For about the past month and a half, I’ve had full-blown puppy fever, which is only significant because I’ve never had puppy fever. When we first started thinking about adopting a dog, I was open to anything but a puppy. I had pretty good reasons; I didn’t think we had the time or knowledge to raise a dog through such a critical period, I like my sleep and my clean carpets, and I knew there were plenty of wonderful adult dogs waiting for homes while everyone else snatched up the puppies. Frankly, I was thrilled to adopt 75 pounds-worth of velvety, already-house-broken wrinkles.
And yet, I have not one, but two 8-week-old puppies snoozing next to me as I write this.
I’m pretty sure Stewie is the one who broke me. He was young enough that he was still full-blown puppy adorable, but old enough to pick up house-training quickly and easily. He slept through the night like a freaking angel. He only barked when people came to the door. Despite having a handful of loud and boisterous other puppies in his obedience class, he would sit with his eyes fixed on me and his butt glued to the floor.
“If this is what puppies are like,” I said, “give me three of ‘em.”
Lucky for me, nobody gave me three of them. These two precious, unholy terrors pooped and peed twice each within ten minutes of stepping out of the carrier. I didn’t realize there were 894,621 nooks and crannies in our living room alone until the puppies crawled into every single one of them. They are constantly moving, usually in opposite directions and almost always into the space you planned to step into. I estimate that they walk through their poop before I can clean it up 60 percent of the time. They woke up about every three hours last night, and the circles under my eyes are so dark Tim Burton is trying to use me as a model for his next animated feature.
Consider my puppy fever cured.
Okay, maybe not.
The other foster parents in the rescue are probably reading this and laughing, because they have at least six adult dogs and two to four puppies, which boggles my mind. Just thinking about it makes me want to drop into a chaise lounge with a martini. Of course, some of my problems are due to the fact that I’ve never had such tiny babies in the house before; I haven’t worked out a system to help things along quite yet, so our current method mostly involves guessing, like guessing which spots on the carpet are wet from the cleaner and which ones are wet from pee. System or no system, though, puppies are a lot of work, and we haven’t even gotten to the part about choosing a prep school.
I feel like everyone “knows” puppies are a lot of work; everyone knows puppies pee everywhere and chew on things and need their shots, but I’m not sure the average puppy-wanting person realizes exactly how much work goes into not screwing up your puppy. I’m not completely certain people realize that, if they only fed, snuggled, and cleaned up after a puppy (all good things) for the first two months they had it, they would have already created problems. I’m not totally sure people realize that once the dog is an adult and is doing that one thing you thought was cute when they were little but isn’t so cute now, you can’t just sit it down and say, “Look, I know I let you do that when you were a kid, but that’s not going to fly anymore.” Sure, most behaviors can be modified in adult dogs, but wouldn’t it be better to do it right from the beginning?
I can say this because I’m pretty much the average puppy-wanting person, except for two important things:
1) I know how much I don’t know
2) I have people around to help me.
If I had a question about either of those puppies, I have at least three different knowledgeable, experienced, educated people I could ask. I’m sure I will ask them many questions before Leon and Liam get adopted, but that’s okay, because asking means learning and learning means neither puppy will have a panic attack when their adopter opens an umbrella because I never thought to show them one while they lived with me. Not knowing is okay. Asking is okay. Making mistakes is okay. Assuming — because “it’s not like it’s a human kid” and whatever you think you know is “good enough” — is not okay.
Now, I’m not trying to scare anybody out of getting a puppy. Should you consider an adult dog? Yes, absolutely, 100 percent of the time, you should at least consider an adult dog. They will love you just as much, they will be just as fun, they will probably be at least 10 times easier than a puppy. I’m also not saying that your puppy will be ruined for life if you make one wrong move. I’m definitely not saying that you’re a bad person if you got a puppy and muddled through the early stages without a support system. However, if you currently have puppy fever, you should most definitely do these three things:
1) Find a reward-based/force-free/positive trainer and learn from them, as in, sign up for a class. Please don’t email a trainer and expect them to answer a hundred questions for free. Your dog is worth the money.
2) Know that if you adopt a puppy from a good, reputable rescue, you will automatically get the support system that I have. Rescues want you and the dog to be happy together. They are knowledgeable people who have probably had a bazillion puppies come through their doors. They will connect you with good trainers. They will do their best to answer your questions.