animals dogs

So You Think You Want A Puppy.

Puppies are, at least in my opinion, the cutest heckin’ things. They’re tiny and often fluffy and still figuring out how to exist in the world, which can be quite cute on occasion. While there are many great things about puppies, they’re a whole lot of work and can be expensive! Between training, food, vet visits, and more, there’s a lot more to puppies than their cute faces.

For starters, puppies require plenty of your time. You’ll need to housetrain them, which can take 4-12 months depending on the dog and patience, being calm, and a routine are all required when housetraining. During this process, you’ll have to act fast when you think your puppy is about to do their business. Most puppies will have to pee every hour during the first few months and that includes needing to do their business 5-30 minutes after eating. The blog Vet Street has a list of some other times to take your puppy outside (in addition to some other great tips):

  1. When you wake up.
  2. Right before bedtime.
  3. Immediately after your puppy eats or drinks a lot of water.
  4. When your puppy wakes up from a nap.
  5. During and after physical activity.

Plus, they’ll need you to be patient and calm, as trying to hurry them or getting frustrated can only make things worse. Lastly, having a routine can help your puppy learn when and where they should do their business. Even with all their energy, long walks aren’t necessary for puppies and can even be harmful, as it could negatively impact their growth plates and cause life long problems. Eventually, your puppy can build up to long walks and hikes but for the first few months and years, they are still growing!

It will take a significant amount of time for your new puppy to adjust to your home, be house trained, and learn some manners (at least a few months!). During the puppy’s first few weeks, they won’t be able to be alone for more than an hour or two because of their small bladder. If you work full time (or even part-time), that will mean in addition to taking them out before and after work (and every hour while you’re home), you’ll probably also have to either hire someone or ask a neighbor to take the puppy out to pee during the day.

Then, there are other forms of training. Obedience classes will be especially necessary with a puppy for many reasons, as these classes will teach your puppy what is expected of them and can help strengthen your bond with them. Dogs really like knowing the rules and what is expected of them. And some dogs can thrive in agility classes! All of these types of training (house training, obedience, and more) will take up time, energy, and money.

Additionally, puppies will need to be socialized with other dogs, people, and different environments, as dogs are much easier to socialize when they’re young (but it’s not impossible to socialize and train an older dog!). Socialization plays a big part in a dog’s behavior later in life and there are plenty of ways you can successfully show your dog that new people, dogs, and experiences are okay!

Over at the blog K9 Of Mine, Kayla Fratt recently wrote about how to socialize a puppy, especially one that hasn’t been fully vaccinated yet (and thus, can’t really be around other dogs). Combining a few different methods is the prevailing wisdom in some circles and Fratt recommends doing some of the following with your own puppy:

  1. Do all the things you love while being calm. This means just doing things you love to get your puppy used to the activities with all their noises, smells, and stimuli.
  2. Treats for good behavior (but don’t give treats 24/7 for everything!).
  3. Deal with scary things on your own terms. If something makes your puppy nervous, it’s okay to let them work it out by themselves. But if it makes them really scared, it might be good to leave! Fratt writes that this part is actually helpful in teaching your new puppy that you support them, saying in particular that:
    1. “This approach doesn’t force a puppy to be close to something that scares her. Instead, it teaches her how to handle being scared with you by her side. She learns you’ll let her move away and support her with petting or treats if she needs. Ultimately, this support can give her confidence and help make her braver!” (source)

Socialization is going to look different for you and your puppy based on what your puppy will have to face on a regular basis. Each dog will have different stimuli that they will deal with every day. Dogs in urban environments might have to deal with traffic, buses, and people so it’ll be important for them to be comfortable with loud noises and crowds. Dogs in more rural settings, on the other hand, might have to learn how to pay attention to their owners when wildlife goes by! Socialization can help puppies get used to these settings and set them up to be very comfortable in different kinds of interactions.

So far, we’ve touched on some very important things around puppy care. Housetraining, obedience training, and socialization are all important things you need to work on with your puppy so that the puppy grows up to be a well-behaved dog. The first few weeks and months are critical for a dog and working on all these things can set them up to be a happy, confident dog with limited behavioral issues. But there are other things you need to do with a puppy!

Every pet will need consistent vet care and puppies are no exception. There are a few things you can expect with your puppy’s first vet visit, including a fairly thorough examination (looking at teeth/mouth, skin/coat, weight, listening to heart and lungs, and more). There’s also a timeline for vaccinations/shots with puppies that will protect them from potentially fatal conditions later in life and until most of the vaccinations are done, puppies won’t be able to interact with other dogs. In most cases, your puppy will have full immunity one week after the final vaccination, usually when they are about 15-16 weeks old.

There is a bit of a contradiction when it comes to protecting your dog from diseases until they’re fully vaccinated and properly socializing them, as these two things happen at the same time in a puppy’s life and mean they both should and should not interact with people and other dogs. There are ways to compromise to make sure that your puppy stays healthy until the last vaccine and is properly socialized at the same time! The Labrador Site has some recommendations about these contradictions and related compromises, including enrolling in a well-supervised puppy class with puppies of similar ages.

During the first couple of vet visits, you should also talk to your veterinarian about spaying or neutering your puppy (unless you plan on breeding them later in life), as doing so can help with behavioral problems and eliminates the possibility that unplanned puppies happen later on. Some research suggests that there may be long term benefits to doing those procedures after a puppy goes through puberty but the traditional age for spaying and neutering is around 4-6 months old.

All of these procedures and vaccinations have costs and yearly vet visits and potential health emergencies will also cost money. That means in addition to toys, food, and training, you have to factor in vet visits/procedures into the cost of having a dog. A great vet team and hospital might cost a pretty penny but can make all the difference in your dog’s health.

If you’ve reached the end of this post, you might be feeling overwhelmed at how much work and resources it takes to raise a puppy. But while there is a lot of stuff that goes into the first few years of a dog’s life, it is entirely possible to make it all work! And the great news is that you don’t have to do it alone. There are plenty of resources online and there’s a chance that there are puppy classes and dog trainers close to you.

Finding the right puppy for you, including figuring out what breed you want, may take a little time. There is a huge difference between a reputable breeder that prioritizes a dog’s health over making a profit, a rescue that saved a pregnant dog or new mom and her puppies, and a puppy mill that may act in extremely inhumane ways to churn out more and more puppies. Here are some resources on finding a reputable breeder and spotting a potential puppy mill:

Lastly, getting a puppy shouldn’t be a spur of the moment decision but one made with immense forethought into how things in your home and life will change with a young dog. Too many dogs end up at shelters or with behavioral problems because people got a puppy without realizing just how much work they might be. A puppy can end up becoming a wonderful addition to your family but it’s important to know that you’ll have to put in the work to make sure that the puppy grows up to be a wonderful, healthy, and well-behaved dog!

My name is Andrea Merrill and I created Animals of the Pacific Northwest and '...Wherever You Get Your Podcasts', where I write about animals, both domesticated and wild, and podcasts respectively.

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