OllyDog Lifestyle

An Open Letter to New Puppy Parents: You’re Doing Great

Tonka, a rescue puppy from the Humane Society of Boulder Valley

Hi there! My name is Tess, and I work for OllyDog, which is very appropriate because I’ve loved dogs - and all animals - my whole life.

Tess, OllyDog Team Member holding two koala bears.

Growing up, we always had a dog or two as a part of our family (shoutout to Rue, Keno, Meadow, Amber, Sasha and Ivy), but I can’t say I took much responsibility in caring for any of those good girls.

It wasn’t until this summer that I became a dog owner myself, and the full scope of that experience has brought forth just about every emotion: joy, wonder, frustration, amusement, confusion, irritation, adoration, skepticism and awe. (I left out “exhaustion” since it’s technically not an emotion, but it surely deserves an honorable mention about my state.)

Today, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on bringing home a puppy; I know this is an all too familiar phase of life in the OllyDog community. And in case you’re also in the trenches of puppyhood, I wanted to remind you that you’re not alone in what is truly a special and difficult time.

Let’s jump in!

Tonka, a tri-colored shelter puppy, sitting tall in the grass.

Meet Tonka, who found me through our friends over at the Human Society of Boulder Valley. She was just two months old when I brought her home. It makes me happy to know that I’ve now had Tonka for half of her life and that the latter half - with me - has included more comfort and stability than the former half when she was a wandering puppy on a reservation in New Mexico.

Like most shelter puppies, Tonka is a mutt. Like all puppies though, she came with her own set of quirks.

The early days of puppyhood, especially for first-time dog owners, are quite the trip. You know what I’m talking about. The multiple middle-of-the-night trips outside, apologizing to everyone you meet for your excitable and untrained pup, cleaning many accidents off the floor, learning how puppy teeth are the sharpest object in the universe (seriously, is this how we split the atom?!), having the words what did I get myself into play on a loop in your mind and giving the entirety of your camera roll over to those puppy dog eyes.

Tonka giving puppy dog eyes from her Vagabond Travel Bed by OllyDog.

Tonka giving puppy dog eyes from her Vagabond Travel Bed by OllyDog.

Then, after about a week - or at least that’s how long it took for me - you settle in a little. I was surprised to learn that my settling behavior preceded my puppy’s, but now I don’t think it could have happened another way. Once I started to find my stride, Tonka found hers. Once I started feeling comfortable, you could tell she did as well. And the more confident we each became, the more confident we became in each other.

This was a new insight for me. In all my puppy preparation (and trust me, there was a lot of it), I had failed to realize something pretty big. Tonka and I would form our bond together - it wasn’t something I could predetermine before I brought her home. Because of this, it’s impossible to feel fully prepared to bring home a dog. Everyone will go through an adjustment period that will include moments of doubt (what did I get myself into), and that doesn’t mean you aren’t a capable dog owner.

That’s not the only thing I’ve learned in the past two months. About a week into having Tonka, my partner turned to me and said something I will never forget, “Don’t forget that she’s training us, too.” This reframe was really helpful to me when it came to relating to this new creature. When I get frustrated, it’s because Tonka is learning the limits of what I will tolerate and what I expect, which is a fair thing for her to do.

Tonka sitting in the grass next to her trusty Flyer Disc by OllyDog.

Tonka sitting in the grass next to her trusty Flyer Disc by OllyDog.

A friend of mine once said that to train a great dog, you have to cultivate three things: patience, consistency and compassion. I can tell you that in working with Tonka, I have been tested on all three. The number of times I have rolled an ice cube across the floor this summer to entertain her is astronomical (patience). Then there’s the challenge of using the same verbal commands every time I reward or discipline (consistency). Of course, there is also that swooning sensation in my chest which I’m pretty is the result of caring for something that depends on you (compassion).

I’ve learned that I can only expect Tonka to be as good to me as I am to her. If I haven’t provided a healthy option like a walk to get out that puppy energy, I can’t blame her when she’s running around my apartment and acting like a total spazz.


Tonka walking in her Alpine Reflective Harness with the Flagstaff Adjustable Leash by OllyDog.

It’s true that puppyhood is a mixed bag. A few minutes ago, I had to pause and pull a piece of plastic out of Tonka’s mouth since she had ripped apart another stuffy. That said, having her around has brought more joy than I could have guessed. She makes me laugh out loud daily when she chases grasshoppers or walks around proudly carrying a stick. She loves to sleep in my lap, which is something I intend to let her do for as long as she can fit there. She even “sits” and “holds” like a champion.

I know it’s cheesy, but I’m really proud of us both.

Tonka in the car wearing her Alpine Reflective Harness (Tree Hugger Print) by OllyDog.

Tonka in the car wearing her Alpine Reflective Harness (Tree Hugger Print) by OllyDog.

So let this be your reminder, new puppy parents, that the little spitfire you’re caring for is doing great, and so are you! The ups and downs of puppyhood aren’t going anywhere, but while we learn from the downs, the ups make it all worth it - something I’m sure I don’t have to tell you!

Yours in Puppyhood,

Tess & Tonka

OllyDog Team

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