Lifestyle Service Dog

4 Things I Learned From My Puppy’s First Few Weeks Home

Photo by Laura

Wounded hands? Check. Puppy-proofed/extremely minimalist house? Check. Tears, frustration, and insecurity? Check.

My life has changed dramatically since bringing home my golden retriever puppy Nugget on December 9th, 2018. We’ve only been together for a little over 2 months but I feel like I’ve already learned ten years worth of lessons. Every day is a challenge, but also a learning opportunity!

Here are just 4 things I’ve learned since I became a dog mom:

Not everything will go right the first time

… and that’s perfectly okay. I was reading a book about playing with your dog and it said, “Shake is one of the easiest tricks to teach your puppy” so I figured I’d give it a go. Instead of moving her paw at all, Nugget decided my hand looked like a yummy steak. It didn’t go any better the next few sessions, and I couldn’t find anything on the internet on how to solve this problem, so I stopped training. Entirely. For like, a week. I was so bummed and felt like I couldn’t do anything right.

I eventually gathered the courage to try again and she did so well! Turns out she just needed some time. It’s been a few weeks since I started shake and she has now mastered it. Just in time, too, because it came in handy during the agility course in puppy class!

This experience taught me a few lessons: keep trying, be patient (she’s still a baby after all), take breaks, and do not give up. As the great Bob Ross once said: “As long as you’re learning, you’re not failing.”

Everyone loves a puppy, especially a working puppy

Before starting my service dog journey, I was told time and time again that I would attract a lot of attention when out in public with my service dog, especially while she’s a tiny pupper. I was worried about this at first, but it turns out to not be so bad!

When she’s not working, I don’t mind chatting to people who ask me about her because the conversation only has to be about the dog, which makes social interaction a lot easier. I could talk about her for hours! It also helps that they all ask the same questions so I know what to expect from the conversation.

When she’s in uniform, I often catch whispers of “service dog”, “puppy”, “cute”, and “I am not allowed to pet” (as if they are reminding themselves of this out loud). Sometimes people ask me questions, many of which are stupid (“Is it hard knowing you’ll have to give her up when she’s fully trained?”) but I’m happy to educate. When I’m wearing my noise-cancelling headphones, most people seem to get the message and leave us alone. I have printed out little notes that answer the most frequently asked questions and include her Instagram handle to give to anyone who’s interested. This has even gotten me a few donations for her training!

Photo by Laura

Document everything, puppyhood will be over before you know it

The first two weeks of having Nugget home were especially difficult. I was exhausted, cried multiple times a day, my entire routine was gone. Diagnosis? The puppy blues.

Over time, life got easier again as I got used to our shared schedule filled with walks, playtime, mandatory naps, and set mealtimes. I’m slowly getting back into video editing and blogging. Now that I look back on my footage from December — when she was still a fat little ball of fluff — I really regret not filming more. Even if it’s just the daily grind. Especially the daily grind.

I remember when I was able to hold her up with just one arm. Now she’s 12kg of love, and my body is starting to protest whenever I need to carry her up or down the stairs. Ah, the good old days…

I’m putting up post-its around the house reminding me to keep documenting my life. Puppyhood will be over before I know it and I’ve been told I’m going to miss it.

It gets worse before it gets better

Raising a puppy by myself is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It’s like taking care of a newborn baby, if babies bit your hands off, stole your food, and forced you to take 10,000+ steps every day.

When people come to visit, I usually spread my arms wide, proclaiming, “Welcome… to puppy hell!”

… And she hasn’t even hit puberty yet. I have a few more months to mentally prepare for that. I’m counting down the days to her first birthday and hoping that by then, she will be more like the stable, emotionally supportive service dog I am in so much need of.

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