Go from "argh" to "aww" with these lessons learned during puppyhood

Nothing prepares you for the upheaval of getting a puppy. Life—as you know it—completely changes. For the next few months, at least, your whole world will be pretty much dedicated to that adorable bundle of fur you brought home. Your mission? Turn your pup into a civilized member of society who pees and poops outside, doesn’t destroy property, greets humans with friendly delight and knows how to be polite to other dogs. In short, you’ve got a lot to do. Before you get there, you will will have sleepless nights and feel incredibly frustrated. Teddy, my miniature Golden Doodle, and I just made it through the tough stages of puppyhood, so here’s what I learned along the way...

Prep is everything

Cute lookIf your new pup isn’t housetrained yet (and, really, what are the chances of that?), there will be messes—and your puppy won’t understand that you are not going to be delighted when they trash your home and chew your shoes, walls or clothes. I’d hugely recommend putting the pup in a fenced-off part of your home. Consider a wipe-clean area. Inside the pup’s gated community, have their crate, a bed, food and water bowls, plus all the chew toys you have. Always praise your pup for chewing their chew toys. When puppy comes out of their gated area, supervise them to make sure they don’t pee on or destroy things. If they pick something up they shouldn’t, say "No” and give them a chew toy instead. Go bananas with happiness when they chew the right thing. They will get it fast.

A word on crate training

CratesOkay, so dogs like dens. They like to be somewhere warm and safe and enclosed. The crate isn’t a punishment; it should be a happy space. If you combine crate training with house training, then likely you will have a pup that’s not having accidents for long at all. They don’t want to soil where they sleep, so make the space in the crate just big enough for them to comfortably stretch out and turn around. Get a crate with an adjustable inner wall to do this as your pup grows. Teddy was completely house trained by about 16 weeks, but to get there I had to put in a lot of work. It was worth it.

This step-by-step guide from the Humane Society is an excellent help. I’d also add that getting a Snuggle Pup for those first nights. Remember when people used to wrap a blanket around a hot water bottle and ticking alarm clock? This is the modern version and it is adorable, featuring a beating heart. You can also put those hand warmers inside so it mimics the warmth of the mother. My top tip is to get a piece of cloth that your pup’s mum has slept with if you can, and put this in the Snuggle Pup too.

The tools of Nature's Miracle

Nature's MiracleNature's MiracleAccidents will happen. When they do, you want this product. It is amazing! Mop up the pee or scoop that poop, then clean and spray liberally, basically removing both stains and scents—which is crucial as dogs will keep peeing in the same place once they leave their scent. Nature’s Miracle stops that happening.

Relaxing music for dogs

MusicWhy does this work? I don’t know. All I know is that it does. Seriously. Give this soundtrack a go. It may help you through the horror of those first few days (weeks!?!) or aid in easing separation anxiety, when you leave your doggo in the crate and they wail. Don't forget to go back and read that primer on how to deal with crate training. And a little music for company can only help.

Carriers on the move

CarrierI got a miniature Golden Doodle for so many reasons: the amazing temperament (Teddy adores everyone and loves all animals too!), the lack of shedding and the snuggle factor of course. But I also travel a lot and wanted a pup who could come with me. Teddy is small enough to board a plane, as he fits under the seat. The fantastic multi-purpose carrier I use is the EVA Backpack Pet Carrier. I get asked about this all the time when I’m out. You can pop your pup inside and use it as a backpack as it's perfect for those long hikes when they’re young and get too tired to walk. It fits perfectly under the seat in a plane, and it’s brilliant in the car too (Just clip over a locked seatbelt and attach the security loop to your pet’s collar so they’re safe and sound). It’s sturdy but not heavy, Teddy can see out of it through the mesh which also keeps cool in the heat and I love the half-in/half-out option of having the mesh unzipped too. Best of all? It’s from a local business in Richmond!

Puddle and Pile

Puddle and PilePuddle and PileMeet the app that will make your life bearable while you housetrain your puppy. It’s called Puddle and Pile and it is amazing. Put in your pup’s details (age, weight etc.) and start to record every time they pee and poop (or as they put it ‘puddle and pile’). The app learns the amount of time your dog can hold it and then lets you know when it’s time to head out. I found that this worked incredibly well. Teddy had almost no accidents, and—if he did—99 per cent of the time, it was my fault for ignoring the app. I used the phrase "Hurry up" to encourage Teddy to pee and poop, and then went insane with joy, rewarding him with his favourite dried liver treats every single time he went outside. "Good boy, Teddy! Hurry up! Yaaaaay! Good boy!" Again, forget being shy. Go bananas and show them your delight when they do what you want. They catch on fast.

The fun at Adventure Den

Adventure DenAdventure DenI’d heard about this place and seen the van zooming around my neighbourhood too, and I wholeheartedly recommend them for when your dog is old enough. They offer a drop-in service and your first day is free. They have separate "big dog" and "little dog" areas, and there are also separate puppy and senior spaces. Puppies can attend as young as 8 weeks old if they have their first set of shots and a negative fecal exam, plus the staff will do lots of positive reinforcement training with them. This is a great way to socialize your pup! Best of all—if you book four days in advance—they offer a free pick-up and drop-off service. Brilliant for working dog owners, you give them a key so you don’t even need to be there for the handover. They have a lot of other services too, from hikes and water therapy to overnight stays and boarding. I love their daycare and so does Teddy, who not only sleeps well after he’s been but dances with delight when they come to pick him up.


Wow, what happened to my sweet boy? Somewhere around the six-month stage, Teddy turned from being a sweet, little moppet to having very occasional aggressive moods with other unneutered males. Plus all of the getting frisky! It was time to get him fixed. I decided to go with the SPCA for a couple of reasons. First because any money goes towards helping other animals who need it, and also because, seriously, it’s almost half the price of most Vancouver vets! The team there was absolutely amazing. Teddy couldn’t have been looked after better. He was in and out in a day, plus his wound healed super-fast and is incredibly neat. The SPCA hospital offers regular vet care too, so if you want your money to go to a terrific cause, think about using the SPCA for your vet care.

Night collar safety

Night collarMECI love this item from MEC, keeping Teddy nice and visible on nighttime strolls. It also has him ready to rock out on Davie at a moment’s notice. This is super bright and way better than those little lights you attach to your pet’s collar. Get this and get one for your friends’ dogs too... then have them all run around in the dark in a park when you’re tipsy. It is ace.

Scissor cuts by the sea

Scissor cutIf you have a pup who needs to be groomed, I have to recommend the amazing folks at Dashing Dawgs down on Cardero by the seawall. I love Mika, who uses the Japanese scissor cut method of grooming, so—instead of your pup looking weirdly boxy after they’ve been clipped like a hedge—it gives a way more natural look. You can also drop by without an appointment to get a face, feet or bum trim and they stock lots of toys, food and treats including local, organic options. The best!