What being a puppy parent is REALLY like…

It’s quite hard to put into words what being a new puppy parent is like because it’s so many contradictions.

It’s your heart tugging with more love than you ever imagined at the same time as a tug for the life you had before.

It’s putting another being’s needs before your own but getting them for your needs in the first place.

It’s tiring and invigorating.

It’s easy to forget a life without this little life and hard to settle into a new way of life.

It’s wanting to believe that you’re doing your best whilst fearing that you’re actually being the worst.

An emotional rollercoaster that’s for sure.

And the worst thing? Everyone else makes it sound easy. They talk to you like you’re bizarre for finding it hard. It’s isolating but you have a new companion who’ll never leave your side.

So let’s dig into what it’s really like shall we?

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Life Pre-Olive

Ben and I have wanted a dog ever since we met Ben’s family cockapoo Lily. 

We enjoyed trips to the pub, runs along Camber Sands, snuggles on the sofa and the sheer joy of seeing her after a little while and being covered in kisses.

We envisaged a similar life. A new buddy to get us off our arses of a weekend. Someone (somepup) we could play with, shower with love and take on adventures.

In our minds, we’d greet her downstairs each morning, tail wagging, feed her breakfast, take her for a walk, play with her and have her sleep by our feet whilst we got on with jobs, chores and our marriage.

To say we weren’t prepared for the reality of a puppy is an understatement.

Meeting Olive

The day we met Olive we went to meet the family who’d just had a litter, initially with our eyes on a sable coloured girl but when we arrived and cuddled 3 of the puppies, Olive stole our hearts.

Her coat was so soft, she kissed us both on the nose and fell straight asleep on my chest and in Ben’s arms – we were smitten.

It’s as cliche as it sounds – they really do choose you!

Getting ready for Olive’s arrival

Some weird sort of maternal instinct kicked in as soon as we had agreed to give Olive a home.

That evening I came home, signed up for insurance, registered her to the local vet, ordered everything she’d need from Amazon and began reading tons of puppy training books.

I got addicted to Zak George’s channel on YouTube and suddenly the realisation of what we’d be in for started to kick in.

I learned that there’d be biting. Frequent toilet trips. That they couldn’t go out straight away. That the stairs were bad for their growing joints. That they’d whine and cry. That cockapoos in particular needed to be around you all the time.

But as the internet tends to do, everyone who wrote the books, filmed the videos or contributed to forums made it look so, so easy.

‘Just take them out for the toilet frequently’

‘Distract them with a toy when they’re biting’

‘Leave them for 30 seconds and build it up’

‘Keep them in a crate overnight’

Ok, I thought, we’ve got this, we’re prepared, it’ll be a breeze.

Reader: it is not a breeze.

Olive’s arrival

On her first day, we brought her back and let her explore her new home.

Her waggy little bot strolling around our living room told us she was excited.

That first day of bliss was punctuated with cuddles, snoozing on the sofa, play and kisses.

She took to her food straight away, slept in her new little bed during the day and seemed so happy.

That evening we’d made the decision to make a puppy pen in our bedroom with water, towels, a puppy pad for midnight wees, a comfy bed, a blanket from her mum and clothes from Ben and I.

We took her up and put her in, fell asleep shortly after and was awoken with small cries at around 5am to be taken to the toilet.

Oh my god, we thought, we’ve got the dream puppy!

The next night wasn’t the same.

Olive aged 8-16 weeks

For the next 4-5 nights Ben and I were awoken every hour to two hours with wailing, whining and trying to scramble up over the pen. 

We took her, in turns, to see if she needed the toilet but most of the time it was to play or be near us.

We tried putting her in her crate downstairs at bed time but she’d scream for 10 minutes before we couldn’t bear it any more.

We were both absolutely shattered.

During the day all routines went out the window.

I was awake from 5am, unable to take her out for walks and having to try a mixture of play, taking her to the toilet, feeding her, giving her toys to get her brain working, training her and trying to get her to sleep.

At the same time I was being relentlessly bitten – on the toes, fingers, ankles and more times than I care to admit – nipples. Cue having to wear a bra when working from home. Not ideal.

If she wasn’t being directly engaged with, she was chewing everything she shouldn’t, in sight.

Everything my life was went out of the window. There were days where I couldn’t even go to the toilet or shower until Ben came home because she’d pull something down or chew another massive hole in our skirting board.

And everyone kept telling me to put her in her crate for half an hour whilst I got on with things but the cries, screams, barks and whines were unbearable.

Work pressure piled on because I felt like I didn’t ever have more than 5 minutes to myself. The house was a state during the day and I felt desperately isolated being at home from 6am til 7:30pm when Ben came home – just me and this little shark.

I was beginning to feel desperate.

Again turning the the internet to hear, ‘they grow out of it’, ‘it’s normal’, ‘it’ll stop when she’s 6 months’ and thinking – how can I do this for another 3 months?

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What changed 

Again, being a total Virgo/type 3, I read, read, read and researched everything I could.

I ordered toys that would keep her busy.

We had a dog trainer come to the house to show us different ways to train her to not do the things we didn’t want her to do.

Ben bought bitter apply spray to stop her chewing our entire house down.

We learned about teething and got her the things she needed to gnaw on.

Ben’s Mum looked after her so I could go and work in town and also so she could socialise with Lily, their dog.

We started sending her to doggy day care so she could socialise with other dogs, have more training, get to know more adults and run around all day whilst we both work.

We let her sleep in our room without the pen and finally she’d be able to make it through the whole night 9pm – 6am without waking us up.

We got into a routine of: up, poop, walk, feed, play, sleep, up, poop, train, play, sleep and so on – which gave me snatches of longer periods to be able to work.

A semblance of balance was returning.

What it’s like now

Still hard at times but the absolute best.

Cockapoos by nature are extremely clever, and Olive is no exception – she knows that she wants my attention all the time and she knows that if she eats mud, chews the wall or splashes her water bowl – she’ll get it, so we’re still working on ignoring her naughty behaviours and rewarding the good.

She’s calmer. Since socialising with tons and tons of other dogs, her biting has completely stopped. Just like those smug-experienced-puppy-parents told us it would.

She’s still my shadow. Which makes doing things around the house or working from home quite difficult and distracting – but we’re getting there and I see improvements all the time. I can shower with her amusing herself now.

She can go for walks which tires her out which means she’s not so needy during the day – still needy but not desperately so like before.

I’m always terrified.

I began noticing a car hanging around our new housing estate and got paranoid that they were coming to steal her.

On walks, I get worried that she’s going to run away or be attacked by other dogs.

If she makes a weird noise, I’m convinced she’s really ill or hurt.

My anxiety, which I’ve worked all year on getting rid of is back in full force.

So what’s next?

The more we settle into this new way of life, the more mature she’ll get and hopefully the less paranoid wreck I’ll be.

But our routine now is getting way more settled. She’s at home with me three days a week, with both Ben and I another three days a week and then once a week with Ben’s mum or at day care with her puppy besties whilst I have meetings or go into town.

And if you’re still reading this saga of ‘Vix got a puppy she was woefully underprepared for but is actually doing a semi-decent job of not totally fucking it all up’ then I’ll share with you a quick list of the best things we’ve done or bought for her that we’d definitely do again or wish we’d done this time:

Spent more time in the house but away from Olive

Leave the house and pop her in her crate for 20 mins, not a problem. Try to take a wee for 2 minutes – house is screamed down.

Completely on us and the next thing we’re working on but I don’t think I’d have felt as overwhelmed as I did/do if I could just get work done in my office whilst she amused herself elsewhere.

Doggy day care

It’s so lovely to see the pals she’s made, the tail that wags ferociously as soon as we pull into the drive and the smiley videos we get sent when we pop her there.

It’s great so that I can get work done but it’s even better for her socialisation so she’s familiar with other dogs.

Furthermore, being around other dogs helps puppies learn bite inhibition and I’m convinced it’s what nailed her biting early on.

Poo bells

Sounds ridiculous but from day 2 of her being home, we put bells on the back door and every time we took her for a wee or a poo we tapped her paw on the bells – within 2 more days she’s completely mastered it – she then tapped the bells and sat by them herself to signal she needed the toilet.

After a couple of months of bells, we took them down (couldn’t bear the racket of her whacking them to go out and play) and now she just sits quietly by our back door, or climbs it more like, to be let out.

Taking her out before 12 weeks

Puppies shouldn’t really go on the grass/cement where other unvaccinated dogs may have been incase she picked up doggy diseases or worms but from 9 weeks we began carrying her in dog friendly cafes and pubs so that she could meet as many new people as possible.

Now she loves meeting adults and children and is well behaved and friendly towards strangers.

Getting grubby clothes, shoes and towels

I made the error of taking her out into the garden or on walks in ‘nice’ clothes and promptly got them chewed or muddy – same with towels.

As soon as I realised this mistake I pulled out loads of old leggings and jumpers I wasn’t too bothered about and ordered myself some wellies for walks and now I’m not bothered about how messy she gets.

Puppy proofing the house

Before she arrived we made sure that nothing was dangerous or could fall on her and that there were no loose wires she could chew on.

But we didn’t anticipate quite how much she’d love chewing on skirtboards or the wall corners.

I also wish we’d sorted the drawers and floordrobes out so that she didn’t nick as many socks or get to some of the stuff we hadn’t yet managed to pop in the loft.

Now everything is 100% safe/unstealable, I’m much more relaxed about letting her roam about the house whilst I’m working and not as worried about her chewing the things she shouldn’t.

Our trainer

We couldn’t book Olive into puppy classes as they were fully booked and the only time available would’ve been once she was too old.

For the same price, we’ve had a trainer come to the house twice.

Once for training Ben and I how to manage any misbehaviours at home and once to show me how to confidently walk her off lead.

As new dog owners, learning from the experts has really helped us with our confidence – even if I still worry all the bloody time.

Teaching her ‘leave it’

We started this command when she was young but still haven’t perfected it.

This would’ve saved the skirting boards, our socks and Ben’s trainers from being chewed.

It also would mean that we wouldn’t panic every time she went into the garden that she was going to eat stones.

It’s an on-going training lesson that we’ll have mastered soon, I hope.

There are just a few things I wish we’d have done or am glad we have done so far!

If you’re thinking of getting a puppy, or have one on the way, I hope this post hasn’t terrified you!

The truth is, things DO get better but the honest truth is, it is bloody hard at the beginning and even 6 weeks later, I’m still finding it difficult but the love, fun, laughter and companionship is (almost totally) worth it.

Lastly, please feel free to reach out if you’re struggling as a new puppy parent as we could do with more of us admitting that it isn’t plain sailing and slobbery morning kisses.

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