dog smiling

Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links, which means I may make a commission if you decide to make a purchase through one of my links, at no cost to you.

(and I don’t mean from the bar… *ba dum tss*)

Is it just the nature of summer or something? My friends seem to be acting with a hive mind lately. While I’m busy sanding things, digging in the dirt, doing demo in the bathroom (yay!), and working on a half dozen other things not yet ready to be revealed (some of it is coming next week, and stay tuned for a furniture DIY on July 1st!), all of them have collectively started adopting fur-babies.

Charlie as a puppy at the park

One found a litter under her garden shed. One just adopted a 2-year-old chihuahua mix. One couple keeps Snapchatting me updates of their new puppy (believe me, that’s not a complaint!). Basically, my social media feed is full of furry new additions and the inevitable lessons that come with budding pet parentage. And as a veteran owner of a wild and crazy, roof-sitting, fence-jumping, car-ride-loving dog of my own, I can’t help but be amused by witnessing each of these roller coaster rides take place.

Charlie sitting on the roof
Do they really know what they’re in for?

While I’m not really familiar with what to do with a cat (I never owned one as a kid, and I’ve only ever had dogs as an adult), I figured that with so many people I know bringing home a new dog, it would be a good time to share my own experience since I first brought Charlie home. Looking back, there were plenty of things I expected (taking her out for walks, training, buying toys and food), but there were also things I wish I had known or wish someone had told me. Plus… I kind of promised a few of them I’d write these posts just for them, so I’m trying to make good on that!

So, I’m declaring this my own personal Pet Week (the official National Pet Week was actually in May, so this is unrelated), with two back-to-back posts all about:

  • what to expect/remember when you bring a new pup home (Part One — that’s this post) and
  • what products I’ve learned about over the years that have made life with Charlie far easier (Part Two)!

With any luck, my friends will find something helpful in these notes, and you can pass this along to any friends of yours who have caught the new-puppy-bug, too!

Charlie in the snow
Charlie’s first snowfall

Oh, and for the sake of simplicity, I should probably just make some kind of banner with one of those cheesy spokesperson-sounding voices, like

“Sarah’s Pet Week is brought to you by Swiffer! Swiffer: because when you clean up after your pet this often, you’re going to be using us all the time.”

Sorry, I’m being goofy today as I write… but the gist is that online advertising rules require me to disclose any material relationships I currently have if I mention their products in a post, and because we’re talking about pet hair and paw prints, I’m going to wind up mentioning Swiffer anyway because I use them all the time for cleaning up after Charlie, so I’m going to just declare that these posts are sponsored by them even though I’m mostly just sharing pictures of puppies… k?

Oh, and also: I’m not a vet, nor have I ever studied animals as a profession. This is not meant to be professional medical advice, just general tips to my friends who are freaking out right now (oh, blogging disclaimers are so fun these days, aren’t they??). Alrighty, let’s get on with it! *Affiliate links may be used below*

ten things to expect when adopting a new dog
(info about the rug is here)

Ten Things to Remember When Bringing Your New Pup Home

1. Expect them to be tired… at first. Don’t think that just because they were all sweet and snuggly in the adoption center that this is any indication of their true personality or energy level. Chances are, they got picked up and cuddled by a lot of people all day out of sheer cuteness (that’s one of the reasons you adopted them, after all), and that would tire out anyone. Or maybe they’ve just been fixed and are still drugged up. Once they get their energy back, there will be moments of pure energy that will really have you confused on whether or not someone replaced your little fluff with a demon bent on destroying your sanity and sleep. The secret: get them tired again with lots of play time. Or pawn them off temporarily on friends and family who want to cuddle up with your new pet.

What she was like at Atlanta Humane Society…

Charlie at atlanta humane society

What she was like 24 hours after getting her home…

Charlie is trouble

2. They might come home with a cold. Putting a bunch of dogs together in a single spot like an adoption place or boarding facility, even if they’ve all been vaccinated, might lead your pup to get sick. Watch after them for a little while and definitely take them to the vet if they show any signs of distress (it could be something as simple as allergies or anxiety of adjusting to a new place, or it could be more serious, like kennel cough or canine influenza). I distinctly remember holding Charlie as I signed her in at her first vet visit, and she sneezed a huge green bubble right on her face. She looked pretty embarrassed and pitiful, but we went home with some antibiotics after that!

3. You might have a few regrets… or a lot of them. The first night after bringing Charlie home, I was so proud of myself. She made it through the night with zero accidents and we both slept sound. But as soon as I put that little rat on the floor, she looked me dead in the eye and peed a giant puddle on my carpet. The next few days were a lot of adjusting to how often puppies need to go outside (setting alarms for the middle of the night, etc.), her first bath, and a lot of scrubbing nightmare fuel out of my carpet (it wasn’t always the same, er, type, ifyouknowwhatimsaying). There were also a few tears, because I was just about to start grad school and realized I probably made a horrible mistake out of loneliness (if you remember, this was also just after a long-term relationship had ended and the emptiness of my house was real without his dog around). Second guessing your choice to adopt is totally normal. It usually fades once they let you get some sleep and they survive their first full day without needing a bath. Charlie and I ultimately got through it, and I’m so glad we did.

Charlie's first bath

4. Take as many videos as you can. Taking pictures will come naturally, but try to get video of them if they’re still a puppy. I didn’t take enough of Charlie, and I regret that.

5. They’re surprisingly like humans… but also not. Within the first few weeks, there will be more than one moment where you are in awe of how clever your dog is and how much personality they hold in their little body. Their facial expressions. Their reactions. When they sneeze or yawn. It doesn’t take long for you to realize that they simply see the world differently than you, and they’ll use that to their advantage. Places you’re sure you’ve made impenetrable? They’ll just squeeze right by it:

jailbreaker puppy
It’s the cutest thing… until you smell poop in an unexpected place.

And did you know they can use medications that were developed for people? While this of course comes with a HUGE disclaimer that you need to check with your vet first, some OTC medications such as Benadryl, Neosporin, Pepcid AC, Pepto Bismol, and others have been ok’d in some situations for treating your dog’s ailments. Charlie even has a prescription for Xanax for when she gets her nails clipped!

But again: they are not babies. It’s going to be fun to baby them, to enjoy their cuteness, and to laugh when they have personalities and attitudes like humans. And it’s easy to assume when something is safe for you, then it’s safe for your dog. During those first few days in a new house, they are going to push the boundaries like crazy and familiarize themselves with their environment mouth first. We’ve all heard about chocolate, but other unexpected foods (like avocado, grapes, garlic, onions, etc.) are a big no-no to feed them. There are household plants they might eat and household cleaners sprayed on surfaces that they might lick. It is so easy to overlook these things! You’ll need to quickly become familiar with what’s harmful to them before you good-intention your way to a sick pup. And don’t forget about trash cans in easy access like the bathroom (a solid recipe for “trash gut”). Here is an excellent list. Learn it.

6. Speaking of cleaners… have a lot of those (safe ones) around, too. I had to use a TON of cleaning products when Charlie first moved in. Lots of them aren’t healthy for pets, so be sure to check the labels. Now that she’s older, I don’t have as many messes, but I still use a vacuum for her tumbleweeds of fur and Swiffer’s Wet Jet for cleaning up paw prints and drool spots (particularly around her water dish and food stand). P.S. If you’re planning on getting a gift for a friend who just got a dog, they will all be very happy to get a box of Swiffer products (I actually gave some to my sister and my parents and others). Most of my friends have been really excited when I offer to gift them a box!

Cleaning muddy paw prints with Swiffer Wet Jet

7. They’re definitely going to chew or destroy something you liked a lot. Maybe it was your new running shoes. Maybe it was your favorite pair of sexy-but-not-uncomfortable panties. Maybe it was the wooden bun foot you were using for a DIY project (yes, that happened). But no matter what, you’re going to be forgetful that you have a new member of the family, and they are going to get into something you didn’t anticipate. And you will mourn the loss of that item. And then, surprise! It will happen again. Eventually, you’ll stop being a dumbass and learn to not leave valuables out for the dog to get a hold of (or you won’t, and you’ll continue to underestimate the cleverness of your dog). Hide your stuff, if not for your wallet, but for the fact that they can eat something that will make them sick or create a blockage… which means you’re basically spending huge chunks of cash on replacements and vet bills.

8. Never underestimate the power of an empty water bottle and a cardboard box. Dogs like to chew. They like things that squeak and make crinkle noises. And to my surprise, a plain, empty water bottle would work like a charm.

empty water bottle dog toy

They also like to shred, so as long as they aren’t eating the items (which could cause an obstruction), for me, a plain box or stick was often easier to pick up after than the cheap fluff they sometimes put into dog toys (that stuff seems to multiply). Charlie couldn’t get enough of either as a puppy, and it saved me from a lot of eaten shoes.

puppy chewing on a paint stick
Charlie loved to get her paws on paint sticks, too. I have to hide them out of sight, now!

9. You’re going to worry a lot. The first few days are really hard, especially if you work in an office during the day. Are they upset? Are they eating ok? Are they getting enough sleep? Do they have fleas? Did you get the right food? Why is their poop runny this time? Is *google item they just ate* toxic? You will feel a lot of strong feelings about all sorts of things that never occurred to you before. You’ll feel guilty just for being at work when your pup is at home missing you. Your mom will send you text messages when you’re traveling that your dog is staring at the door, waiting for you to come home. As much as people like to joke (and even some get offended, but whatever) and liken a puppy to a human baby, this is often a learning experience for how to care for another living thing for the first time. They are entirely dependent on your care, and it’s scary at first. You’ll talk about it to everyone you know.

dog waiting on me at the top of the stairs

10. It will pass. As with most adjustments, you’ll eventually get used to your pet’s limitations and needs. You’ll get used to making weekend plans that include blocks of time to come home to your pooch. You’ll have a lot of fun with it, and there is nothing quite like the pure joy you see on their faces when you come home and they’ve missed you with their whole body. Charlie is a part of the family, and very few decisions in this house go without factoring her in (whether the fabric on the chair is Charlie-proof, how fast I fix the A/C if it gets too hot, so many things!). You will worry a lot, but you’ll be fine.

dog on black and white painted staircase

Take deep breaths. And welcome to the Puppyhood. Enjoy it!

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Swiffer, but all opinions, bad jokes, and embarrassing confessions are 100% my own.

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  1. Thank you for sharing this. Everything you said is totes true! I rescued my current dog Asa (a German Shepherd and Whippet mix) from Fulton County Animal Services almost 11 years ago. She destroyed pillows, couches, rugs, iPhone chargers, curtains…the list goes on an on. But, I wouldn’t trade her for the world. I began volunteering at Best Friends Animal Society a few months ago and just decided to become a foster mom. Well, it should be no surprise that I am a BIG FAT FOSTER FAIL. There’s no chance in hell I’m giving this little nugget of love back! He’s a 4 year old Chihuahua and I’m in love with him. Sadly, he’s not a big fan of my partner, but we are both committed to seeing it through and giving him the loving home he deserves. Blah, blah, blah…what else can I tell you? ;). Thanks for your post!

    1. Aw, I can’t help but be excited for your little foster finding its forever home so quickly! It usually just takes time for them all to get along (sadly, some don’t adjust… my ex’s dog and Charlie had issues, but she LOVES my current bf’s little dachshund as much as I do!). Congrats on the new family addition! <3

  2. This is such a cute post! I think it’s proof that I’ll read just about anything you write though, because I’ve had my dog for 2 and a half years and knew about puppy care before that. xD

    1. Stay tuned for the next one… that will have lots more info about as a dog gets older and you might benefit from it!

  3. Awww Charlie was such an adorable little puppy and now a beautiful trained big dog .who stays off roofs :-) They do have a way of continually coming up with a surprise…keeping you on your toes, especially if they feel a bit neglected or at my house spending what they think is too much time on the phone and not conversing with them ;-) Yesterday Willie G. ( B-Day) ventured into the terrible twos :-) He is all play and you’d think he was still 10 months old..his tail never stops. He’s a Golden Doodle 65# now ….mostly doodle ;-) Great informative educational post Sarah…….not to get all political here but………………………………………….
    “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
    —Harry S. Truman (33rd President of the United States)
    disclamer; I have never ever taken a dog home from the bar


  4. I like how you mentioned that it is quite the joyful spectacle to find a dog greeting me whenever I go home. My therapist recently suggested to me that I need something new in my house that could freshen up my mood a little in order to improve my mental health. Perhaps visiting a pet adoption organization would be a good way to spend the coming weekend.