Everyday Life

How to Survive the First Month of Puppyhood*

December 9, 2014

Week One: Begin the journey feeling like you RUN THIS BIZ. Stare at pages of a puppy training book for what is probably an unreasonable amount of time. Hold back tears during a mid-morning potty break outside with the dog, and almost fail at doing the same during a mid-morning potty break on the living room floor just two minutes after returning indoors. Google phrases like “I hate my puppy” and “post-puppy depression” while the dog naps peacefully on your lap. Cry hard enough that your husband thinks you’re having some kind of breakdown. Learn that preparedness and readiness are not the same thing. Accomplish nothing of worth with training and feel like utter shit.

Week Two: Tell dog you love her constantly because you aren’t sure if what you actually feel is love and desperately need convincing. Surprise yourself by miraculously becoming familiar with some of her cues, successfully taking her outside before she eliminates in the house. Sob uncontrollably over your incompetence as a trainer and the impossibility of life when the dog later pees on the couch — three times. On a particularly calm night, forgive yourself for not being perfect, and sympathize more with the puppy who you’ve decided to be extra, extra, extra patient with because she is (definitely) trying her hardest and (probably) loves you. Decide for the nth time that you’re just not cut out for this shit with a human child.

Week Three: Begin the week feeling LAST WEEK WAS CRAZY AND I AM SO DONE WITH CRAZY. Look at the puppy and feel shockingly glad for the responsibility of caring for her. Spend a couple collective hours trying to get the dog to walk the 100 yards from the elevator to your apartment without choking herself or furiously biting the leash, ultimately giving up halfway through the week when you realize it’s virtually impossible. Feel like you and the puppy have jumped this huge crate-training hurdle when you put her in the crate fully awake, she falls asleep while you are gone, and (provided that you’re silent) doesn’t even stir upon your return. (!!) Try to do the same thing again but get the timing wrong, and end up with your first (but only) crate accident — and the third too many accidents in one day for your poor, rapidly deflating ego.

Still, Somehow, Week Three: Cry as you tell your husband that you’re surely failing at life: one minute you’re making progress with the dog and the next minute you’re drowning in a sea of piss when you mistake the puppy’s sniffing for actual curiosity. Notice that you’re genuinely excited to see your dog and spend (tons of) time with her. Successfully take puppy on her first walk outside. Feel yourself bonding more with puppy. Attend your first formal dog training class. Feel your heart sink to your stomach when yours is the overly energetic one in class that won’t pay attention or sit still. Nearly burst into tears of pure pride when your puppy learns to sit, stay, wait, and lie down on command. Get hit with the realization that the hard times are so, so worth it, and that you have really fallen in love your dog.

Week Four: Begin feeling like you RUN THIS BIZ FOR REAL THIS TIME. Feel happier and calmer than you have felt in weeks. Successfully let dog roam the floor and read cues to take her outside before she pees on your leather furniture. Successfully remove  the pee-thwarting towels from the couch without incident. Successfully walk with dog outside on a harness. Make improvements walking down the hallway on a leash. Start feeling like puppyhood is about 75% positive. Become unable to see your future without your dog. Cry only once.

Week Four and a Quarter: Begin seeing your new routine as totally normal. On Monday, feel like you’re back to your old self. On Tuesday, feel hopeful that just as things have gotten easier, they will continue to get easier with every passing week. Write a blog post about your turbulent month in the hopes that someone going through a similar circumstance will see that they aren’t up shit creek totally alone — we’re here, too. Shed no tears. (Yet.)

*With difficulty, and completely without grace.

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  • Reply Tracy December 9, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    I wait for these posts, and this one was amazing. You’re so personable with the way you write, and I love that you aren’t afraid to be honest. Puppyhood SUCKED so much for like, 6 or 7 months, and I relate. I also googled the same things and I felt like SUCH a terrible person, but I saw that literally everyone who has a puppy thinks it sucks and felt a lot better. It really will get easier, and I swear it goes by so fast. It’s going to be a good month for you, though, so keep your head up. Em is such a beautiful girl, but it is definitely YOU who runs this biz. 😉 Love you!

    • Reply Dee December 9, 2014 at 8:31 PM

      TRACE! You’re too kind. I was actually really surprised to find so many people googled these things, and SO RELIEVED. I’m channeling you and your “I’m a groooooown woman” spirit — and I DO run this biz. Talk to you soon!

  • Reply Megan December 10, 2014 at 6:12 AM

    You are so awesome, but this isn’t new information. I laughed a lot reading this because I felt the exact same way, and I didn’t expect it to be as hard as it was. The first few weeks are truly awful, but it changes to a different kind of awful as time goes on, a more bearable awful with a clear light at the end of the tunnel. Your girl loves you, you are everything to her, and the time you put I’m today will enable her to show you that in more ways that you’ll appreciate. If anyone can handle this mess, it is you. I hope you have a good day today…we’ll talk. <3

    • Reply Dee December 10, 2014 at 6:47 AM

      Thanks, Meg. I can see already how that awful has changed, so I’m feeling more hopeful that there’s an end to all of this! Good to know that I’m not camping out on the corner of giving up and crazy all alone.

  • Reply Allie December 10, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    Haha, this was great. “Drowning in a sea of piss” – ha! So funny and so true, this post. Em is so adorable!! I’m always here for you if you need me.

    • Reply Dee December 10, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      Just keeping it real, confirming suspicions of instability…the usual. Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Reply Matt December 10, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    Fantastic, hilarious post. Too few people write about their true feelings, and one of the reasons that you’re so awesome is because of your willingness to lay it all out there, for better or for worse, in such an honest but tactful, fun way. I’ve got to say that I look forward to reading about anything you write. May every moment become easier for you, and while I have forgotten the details of puppyhood, I’m here to listen.

    (P.S. I think the fact that you even wrote this and published it shows just how much you care about your life with your dog. I know you are a wonderful owner and trainer with such a huge heart.)

    (P.P.S. We need to go hiking again. You’re a beast!)

    • Reply Dee December 10, 2014 at 5:13 PM

      Thank you for your comment, Matt, it means a lot to me! We’ll plan something for a day off, or maybe one of these weekends, ultimately forcing me to leave Alex totally alone with the puppy for a whole day. What a shame. 😉 We also promised Trace and Steph we’d do one with them, so maybe we can kill two birds with one stone? We’ll talk later, I’m sure. As for being a beast, you should step up that cardio game and join me, son.

  • Reply Heather December 11, 2014 at 1:46 AM

    Oh my gosh, she is the cutest thing! Does she like to run? She looks totally in her element. She obviously fits right in with your family then! I admire your honesty, you’re a very cool lady.

    • Reply Dee December 12, 2014 at 6:04 AM

      Thanks! I think Em is pretty cute, too!;) She loves to run, and can just keep going and going with all that energy of hers. She’s still far too young to be a running partner yet, but I can see it in the future.

  • Reply Hayley December 12, 2014 at 4:33 PM

    Loving this theme you have going on with talking about real life on your family blog, haha. You’re very tactful so it comes off classy, but you’re definitely not hiding your feelings, which I appreciate. Have you considered doing a post that is specifically on depression, or on the topic of children? Maybe you can do a post on the things you are researching because not only is it AMAZING, but you have a lot of experience. Idk, our conversations this past week have been inspiring to me, and I love hearing your views and your experiences. It would be cool to read something on it. Em is looking pretty grown up these days, you can tell that her head and body have gotten pretty big these past few weeks. How much does she weigh now? Do you know how big she will be? Looking forward to more posts on 2F!

    • Reply Dee December 12, 2014 at 5:19 PM

      We’re open books, Alex and I. We’re not ashamed of our feelings or about saying how we feel, and don’t really feel like lying or skirting the truth is worth it in any capacity. While I wouldn’t say we’ve gotten into any “real talk” here yet, I’m not afraid of doing so, and do intend to. Tact certainly helps when it comes down to it! Depression (beyond what I have minimally covered) could very well be a topic so could children, and of course my research.

      Em is VERY grown up these days, and I am kind of sad! She is 13 weeks old (what?!) and as of last week weighed 8.12 lbs, and given she gains ~1 lb/week, she is probably 9 or so by now. She was the biggest in her litter, and should weigh about 25 lbs when she is full grown. I’m looking forward to hikes with her and having a more independent dog, but I will miss her being so tiny. She’s so wiggly and tiny, it’s hard not to love this puppy stage.

  • Reply Kristen December 15, 2014 at 6:49 AM

    Love this! Felt the same way about Athena at the beginning. The responsibility shock gets to people, especially those who highly value freedom to as they please like you and Alex do, and you’re not a bad person for that. This is why you have a dog and not children, because eventually THIS goes away and your life will be normal again! There will come a time where she won’t demand so much of your time and supervision. You will be able to take day trips and weekend trips with or without her, and not stop to pee every 20-30 minutes, you just have to be dedicated to that goal for the next several months. You’re a good person, Dee, and I really love you, dude!

  • Reply Terri December 25, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    Always love reading your posts, You brilliantly compile reality in it’s truest form and with humor!

    • Reply the forts December 26, 2014 at 9:32 PM

      Thank you, mom! Love you!

  • Reply Liza in Ann Arbor January 6, 2015 at 5:56 AM

    Oh how happy I was to find this post! I’ve been googling all I can on post-puppy depression because I can’t figure out why I’m crying every single day and feel completely unable to function since I got my puppy three weeks ago. I wanted her for so long! Why do I feel like a complete psycho then? This speaks to me because I can see now that I am not alone. And this too shall pass. Thanks for writing this.

    • Reply Deena January 6, 2015 at 5:27 PM

      I’m glad you found our post, and I am glad it helped you. Thanks for reading!

      What really helped to get me through the first several weeks was the validation I got from reading or hearing other people’s confessions, and beginning to understand that instead of being “crazy,” I was just adjusting to a huge shift in my priorities, responsibilities, and schedule. It takes time to get used to, and I wasn’t really feeling all that much better until two weeks after I wrote this post. You’re definitely not alone, and it really does get better. Hopefully it’ll happen sooner rather than later!

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