest piece of advice, but one you need to trust me on. If you don’t, you will be spending a lot of money on a new mattress.
My Jack Russell Terrier was so cute and small, I figured she could just sleep with me at night, instead of her crate. It was nice to have a snuggle buddy until she started peeing on my bed, repeatedly. I began to realize she had to pee once she woke up from a nap, which was great for house training purposes, but I reached my limit when she started getting diarrhea in the middle of the night from puppy parasites.
Sheets can be cleaned, but it’s virtually impossible to get a mattress back to normal once it’s been soiled. Save yourself the frustration and keep your pupper on the ground until they are housebroken.
5. Find a Trainer Before Your Pup Comes Home
It doesn’t matter if you’ve raised 17 dogs — every dog is different, and the first few months are the hardest. What’s even harder is trying to find a good trainer once your new dog is home and wreaking havoc on your life.
Shelby refused to walk down the stairs of my third-floor walkup, which made potty training infuriating. Lana came housebroken, but she had a serious biting problem no episode of The Dog Whisperer could solve. Both times, I couldn’t find a dog trainer fast enough, and my stress levels were through the roof. Next time, I’ll reach out to a trainer before I get a dog.
6. Always Have Paper Towels
I tried to be crunchy and only use old rags or terry cloth towels to clean up my dog’s messes, but I caved and bought paper towels because I was going through three loads of laundry a day. It’s not a forever thing and there are worse things for the environment, but if I could marry a roll of paper towels, I would. Potty accidents, overturned bowls of water, muddy paw prints — paper towels are a must if you want to get out of raising a dog alive.