How to Stay Sane During Puppy’s First Year

How to Maintain Your Sanity During Puppy's First Year | Frock Files

Kona turned one-year-old last month, which means that she’s lived with us for just short of a year. Let me tell you, friends, I wouldn’t go back to those early days if someone paid us! While we’ve been lucky in many ways–she’s always slept through the night, she’s relatively low maintenance during the day, she loves other animals, she’s generally quiet–in those first few months it was tough. We were up and down with her every hour-and-a-half during our waking hours. She tried to eat everything from our baseboards to our rugs to ear plugs, and when we sprayed them with bitter apple, she only liked them more.

But over the months she’s mellowed out, and even though she’s a quirky little thing, we love her to bits. As I type this, she’s curled up in her crate behind me, making little doggie dreaming noises and kicking her paws every once in awhile. We can’t imagine life without her.

For anyone who has a new puppy, or anyone considering adding a new four-legged canine to your family, I came up with this list of things we learned during Kona’s first year:

How to Maintain Your Sanity During Puppy's First Year | Frock Files

Doggie Daycare = Balanced Dog. But be careful when you’re choosing one. We first tried the one that’s right across the street from our house, but in the end convenience lost out to quality. We then took Kona to a wonderful daycare with a huge outdoor play area, but when we discovered that she was sneak-eating other dogs’ poop there (despite their low staff-to-dog ratio) we had to pull her out because she kept getting sick. We then reverted to hiring a dog walker on days when I go into the office, but I noticed Kona was getting overly anxious after a few weeks. Now we use a combination of dog walking and indoor daycare, which seems to be a good balance. Long story short, you’ll get to know your dog and that will help you find the right one. But in my opinion, a good doggie daycare is a great way to make sure your puppy grows into a balanced dog.

It’s essential to introduce a puppy to as many things as possible. Kona met all kinds of people and dogs right off the bat, but she didn’t meet many kids, and now she’s scared of them. While she’s all bark and no bite, it’s still hard to explain to kids who are so excited by this real-life teddy bear. We’re slowly including more kids into her life, and after about an hour she thinks they’re great — but it does take that hour for her to feel like, yes, these are humans. No, they aren’t zombies.

Dog probiotics are a (very good) thing. When Kona was getting sick a lot, our vet put her on antibiotics and, later, a probiotic. It’s made a huge difference in Kona’s digestion, which has always been problematic for us. We sprinkle half a capsule on her food each night, which she scarfs down so quickly that she doesn’t even detect a difference.

YouTube is fantastic for dog training. We went to puppy kindergarten, and our teacher actually said, “Geez, you guys didn’t need to come to this class at all!” We began teaching Kona commands the day she came home, based on information we learned from YouTube trainers. My favorite is this series on dog training by

How to Maintain Your Sanity During Puppy's First Year | Frock Files

Neighbors are nicer when you have a dog. We didn’t really talk to any of our neighbors pre-Kona. Since she came home with us, we know almost everyone. And while we’re pretty sure no one knows our names, they definitely know Kona’s! It helps that she greets them by running full speed down the hallways toward them, flopping on her back, and kicking her legs in the air. Who wouldn’t like such an enthusiastic greeting? Also, if they’re sane people and they offer to watch your dog, let them. They really want to, and you’ll really need a guilt-free break.

Everything outdoors is more fun with a dog. I’m really finicky about temperature. Anything above 80 or below 60 and I would be hard pressed to get outdoors. But Kona and I go for a two-mile walk almost every day, unless it’s icy or raining. We’ve also loved taking her to restaurants with outdoor patios, on walks around lakes and the beach, to the dog park, and on long car rides. We’re experiencing a whole new layer of enjoyment in these warm months!

It’s essential for everyone’s sanity to take breaks. Although Kona sleeps through the night, she does wake us up at around six or seven every morning. She also likes a lot of play time and attention. And we, used to our relative freedom to come and go when we pleased, found that we were missing the Fridays that I’d travel into the city to have date night with James (too late) or quick overnight trips around New England. We were so grateful to discover DogVacay early on, and we continue to look to our dog sitter on a regular basis. Kona gets to run around with the sitter’s dog in her “second home” and we get to run around without worrying about feedings, walks, or a lonely pooch.

P.S. Do-it-yourself doggie “ice cream” bites!




DIY Watch Dog Halloween Costume

DIY Halloween Dog Costume: Watchdog

Kona isn’t much of a watchdog. She growls quietly if she hears noises in the hallway, but as soon as she meets the person making the noises it’s all puppy kisses and ear nibbles and happy-to-see-you dances. So we’re going with irony — and multiple puns — here by dressing her up as a “watch dog” for Halloween! We got the idea from MJ, who posts fantastic lunchbox note puns on her Instagram feed, one of which was about a watch-wearing dog.

This is possibly the simplest Halloween costume ever, so you can definitely whip it up at the last minute if you’re on the fence about dressing up your pooch. Especially if you have a human-child with tiny t-shirts that are no longer in use.


Baby T-shirt
Iron transfer paper

DIY Halloween Dog Costume: Watchdog

Find a drawing of a watch and set your printer to print its mirror image. Allow the ink to dry for at least half an hour, then cut around the illustration, leaving a thin white border around the edges so all the details remain in-tact.

DIY Halloween Dog Costume: Watchdog

Place the image face-down on the t-shirt and move your hot iron in circles over the transfer paper. Follow the instructions on your transfer paper packet. In general, you’ll want to use high heat and work on a hard surface (ie: not an ironing board), spending about 20 seconds on each part of the image. Wait until the paper is cool, then pull off the backing to reveal your design!

DIY Halloween Dog Costume: Watchdog

We may need to get Kona a slightly bigger t-shirt to accommodate for all her fluff. But for today, she seems to be okay sporting the muscle tee look. This face says: “Can I have more apples if I keep posing?”

DIY Halloween Dog Costume: Watchdog

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Weekly Wish: Slow Down

Fluffy Corgi Kona Deflated After Bath

Every day, I try to get out of the house for an hour or two so that Kona gets used to spending some time alone in her crate. I put a dab of peanut butter in her Kong, throw it into her crate, and close the door. This is exactly what I did last Thursday as I ran out the door to Costco.

When I came back, I was struggling to get into the kitchen with my monster-sized pack of toilet paper, when I heard these little padded footsteps behind me. At first, I thought I was imagining things. Then I felt this soft fur rubbing up against my shins. When I looked down, Kona was sitting patiently at my feet, looking ridiculously pleased with herself.

I took a spin through the condo and didn’t see anything all that unusual. No signs of unintended bathroom breaks, no wires pulled from their usual places. I breathed a sigh of relief and reminded myself to check her crate door more carefully in the future.

The next morning, contractors arrived at our neighbors’ unit next door and began pounding on the walls, which was giving me an equally rhythmic headache. I went to my nightstand to look for my ear plugs. Only one was there – the other was nowhere to be found. Not behind the bed. Not under the bed. Not in the night stand drawers. I gave up and opted for my noise cancelling headphones instead.

Later, we went for our lunchtime walk and Kona did her usual #2 dance, which looks a little bit like a masculine hula move. She did her business and I noticed that half of it was hot pink. Creepy. Then I looked more carefully and realized that there, completely in-tact, was my lost ear plug! (It went in the trash. Don’t worry.)

Kona is teaching us a great many things, including how to slow down. While I’m still not used to waking up quite so early, I love that we’re witnessing the trees changing color just a little bit more each morning when we go for our long walks. Where we used to rush in and out of the building, now we stop and talk to our neighbors. We even know their (and their dogs’) names!

And now, whenever I leave the house, I stop for a moment to make sure everything is settled in the right place — including Kona.

Here’s to you, and to taking a few moments to slow down and enjoy the world around you this week.



Photo of Kona looking forlorn after her bath by Frock Photography.

Kona the Corgi’s Many Quirks

Kona the Corgi at 10 weeks

Kona has been home for five days now, and in that short period of time we’ve discovered that she’s one quirky puppy. Here are the five kookiest things we’ve learned about her:

1. She loves NPR and George Winston. Whenever she’s stressed out and crying, we turn on Radiolab or This American Life and she chills out within a couple of minutes. The George Winston part I’m less excited about. And she hates the news.

2. At night, she’ll cry in her crate until we turn on a sleep hypnosis recording called Happy App. Then she’s out like a light for a full eight hours! (This totally amazes us.)

3. She’s not interested in her food unless it’s mixed with goat’s milk yogurt. (I know. I know.)

4. The sun is not her friend. When we go outside for walks during the day, she runs to the first shady spot she can find and will. Not. Budge.

5. But she loves the rain. We had a downpour on Friday and we got great walks in that day. She also loves being wrapped up in a towel to be dried off afterward. With her fur drenched, she shrinks down to half her width!

What weird things do your furry friends do?

Pet Psychology = People Psychology

What puppy psychology has taught me about dealing with people

I’ve been preparing for the arrival of our puppy the way that I prepare for most things: with a mountain of research. We’ve watched lots of the Dog Whisperer, sought advice from dozens of websites, grilled the breeder, and read a bunch of books on dog training. None of this, I know, will really prepare me for the reality of having a puppy. Unexpectedly, reading these books on the psychology of dogs has given me a lot of insight into how to deal with people.

Animal behaviorist Alexandra Horowitz’s book Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know talks about how humans like to anthropomorphize animals, assigning them emotions that, in all likelihood, they probably aren’t having. For example, did you know a yawning puppy often indicates confusion, not boredom? She also points out that animals don’t see the objects around them in human terms. Their dog bed, the floor, your bed, the couch — they see them all as a flat surface to lie on. So all your dog gets about not sleeping on your bed is, “I get scolded when I try to get up there,” which explains why your bed may be mysteriously warm and furry when you get home sometimes. Lack of negative reaction means it’s okay!

This all got me thinking that humans, too, speak different internal languages. So whenever I immediately change the station every time my least favorite NPR personality begins reporting from Rome, some other person is probably delighted! Of course, I’ve always known that perspective changes everything, but I think that framing it in the dog-human relationship made it clearer to me. I thought: Aha! When I totally can’t comprehend why people choose to live a certain way, I need to remember that what I see as a shoe, they see as a chew toy, and vice versa. You know, metaphorically speaking.

After a two day delay, we’re bringing our puppy home from Connecticut today. There will be an abundance of photos on my Instagram feed. Her name is Kona, and when she someday gets into mischief like gnawing on one of my handbags, I’ll remember that her dog goggles give her a view of the world that falls into categories like, toy, bed, and place to pee.

And I’ll remember that something similar is happening the next time I encounter someone who absolutely loves the over-enunciated news from Rome.


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