Got A New Puppy? We did, too! Here’s What We’ve Learned (so far!)

I haven’t had a dog since 1978!

My husband Chad has never owned a dog…EVER! In fact, Mischief – the 20-lb. Tuxedo cat I had when we first started dating and eventually got married – was his first pet…EVER! They were buddies from their first meeting!

When we had to make the decision to put Mischief down in 2012 at age 15 (kidney failure), it was devastating to Chad. And to me. It took us 5 years to get to the point where, together, we could finally consider getting another pet. We kicked around the pros and cons of pet parenting, what to get, dog vs. cat, etc.

Over our 2017 Memorial Day camping trip, Chad declared out of the blue after seeing someone walk by our campsite with their little dog, “Hey! Let’s get a dog…A puppy! Not a big one, but a little one we can take with us in the RV!  I’m ready.”

That gave me the much-anticipated go-ahead to seriously start looking! FINALLY!  He didn’t have to tell me twice!

Chad had decided he would like either a Shih Tzu or a Pug, or something relatively that size and temperament. We set a price range in case we couldn’t find one at our local pet shelters. We put out feelers to various websites in the Spokane area.   He gave me the word on Monday…By Friday, I found the perfect little guy, a Shih Tzu-Yorkshire Terrier mix, well within our price range. (We bought from a reputable local breeder because our local shelters had no puppies or really young dogs available at the time.)

11 mos. w/favorite Peanut Butter Nyla-Bone!

Meet Chewbacca Skywalker Anderson…AKA Chewie!!

(Chad named him!) We got him at 5-months-old and he was more hair than dog! He was such a friendly little guy and just a sweetie. We fell in love almost instantly.

As of this writing, Chewie is now 11 months old (almost a big boy!), and frankly, has been a lesson in both patience and unconditional love.  Also, he doesn’t have nearly as much hair now as he did when we first got him, thanks to the wonders of grooming!

I had forgotten so much of what it was like to have a puppy; the on-going puppy-proofing of the house even when you think you’ve removed all temptation and problem areas, the constant watching so they don’t get into trouble, the perpetual look to see what they’re eating that they shouldn’t be eating, the never-ending stream of “Get down from there!”, “What are you eating?”, “Come over here!”, “Chewie!!!…Leave it! Drop It! [enter steady stream of any given command here]”, etc.

We never had kids between us, but after the first two weeks, Chad flat-out said to me, “I am way too old to be a new parent!!” I totally get it!!! But at the same time, Chewie looks up at us with these big, brown eyes, gives us those gentle puppy kisses, and that puff-ball of a tail stars to wag, and, man…All bets are off. (I think he knows it, too.   Little manipulative turd! Ha!)

What have I (re)learned so far about (Wo)Man’s Best Friend?   Sometimes I feel “not much!” Other times, I am his human genius! Here are some of the more important New Dog Owner Epiphanies Chad and I have discovered in the past few months (in no particular order):

Begging Dad for Doritos!

They chew EVERYTHING! Your socks, your shoes, your clothes, papers, their beds, etc. I cannot keep a basket of clean laundry intact without him absconding with a sock or a pair of underwear! It’s like a game. He proudly grabs hold of whatever he can out of the basket and struts through my field of vision, dragging said item behind him. I end up folding clean clothes with a hint of dog spit as fast as humanly possible.

They will eat EVERYTHING! Poop, Kleenex, Grass, Leaves, Bugs, anything that drops on the floor from your table, etc. We have almost broken Chewie of the Poop-eating phase (thank GOD!!), but he sometimes goes in for the occasional “tootsie roll” found on one of our daily walks. Nothing is more disgusting than picking a turd out of your dog’s mouth before he can swallow that!! EW! EW! EW! He’s learning “Drop it!” quite well. Hoping it’s just a matter of time. And this dog has never met a Kleenex he didn’t like! New or used!

They pee EVERYWHERE! Inside, outside, in the middle of PetSmart, my mother-in-law’s house (he is partial to her ottoman!), even when they don’t seem to have any more pee in them, etc. I am constantly amazed at how much Chewie’s little bladder can hold! Dang! That dog can mark! Just when you think he must be empty, he finds a few more drops to squirt on a tree or signpost…I think it’s the equivalent of a Dog Facebook post!! (“My owner is so stupid!! LOL”)

They need constant structure and discipline! Bed time, meal time, potty time, play time, love time, bath/grooming time, etc. We established from the beginning – before we even got Chewie – that he would be kennel-trained, would not sleep in the bed with us, and would have a set bed-time so we could have some alone-time together before calling it quits for the evening. We walk him around the same times each day, feed him around the same times each day, get him up and get him to bed at the same time each day. We try to keep that fairly steady. It is, after only 6 months, almost engrained into him. Consistency works.

(***RELATED SIDE NOTE: I think my dog can now tell time! Ha! He knows when Dad comes home, when dinner time is and even when it’s time to go puppy-nite-nite!   He’s really getting good at telling us when he needs to go out, and is fairly predictable. Whoo hoo!! I feel a little more empowered now than I did when we first got him. Felt like a complete idiot for the first month or so!!)

They have a 10 second attention span, at best! I just chewed up your favorite pair of shoes. You mad? Why? What? Look how cute I am! SQUIRREL! Etc. Chewie can switch gears faster than my ADD-riddled self ever thought was possible! (I kind of understand him because of this, though, so he makes sense to me!) Distractions happen with great frequency!

I know there are ways to train him to focus better, and that is coming after the first of the year. We are enrolling the 3 of us, (me, hubby and puppy) into beginner dog training so we can make it better for all of us. For now, he thinks that every person who walks into his line of sight is there just to say hi to him! It’s both endearing and maddening at the same time! Obviously, we’re still

RV Doggie

working on learning the basic commands, but we keep practicing with an endless supply of training treats in tow!

The number one, most important thing about dog ownership that Chad and I have learned from Chewie is this:

They are so much fun! Play, puppy kisses, fuzzy sweetness and goofiness, etc.! There’s nothing more fun than having someone who is always amazed and glad you came back…Even when you’ve only been in the other room for 30-40 seconds!! Licks, kisses, tail wags and genuine excitement – Ain’t nothing like it, my friend!

Chewie is an Equal Opportunity Love-Bucket!! Chad actually bought Chewie for me as a companion for when he is away, travelling for business. This does not mean he is my dog. Oh, no! I may be mom and his safe place, but Chad is his buddy!!!

Chewie knows the phrase “Daddy’s home” and proceeds to go absolutely insane with excitement when Chad comes home from work! (More than for me…I’m a little jealous!) Chewie’s little butt wiggles and wags and he whines and play growls his greeting to him through the screen door every time! It’s totally adorable! Then they have to chase each other around the dining room for a few minutes. It is their “Welcome Home, Dad” ritual.

With all that fun and frivolity, there comes the point in time when we have to actually teach him to be a good dog. That’s hard! Wow! Harder than we expected.   And, not because Chewie is so difficult, but that we just really don’t know what we’re doing!! Ha!

We were not blessed with kids between us, so this is our big shot!  LOL  We constantly research techniques and tips for what the best method is for stopping him from chewing things he’s not supposed to chew (Yes…he is well named!), puppy play nipping, unwanted barking, jumping up on people, etc.   It is a never-ending battle and labor of love.

We also watch out for ideas on how to make his life a little more fun, like best toys, grooming ideas, exercise, camping safety, etc.

There are so many sites out there; some great and some not-so-great! My advice is to consult several sites and go with the common methods at first. Ask your dog-owner friends what works for them. Go with a general consensus and/or safely try out some of the ideas for yourself and your pup. The main thing is to get used to your dog’s personality, learning curve, and have fun learning and loving together

Hail Cesar!! Time for a shameless plug! Of all the dog-oriented sites out there, my new best friend, and he doesn’t even know it, is Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer! (Dude! If I could kiss you without being slapped with a restraining order, I would! You are THE MAN!!!!! #CesarMilan!!)   I have his website bookmarked; he quickly became the most used blog/website on our mobile devices, like EVER! His books are a God-send, too!

In the almost 6 months that we’ve been puppy parents, I have increased my knowledge base and continue to do so every single day thanks primarily to Cesar. So much to learn about these strange little creatures! (Frankly, cats were much easier, but, oh, the fun of puppy-dom!) We continually discover what it means to be a good pack leader to our little royal fuzziness, thanks to tips from Cesar and his staff. Whether it’s under his tutelage or the wise words of someone else, do your homework and become a great dog master!

We are by no means puppy dog experts!  We literally learn as we go every single day.  Sometimes we come out winning!  But I can tell you this piece of advice:

If it’s been a while since you had a puppy, or even a pet, for that matter,  please do the research before you make this major shift in your life! 

A pet is not just a cute disposable gift….It is a fur-ever part of your family and needs you to make time for him or her in your life.  They dwell on your existence and just want your love.  So, take the time to get to know your pet and let them get to know you. Do so through discipline, routine, guidance and love. You will never, ever regret it!

His Royal Fuzziness!

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