When I hear that someone is getting a new puppy, my response is always the same: “Puppyhood is hard, but they are so very worth it.” I cannot imagine having a home without the love & energy pups bring to it. With the upcoming holidays and people being at home, I realize many are considering getting a puppy, so I wanted to share my insight about puppyhood here. We have raised three dogs–two from the very young puppy stage and one from the age of one year old. When I say puppyhood is hard, I mean it: There is potty training, constant nipping, getting up in the middle of the night to let them out, crate training, exercising, socializing, hearing a lot of whining and barking, and things being torn up. Beyond that, they are a big financial investment: food and puppy insurance (I use Healthy Paws) and medications and vet visits and grooming adds up. My first words of wisdom before getting a puppy is to make sure you and your family are ready for the time, energy, and money that raising a puppy takes. It is a BIG and long commitment. Do your research. Make sure you are finding the right fit for your family. If you are SURE you are ready for the commitment and have decided to get a new puppy, here are my thoughts to share with you.
We got our first puppy, Ziggy, in 2006. He was a cock-a-poo. I had always loved cocker spaniels and also wanted a smart and hypoallergenic dog, so a cock-a-poo it was. We were told Ziggy would be 18-23 lbs full grown. He ended up being 45 lbs–and he wasn’t over weight, he was just a big dog for his litter. Be prepared for your dog to be a different size than you might have thought! When we got Ziggy, we knew very little about raising a puppy. We took him to puppy kindergarten to learn about training and to help socialize him; however, he was an energetic pup. I kept asking people when puppyhood was over and would get answers from 1 to 3 years old. For Ziggy, it wasn’t until around 3 years that he started to calm down. At less than year one, we decided Ziggy needed a friend to get some of his energy out. We were lucky enough to find the perfect companion pup in Olivia Sue from a local rescue. Olivia was around one year old when we got her, and they were instant friends. Since Olivia is a rescue, we are not sure exactly what kind of dog she is but we believe she is part schnauzer and poodle. She has been the absolute easiest and sweetest pup ever. Getting her at one year old verses a few months old made a huge difference. If the timing is right and everything aligns, I highly recommend the consideration of a rescue pup. Ziggy most definitely needed Oliva’s companionship. He lived a life full of zest. He was a bit spastic, but he was incredibly loyal and loving. We absolutely adored that dog. He ended up getting congestive heart failure, and when his quality of life took a turn for the worse, we had to make the incredibly difficult decision to put him down at age 11 in 2017. Olivia, thankfully, is still with us today.
Quickly after putting Ziggy down, we knew we wanted another companion dog for Olivia. We like having two pups. I had grown to love poodle mixes, but we didn’t want one that would remind us of Ziggy. He was one of a kind. I wanted a dog that was a different color and different breed. Jonathan wanted a goldendoodle. So, that is what we chose. I researched the different kinds of goldendoodles, and we decided we wanted a medium sized, F1B, apricot goldendoodle. F1B means that the dog is 3/4 poodle and 1/4 golden retriever–these pups are less likely to shed because they have more poodle in them. I did a lot of research finding the right dog at the right time from a reputable breeder that I trusted.I found exactly what we were looking for in Briar, who was born on my late Grandmother’s Birthday (it was a sign), located in a neighboring state more than 6 hours away. We got Briar over spring break and made a short vacation out of picking him up. We drove half way there and stayed in a cabin the night before his gotcha day. We also wanted to introduce Briar and Olivia on neutral territory, so that worked out well. If you have to drive to pick up your puppy, make sure to have either a sack, bowl, and puppy pads for the trip. We were driving through the curvy and hilly mountains in Arkansas on our way home, and Briar got car sick multiple times, so I was thankful we had brought the puppy pads.
You will need to be prepared to bring your puppy home. It will be important to have all the essentials: puppy food, toys (the kong filled with peanut butter, pumpkin, and treats became an essential favorite), a blanket, and a small crate. In my opinion, crate training is a must. It helps with potty training and insures that your puppy is safe when you are not around. None of my pups have ever loved their crates as I hear some dogs do; however, I still believe it’s important to use a crate at first. In addition, we’ve stayed at places when traveling with our pups that required they were in crates when we left them there. I was glad that they were used to the crate already. Now that they are older, we no longer use the crate, but at first, it is a must. You will need to slowly introduce the crate to your puppy. My go-to training resource with Briar has been Zak George YouTube videos. Training you puppy takes a lot of time, energy, and patience, but it very important! Zak George has SO many helpful training videos. I’ve watched and learned from almost all of them. Here is one on introducing your puppy to the crate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hesi8WxLWVE I also highly recommend getting a Snuggle Puppy for your new pup to help him with sleeping through the night in the crate: https://rb.gy/lhuzyr Briar transitioned well to sleeping through the night in his crate with his snuggle puppy.
Potty training is a full time job. Taking them outside hourly and positive reinforcement is key. Our first pup, Ziggy, caught on to potty training in less than a month. Briar took over three months. Just when I thought he would never get it, he finally (thank God) did! Watching the Zak George videos on potty training helped tremendously. We decided to bell train Briar. And, once again, he ignored the bell for months, and we had started to give up even using it, and then one day, out of no where he rang the bell. To this day, he lets us know he wants to go outside by ringing the bell by the back door: https://rb.gy/pzvrvj Beyond potty training, probably the most challenging time of puppyhood is the constant biting and nipping phase. Wearing the puppy out with play and having plenty of toys around to stuff in their mouths when they start nipping is essential. All you can do during this phase is BE PATIENT. Keep redirecting, and remember: It won’t last forever.
The photo above is Briar after he got groomed. Introducing grooming to your puppy early is important. It is also important to know what kind of grooming your puppy will require. While Briar doesn’t shed, he does require brushing and grooming regularly. He also needs exercise regularly. For us, having a fenced back yard with pups is a must. Being able to let them out into the back yard to go to the bathroom, explore, run, and play is a life-saver. We went a month with him as a new puppy and no fenced back yard, and it was pretty miserable. Once we got the fence put in, it also seemed to allow Briar and Olivia to bond more because she could run away from the annoying new little puppy (she was quick), and they would eventually learn to play together with the spaciousness of the back yard. It took a few months for Briar and Olivia to fully bond. She actually didn’t care for him at all for about a month, which was worrisome at the time, but eventually they became great friends.
Keep in mind: tiny puppies grow into dogs~another reason training is a must. Briar was projected to be 25-35 lbs full grown. He is close to 50 lbs full grown. Once again, be prepared for your dog to be a different size than projected. He is an absolute big love-bug. Briar dropped out of puppy kindergarten because honestly, I had already done so much training with him prior to going (thank you Zak George) he, and we, were very bored at the group training sessions. We ended up hiring a trainer to work with him for a few sessions one on one. He also attended puppy daycare one day a week for his first year of life in order to socialize and release some extra puppy energy.
As you can tell, raising a puppy is a big commitment in time, energy, and money. If you have any questions about puppyhood or my recommendations and insight, don’t hesitate to comment below. I’m happy to share! Puppyhood requires great patience. It is a life decision that should not be made lightly. However, the love, companionship, and energy dogs bring into a home, in my opinion, is absolutely, without a doubt, worth it!