I looked after my husband's senior dog, Paris, during the last few years of her very loved life and she was almost a breeze to take care of, compared to a new pup. She had her routine down to the tiniest detail and I knew her little movements like the back of my hand; just like she knew mine. She was already potty-trained and basically slept 22 hours of the day away. She preferred if we left her alone to nap mostly and only wanted our attention when she's hungry (which is all the time even when she was 14 years old).
I got Panda when he was only 2 months and 2 weeks old; he was a precocious little thing that just stole my heart with his eyes. He was so vastly different from Paris, from different habits to energy level. These are the 5 things I learnt about being a new pup-mom and I hope it would help you.
1. Routine, routine, routine
Dogs do best with routine. When they have a routine, they feel safe and comforted. Panda was immediately placed in an enclosed area when he got home. The area consisted of his food and water bowl, pee tray and bed. He was a tiny little thing and the house was just too big for him as a new environment. I could only imagine how stimulating it must as a little puppy. We have a space in the kitchen that allowed him to be comfortable there so we decided on that instead of a cage.
With the routine, he gets meals at fixed times and by the third night, he understood that lights out and 'goodnight' means he sleeps on his own in his area while we retreat to ours. He whined for 6 hours on the first night and 4 hours on the second. By the third, he caught on and there was no more whining.
Not only with his every day routine, he also sees his groomer every 4-6 weeks! This allows him to associate that grooming is a part of life instead of a torture session every few months. Does help plenty that our groomer is lovely to work with!
2. It's never to early to train!
Panda learnt to potty train with a little help. At 4 months, he was fully trained and barely had any accidents! I am a proud mama.
Being in an enclosed area helped tremendously, and of course, treats does not hurt either! That means we were on guard and paying a lot of attention to him during the first 2 weeks especially. Correcting his behavior and rewarding him immediately allowed him to catch on what's right and what not to do. The time spent was definitely worth it because there's no major accidents to be worrying about when we leave him alone now.
I always thought he would be too young to train but a dog-mom showed me that these furry kiddos are incredibly smart. At 3 months, Panda learn the word 'sit' in 6 tries. I am still teaching him new tricks and commands to keep him mentally-stimulated; including 'spin' and 'place' (both are taking some work) but hey, anything to keep him happy!
This doesn't sound as weird as it looks. I refer to touching him plenty by his paws and ears so when it comes to grooming sessions, the furkid does not go into a frenzy! By touching and stroking his paws and ears early on, brushing his fur and allowing him associate these things positively with plenty of reinforcement, it allows me and/or his groomer to have an easier time when we have to make him look all handsome. At 7 months now, he is really used to me stroking his ears and cleaning them every other night. He also knows that he has to have his teeth brushed nightly and doesn't put up a fight (anymore).
Puppies are like any other kid. They have boundless of energy and require your attention! From the second they are up, they are ready to go. Going from a senior dog to a young puppy meant I was the least ready when it came to this. I was constantly finding ways to keep him occupied or checking to see if he is doing fine. Any pockets of quiet time that goes on for too long could mean that he was up to something mischievous (and I am right 99% of the time). Instead of spending time scrolling through social media, or watching Netflix, I am now playing fetch or going on walks. We are their world and they just want to play with us.
5. Expect accidents!
Yes, all's good majority of the time with Panda. He knows his routine, he pees at the right place and he goes to sleep when we sleep. However, accidents happen. Humans make mistake and so do these little puppers. I found a patch of pee on the bed one morning and I think he played too hard the day before and just couldn't get up to pee. There wasn't any point to scold or yell because he had long forgotten about the accident that happened in the middle of the night. I simply had to understand and accept that I had to wash the sheets that day.
He also mistakes plenty of things to be his chew toys including table legs, labels on clothes and tissue papers. Positively reinforcing his play with his toys helped and getting the right tools including bully sticks, chew sticks and keeping him mentally occupied helped lessen his need to destroy. I learnt this the hard way after plenty of shredded tissue paper incidents! I also reduce his temptation by keeping tissue boxes out of his reach. To keep him interested, I rotate his toys on a basis. I keep some in a food bag that has been emptied out (the scent will linger on the toy, making it so much more attractive) OR hiding them in worn shoes or used clothes to get our scent on the toys to comfort him. This rotation means he gets 'new' toys to play with and not get bored.
Of course, these are not the only things I learn but they are definitely a few things I think are pretty high on the list; especially if you a new owner! Different animals have different characteristics but all of them need our love and attention. I reckon Panda's going to mellow down in about half a year so I am cherishing all the bountiful energy he has daily!
If you have a new pup and worry about the essentials, here's a list we've put together just to ease you into it!