I Thought I Was a Dog Expert — Until I Got a New Puppy!

I read every puppy-training book I could get my hands on. That didn't stop Dusty from making me feel like a fool.


My wife, Kim, and I have a new puppy named Dusty. She’s a toy Schnauzer who weighs almost six pounds right now and will be around 10 pounds at maturity. She’s small in stature, but big in attitude and vocal abilities!

We’ve had Schnauzers in our family before, so we’re all too familiar with their potential health challenges and their propensity to bark at almost everything that moves. We were spoiled when we rescued our previous two Schnauzers, Buzz and Woody. They were already potty trained and crate trained. They knew all of their commands and obeyed most of them (when they had the notion). So, it didn’t take long for them to fit in.

Unfortunately, Woody and Buzz passed away at seven and nine years old, respectively, because of their many health problems. When we brought Dusty into our home, I began researching all brands and types of food and read several dog training books so I’d have some idea of what to expect. I also knew, because Buzz and Woody weren’t very social with other animals or many people other than my wife and me, that I wanted Dusty to meet lots of people and other animals. Lastly, I knew that I would need to train her, so that she wouldn’t run off the first time she saw a squirrel!

I consider myself a pet expert in many ways. However, it’s been a long time since I had to raise a puppy, and none of my previous dogs was this small. So I took advice from some of the world’s best-known dog trainers. (I won’t mention their names, because I don’t want them to be embarrassed by my utter lack of skills!) I am sure the expertise they share comes from their many years of experience, but it is mind-boggling to see the differences in opinion on how to train a new puppy. Regardless, before Dusty arrived, I diligently read every page of the stack of training books that I have on my bookshelf. This left me with a wealth of (sometimes inconsistent) knowledge, but very little hands-on practice with raising a puppy.

Here are the main things I learned in Dusty’s first weeks.

1. I would be sleep deprived

In my humble opinion, no book, video, or even hands-on training can really prepare you for raising a puppy. Oh, you can read that it takes a few weeks for her to adapt to sleeping without her littermates in her new home. But the days of enjoying a full night’s sleep are gone for a while!

Our first week with Dusty, she would understandably wake us up every couple of hours to let us know that she needed to go out and potty. The second week, she learned to sleep for six hours straight.

This would be a great thing if she started to sleep at eleven o’clock or later, when I do, instead of around eight o’clock. By the time I went to bed, I was up again in about an hour for a potty run. Of course, Dusty would quickly fall back to sleep, while I lay watching the ceiling fan rotate for the next hour or two.

Finally, after a few weeks, we got it down pat. Everyone is in bed by 10 p.m. and sleeping through to 7 or 8 a.m. Nowadays in our house, if you’re not ready for bed by 10, then that’s your own dang fault! At least, that’s what Kim tells me. I am sincerely thankful that Dusty has finally figured us out with regard to sleeping patterns. However, I’m still trying to catch up on the sleep that I originally lost.

2. I would get nibbled constantly

I don’t think the nibbling and teething was emphasized enough in the training books I read. When I was a kid my dad often took me fishing. I can’t recall a single time that I didn’t get stabbed and poked by one of the fish hooks I was baiting, usually shortly after my dad would jinx me by saying, “Son, make sure you watch out for those fish hooks.”

The pain from those hooks pales in comparison to razor-sharp puppy teeth, especially when the puppy thinks it’s fun when you cry out in pain during a nibbling session. By the way, several of the training books I read clearly say that you should make a loud “Ouch!” sound to warn her that she just hurt you. This is supposed to get your puppy to realize it wasn’t a good thing she just did, and she should then know to stop biting you.

Ha! If that would have worked, Dusty would have stopped biting me weeks ago.

3. My puppy would eat everthing within reach

It doesn’t matter if it’s inside or outside the house. Plants that hang a little too low, magazines in baskets on the floor, your coat on the back of the chair, even dirt from planters and pine bark — it all makes a lovely snack.

It’s not uncommon for Dusty to grab a stray stick or leaf to take with her during her potty session. It reminds me of a little old man tucking his newspaper under his arm during one of his regular bathroom breaks. It’s just that the little old man typically will not destroy and consume the newspaper the way a puppy would.

Yes, the list can go on and on, but you’re probably tired of hearing me whine about it. Kim definitely is! Overall, Dusty is a great puppy, really smart, and she has learned a lot already. As for me, let’s just say that this expert has a lot more to learn from his own real-life experiences.

I’ll close with one final thought: Puppies should come with an owner’s manual. But who am I kidding? I’d never read it!

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