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Getting your first puppy is scary—whether you walk, drive, or fly them home. Those cute, fluffy bundles of peeing joy are depending on you to survive. It’s hard enough keeping plants alive in my apartment, what was I thinking getting a dog?

But, what do you know? Oliver turned out to be the absolute best part of my life. Now three years old, Ollie brings me so much happiness every time I walk through my door. But those first six (OK… twelve) months were not a walk in the park. Unless we were literally walking in a park. Here are a few of my new puppy lifesaving tips and tricks and must-haves.

Keep their little stomachs happy

Puppy tummies are sensitive, and I found that a stable diet with consistent treats helped keep Ollie “moving” well and made Mom’s clean-up job much easier. Some owners need to test out a few different types of food to get the right one, and I recommend slowly portioning in these changes over the course of a few days.

Blue Buffalo Puppy Food and Wellness Just for Puppy Treats are a couple of brands that I’ve had success with. Any small, soft training treats are perfect in portions to start behaviorally training your pup.

Encourage them to stop with the chewing 

Although now I find the tiny chew marks on every single piece of wood furniture that I own endearing, at the time I was less than pleased. Though I might not have been an expert in (stopping the) chewing, there are a couple of products that helped the teething phase.

Kong makes great rubber products that you can stuff with treats, freeze, and wash easily. Puppies love chewing on these, and I always had a couple around the house (usually one in use, one in the freezer). You can even get a free Ziggie Treat & Easy Treat from Kong when you buy the Puppy Starter Kit on Jet. You can also get a bitter spray to stop the chewing.

Don’t worry if you find bits of tooth or blood on their toys at first, it’s likely your pup just losing their baby teeth! I had a couple of Oliver’s puppy teeth chip off (scary!), but it ended up being completely normal.

NOTE: I am not a vet, so please consult your vet if you have any questions or concerns about this.

Stop with the corner peeing

Oliver (part bichon, aka small-bladdered) had the lovely habit of walking out of my sight, usually into my bedroom, to tinkle at his leisure. Regardless of when we last went outside. Sigh.

Then I heard about these artificial turf pee pads, where you just rinse the turf and replace the pads as needed. I put one in my room, in the corner where he usually relieved himself, and waited for him to use it. Through tremendous amounts of positive reinforcement (I probably scared my neighbors with how loudly I screamed “good boyyyy!!!”) the first few times Oliver successfully used the pee pad, he finally was trained. No more carpet stain-scrubbing!

Lastly, to all new puppy owners, good luck! They are your children, and they are fabulous best friends. Enjoy!

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