Everything I've learnt about being a puppy parent

March 01, 2018

If you don't know who this little bundle of cuteness is, she's called Cara. She is 6 months old, and as you all are probably thinking 'andrex puppy', I'm sure you already know she's a Labrador. My partner and I picked her up on October 31st, best Halloween ever. I've always had dogs in the family, my mother's dogs, my grandparent's dogs, but never had one solely mine. I am a big animal lover, and so getting a dog was something I've always wanted, the decisions were fairly easy and once I located a good breeder, we had a deposit down. I want to share my experiences, and the knowledge I've gained from becoming a parent for a puppy. For me, the reality of some things in life come very differently to how you picture it. Here are my advice, guidance and tips if you're thinking of making room for one more.

Decide on a breed
So, you've decided you have room in your life for one more. The first thing to consider is what breed you want. If you're thinking Labrador or even yet something bigger, they take up more than just one, trust me. Be prepared, you will have to share your sofa, your bed, your chair, even your lap. Consider what they eat, the bigger the breed the more it costs to feed. Consider your situation, have you got children? Do you want something calm for a retiring household? Do you want something energetic for a sporty couple? All breeds have different requirements, this is essential when deciding what breed to bring into your home.

If you have decided you want a puppy in your life, a thing to consider is time. Not only do you need to plan the next 10+ years of your life around this dog, but puppies take up much more time than an older dog. It is important to make time to train and exercise your puppy, putting in time during your day to train your puppy is essential if you wish to have a well-behaved pooch. I was not naive, I knew a puppy would take up a lot of my time, and I was working part-time when I got her which is the biggest reason we decided to get her when we did. However, a big myth is that you can not have a puppy when you work full time, you can. You just need to ensure you give them the time they need eventually at one point in the day. Puppies do not concentrate for long, so asking them to think and listen for hours at a time will be an impossible task, believe me. Every puppy is different, and they will learn at different paces and some will concentrate for longer than hours, getting to know your puppy's attention span is important to prevent them becoming bored, and yourself from stress. Dog's take up a lot of your time, daily exercise is important, taking time to bond with your dog, and training all takes up time. It is not fair to leave dogs hours at a time, so it is important to know what time you have in your life, and whether a dog fits in your lifestyle. Think if it was you sitting in a cage for 8 hours, if you wouldn't like it, a dog wouldn't either.

Research - but not too much.
The number of days and hours I spent researching all about Labradors was rather too much time. Not to mention the amount of paper I used to print it all, that would have been enough to take a whole forest down. I researched everything from teething, to biting, even to how to feed a dog. Although all that information is good to know, the internet can be a dangerous hole to get into. I recommend research, but don't listen to the internet too much. Just like raising children, people have different ways to raise a dog. Not every way is wrong or right, as long as the dog's needs are met and the dog is happy, you can have your own say in your upbringing within reason. I obsessed with researching everything, I panicked thinking I didn't know enough and I spent yet more time preparing for what seemed a lifetime of exams. I do believe owners should have good knowledge of their dogs, and what their needs are and I think knowing your dog and how to care for them is very important. However, there are many different ways of providing a happy and healthy life for your dog. Personally, for me, I learnt as I went along. Asking vets advice, or researching any problems or questions I have as they occur was much more beneficial, and a lot less stressful than having to panic before even owning the dog. Something else that is important is to research and find a good vet in your area and sign your puppy up as soon as you get them, this way vaccinations can start immediately and you can have rest that your puppy is on its way to exploring the big wide world.

Food, glorious food.
So with most puppies, the breeder will send them home with a booklet of what food they need, how much and when to feed them. For the majority, my advice is to throw it away. I can guarantee most of these booklets will say to give them milk, or another source of dairy. From my experience, puppies do not need any source of milk once they have been weaned from their mother. Getting them onto solid food as soon as possible is the most beneficial to them and their teeth. My puppy was adviced milk and rice pudding from the breeder, both of these did nothing extra for her nutritionally at all. I was adviced by my vets to ignore all dairy in the diet, and raw food unless you have decided on the raw food diet for your dog. Before I got Cara, she was on 4 meals a day which included Pedigree Puppy Food, Milk, Rice Pudding and Raw Mince. I soon switched her to just Pedigree dry food, and she was fine. She was putting on weight just like she should, and no worries at all. Until we started having some runny issues outside.
One of your first problems when having a puppy will be problems with their food, all dogs are different and they will all take differently to certain branded food. It's important to try different brands to find what is best for your puppy. I decided after looking at many reviews online, Pedigree was not the way to go for my Pup. I changed her to Harringtons Puppy Food, ever so slowly, a scoop a day into her normal Pedigree food so that it was a small change to prevent upsetting her stomach any further, this is essential to do if you are changing a puppies food as they can not cope with sudden changes in their diet. After being on Harringtons for a few weeks, we had no change, still runny. I must of spent a rather large amount of money buying food, so...

Tip 1- Buy SMALL bags of food, until you have decided on the brand, then bulk buy. 

I decided that Harrington's was not agreeing with my puppy either, so again I forked out for another bag of different food. It took several weeks and several different brands until I found the right food for her. She finally settled with James Wellbeloved Puppy dry food, after a few days her business started looking a lot more normal and she appeared much better. As she has aged I have now switched her to Junior food. This is important to do as they grow, and matching the food type for their age is essential as they all provide different nutrition for the dog.

Biting / Chewing
Everybody knows puppies bite and chew, it's good to be prepared for this. Every puppy is different, some may be more destructive than others, but the bottom line is puppies chew. They do this because not only do they explore their world with their mouths, but they get bored just like we do, and if their teeth are hurting they want to chew. It's important to provide lots of chewing toys that vary in texture and material to help with boredom and teething, this will help prevent them chewing your house apart. Keeping the puppy in a cage or pen is also a good way of controlling what the puppy has access to. Keeping them in a cage is not ideal for hours at a time, it should only be used when you are not able to supervise them and control them, for example overnight, when you are out of the house or when you are busy doing something within the house. When your puppy starts losing their teeth you may notice blood, this is normal. Excessive blood or pain in your puppy is not, so keep a close eye and regularly check your puppies mouth for signs of trouble with teething. Giving them hard chew toys or treats like bones will help their teething process.

Tip 2- Buy plenty of different textured toys to allow for teething, mainly hard and squidgy ones. Dental Sticks are a good teething treat.

Crying  & Being Left Alone
One thing I was not so prepared for was crying. It is natural, and it is fine. It's natural for puppies to cry once you get them home, it is traumatic and scary for them being separated from their litter and mother and placed in a strange home. I still remember to this day the look of pure horror on my little pups face as I placed her on my living room floor. I was very lucky in this case, my puppy did not cry for her litter or her mother in fact, which was kind of a relief as that would have broken my heart quite frankly. When left alone in her cage she would cry, quite a lot. We had her in a cage in the bedroom with us during the night, of which she would cry for several minutes but as soon as the lights went out she was snoring away. We would keep her in her cage for ten minutes at a time, with us in the room to get her used to being in there. She would often play in their so it felt a happy place. We would leave her in the cage as we walked to the local shop and back, and eventually, she got used to the cage and being left alone. As she has got bigger she now has a bed on the floor, not that she stays there for long, she normally joins us in the bed. Another thing to consider is whether you want your dog to sleep in your bed or the floor. If you are not happy with the idea of sharing your bed with a dog, it is important to teach them getting on the bed is not acceptable from a young puppy. For me, I didn't find, and it's often comforting when sleeping alone without my partner. However, just a warning, they take up the whole bed!

Tip 3- Leaving your puppy in a room alone for 10 minutes at a time before leaving them all alone together, this will get them used to it. Do this regularly, to prevent them developing separation anxiety.

It's important to get training with your puppy as soon as they settle into your home. I taught my puppy with little treats to sit, lay down and paw after a few weeks of having her. I taught her to come to her name and began lead training her after a few more weeks. I then taught her to sit and wait for her food bowl to be placed down, and I began teaching her recall off the lead at a few months old. She is now 6 months old and comes back off the lead very well, however she is still a very inquisitive pup and as soon as she sees another human or dog, she just wants to say hello and have a fuss. That, I need to work on. The very first thing you should do with your puppy is to socialise them. I printed a list of socialisation, including things like walking next to a busy road, listening to a hair dryer, meeting children, meeting someone with a hat and beard. As weird as these sound, it is important for your puppy to meet all these things, and introduced and experience everything they possibly can so that they are used to these things for when they are older. If they are not properly socialised as a puppy, problems can occur later in life. For example, if you have not introduced your puppy to the noise of a hairdryer, when they finally encounter one at 1 years old they could become scared of this experience, and problem behaviours could occur.

Tip 3- Using things like clickers for training is a very good way of training. It's very easy and my puppy picked it up very quickly. Also, use very good and yummy treats to motivate them.

I'm still quite young, and so is my partner. There is no reason why young people could not make good dog parents, however, you do need to consider the following. There have been many occasions where I can not meet my friends due to not being able to find a babysitter for my pup. I can not pack up and leave on a spontaneous adventure. I can not go out for the day without considering what I will do with my pup. This can cause restrictions on your life and what you can do. I am lucky to have lovely parents and grandparents that love my puppy, so I always have a keen babysitter for my pup.

Tip 4- Try plan events in advance, to help you find a dog sitter for your pup, or so you can plan to be out for a certain amount of time to prevent leaving the puppy alone for too long.

Toilet Training
So this is a big subject, and people have different ways to go about this. I live in a ground floor apartment, with access straight out of my front door into the garden, this made it easier for me. I never actually used training pads, I found it did not do anything for my pup at all. Instead, what I did was to every 10 minutes or so, I would pop her outside. I'd find most of the time, she'd go naturally anyway as they have small bladders at that age. Sometimes it took many many minutes in the freezing cold until she went, but as soon as she did it was the high pitch squealing of 'well done' and lots of treats. This made the experience of going toilet very exciting and happy, which you want to encourage. I did this for a few months, and there were several accidents indoors where I had missed my cue to take her out. After a while, I noticed she would hover by the door. She would make little signs of just walking near the door, or looking at the door. These signs are what you need to look for, they can be so subtle or plain obvious. Whenever they mess indoors at this stage, try not to feel frustrated, as it was down to your mistake of not noticing their cue. After a while, you can train them to use a better cue, a bark, a bell or to sit at the door and wait. For my pup, I used a bell. I hung a string of bells on the door and she would knock them with her nose, no matter where I was I would be able to hear it and let her out. I never personally needed puppy training pads at all, but everyone is different, maybe I was lucky to have a well-behaved pup.

Tip 5- Set a timer on your phone for every 10 minutes to remind you to take your puppy outside, they will soon assosiate outside with going toilet.

Don't panic!!
One of the hardest things was keeping calm. When we first got my puppy, it was one of the first few nights we heard her breathing very heavily. She was panting and breathing rather a lot. I panicked, jumped in the car with her and £200 later, after seeing an out of hours vets, I found out she was just hot. So out came her blankets and bedding, and she was much better with just one blanket in her cage. Since then, my puppy has always had problems with being hot. Sleeping on a bed or somewhere with lots of bedding and material, she tends to get really hot, and after a bang and a clash later, she's flopped onto the wooden floor to cool down.

Puppy Essentials

  • Toys- It is very easy to go overboard and buy lots of toys, this can work out very expensive. From my experience, my puppy has enjoyed plastic bottles, milk jugs, paper, receipts, and things that are just generally really random. I spent lots of money on toys, and although she has enjoyed many of them, some she hasn't even touched. My suggestion is to buy a few, different textures and shapes, and the rest I would use newspaper, plastic bottles or just anything that makes noise, this was a big yes from my pup. 
  • Cages- I think crate training your puppy is very good, and it will be so much easier for you as owners. Depending on what breed you get, sometimes you will need to buy different cages for size. I was lucky enough to have an old one given to me, and I used this whilst she was small enough. As she grew, there was not much room left in there. I purchased a new cage, slightly bigger so it was more comfortable for her. This can work out expensive, I personally bought my cages second hand in my local area, this is a good idea if you are on a budget. 
  • Toilet training pads- I would recommend this for you to have in the house, in case of accidents. However, I never used them but buying something like a bell for the door could work also.
  • Harness, Collar & Leads- For my puppy, I started putting a collar on her as soon as we got her for her to get used to it. She had a very small collar, then a small, then medium and now a large. This can work out expensive, I would buy cheap ones until she is fully grown and then invest in a decent pretty collar. I also got my puppy a harness, as when she is big she will need to be walked with a harness, so I started getting her used to it young. 
  • Water & Food bowls- For my puppy, I used old bowls we had in the house from my parent's old dogs. However, now she is older I have bought her a decent slow feeder bowl as she would have issues with choking on her food as she would eat that fast.
  • Shampoo, Brushes and Clippers- General health care things are essential for your pup. Basic things are cotton pads for cleaning ears, brushes, toothbrush, shampoos and nail clippers. 
  • Blankets & Rags- Dogs get muddy, especially puppies! Keeping old blankets or towels with you in the house or car is very helpful when drying them down before popping them in the car or house. 
Unconditional Love
Overall, the most amazing thing about being a puppy parent is the unconditional love that comes with it. I love the companionship and loyalty between myself and my pup, a bond very unique, after all she's my fur baby. 

There's nothing quite like having a loving lap dog, that's too big for your lap!

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  1. Super sympa !
    kis, Elodie - https://www.luxetoutou.com

  2. Wow you have learned a lot! And yes research is key so that you adopt the right breed for your lifestyle. Many people do not do this and it leads to problems. And LOVE your pix, too cute!!

    Allie of ALLIENYC

  3. Hi Lowenna,

    Cara is so so cute!
    This is such an interesting post with lots of information and cuteness.
    Thank you so much for visiting my blog, reading my post, and leaving me a comment. Let's stay connected!

    Epsita | www.thepositivewindow.com