My Top Tips for New Puppy Parents

On April 23rd, we celebrated our corgi, Bowie’s, gotcha-versary… the cheesy name I’ve given to the anniversary of when we picked him up from the breeder. Looking back on the past year, I cannot believe how far he has come, and how far we have come as dog mom and dog dad. I can still remember those first few nights when he cried for HOURS in his crate, had to be let out almost every hour and peed as soon as he came INSIDE, instead of when he went out.

On his way home to Pennsylvania.

I won’t lie, it was HARD. I honestly look at it as practice for becoming a parent to a child. The sleepless nights, the body fluids… can’t wait to do all of that again in June 😉

But today, we have a sweet, well-behaved and healthy dog who gives us licks and companionship daily. I’m not sure I could handle working from home each day if I didn’t have my little assistant with me!

With a year under my belt of caring for a pup, and a lifetime of helping to care for family dogs, these are the biggest pieces of advice I’d give to someone who is thinking of adopting a new puppy.

1. Don’t Expect a Lot of Sleep at First

It didn’t last long, but the first few nights with Bowie at home were agonizing. In fact, the first night in his crate, he cried from when we put him in to when we took him out. I tried putting toys in to comfort him and laying next to the crate. We got no sleep not only from the noise, but because we constantly checked if he was safe. My husband took him out every hour. On day three, we both broke down into tears because we were so exhausted and SO just wanted the little guy to be happy.

But it was a time of transition. After the first week he didn’t LOVE the crate, but he slept in it without crying. Being able to hold it for an hour turned to two, then to four, then to eight. We figured out how to mesh our schedules with his, and now, Bowie BEGS to go to his crate every night. It’s his den, a place that is all his.

The sleepless nights do end, but don’t expect the first week to be a walk in the park!

2. Do Expect Pee, Poop, and Vomit

Most young puppies don’t come house trained. It’s your responsibility to get them where they need to go and master the art of not pooping in the house. We ran into a lot of potty training issues with Bowie, the funniest and most frustrating being that he was so low to the ground, we couldn’t tell when he was peeing. When we used puppy pads, he preferred to chew them to shreds and then pee on the floor next to them.

It felt like we were CONSTANTLY running him outside, only to bring him back in and have him pee on the floor as we took our shoes off. I think there were moments my husband thought he was doing it just to spite us.

Oh, and puppies get sick, too. Poor Bowie had Giardia and Lyme when he got to us, and we had a few scary moments that involved bloody poo and puke. Once after picking him up from the vet after a treatment, Bowie conveniently got diarrhea in the tea cup my husband had in the cup holder. We can laugh about it now… really really hard. (Bowie is in excellent health today!)

We used positive reinforcement to teach Bowie what we did want, and ignored him when he did what we didn’t. No smacking, no rubbing his nose in anything. And… it worked! Slowly, but it worked. Bow still has an occasional accident when we take him other places, but he’s great at letting us know when he needs to go outside and can really hold it like a champ, though we try not to make him prove it often.

3. Really Think About Cost

The Lyme and Giardia I mentioned above were unseen expenses on top of purchasing a purebred dog and stocking up on all of his necessities. Luckily, we’d chosen to go with the Banfield Hospital Optimal Wellness Plan, which covered his vet visits, neutering, vaccines, preventative tests and gave us discounts on his medicine, blood work, and surgeries. The plan paid for itself in about three months, but we still ended up paying out-of-pocket for more than we expected. He needed prescription food for a while and other little expenses.

You also have to know the breed you are getting and how often they need to be groomed. Bowie doesn’t need to be trimmed often, but we do take him to get his nails grinded. We handle baths at home.

Daycare, boarding, and training are more additional costs. We take Bow to a daycare sometimes when we’re going to be gone for long stretches, and we can watch him play on a camera. I REALLY take advantage of that. For longer trips, we leave him with my parents, which saves money and gives them time to play with their “granddog.”

We’ve spent about $250 on training up to this point. Bowie is currently in an intermediate training class to prep for the baby, and we LOVE the results that we see. Training is so important to us, in fact, that it’s next on the list.

4. Find a Good Trainer

We don’t take Bow to any fancy training school. He goes to sessions at PetSmart, where he takes 1-hour classes that happen once a week for 12 weeks. I know that a lot of people hope to train their dogs on their own, but our trainer has helped us work with Bowie on his specific needs SO MUCH and he LOVES her. I honestly think that training is worth it simply to save some of your sanity. When you can communicate better with your dog, you’ll come home to fewer messes and a happier pup.

Not to mention, training helps teach lessons that could save your dog’s life one day, like coming when called and waiting when they need to wait for you.

5. Socialize Them Early

There will be a time when your dog doesn’t have all of his shots yet. After that time is over, it’s time to make some friends! We started taking Bowie to the dog park and taking him to friends’ houses to play with their dogs AS SOON AS we could, and I attribute his love of dogs of all sizes to the fact that he was playing with pit bulls from the beginning.

Socializing him has allowed us to take Bowie to dog-friendly public places like Lowes, PetSmart and outdoor areas of restaurants, and to dog-friendly parties and get-togethers. He gets a little riled up when he is around friends, but I am never worried about him being timid or aggressive.

6. Do Some YouTube Research

Even though I knew we would eventually put him into training, I spent a lot of time watching training videos by Zak George to help me out when it came to training Bowie. The videos really helped me get a handle on how to crate and potty train him. I also watched a lot of videos on corgis, since this was our first time owning one. And speaking of breeds…

7. Find a Tribe that “Gets” Your Breed

I joined a few corgi groups on Facebook simply because I wanted to share photos of Bowie and see photos of other corgis as well. But these groups have been ESSENTIAL in getting good advice on how to care for Bowie’s specific breed. When we were worried that we were overfeeding Bowie a bit after getting comments from non-corgi owners at the dog park, I turned to the group. They assured me that he wasn’t extremely overweight and gave me the tip to sub half of his kibble with frozen green beans. I ran the idea by our vet, and Bowie is already down a pound!

It’s nice to be able to chat with other dog owners, but it’s incredibly helpful when those dog owners are familiar with the breed.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. We’ll see what I learn in my next year of doggie parenthood. Fellow dog owners, anything you would add to this list? Comment below to let me know!

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