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It might surprise you to learn (or maybe it won't!) that some first-time puppy owners are shocked to find the sweet, soft, puppy-breathed angel they thought they were bringing home actually seems to be a (tiny) marauding Tyrannosaurus rex, intent on destruction and mayhem.
OK, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but puppies often present their new owners with unexpected challenges. Here are a few things that, as a new puppy owner, you might find surprising.
Puppies can be indiscriminate eaters, chowing down on items ranging from their puppy food to holiday decorations to a tissue to a live cricket. Some items are relatively harmless, but others, like hot dog skewers and lightbulbs, can cause severe intestinal damage. And even items that might not seem quite so scary at a glance, like certain household plants or cleaning products, can pose major threats. It’s important to puppy-proof your home, and whenever you're unable to supervise your pooch, keep him in a sequestered puppy-safe area (and consider crate training!) to help ensure your little darling can’t ingest anything that could possibly harm him.
And you must be diligent when outside of the house as well. Garages, backyards, sidewalks and even dog parks can be home to plenty of harmful substances, trash and other goodies your little baby dog (or any dog for that matter!) should not be eating.
Most new owners understand that a puppy requires more trips outdoors than adult dogs do in order to avoid lots of little puddles, but you might not realize that a puppy doesn’t have great sphincter control at this early stage. So keeping all the poop off your floor requires plenty of trips out the door.
Puppies, while they are potty training, will need to go outside first thing in the morning, before they go to bed and also within 15 minutes of eating, drinking, playing, exercising or waking up from a nap. Depending on where they are during the potty-training process, they may also need to go outside during the night.
While establishing a routine requires some short-term effort, especially for families who didn't adhere to a schedule in their pre-puppy days, it will pay off over the long haul for everyone. Puppies do best when they know what’s expected of them, and a simple routine will help them feel confident and secure about the household rules. Routines also make life a lot less hectic for your whole family!
Just like babies, puppies go through a teething phase, which can be every bit as uncomfortable and painful for the dog as it is for a human, and chewing helps dull the pain. The best way to help keep your favorite items (and your new dog) safe is by removing them from your puppy’s reach. You can also redirect your puppy from chewing something he shouldn’t by offering him something that he can gnaw on, like an appropriate toy meant for this purpose or an edible chew. But be prepared. Chewing is going to happen.
As a new puppy parent, you'll have moments when you're wildly upset because your dog has just destroyed your favorite shoe (and, no, you shouldn't have left it out, but that doesn't help you feel better in the moment, does it?), and then a moment later, you'll look into his big eyes and forgive him completely, and find yourself swept up in how much love you feel for the little creature — destructive though he might be. Talk about a mood swing!
It can be hard to reconcile how much love and tenderness you can feel one moment but yet how much frustration you can feel the next when it comes to your sweet little ball of fluff. Ups and downs are part of the relationship — but it’s important to remain consistent in your interactions with your puppy. Vetstreet trainer Mikkel Becker says, “Reward your puppy for the behaviors you want while redirecting him away from or managing the situation to prevent unwanted behavior.” Try not to let your emotions get the best of you when teaching your dog how you want him to behave. Calm interactions will have a greater positive effect on your puppy than angry ones.
They might be tiny, but those teeth don't feel so small when they latch onto your finger while you're playing. But know that those little razor-sharp teeth are short-lived, as puppies begin to lose their sharp baby teeth at about 4 months. That might not be much comfort when those 28 little canine teeth are nipping at your hand, but at least there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, remember what we said earlier about finding appropriate things for your puppy to chew on? You're gonna want to get on that.
A puppy requires more hands-on care than you might expect. Keeping your puppy healthy and happy might mean skipping happy hour to let him out or missing out on a weekend trip entirely because you don't have a pet sitter. Yes, puppies are a lot of work, but investing time and energy into your puppy in his younger, formative years will go a long way in helping him be a good, polite member of your family as he grows bigger and older.
From eating habits to sharp teeth, puppies can certainly provide their new owners with unexpected challenges, all the while burrowing themselves into our homes and hearts. But the puppy phase goes quickly, and someday you just might find yourself looking back on it wistfully! Or... maybe you'll just cherish the adorable pictures and be all the more thankful once your dog has outgrown that stage.
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