Being a first-time pup mom, there are few things that happen that AREN’T somehow surprising. I can’t count the number of times my family has heard me ask, “She’s doing WHAT now?” To a pup, everything is NEW! And EXCITING! When she first arrived home, Sommer would perk up if a leaf blew across the yard. “What’s that? I must chase it!” she’d think, and off she’d go, in hot pursuit. The day she came across a pine cone on the trail where we walk was an equally exciting discovery, and an object to be sniffed at length. A pup’s enthusiasm as she discovers the world around her is contagious, and I found myself looking forward to introducing her to new situations and objects, just to see her delighted reaction.
As the first year continues, the “firsts” are fewer and farther between, in part because we are beginning to discern behavior patterns and develop routines. As a result, we are experiencing fewer surprises. Still, Sommer continues to push boundaries as she gets older and wiser. Having had ample time to observe the ways of her “pack,” she continues to try to move up in the pack ranking, and test our resolve. Some of that behavior has created new “firsts,” such as the first time she tried to grab food off the kitchen counter when I had my back turned. There are also still “firsts” related to the calendar, and to milestones: first Christmas; first snow; first shot at the veterinarian. But mostly, as we continue through the first year, some of my favorite firsts have to do with seeing her overcome her fears and improve her behavior through training. The first time she walked successfully on a leash past another dog without being scared felt like a major milestone, as was the first time she sat on her dog bed when the doorbell rang and waited for our guest to come to the dog bed to greet her. Those firsts were hard-won, so it’s nice that there are also simpler “firsts” that didn’t take long to achieve, such as the first time she jingled the string of bells I hung on our front door, to tell us she needs to go outside. It’s such a joy watching her learn, grow and discover the world around her.
My Top Five: Puppy Firsts
The list of first-year “firsts” is long, so I’ve culled it down to my top five – some good, some bad, but all memorable. They will all go down in our family lore!
- First time going up and (more importantly) down the stairs: I’d seen videos of pups being taught to cautiously make their way down a flight of stairs, step by step. Given that Sommer tends to be on the timid side, I figured teaching her would take a similar amount of cheerleading and painstaking effort. Imagine my surprise when she happily waddled her way down the steps, with no instruction necessary. Pups are full of surprises!
- First episode of diarrhea: This was a doozy. I had a friend visiting from out of town, and we were going out. I left Sommer with our teenage son, who was playing a video game. Aforementioned son continued to play video games, and did not watch the puppy as instructed, leaving the puppy to her own devices. Puppy panicked. My husband arrived home to find a massive mess on the stairs. Poor puppy. Poor husband. Son? In doghouse.
- First bath: Sommer is not a fan of bath time. Still, we kept at it, bathing her consistently, to acclimate her to the experience. As it turns out, if we keep a steady stream of treats coming, with the promise of a bully stick when it’s done, she’ll tolerate it, and us. The highlight, by far, comes when you take your pup out of the tub and wrap her up like a burrito in a big fluffy towel. Seeing that adorable face peering out at you from under the towel is the cutest!
- First grooming: Fortunately, we’d worked hard at bathing and regular brushing as well. That went a long way in making Sommer’s first grooming experience a positive one. The fact that we chose a groomer with 30 years of experience might have helped as well, as her calm, confident demeanor is something Sommer responded to immediately.
- First time seeing a squirrel: We don’t have a lot of squirrels in our yard, because we have coyotes in the vicinity. Personally, I’d take the squirrels any day! In any case, we were out walking near a lake one day when Sommer spotted her first nearby squirrel. She froze, like a statue, nose pointed, tail up, feet at the ready to run. Thank goodness she was on a leash, because she was lined up like an Olympic sprinter in the blocks. Being a fan of the movie UP!, I called out “squirrel!” for my own amusement. The squirrel darted, Sommer tried to set off in hot pursuit, and somehow my shoulder did not get dislocated (it helps that she’s only 18 pounds). Lesson: keep dogs this age either leashed or in a confined area at all times!
Next entry from Puppy Diaries: Our First Pup Emergency
Pup Tips: Live Easier and Smarter
What I Learned (The Hard Way)
You are the center of your pup’s world. Never leave unless you are 100 percent certain that someone is giving your pup their full attention. If you can’t be certain, it’s better to crate her or put in a secure location – whatever your routine has been. If you fail to heed this advice, it’s entirely possible that your pup will panic, and soil your carpeting, chew up something you value, or otherwise get into trouble.