picking up your puppy

Puppy Diaries #2: Picking Our Pup and Bringing Her Home (8-12 Weeks)

Dear Diary,

After an exhilarating and exhausting seven-hour drive, including stops at every. single. wayside. between Kenosha, Wis. and Minneapolis, we made it! We are home, and we have a pup. Her name is Sommer (Norwegian for “summer” and pronounced the same). She’s eight weeks old, weighs five pounds, and wakes up every few hours to go outside. Somehow our boys manage to sleep through the whining and crying (Sommer’s, not mine), so the nighttime duties are left to my husband and I. Potty accidents, worries about whether she’s eating and drinking enough, appointments for vaccinations — the experience is uncannily similar to bringing home a baby. In a nutshell? Bringing home Sommer has been intense, hilarious, fun, heartwarming and a little crazy at times.

Puppy Pick-Up Day Arrives

You would’ve thought I was waiting to hear whether I’d been accepted into the Ivy League by the way I was pacing a path into the carpeting that August afternoon. In reality, I was waiting for a text from our breeder to find out which puppy of the five in the litter would be ours. I shouldn’t have been tense, but we were last on the list, so we had no control over which pup we’d get. And, I’d made a big, fat rookie pup mom error: Via the photos and emails from the breeder during the previous eight weeks, I’d gotten attached to one particular pup.

Our breeder had warned against such foolishness. My higher self, the one that meditates, eats vegan and practices yoga daily, understood that all the pups were equally fabulous and any one of them would make a great dog. Our boys certainly felt that way, as they changed favorites every week. But my less-evolved self had fallen head over heels with one pup: The little girl wearing the pink collar.

Admittedly, the fact that we have two (human) boys had me naturally leaning toward a girl, even if it was a canine girl. When Nicole shared that there were four girls and one boy in the litter and that the first family to pick wanted a boy, I was happy as could be. Still, of the four girls, the girl in the pink collar reached out and grabbed my heart. It wasn’t that she was the cutest or most photogenic, although of course, she was both cute and photogenic. In the photos, she had a look on her face that said she wasn’t 100% convinced about this photo-taking operation, which made me chuckle. She looked like one cool customer. Everything inside me screamed, “that’s our dog.” I shared photos of the litter with my mom, and she picked the girl with the pink collar. I showed the photos to a friend and my sister-in-law, and they each picked the girl with the pink collar. Still, I didn’t share my wish with Nicole, as I didn’t want to seem desperate or weird, two things that I was starting to wonder about myself.

On the day that families went to the breeder to pick their pup, we were an hour away in Chicago, visiting friends. Because we were last on the list, we couldn’t pick our dog until the end of the day, which wouldn’t allow us enough time to make the seven-hour drive home to Minneapolis. We’d agreed that whatever pup we got, our breeder would send her to a nearby trainer for a night, and we would pick her up the next morning. All afternoon, I paced as I tried with varying levels of success to keep my mind occupied. Finally, at 5 p.m., a text came in from our breeder, saying: “Congrats! The pink collar girl is yours!”

I won’t pretend I didn’t dance around the room and cry a bit while screaming, “The pink collar girl! She’s ours!”

Meet Sommer! The Pup behind Puppy Diaries.

I breathlessly texted back, telling her Sommer’s name and sharing that she was the one we secretly wanted all along. Our breeder responded that two different families had decided to take Sommer, but wound up choosing a different pup. These happy coincidences seem to happen with each litter, she said, and it never ceases to amaze her how things usually work out for the best.

Faith in the universe affirmed, we set off the next morning for the trainer’s house. There we found a gaggle of pups romping in an outside pen. Some were digging at the edge of the fence, but Sommer was wisely keeping an observant eye from a distance. The trainer handed her over, and I scooped her up in my arms and snuggled her.

We drove an hour to my parents’ home, which was our first planned rest stop. Sommer seemed comfortable with us immediately if a bit perplexed by her new situation. Our boys would hold her up to look outside when she became restless, and she would nod off gazing out the window. Outdoors on my parents’ lawn, she wiggle-waggled from person to person. My dad commented that she was quiet and calm by pup standards, and when she rolled onto her back to accept belly rubs, we knew she would be a great family dog.

Arriving home in Minneapolis, there was just enough time before dark to show her a patch of yard that would be her potty area, her food and water bowls and her crate. Was I ever glad for all of the advance work we’d done. The time for planning for a theoretical dog was over. Our pup was here!

The day we brought home Sommer not only made me a new pup mom but ranked among our family’s most memorable. Sommer fit in with the family right away, and shifted the dynamic in the most positive manner, injecting humor and even getting the boys away from their phones to participate in her care. More on that in the weeks to come. For now, you can envision me reveling in my status as the mom to a new little girl by outfitting her with cute collars in every color of the rainbow!

Next Entry: Acclimating, Training and Caring for A New Pup.

“The Puppy Diaries” is an ongoing series that explores the journey of pet parenthood, from making the decision to get a puppy, to bringing a puppy home, to the joys and struggles of training, and beyond. Laura Tiebert is an experienced nonfiction writer and first-time puppy parent who lives in Minnesota with her husband, two sons and a new puppy.

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My Top Tips for Your Puppy at 8 Weeks

You might be bringing puppy home and starting a series of firsts, including a first vet visit. Don’t let your new pup mom responsibilities overwhelm you. Take charge of your pup’s health and wellbeing with a proactive approach. Here’s a series of topics you can discuss at your vet visit:

  1. You will want to discuss sleeping and how that is coming along for your pup
  2. Feeding habits and how much your pup is eating (and as a related matter, have your pup’s weight checked to make sure he/she is growing well)
  3. Discuss a schedule of vaccinations, and heartworm and flea/tick medications.
  4. What kind of behavior habits you need to instill in the pup’s first days at home, and how to discourage negative behaviors, such as nipping, excessive barking or jumping up for attention.
  5. Age appropriate toys, recommended treats and chew sticks

If you have additional questions, make a list before your vet visit, when you will find yourself distracted by trying to manage a squirmy pup on an exam table.

Make a plan for how to introduce your puppy to your home. When in doubt, introduce less than you planned. A pup is processing a lot of new information. Likewise, don’t try to introduce your pup to the entire neighborhood in one day. Let her meet people in small doses, and don’t overwhelm her with crowds.

Driving any distance with a new pup means pacing yourself. Allow plenty of time for rest stops between you and your destination.

A regular schedule is your new best friend. Pups thrive on routine, and although it might seem monotonous to you, the structure that a regular daily schedule provides is comforting for your pup. Enforce regular bedtime and waking times, feed on a schedule (we started with three-times-a-day feedings), and make playtime and exercise time a regular feature of your days.

Take loads of videos and photos. Even a week later, you’ll marvel at how much smaller your pup was the day you brought her home.

If you have other pets, introduce your new pup to them gradually.

Make appointments at your vet and research and register for puppy socialization and obedience classes. You’ll need trusted sources for answering new puppy parent questions and the myriad of questions that naturally arise about what’s normal and what’s not. Plus, having outings scheduled gives your day structure. I was surprised at how quickly I had questions around training and looked forward to our first class!

Next Entry: Caring For and Training Our New Pup.