Puppy Diaries #9 Mastering the Perfect Puppy-Human Social Interaction

Dear Diary,

It’s month nine, and Sommer is growing up. She’s still got boundless energy, but she’s less hyperactive than she was a few months ago. She’s starting to look less like a little pup and more like a gangly teenager, with awkwardly large feet that are too big for her body. She is an extremely fast runner and loves to sprint around the yard, easily chasing down our boys and then barking with joy when she catches them. Potty training issues are largely in the rear view mirror, although the occasional bout of diarrhea is always in the realm of possibility, and I am still on very friendly terms with our local carpet cleaner. Sommer’s face is so expressive at this age! Her eyes are bright and she looks at me for direction, eager to please. In our household, she has the routine down and understands the rules – no jumping on the good chair, ring the bell on the door to go outside, no counter surfing and the like. I guess you could say that she trusts us now, and I trust her (most of the time, although after the Advil-chewing episode, I am very thorough about keeping her away from things that might cause her to fall into trouble). But when the doorbell rings? That’s when all training bets are off.

We have an active household, with two sons and friends and family and sports carpools and music teachers and handymen and lawn mowing crews coming to the house on a regular basis. All that makes for a happy home and Sommer loves greeting guests. But do guests love it when Sommer greets them? In the beginning, the answer was decidedly “no.” And I can’t say I blame them. I don’t like a dog that jumps on me when I walk into someone’s home, and as a small dog, Sommer seems particularly prone to jumping. It’s in her nature to want to get up to human level. She’s also prone to excited barking, another habit that made door greetings a real challenge. It was one of the things that bothered me most about having a dog, so we decided to hire one of the trainers who taught Sommer’s group puppy training classes to come to our house to diagnose the issue and prescribe a solution.

The trainer was great at reinforcing that door greetings are indeed one of the biggest challenges around. She advised using a method where we would put a dog bed near the door, but not next to the door, and saying “go to bed” when the doorbell rang. I was to stand next to the bed and give Sommer treats as long as she stayed on the bed. The idea was that the guest would come in and then pass by the bed and greet Sommer, or not greet Sommer – whatever the guest wanted. Whether it was my lack of proper execution or simply Sommer’s puppy effervescence, although we worked on it for months, both in real scenarios and in trials where the boys would go outside and ring the bell, Sommer never quite mastered it. She would “go to bed,” but as soon as I gave her one little treat, she would grab it and run from the bed to jump on the person at the door. Answering the door became a two-person job, as I was stuck calling “go to bed” and standing by the dog bed, while one of the boys had to answer the doorbell – and they weren’t always at home to play that role. I thought Sommer might catch on and stay in the bed while I walked over to the door, but alas, the promise of a new human to greet was far too overwhelming and in fact seemed more alluring than any treat I could offer.

Back to the “beep” collar we went (note: we would only use a shock-free collar). When visiting my parents at their home one week, Sommer would get beside herself with excitement when she would see my parents each morning, as if she’d never seen them before. This turned into the perfect opportunity to put on her “beep” collar and teach her the no-jumping greetings rule. We were diligent in showing her that when she jumped up on them in excited greeting, it would result in a “beep.” When she stayed down, with all four paws on the ground, my parents made sure to give her lots of pets and “good girl” praise. The idea seemed to sink in. Back at home, the only trick to continue this method successfully was to make sure she had her collar on when guests were coming to the house, or in the case of an unexpected visitor, to have the collar at the ready near the door so I could quickly put it on her.

Puppy Diaries #8: Mastering the Perfect Puppy Social Interaction

Dear Diary,

Now that we’ve made it through the first seven months and are into Sommer’s eighth month, I find that most of my time and training is focused around refining her behavior. And by “refining,” I mean “trying to make her behavior palatable to other humans … and dogs.” I don’t add “dogs” lightly. One of the main challenges we face is that while she loves people, she’s not so sure about her fellow canines. I get it. She’s smaller than most dogs, and as we all know, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. Still, part of growing up is facing your fears and gaining confidence in the process, right? This month, I decided to work on puppy social interactions, so that Sommer and I could feel free to go out and explore the world. As an eight-month-old pup, Sommer needs exercise, so I was excited to put the off-leash dog park, puppy play dates and nice long walks around our neighborhood on my agenda. Boy, was I ever surprised when the events I looked forward to ever since she was a tiny pup turned out to be some of the most challenging I’d ever needed to manage!

When friends told me about our local off-leash dog park, I thought we’d found nirvana. I’ve never visited any other dog parks, so I’m not in a place to compare, but as I researched it online, I found it was fully fenced and 18 acres in size, with hiking trails circling a grove of tall oak trees. The day we first visited, I pulled up in the parking lot and counted four extended-cab pickup trucks parked nearby, which gave me the feeling that this was the place for athletic and sporty pups who regularly flush out pheasants. But I was excited to check it out, and I was prepared with my leash and poop bags at the ready. More than that, I had prepped myself to toe the line between being a neurotic helicopter dog parent and keeping a close eye on Sommer.

Unfortunately, what I had prepared for wasn’t what I encountered. At about 15 pounds, Sommer is a small dog, and to larger, sporting dogs, she must have looked like something fun to chase. In her first encounter, a large Goldendoodle sniffed her, which made her frightened and start running in terrified circles, barking in higher and higher pitches. The Goldendoodle took off in hot pursuit. The faster Sommer ran and the more she barked, the more the dog chased her. The dog was definitely not getting her “stand back, I don’t like this” message. No, what kicked in was the dog’s prey drive. I finally was able to scoop her up and take her back to the car.

The next time we visited, I noticed that she was shaking visibly, but that was par for the course: She shook with nerves when we went to the vet, doggy daycare of the groomer, and even the pet store. On our second visit, we had some fun, but she always seemed on edge. I liked it though, because she got lots of fresh air and exercise, and so did I. On our third visit, she had another run-in with a larger dog, and I started to question the wisdom of our exercise routine. I consulted a trainer, who shocked me by saying that under no circumstances should we return to the dog park. She warned that small dogs can become aggressive by being put into traumatizing situations when they are pups. “Have you ever passed by a Chihuahua sitting on its owner’s lap, and it automatically bares its teeth and growls at you, even though you’ve done nothing, not even approached it?” she asked me. I nodded. “That’s what can happen if you keep going to the dog park.” Needless to say, we never returned.

Puppy playdates were another activity that seemed like they should have been fun but turned into a challenging puppy parenthood adventure. We have a very kind and patient neighbor who has two mini golden doodles who are about a year and a half older than Sommer. Although they are smaller than Sommer, Sommer’s typical behavior upon meeting them was excited nonstop barking and chasing. It was as if she was doing unto them what had been done to her at the dog park. It was tiresome, as I wanted to catch up with my neighbor while the dogs played, but we could hardly hear each other over the din of Sommer’s incessant barking.

Puppy Diaries #7: First Year Costs – Myths vs. Reality (6-7 Months)

Dear Diary,

This month, after I had gone through the exercise of tallying Sommer’s medical expenses, I was inspired to further torture myself (haha) by adding up the full costs of Sommer’s first year, including the medical expenses. I began by thinking through where and how I spent money this year. Fortunately for this exercise, we had relied on a handful of vendors for the majority of our needs, so I found it easy to simply call each place, whether the pet store or our groomer, to find out how much we had spent. Again, as with medical expenses, I had relied on the wisdom of the Internet and also casual friends for ballpark figures of the first-year costs. Guess what? I experienced another shock when I saw the numbers in black and white. Dogs are known to lower stress, but they also demand fiscal responsibility.

Myth: You can easily get a puppy and spend under $1,000 the first year.

Reality: Sommer’s First Year, By the Numbers

  • Healthcare: $2,440
  • Fence: $1,700
  • Pet store expenses, including food, treats, and chewy sticks; toys; collars and tags, harnesses and leashes; heartworm and flea and tick medications; crate and playpen; dishes; beds: $1,270
  • Boarding and daycare: $700
  • Grooming: $425
  • Training: $450
  • Carpet cleaning (due to housetraining accidents): $260

TOTAL $7,245

If I set aside medical costs and fencing, we would have cut our costs by more than half – down to not much more than $3,000. And to be honest, that amount is more in line with what I expect to spend on an annual basis going forward.

Many of the one-time costs, such as the fence, and medical procedures such as spaying and vaccinations, are behind us now. A lot of rookie pup mom errors are behind me. I have learned my lesson about leaving things lying around the house within pup’s reach, and I fervently hope that will reduce the likelihood of any further emergency hospital visits!

Even some of the larger purchases from pet stores are behind us as well. We should be set for a while regarding a crate and bed, dishes, collars and leashes and heartworm and flea and tick medications. With any luck at all, the carpet cleaning expenses will also shrink – although that might be overly optimistic, as there is always the prospect of an occasional accident or even muddy-paws-in-the-house fiasco. As far as training, I plan to do a leash walking class before her first year is up, but after that, I expect that we will be done with most of the paid training, as I now have been trained in how to train her. Now the task ahead is to keep up with practicing what we learned in class.

I give myself a B- on my effort there, so far. Who knows, I might wind up deciding to do some additional classes this winter, to give us an activity during the long, cold months, and to make sure we don’t forget everything we learned.

What I Learned (The Hard Way)

Don’t rely on Internet estimates of first-year costs. They are myths! The reality is that you’re likely to spend double what you think, so take a look at my costs, and budget accordingly. Many of the costs were somewhat fixed, but one thing I wish I would have done was given myself a budget for discretionary items, such as treats, toys and chew sticks. It was far too easy to pick up an extra toy while browsing in a pet store or splurge on expensive chewy sticks when Sommer would be just as happy with a less expensive option. We pup moms love our pups! And that’s a good thing. So while an occasional splurge would have been completely fine, I could have cut back a bit if I had given myself the parameters of a budget.

Lessons Learned from My Vet

  • At this seven-month-old age, your pup may careen from one behavior extreme to the next. Sommer would be completely confident one moment and then jump at the sound of the mailman’s truck the next. This is normal!
  • Teaching your pup to deal with its fears and concerns is paramount at this age. You don’t want a dog that has permanent fears imprinted because of experiences at this age.

My Favorite Articles

Puppy Diary Series: Sit, Stay, Play

Join our resident Pup Mom on her puppy parenthood journey in our Puppy Diaries Series.

About Puppy Diaries

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

Puppy Diaries #3. Caring For and Training Our New Pup

Dear Diary,

Sommer has been home for a few weeks and we’re getting into a groove – she’s teaching me as much as I’m teaching her! I’m noticing a distinct rhythm to our days. The schedule revolves around eating, playing, exercising, chewing (with any luck, on a bully stick and not the furniture or carpet), peeing, pooping, and napping – lots of pup naps! What a relief it was, after a couple of weeks at home, she finally started sleeping a seven-hour stretch at night. Getting sleep helped my mood considerably! Potty accidents are still a problem, and I try not to lose patience with her as well as myself. I know that when she has an accident, it’s my fault for not paying attention to how long it’s been since she last went out. But in my defense, it can be hard to keep track of the dog, the kids, my work, dinner, laundry and every other thing that’s going on in the three-ring circus we call life. Even with the challenges and occasional frustrations, there are moments each day that make the hard work and craziness worthwhile, such as the eager greeting we get not only when we come home from being out, but when we leave a room and re-enter it two minutes later. There’s nothing like a puppy’s “welcome home”!

Acclimating to Life With a Pup

Our first weeks home with Sommer were a rollercoaster ride – highs, lows and everything in between. Every morning we’d wake up to her little barks. Something is barking! What is it? Oh, wait! WE HAVE A PUPPY. Yay! That was certainly a daily high point that made every morning feel like Christmas morning. Then we’d scramble downstairs to release her from her crate, and she’d be so excited, she’d pee on the floor. Ugh. A low point!

We soon learned though, that in a world of high-tech, there’s was a lot to be said for the simple pleasures of owning a pup. Cuddling, tossing a ball around the house, creating homemade obstacle courses (she was surprisingly nimble at Army-crawling under furniture) became favorite family pastimes, and lured our boys from their iPads and phones. For our boys, who are ages 12 and 15, Sommer provides a means to release pent-up energy after school, and an emotional outlet for their love and affection, two things that can be hard for kids to demonstrate as they get older.

The main challenge as Sommer acclimated to her new environment, with no littermates and a new pack leader in me, was sleep. Her first two nights at home were the worst and were accompanied by loud crying. I gritted my teeth and did not let her out of her crate, because I felt it would teach her that loud crying would result in her getting what she wanted. That was one behavior I did not want to encourage! It was tough, and I gritted my teeth and had to restrain myself from running to her crate to pick her up, but we got through it.

In addition to trying to discourage crying, we also tried hard not to reinforce negative behavior by responding to her when she jumped up for attention or nipped. I made sure that no one in the family petted her, picked her up or paid any attention to her when she jumped or nipped. A firm “no” and a turned back was enough to stop her in her tracks. Fortunately, Sommer instinctually needed to be near me as her pack leader, and any time I rebuffed her for negative behavior, she quickly corrected in order not to be exiled. It was amazing how quickly she developed habits, and I tried to make them good ones!

As we acclimated to each other, I also made an effort to pick up on Sommer’s signals and body language. What was she trying to tell me? Her pounce-y and bouncy self was right at home with our family, but if another dog came near, she would jump on me to be picked up, even when we were in our own yard. Every person on the planet has something that causes them stress, and apparently, other dogs are Sommer’s stressor. Ha! So, I signed up for a Puppy Obedience class in order to socialize her and help her be more accustomed to being around her “peers.”

Caring For Our Pup

Within a couple weeks of bringing her home, we were at the vet’s office for vaccinations and a check-up. Weeks later, on the second visit, she had a couple more vaccinations, and after I brought her home, she became listless didn’t want to get off the couch or eat a treat. Alarmed, I called the vet, who directed me to bring her back for observation and treatment for a reaction to the vaccination. Sommer was admitted to the animal hospital for a few hours for treatment and observation. As I handed over my credit card and watched the vet tech carry her away from me, my stomach was in knots. Fortunately, I’d signed up for pet insurance, so that was one less worry. Still, I exhaled a huge sigh of relief when I got the call that she had recovered well and was ready to be picked up.

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.

What Causes Bad Breath in Puppies?

Bad breath is one of the most common symptoms in dogs and is a very common complaint from dog owners. It most often occurs in adult or senior dogs but puppies can get bad breath too!  Learn more about the Causes of Bad Breath in Dogs? and Why Some Dogs Breath Smells like Fish.

Below, we will review common causes of bad breath in puppies, how to stop bad breath, and review products you can use to make puppy’s bad breath better.

Here’s Why Puppy’s Get Bad Breath

The reasons puppies get bad breath can be some of the same reasons as older dogs although there are some differences in puppies.

Below are 8 possible causes of bad breath in puppies:

  1. Ingestion of Stinky Stuff. Puppies explore the world with their mouths and can chew on and/or ingest things as they explore. This is especially true with puppies that are teething between the ages of 8 weeks and 6 months. Learn more about Teething in Puppies. Puppies may ingest foul and sometimes stinky things that can cause bad breath. Some examples include dead animals they may find in the yard, mulch, compost, trash, and/or spoiled food.
  2. Ingestion of Foreign Bodies. Puppies may ingest un-digestible objects that can lead to problems that cause bad breath. Ingested items can get stuck in the stomach and intestinal tract that can cause vomiting and bad breath. Learn more about Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies in Dogs and Puppies.
  3. Tooth Abscess. A tooth abscess is an infection around the tooth that can cause bad breath. Although less common in puppies, it is possible to have a bad tooth at any age.
  4. Oral Ulcerations and Infections. Ulcers in the mouth can occur from a puppy that ingests or licks caustic substances. Because puppies are curious and commonly get into things causing chemical exposure that can lead to oral ulcerations and infections. Caustic substances that a puppy may lick or chew on include cleaning chemicals, soap and detergents, laundry or dishwater detergent pods and liquid potpourri. These agents can cause oral ulcerations and infections that cause bad breath in puppies. Another cause for an oral infection is wounds that occur from a fight. Some dogs sustain bites around and in the mouth from fights with other animals.
  5. Respiratory Infections. Pneumonia and infections of the trachea can cause foul smelling breath. It can be especially noticeable during exhalation (breathing out) and coughing.
  6. Problems with Bones. Some bones given to puppies can break and splinter causing trauma to the oral tissues. Bones can also become lodged in the roof of the mouth or around the lower teeth and jaw. This can cause trauma to the tissues, an infection, and foul odor.
  7. Digestive Problems.  Some puppies may have digestive problems that can lead to bad breath. Feeding a high quality easily digestible food formulated for puppies can help digestion.  In addition, puppies commonly have worms which should be treated by your veterinarian with a deworming medication.
  8. Other. There are additional causes of foul breath in dogs that don’t commonly occur in puppies but are common in adult dogs. They may include gum disease, periodontal disease, oral tumors, lung cancer, kidney disease, and uncontrolled diabetes (diabetic ketoacidosis). Some pet owners even describe their dogs breath to have a foul fish type odor.  Learn more in Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish?

If you suspect your puppy has any of the problems identified above, is not eating, vomiting, appears lethargic, is coughing, and/or seems painful around the mouth, please see your veterinarian as soon as possible. They can help you evaluate your puppy for abnormalities that can cause bad breath.

How to Help Stop Bad Breath in Puppies

Below are a few tips to help stop bad breath in puppies:

Brush those teeth. One of the best things you can do to help bad breath in puppies is to brush their teeth. Make it a positive experience. Pick out a veterinary approved toothbrush and veterinary toothpaste that has an appealing flavor to your puppy. Start slowly by touching your puppy’s teeth and gums gently and rewarding your puppy with praise for positive behavior.  Learn more about How to Brush Your Dog Teeth. Here is an article on dental products for dogs.

Provide safe chew toys. Ensure your puppy has plenty of safe chew toys that cannot be ingested. Some puppies will chew on and ingest toys, which can lead to life-threatening obstruction in the stomach or intestines. Ensure they are safe for your puppy’s size and are not a choking hazard.

Puppy Diaries #1: Deciding To Get A New Puppy (0-8 Weeks)

Welcome to the Puppy Diaries! Penned by a respected published author and first-time pup mom Laura Tiebert, the Puppy Diaries series chronicles the ups and downs of pup parenthood: from deciding to get a family dog to celebrating the pup’s milestones, health scares and even a ruined cherished rug. Revealing new pup-parent mistakes and unexpected successes, leading to advice, tips and plenty of humor, the Puppy Diaries will take the reader through the first year of life for Sommer, her pup. Sit, Stay and Enjoy!

Dear Diary,
Today we made the commitment we’ve been tiptoeing around for years. I called the dog breeder and asked her to put our name on the list for an upcoming litter. True confession: My emotions are careening back and forth like a ping-pong ball. I’m scared. And excited. And scared again. What have I done? I’m giddy with anticipation and more than a little anxious. Because I know our lives are about to change – forever.

Going into Puppy Parenthood with Eyes Wide Open

The unvarnished truth about the day I called the breeder? I was a reluctant puppy owner-to-be. Over the years, I’d witnessed friends and family going through all sorts of challenging experiences because of their dogs, some of them expensive (emergency vet calls at 2 a.m., anyone?) and others gut-wrenching (as was the case when my brother’s Sheepdog/Poodle mix was nearly mauled to death by a bulldog in daycare). The puppy love blinders were off, and I was well aware of the reality of dog parenthood.

In fact, two years before I made that call, we’d put down a deposit and had our names on the list to get a puppy. We started picking out names: Scarlet if our pup’s fur was red; Coco if her fur was brown. Months later, with the pups newly born, I got a classic case of cold feet. Although I felt like the world’s biggest curmudgeon, I followed my gut. I called the breeder and backed out, saying the time wasn’t right.

Breaking from the Script 

The kids were disappointed, to say the least. It didn’t help that we’d even received photos of the pups in the litter – teeny tiny fur balls of pure adorableness. Cuteness aside, I simply had too many misgivings. My family had a dog when I was growing up, but as an adult, I was looking at puppy ownership through new eyes. I already felt burdened with enough responsibility for one lifetime. I had a full-time job, my husband was commuting three hours a day for his job, and we had two young boys. Add to that the fact that I can hardly keep a plant alive, much less a living creature (ask Richard, our short-lived hamster who died an untimely death due to a cracked window. Who knew gerbils were so sensitive to a draft?).

And then, life happened, and my husband received a job offer in another state – a job offer that was so good, we couldn’t refuse. My gut feeling was vindicated. That night, with our family sitting around the kitchen table, my husband broke the news to our boys: We’re moving. Our boys broke down in tears. Through his tears, our older son sobbed, “After we move, can we at least get a puppy?”

“Yes!” my husband responded, “Yes, we can.” I looked at him in alarm. “What did you just say,” I screamed inwardly. “You’re going off script! A puppy isn’t part of the deal!” But it was too late. A deal had been struck.

Fast forward a year and a half in our new home later. The family was settled in, and it was time. A deal was a deal — even if I didn’t make the deal.

As it turns out, I was right to seriously consider the timing of taking on a puppy. As my mom sagely put it: “Your life will never be the same.” As much as I hate to admit it, Mom was right.  Our family’s life has forever changed – but in the very best way.

Next Entry: Bringing Our Puppy Home

“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. 

Are you puppy crazy or considering adding a puppy to your family? Sign up for our Puppy Diaries email newsletter and get the next entry directly to your inbox.

What We Learned: How to Make a Good Decision About a New Puppy

Do your homework when determining whether to get a puppy (yes, there’s homework involved, if you do it right). My research boiled the decision down to two key factors that determined our ability to be good puppy owners: the availability of time, and money. My advice? If you are short on either, proceed slowly and with caution.

Understanding the Costs of Getting a Puppy

According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent an estimated $62.75 billion on their pets in 2016 (and that number is estimated to grow to $69.36 billion in 2017!). Estimates for the cost of a puppy in the first year range from $770-$1,285. There is great variation in cost, depending on whether you’re getting a puppy from a breeder or a shelter.

Here’s How to Help a Puppy Who Will Not Eat

Having a puppy that will not eat can be an emergency. Puppies less than three months, especially the small and toy breed dogs, are predisposed to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when they don’t eat.  Examples of toy breed dogs include Yorkshire terrier, Maltese, Shih tzu, Pomeranian, Chihuahua, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Havanese, Italian greyhound, Miniature pinscher, Toy poodle, and Pug.  The inability to regular blood sugar in young dogs is referred to as juvenile hypoglycemia. In fact, there are special care needs for toy breeds. Learn more about Caring for Toy Breed Dogs.

What Do You Do When Your Puppy Will Not Eat?

What do you do when your puppy won’t eat?  Look at our 5 steps below to help your puppy.

Step 1. Look for Why.

The first thing to do is to try to figure out why.  Some reasons a puppy will not eat can be minor and others can be serious and even life-threatening.

Causes for a puppy will not eat include:

  • Gastrointestinal parasites (worms) such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms
  • Viral infections such as parvovirus or coronavirus
  • Intestinal protozoan infections such as Coccidia or Giardia
  • Bacterial infections
  • Ingestion of toxins
  • Stomach upset from a sudden diet change or table foods
  • Getting into the trash and eating spoiled food
  • Ingestion of a foreign body (which is an indigestible object such as sock, toy, panties)
  • Other –congenital problems such as a liver shunt, heart defects, as well as many other problems that can affect organ function

Step 2. Evaluate your puppy.

Carefully look at your puppy for additional symptoms besides the not eating. Look for any underlying causes as well as evaluate your puppy for additional abnormal symptoms. Look for:

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Worms in the stool
  • Fleas or ticks
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Trembling, muscle twitching, and seizures
  • Limping
  • Signs of pain or discomfort
  • Coughing or trouble breathing
  • Pale gums


Step 3.  Get Help.

Puppies can get sick and go downhill quickly. Don’t wait too long to seek medical help for a puppy that will not eat. If you see any of the signs above, please see or talk to your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian may ask you about exposure to trash or toxins, history of deworming, vaccine history, and additional symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea. They may check your puppies body temperature, check a blood glucose level, perform a fecal examination, as well as other tests depending on your puppies examination and clinical signs.

Step 4. How To Help a Puppy That Will Not Eat

  • Below are tips that can encourage puppies to eat.
  • Begin by offering your puppy his regular food once again. If he refuses, continue on to the next step.
  • Moisten the regular food with water of chicken broth for moisture and flavoring. Sometimes make the food more appealing.
  • Offer different canned puppy foods to help stimulate your puppy’s appetite. The best approach is to add a small amount of canned food to his regular food and hope that he eats the combination of regular food with some of the canned. Canned food can be more palatable and has the additional benefit of having a higher water content which helps with hydration.
  • Feed a bland diet such as a combination of boiled hamburger with rice. You can purchase a commercial version of this diet e.g. Hill’s Science Diet i/d or make your own. Get the recipe here – How to Make a Bland Diet for Your Puppy.
  • Heat a small amount of canned food in the microwave for a few seconds to release the aromas (but ensure it is not too hot to the touch) to stimulate interest in the food.
  • Offered baby food such as a chicken flavored food.
  • Syringe feed. When mixed with water, baby food or canned dog food mixed with water can be easy to pull up in a syringe to gently syringe feed. Sometimes getting a small amount of food into a dog or puppy can encourage them to want to eat. Please make sure your puppy is alert and has a normal swallowing reflex to minimize the risk for aspiration.
  • Only feed a small amount at a time to ensure your puppy tolerates it and doesn’t start vomiting.
  • Besides food, encourage your puppy to also drink. Ideas include:
    • Give your pet an ice cube to lick
    • Adding an ice cube to the water bowl can encourage some pets to drink
    • Allow your puppy to lick water from your hand or your finger
    • Offer small amounts of Pedialyte®
    • Offer low sodium chicken broth

If you try these tips and your puppy still won’t eat, the best and safest thing is to take your puppy to the veterinarian.  If your pet seems weak, becomes unable to stand, and/or you notice any additional muscle twitching – this is an emergency. This can be a sign of a low blood sugar. This is an emergency situation. Immediately call your veterinarian or closest emergency clinic. To help a low blood sugar, you can rub Karo® syrup on his gums.

Step 5. Avoid It

If you figured out why your puppy wasn’t eating – avoid the same situation in the future.  For example, if your puppy got into the trash, avoid exposure to the trash. If your puppy has worms, make sure you follow the prescribed a treatment and ensure you follow all instructions from your veterinarian.

Additional Articles of Interest Relating to Food for Picky Dogs:

What You Need to Know About Rehoming Puppies

Owning a puppy is a big commitment. And while puppies may seem like a good idea at the time, you may come to learn that you are actually getting more than you bargained for. If you got a new puppy only to find that it isn’t working out, rehoming may be the solution. Rehoming puppies happens for many reasons.  Here are the top 5 reasons for rehoming puppies:

  • Gifting – You received a beautiful new puppy as a Christmas gift or a birthday gift, only to discover that it wasn’t a good fit for you. You may also buy a new puppy as a gift for your children, only to find that they are not responsible enough to care for the puppy.
  • Impulse buy – You noticed the cute little puppy and bought it before having a chance to think through the whole puppy experience.
  • Too big of a commitment – You find that house training and dealing with the needs of a puppy are just too much for you.
  • Allergies – Family members experience pet allergies they didn’t know they had.
  • Other pets – Introducing a new puppy may upset the status quo in your home. Other pets in the home may not get along with the new puppy and this can create a difficult living situation.

There are many reasons you could be looking to rehome a puppy. Whatever the reason, you’ll be happy to know that there are good homes out there with good people who are looking for rehomed puppies. All you have to do is make the right connection.

No doubt you want to ensure that your puppy goes to a good home, so there are several steps you can take when rehoming puppies to ensure a good match. Here are a few things to look for:

  • Make sure the new owners understand the commitment of owning a new puppy, especially if they are a first-time puppy owner.
  • Make sure the puppy will fit into their home life, especially if they have children or other pets in the home.
  • Make sure the new owner has the time and the financial resources to care for a puppy.

Rehoming Puppies

Rehoming a puppy is easier than rehoming a dog. Since the puppy has not spent as much time in your home it will be easier for him to adapt to a new home life with a new family.

A rehomed puppy is more desirable when it is spayed or neutered, and when all of its vaccinations are up to date. By taking care of these things up front, you will increase your chances of being able to find a good home for your puppy.

When looking for a new home for your puppy, start with your inner circle. Speak to friends and family members, neighbor and co-workers. Maybe someone you know would be willing to take the puppy.

Talk to the breeder or the person you bought the puppy from – often times they will be able to help place the puppy in a new home. Talk to your veterinarian. He or she may know of someone who is interested in adopting a new puppy.

If you are still unable to find a new home for your puppy, it’s time to advertise. Make some flyers with a good photo of your puppy. Tell your puppy’s story – what is it about your puppy that makes him special? Describe your puppy’s physical characteristics as well as his personality. Is your puppy good with other household pets? Does your puppy love children? Give as much information as possible to increase your chances of making a connection. Post the flyers in high-traffic areas, like the supermarket, your veterinarian’s office, at work or at school.

Don’t forget about the power of social media. Use your social media accounts to reach out to others. Post your puppy’s photo or a great video, and tell his story. Ask your connections to share the information on their social streams. Look for adoption websites where you can advertise. Ask your local shelter if they have a website where you can post your puppy’s information, or see if they have a newsletter.

Rehoming your puppy to a stranger can be a little daunting. After all, how can you be sure that you are sending your puppy to a good, loving home? When rehoming puppies, it’s good to take some precautions. Ask the right questions to find out if the potential new owner is ready, willing and able to care for your puppy. It’s okay to ask potential owners to fill out an application, and it’s okay for you to ask to see their home before making your decision.

How To Switch Your Dog’s Food: Vet Recommendations

Your vet may have recommended a new food or you may just be thinking about changing your dog’s food to something new. There are “right ways” and “wrong ways” to change the food and we will give you recommendations below on the very best way. To make it extra easy for you, we will share a day-to-day schedule of how to change your dog’s food.

Sudden changes in dog foods – even from one very good food to another good food – can cause gastrointestinal upset in some dogs. There are dogs that do fine with a total fast change but other dogs will have problems. The most common symptom a dog will exhibit is diarrhea. The next most common symptom is vomiting. And some dogs will have both vomiting and diarrhea.

The best thing to do is to prevent a gastrointestinal upset by following the recommendations below on how to change your dog’s food.

How to Change Your Dog’s Food 

The key to changing a pet’s food is “slowly!”

The best way to start a new food for your dog is to begin by mixing a small amount of the new food in with the original food and do this over several days. Gradually increase the percentages over 10 days until you are feeding almost all new food then make the final switch.

For example, here is a schedule of how to change your dog’s food over 10 days:

  • Day one – Feed 90% original food, 10% new food.
  • Day two, Feed 80% original, 20% new food
  • Day three – Feed 70% original, 30% new food
  • Day four – Feed 60% original, 40% new food
  • Day five – Feed 50% original, 50% new food
  • Day six – Feed 40% original, 60% new food
  • Day seven – Feed 30% original, 70% new food
  • Day eight – Feed 20% original, 80% new food
  • Day nine – Feed 10% original, 90% new food
  • Day ten – Feed 100% new food

You can accelerate this by doing it over 3 or 4 days but the ten-day transition works well in most dogs.

What You Should Know About Feeding Your Dog 

Since you are going through the effort of changing your dog’s food, why not make sure you are picking the best food?  Below are a couple very good nutrition articles that may help you provide the best nutrition for your dog:

  • How to Read Dog Food LabelsMost pet owners don’t understand pet food labels. This is an important article to help you understand what everything on the label means to help you choose the very best food for your dog.
  • Commonly Asked Questions about Canine NutritionThis is a really good article that covers topics and answers questions about how much should you feed your dog, how often should you feed, should you feed canned or dry, is it safe to give bones, are rawhides good or bad, do dogs get bored eating the same food every day, should you be giving vitamins or supplements, should you feed raw meat and thoughts about raw meat diets, and much more. There are 22 dog nutrition questions and answers in this excellent article.
  • Nutrition in Dogs – This is a great article on nutrition in dogs. This will help you understand how to feed your dog and exactly what he or she needs to stay healthy.
  • 5 Ways to Combat Pet Obesity – Obesity is very common in dogs and can cause a lot of health risks. Some veterinarians believe that keeping your dog at an ideal weight can potentially increase life expectancy by two years! The formula is generally pretty easy and consists of 3 keys. 1. Eat less. 2. Eat lower calorie food. 3. Exercise more. Learn more about how to combat obesity in your dog.
  • What You Should Know About Feeding Bones – Do you feed bones to your dog? Do vets routinely recommend bones? The answer may surprise you. Check out this article.

What You Should Do If Your Dog Gets Diarrhea and/or Vomiting 

If you follow the instructions above, hopefully, your dog will do fine with the food change. However, vomiting and diarrhea can happen. Below are some tips on what you can do at home. These are really good articles to even save and print in the case it is a problem in your home at any time.

Vomiting and/or diarrhea are two of the most common reasons dogs go to the veterinarian. Anything from changing food, table scraps, viral infections, bacterial infections, liver disease, pancreatitis, diabetes, and much more can all cause vomiting and/or diarrhea.