Adjusting to Puppy Life

I wish I could say that Nugget settled right into his new home, and we lived happily ever after. Unfortunately, the first few weeks together consisted of very little sleep and a whole lot of tears. I had never owned a dog before, and Nugget was not just a dog but an untrained puppy. Step one was to get him into the vet’s office. Nugget had not been neutered or had any of his recent vaccinations. He had several medical needs that had to be dealt with. After scheduling all of his required medical appointments, I attempted to get Nugget adjusted to my new home.
This is the list of the items I thought I needed for Nugget:

1. Food and Food Bowls

2. 1 bag of treats

3. Crate

4. Dog Poo Bags

5. A Ball and a squeaky toy

6. Collar and leash

Nugget quickly made sure I understood that I had massively underestimated the needs of a nine-month-old untrained puppy. I’m going to explain all of the items I wish I had in preparation for a puppy in hopes that it will help anyone going through this process. I’m not a dog professional, but this is what I learned through a lot of trial and error.

1) Food/Treats/Bones: You need a whole bunch of really stinky, good food. Initially, the ONLY thing that could ever get Nugget to stop running, jumping, tearing up blankets, and barking was food. Treats will become your best friend. Take them everywhere with you. Stash them around your house. You don’t know when you’ll need to quickly grab a handful of treats to get a puppy to stop tearing your scarf off your neck. Once they stop the bad behavior, and focus on you politely (or at least somewhat politely), praise them and give them treats! I also like to give Nugget Bully Sticks and bones with peanut butter stuffed in the middle. These will keep him quiet and occupied for about 30 minutes.

2) Kong toys: I’m sure most of you have seen or used the little rubber Kongs you can stuff with food. These are great. I fill them with food and freeze them. I specifically use them when it’s time for Nugget to go into his crate so he always correlates the Kong with crate time. Another awesome, life-saving Kong product is the Kong Wobbler. Nugget always wanted my constant attention, and I could not even get ready for work in the morning without him barking and jumping all over me. Also, he had a habit of scarfing down his breakfast in about 10 seconds. The Kong Wobbler solved all of my problems. I put his morning breakfast in it, and he is occupied trying to get his breakfast for a good 20 minutes! Finally, a break to get ready in the morning. I still use this every day because he thinks it’s so much fun.

3) Easy Walk Harness: “Are you walking your dog, or is your dog walking you?” Ha. How many times did I hear this when I was walking Nugget in my neighborhood? I wish I had known about the Easy Walk harness a long time ago. It’s very easy to slip on the dog, and the leash clips across the chest. The design makes it difficult for the dog to pull against you which in turn makes walking a lot easier.

4) Bitter Apple Spray: Nugget probably would have eaten my entire apartment had I not bought Bitter Apple Spray. Dogs hate the taste. I sprayed it on my furniture, pillows, and blankets. Heck, I even sprayed it on myself! It only took one or two times of him biting into the bitter taste for him to learn to leave it alone. I did have to reapply the spray every few days, but it was so worth it.

5) Toys, toys, toys: Nugget wanted to play every second he was awake. However, Nugget’s idea of playing was tearing every toy into shreds. I quickly learned that Nugget would need a whole lot of durable toys. He also became bored with toys quickly, so I have several different buckets of toys that I have on rotation.

6) A comfortable crate: As Nugget was adjusting to his new home, he barked…a lot. He seemed to be testing boundaries and sometimes would bark all night. I was losing sleep and making enemies. I did not give in to his barking, but I did realize I needed to make his crate a lot more comfortable if he was going to be spending time in it until he was trained. Now when he has to go into his crate, he has a soft cushion to sleep on, a covering over the top, and a shirt with my scent on it. And don’t worry, he now sleeps right on the pillow next to me in bed. No more crate time at night for Nugget 🙂

7) Dog Park/Doggie Daycare: This was not an option for me for the first month because Nugget needed vaccinations and surgery. However, it has become a very important part of our lives. I very much enjoy walking and playing with Nugget, but sometimes he needs more stimulation than I can offer because I work two jobs. He goes to an awesome daycare 3 times a week, and he also attends a large local dog park that even has a lake he can swim in! It’s a perfect solution for Nugget’s exercise needs. I know a few friends that use dog walkers also, but I have found that the price is very similar for dog walkers and daycare. I chose daycare because Nugget really likes to play with dogs all day. Dog walkers may be a better choice if your dog is happier on his own 🙂

8) Trainer: I did call a trainer within the first few days of adopting Nugget. This is a big one and has made a huge difference in our lives. In my opinion, it is 100% worth the time and money. Nugget has now been in training every week since November, and he is still going. I am proud to say that Nugget and I have worked through a lot of the issues I talked about, and he is such a well-behaved dog now (most of the time)!

I hope you can learn from my naivety and laugh at my experiences with me! Thankfully the puppy days are ending 🙂


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