Welcome To Pawrenthood: 10 Things I Learned

Welcome To Pawrenthood: 10 Things I Learned

Jan 15, 2021Candice Maniga

Dear Healthy Spot Community,

I’m Candice, Healthy Spot’s Digital Marketing Coordinator. I was also one of the few members of this pack that didn’t have a pet of my own. I’d never had a pet until December 2020, and like many others, I thought working from home was the perfect opportunity to finally check off my dream of being a dog mom to a Golden Retriever puppy. Originally, leading up to my Gotcha Day, I thought this blog would be about my cute puppy, Soleil, and our pawfect life together. Now that I’m writing it and living this life, it’s about my cute puppy, Soleil, and our real life together.

They say dogs age 7 years compared to a human’s one, and as a new pawrent, I’m feeling more than a little jetlagged keeping up with this conversion! Our life together continues to be awesome moments mixed with tests of patience, and learning lessons every day. Here are 10 major takeaways from my first month of pawrenthood:

1. Save yourself the panic by preparing well in advance:
I’ve always wanted to raise a Golden Retriever, but I was also very aware that the Goldens I was thinking of (my childhood neighbor’s dog, Lightning, Buddy from AirBud or Shadow from Homeward Bound) weren’t born that way, they were trained. So, I reached out to our partners at Tully’s Training to get an idea of what they do and whether their services would be a good option for me. Mary Tully and my trainer, Harmony, helped me before I even had Soleil by walking me through what to look for in a puppy and bettering my understanding of what life would be like. Once I decided positive reinforcement training with Tully’s was the way to go, my trainer Harmony helped me prepare for Soleil’s homecoming and my first steps in training, like crate training and potty training.
2. Puppies aren’t like babies, they are babies:
This may seem like it comes from Captain Obvious, but it’s easy to forget how your smart pup can go from angel to anarchist in the blink of an eye. It was something I needed to remind myself and those around me because while puppies can be cute, sleepy and funny, they can also be loud, stubborn and occasionally give a powerful nip or two (give them a break! They’re teething!). Just like a human baby, this fur baby of mine will get cranky if she’s been awake too long and may not always know when to give it a rest unless I make the call for her.
Tip: Did you know that young puppies should sleep 18-20 hours a day? I didn’t! Now that I’m aware, I try to keep Soleil’s nap times close to my busiest hours while I work from home. When it’s time for a nap, I’ll turn on a puppy sleep playlist on Spotify and shutter windows or turn off lights to slowly ease her into the mood. I put her in her crate if she’s already asleep or put her in her crate with a frozen treat (see Lesson #9) if she’s still got a bit of energy left. Some naps are shorter than others, but usually she’s out for 1-2 hours.
3. Routines will save your sanity:
There are days that feel like weeks and weeks that feel like months when raising a puppy. They need structure and guidance, but they also need to learn how to live in your world. You want so badly to be there for every moment, but you also need time for yourself. Routines play a big role in keeping puppyhood as smooth as it can be. Consistency is like a promise to your puppy that they expect you to stick to without saying a word, and in these times, you’ll find your grooves around each other’s needs.
Tip: Although my day can fluctuate during work hours and I don’t need to be up early on weekends, I stick to the same wake up and mealtimes to keep Soleil’s life balanced. Plus, I keep track of how soon she goes potty after a meal or playtime. Some days, I won’t have as much time to prepare a meal or play with her during her waking hours, so that’s where I keep her occupied with puzzle toys or a chew until it’s time for me to take a break. During her nap times before and after work, I get a break to clean up or prep for what we’ll do when she wakes up. We end our day with extra play so she’s tired enough to sleep through the night.
4. Puppy blues are real:
I’ve come to learn that “puppy blues'' are a phase or feeling when puppy pawrents are filled with doubt, questioning why they signed up for this or if they’ll make it through. For me, the puppy blues hit my first day completely alone with my puppy. For some, they take a little longer or never come. I didn’t understand why friends, colleagues and family were happy that I was taking the step to become a pawrent, but concerned about the decision to get an 8-week old puppy. Ego aside, I now know they weren’t questioning my ability to be an awesome pawrent, but the idea of puppies for those that have never had one is an illusion--a cute, fluffy illusion of cuddles, licks and playtime. My Soleil, however, has the energy power of the Sun. While I’d prepared in terms of nutrition, training and toys, there is a lot that I couldn’t have prepared for that aren’t displayed on cute Tik Toks and the Instagram explore page.
5. Connecting with other puppy parents will help you navigate the lows:
Joining Facebook groups made for puppy parents by trainers or other parents has helped me accept that some things just happen and it’s no fault of mine nor is there anything wrong with my fur baby. I’ve also been able to avoid pitfalls of puppyhood after reading others’ experiences with their pups. While I have people in my life that have had puppies, it’s been such a relief to connect with other people going through puppyhood at the same time.
6. Puppies grow so quickly, you won’t notice it right away:
Even coming to the end of my first month with Soleil, while we have years ahead, I wish I would’ve taken more pictures and videos. She’s grown so much between 8 and 12 weeks, I couldn’t believe it when I watched a video from our Gotcha Day and looked at the dog sitting in front of me. Her growth spurt would also explain why my arms have been cramping lately! I’m so excited for her to continue to grow, but already miss how small she is while she can still fit in my arms.
7. I don’t speak dog and she doesn’t speak human, so mastering body behavior has been essential in communicating:
My trainer taught me that hand signals are just as important as verbal cues when training. After holding a fist outward when I ask Soleil to “sit” or pointing downward when I say “down,” she’s started to follow through on our training even if I don’t say a word. I’ve been more mindful of my movements and expressions to avoid confusing her because of how observant she is. Likewise, I watch her like a hawk as I’m learning tell-tale signs that she’s overly excited or exhausted, or ready to have an accident.
Tip: Research dog body language and monitor your puppy to learn his or her cues. When it comes to potty accidents, I’m still working on Soleil’s signs. She puts her nose to the ground and circles outside, but she also tends to do this looking for a good spot to lie down in her playpen, so I’ve started taking her out more than she may need. I have noticed that when she is peeing, her tail is curved upward, so if I see her squat in that position, I startle her as a way of hitting pause before getting her outside.
8. My puppy thinks I’m weird, but she's weird too:
I’m not the goofy, high-pitched voice type, but puppies tend to get excited and have more fun with that sort of attitude, so Soleil has had the pleasure of witnessing me get into the class clown spirit. I’ve gone through too many voices to count. She’s seen me put on a puffer jacket and several layers of pants to take her out in the middle of the night when it’s been 40 degrees. There’s a clear difference between how I act compared to other people she meets, and I can’t help but laugh guessing her inner thoughts. I also laugh when she's spooked by new things like an egg carton or rolls over, makes her crazy tired eyes and then falls asleep.
9. Have frozen toys filled with treats on deck at all times:
This tip will buy you time, maybe even a few extra hours of sleep! Tucking my puppy away in her crate with a fillable rubber toy with baby carrots, applesauce or other goods frozen inside has kept her busy and loving her time alone. I recommend having at least 4 fillable toys so you aren’t empty-handed between washing the others on a busy day. 
Our experience: One of Soleil’s favorites from our local Spot is a banana by Spunky Pup. It’s a smaller opening so this one takes her more time to get through, and I either put a few pieces of her Open Farm Puppy Kibble or crush up a couple pieces of MIND BODY BOWL Lamb Liver treats.
10. Give each other some space:
While I want to foster a loving bond with Soleil, I don’t want to foster separation anxiety. It turns out I’ve got work to do for the both of us! Over the last few weeks, I’ve only tried to run errands out of the house or sneak in some TV while Soleil was sleeping so she didn’t miss me while I was gone. It seemed like a comfort courtesy at the time, but the day I rushed back from picking up groceries because my Furbo app showed that she woke up earlier than expected only to load her crate in the car and turn right back around so she could come with me while she was awake, I realized I’d done a disservice to both of us. To fix this feeling, I’m careful to spend a little bit of time away from her while she’s in her playpen each day to slowly work up to inevitable hours I have to be without her in the future.

Our month of puppyhood has already been quite the journey and I still can’t believe I have a dog! While I want to live in each of Soleil’s cute and funny moments forever, there’s no need to freeze time. With consistent training and care, she’ll grow to be the amazing dog that she is in those moments all the time and while I cannot wait, I’m willing to do the work it takes to get there.

We'll keep you posted on our journey! Happy New Year,

Candice & Soleil


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Comments (3)

  • We just got a F1 Goldendoodle Rosie. After 17 yrs of not dealing with puppyhood. Rosie has been with us for one week now. I think, we are doing well with potty training, crate training, & sleeping throughout the night. The biggest problem is the chewing and biting (sharp little teeth). She want to bite in everything ( including us and our clothes).
    We have lots of chew toys to distract her but she hard to distract!

    Carol Ezeir
  • Our little Harrison is a blessing every day! An incredible journey!

    Deborah Llewellyn
  • Soleil is beautiful! I got a golden retriever puppy, Bailey in November and she is now 20 weeks old….so we are on the same journey! Finally got through the needle like baby teeth and all the biting and have a much calmer dog!

    Did you get Soleil from a local breeder?


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