It’s Gotcha Day! What I’ve Learned After Having a Puppy for a Year

March 18th, 2018

Today – well, technically yesterday – was Panini’s Gotcha Day! We rescued her officially a year ago from Great Dog Rescue of New England. Even though Scott and I had family dogs as children and have had a few pets in the meantime, this was the first time we’ve raised a puppy on my own. It’s been a wild year of ups and downs – mostly ups! -and lots of lessons learned, too.  It’s incredible how fast time flies by! 

Panini was wild with energy and the puppy blues hit me HARD. Getting a dog wasn’t all face licks and tail wagging unlike my Instagram would lead to you believe! I could go into detail about the tears, the anxiety, and the regret, but that’s not what I want this post to be about. Instead I want to share my biggest takeaways that I’ve learned over the past year. Hopefully something here will resonate with you if you’ve got a new pupper, or help prepare you if you’re thinking about adding four paws to your family! 


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Your Puppy is a Baby

Obviously, your puppy is a baby dog. Yes, that is a fact. And let me just say… I do not AT ALL discount the effort, sacrifices, and sheer hard work that it takes to raise a baby. But I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that raising a puppy shares many common threads with raising an actual human baby. For example: 

Your days of sleeping in are over. Forever. First of all, you have to take your puppy outside basically every hour while you’re housetraining. Even overnight, we took Panini out probably every 2-3 hours or so. It gets better, but even now – a year later! – Panini still sees the sun rise & thinks that means we’re all done sleeping, even if it’s 6:30am. Parents, sound familiar to you at all!? 

Housetraining is the same as potty training. You have to keep an eye on your puppy at all times so you notice their little hints that they need to go outside. As soon as you see them squatting to pee – you gotta scoop ‘em up & take ‘em right outside! When they actually do their business outside, you gotta throw a party & reward them with all the treats so they know how awesome it is to pee outside. From what I’ve heard, this is not a far cry from potty training a human child! 

Puppy teething is the same as human teething. The only thing that was different was the small spots of blood that ended up everywhere from Panini chewing on every little thing! Otherwise, we had teething toys up the wazoo – even the frozen kind. She would clearly be struggling with the pain at times given her whimpering & chewing on everything! 

The overall lesson here is: When you feel yourself getting frustrated with your baby pup, remember that they’re the equivalent of a human toddler, take a step back  & adjust expectations.


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You Can’t Compare Yourself to Other Pupper Owners

Just like all the sentiments of social media: most people are only posting their highlight reel online. You see their sweet puppy romping around the yard, being an angel but meanwhile, they’re chewing on all the furniture & are a terror behind the scenes. 

My point here: everyone struggles with something. You’re going to notice areas where your puppy struggles and feel like there’s a big spotlight on your shortcomings. In reality, the person you’re comparing yourself to is fighting their own battle. Stop worrying about them and focus on you & raising the best pup you can, friend.


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The 24 Hour Rule

If your puppy is feeling a little under the weather, upset tummy, some diarrhea, etc. give it 24 hours. If things don’t improve or get worse, then you can call the vet. But 99% of the time, your puppy will be fine. Get off of PetMd! Stop Googling random diseases and freaking yourself out! Just give it 24 hours and see if it improves. 

If you’re seriously concerned and aren’t sure whether to bring your furbaby in, most veterinary offices will consult with you over the phone. Just know that they’re going to probably encourage you to come in for “just in case” sakes.


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Give Everyone a Little Grace

Raising a puppy is hard. Sometimes we make mistakes, or lose our temper, or find out something that we thought was good for our dogs is actually bad. You clearly care about giving your dog the best life you can, but no one is perfect, and nobody’s life actually looks like their Instagram highlight reel!

Give yourself credit for the things you’re doing well. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made and take steps to correct them. You’re doing the best you can! If you need reminding of that, write down all of the things that make you a good pet owner and read it when you’re feeling down. Give yourself some grace! 


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Save Some Money

I didn’t find that getting a puppy made us broke like some puppy owners make it out to be. I know if I looked at the total amount of money we’ve spent on Panini-related things in the past year, it might hurt a little. But we both had a good amount of savings already and decent salaries to rely on, which isn’t the case for everyone. 

If you’re preparing to adopt or buy a puppy, you definitely have to have a cushion. There’s the adoption fee, initial vet visits & vaccines, along with all the accessories for your pup. It does add up, so just be prepared! 

Do you have a pup? Have anything to add to this list?! Leave it in the comments for everyone else! 

  1. Alyssa Parker says:

    This is the cutest blog!

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