Getting a new pet is a very exciting time and it’s also a big decision. You’re committing to love and care for this new family friend for the rest of their life. It’s significant and will change your and your family’s life for many years to come.
In my family, after a lot of discussion, we decided to get a puppy! Not just any puppy, one of the most active, smart, attention-craving puppies you can find…an Australian Shepherd. Several years earlier we had found our first Aussie, “Sawyer,” at a shelter and knew right away that we were meant to be together. He was seven when we found him and 13 when he passed away. We were so sad and wished we had had more time together. Although I was content to get an older dog this go-round, after some discussion with the family, we decided that we wanted to be able to love our dog from the beginning of its life to the end…so it was “#puppylife, here we come!”
My last puppy had been 20 years earlier, which was a long time ago. My husband had never had a puppy before, and boy, were we in for a whirlwind with the one we got!
We picked “Sunshine,” our black-tri Aussie, up at eight weeks old. She was a little fur ball with the bluest eyes you’ve ever seen. Flash forward and she is now almost six months old, and we have learned a lot from our adventures with our Sunshine girl. Here are the most important things we have discovered from our new puppy life:
It’s important to look at the long game.
Puppies are so adorable and cuddly, but they can also be so frustrating, you wonder why on earth you thought bringing one home was a good idea. Whenever I find myself frustrated with her innate puppy behaviors or just her crazy, Aussie energy, I remember the long game. We are in the training process. It doesn’t get perfected overnight. She will be growing and changing as she gets older, and she won’t always be this wild crazy girl. I remind myself to enjoy all this energy while she’s young and enthusiastic, to play and try new things. She will only be our little girl for a short while.
Dogs love their routines.
After waking up to take the puppy out every weekday at 7:00, don’t think you’ll be sleeping in on the weekend! Sunshine is up and at ‘em most days before we are and she’s ready for her morning snuggles, her outside potty time and her breakfast. If we mess up her routine, it’s not good for anyone.
Follow a daily exercise schedule (as much as possible).
Puppy energy comes in short, sometimes wildly dramatic, bursts. It’s important to give them a way to release all that energy throughout the day. In our house, we’ve found that running in the backyard 3-4 times a day is the best way to achieve this. This can be running to explore, running to catch a ball or frisbee, playing chase or several other ways to get that physical activity. This also allows the puppy to be in a safe, enclosed environment where she can run and play freely, but with supervision. She also gets a lot of exercise when she goes to doggie daycare, where she’s able to socialize with other dogs and people. There are so many ways to exercise your puppy…the important thing is that your puppy stays active and preferably sticks to exercising on a schedule, so he/she knows what to expect. This builds trust with your new best friend.
Provide toys for mental stimulation.
When you put your pup down for a nap, or when they’re hanging out with you quietly in the house, make sure they have access to toys that provide mental stimulation. Mental exercise is equally important as physical exercise. Toys are a great way to keep your puppy entertained, which means they will avoid negative behaviors such as nipping, chewing on furniture, or barking to get your attention. Chew toys also serve an important purpose for your puppy, as they can help decrease stress and anxiety, and also help avoid chewing in all the wrong places.
Love your good girl or boy.
Most importantly, show your puppy love! Make them feel secure by meeting their daily needs. Remember that the puppy is learning about you just as you are learning about them. Be diligent in your training, but always reward them with lots and lots of praise and love. Who’s a good dog?