10 Essential Lessons From Our First 6 Months With a Puppy

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We did all the research in the world before we got a puppy and we still couldn’t have anticipated all the lessons we’d learn in our first 6 months with the bestest girl. We’re, of course, obsessed with our dog, as most puppy parents are, but we definitely didn’t expect what happened after we brought home our Lemon. So, to save you the surprise, here are the 10 essential lessons about getting a puppy that you need to know.

The night we brought Lemon home, she refused to lie in her crate alone, so I slept outside of it with the door open, next to her.

1. Puppies don’t sleep through the night.

This essential lesson about getting a puppy is number one for a reason. In fact, the general rule is they’ll sleep for about an hour for every month they are old. So at 2 months, Lemon slept for about 2 hours at a time. This includes throughout the day and the night. Puppies need a lot of rest when they’re young so naps are definitely their jam, but it can be disorienting when they wake up in the middle of the night or at the ass-crack of dawn. 

We had to sleep with her next to her crate. As in, she slept outside of her crate, near a door so we could take her out when she had to use the bathroom. Then, she’d want to play. Every online resource tells you to just remind your dog that it’s bedtime and not indulge their desire to play. But I’m a sucker for a cute puppy face and played with her anyway. Eventually, 2 hours jumped to 4, and then 6 hours of sleep, but it took a few months and was very gradual.

The sleep deprivation was real during the first two months. I was lucky enough to have my husband as a partner in raising Lemon, but if you’re solo in bringing home a furball, you genuinely might want to take some time off from work so you can try to catch up on sleep. I was running on empty and broke down after trying to do it all (I felt like Super-Mom!), but eventually, I needed a whole day to recover, and I was grateful to have my husband take the reins.

2. Your pup might hate their crate.

Lemmie hated her crate. She was born and raised in the country so essentially was romping around freely, and sleeping with her siblings. So moving across the country, and losing all of her snuggle buddies was stressful. It took about 2 months for her to begin liking her crate, and going into it on her own when she wanted time away from us or to nap, but in general, she would just wander into our bedroom and lie in the doorway of our bathroom where the floor was cool and it was relatively dark. 

Not a fan of her crate. And then once she was, she was mature enough not to need it. Fun times.

By the time we got to a point where she understood that her crate wasn’t a place of punishment (although sometimes it was), she was actually outgrowing her XL crate. We took it down and got her a plush bed for her to sleep on, and when we left the house without her, we kept an eye on her with the puppy-cam to make sure she wasn’t getting into anything. 

Sticks? Noms. Rocks? Sometimes just to freak out my mom I’ll put them in my mouth.

3. She will chew on pretty much anything.

This essential lesson about getting a puppy was a tough one. One time, my brother-in-law’s dog had destroyed a stuffed animal, and Lemon found a rogue, detached arm. When I saw her chewing on it, instead of approaching calmly, I made the mistake of rushing toward her and she swallowed it whole. WHOLE. Stuffing and all. We monitored her pretty closely for the next week, and eventually (thank goodness), she threw it up. Yep… you guessed it….WHOLE. Pretty much anything in her radius is fair game for chewing, so we have to keep an eye on her. And as the story above proves, even then you may experience some…incidents.

All furniture legs are fair game, and her little paws loooove to paw at our hard floors. Kind of like a cat. The trick is to make sure there’s nothing on the ground you don’t want them to eat, no matter how unappealing it may seem, because for Lemon at least, it’s mostly just an ongoing game of “Will this be fun to chomp on?”–to which the answer for her is often a resounding, “Yes.” 

4. She’s sensitive to some foods.

We have a BarkBox subscription, and it’s been… interesting. We had to upgrade to the SuperChewer subscription because Lemon finds particular joy in destroying things that are “indestructible”. Regardless, her little stomach did not jive well with the treats we were giving her from the box. In fact, they gave her diarrhea. For weeks. Because we didn’t realize the connection and of course, she loved eating them. Once we stopped giving them to her, her poops returned to normal. We didn’t anticipate a product from a company made for dogs would have such unfortunate results but it really didn’t take much to upset her little furry belly.  This was another tough essential lesson about getting a puppy we had to learn.

5. They can get sick super easily.

When we brought home Lemon, we had all the tools ready to make sure she was distanced from other dogs and people until she was fully vaccinated. Still, she managed to get a UTI (yes, puppies can get them, too!), and we had no idea until it was pretty far along. As a parent (pet or otherwise), you are the person who knows your fur-baby the best-and that in itself is an essential lesson to learn about getting a puppy. So if they start behaving badly seemingly out of the blue, there’s probably an underlying cause. 

In our case, Lemon was fully potty-trained after 1 month. But, for some reason, around 6 weeks after bringing her home, she started having accidents… a lot. And it was right after we’d take her out. Turns out, she had a UTI and couldn’t control her wee bladder, so when she could go, she did. We thought as parents we failed her. But our vet assured us that it’s not hard to pick up something when you’re a puppy. Their immune systems just aren’t built up, so it’s important to keep an eye out for anything that seems irregular.

6. You’ll develop an interest in poo.

The time that Lemon ate, and then proceeded to throw up my sock, was… distressing. When shortly afterward, she pooped out the other sock, I was incredibly relieved. Of course, we don’t want our dog eating socks to begin with, but shit happens. Since she was a pup, her little teeth and chewing abilities have meant that she’ll easily destroy toys or things that aren’t actually toys, so monitoring her to see if she’s passed them is important. We usually wait a week if we know she’s consumed something she shouldn’t, but it really only takes a few days to see the fruits of her rogue menu. You can learn a lot about what your pup has been into by looking at, and genuinely considering their poo. If you’re squeamish, sorry ‘bout it.

7. Your training tools will evolve.

Being in an apartment and a major city meant that we were extra concerned about training her to behave well. We couldn’t have her running away on her leash through traffic, or barking all night and keeping our neighbors awake. As a puppy, we started with some calming bites, a beeping bark-collar, a pheromone plug-in, a clicker, and tons of positive reinforcement. 

As she got older, we loosened the grip (literally) and got a collar that beeps, vibrates and shocks to work on recall. Eventually, as she’s matured further, we’ve just switched to a claw collar and a leash that I can wear around my waist. Of course, we always try to use positive reinforcement, and that’s worked well. But there are times when the beep collar saved our sanity, or the calming bites helped us all get some sleep. Be consistent in your training, but also be open to adjusting your technique as they grow.

8. You will take 1 million pictures of your dog doing *literally* nothing.

Just get more storage on your phone now because it’s inevitable. 

The day our sweet Lemon made us parents.

9. You’ll love them more than you know.

I’m obsessed with our dog. Recently, the question of traveling was posed and I almost declined the trip because I wasn’t ready to leave her in the care of a stranger. To be honest, I still am hesitant. She’s a lot of work, and outside of our family, I get pretty anxious imagining her being in someone else’s home because her habitsーthat have become so much a part of our livesーmay be difficult for someone else to manage. Traveling is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world, so it was a shock to me that I wouldn’t be able to part with her, but that’s just who I am now, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

10. They become your children.

My final essential lesson about getting a puppy will be obvious to all the dog parents out there. Contrary to what people may tell you, puppies are a ton of work, and they really are like kids. As someone who doesn’t have a child, but has rambled on about her to my friends that do, they’ve graciously reminded me that she is our child. She’s family, and while we do want kiddos someday, I have no regrets about rounding out our family at 3 right now. She’s been a lesson in how quickly something that starts out “cute” can become a bad habit, and I feel distinctly more prepared for parenthood than I did before she became part of our lives. 

There’s a lot of great advice online about dogs, but I found the most reliable information through The American Kennel Club. We used it as a general guideline for what to expect but also trusted our instincts with her too. We didn’t take her to a formal puppy training class because she responded so well to our training at home, but if you don’t have the time, it’s a great way to build community, and get advice from fellow puppy parents. 

If you’re getting a puppy, congratulations! Send me all of the pics! Just remember that they are a lot of work, but it’s absolutely worth the love and affection you share with your furry friend. Hopefully, my 10 essential lessons about getting a puppy help you out! Now, excuse me while I go cry over all these pictures of my fur-child.