Puppy at vet

Her name is Violet, and she’s at once as wonderful, adorable, taxing and terrible as all new pups are wont to be. She’s my newest, the first pup I’ve had in well over a decade and the only working dog I’ve ever kept. (She’s in training to be my livestock guardian dog.)

All of this means I’m simultaneously over the moon, overwhelmed and exhausted. After all, is there anything as all-consuming as a high-drive dog who’s just learning to make her way in the human world?

I think not.

Insights on Starting Over Again

With all that in mind, is it any wonder I’m offering my clients a sparkly-fresh perspective on the pediatric experience? Here are five ways in which my puppy and kitten POV has been dragged out of storage and dusted off just in time for what’s left of 2013:

1. Yes, it’s harder (and more expensive!) than it looks. It’s not just you. Raising a brand-spanking-new puppy or kitten is a lot more work than you remembered it for a good reason: It’s *way* harder than it looks. The bathing, the mopping, the wiping, the praising, the correcting, the vet visits… and all that energy! The constancy of it all is enough to drive anyone mad.

Then there’s the money thing. Though my veterinary bills are lighter than yours and I’m making most of my own toys, I’ve made up for it in other areas. Puppy-proofing alone has been outrageously expensive. Those extra-durable cord covers, not to mention the guitar equipment protectors (my two boys are music nerds), have cost me a small fortune!

2. Consider the two techniques that work for every pediatric patient. With all that work to do, I suggest you don’t sweat the small stuff. I’ve had mine for a month now, and in the course of these few weeks, I’ve learned to take it easy on the “no” word and focus on two techniques: exhaustion and distraction.

After all, if she’s exhausted she’s quieter. In my case, that means lots of fetch, playing endlessly with a toy stick, and finding willing neighborhood dogs for super-intense play dates. (Schutzhund training is also on my horizon, as should puppy training be on yours if you have a new little teething machine.) But these techniques will differ depending on the individual pet’s drive… and his species. For example, if you’ve got a kitten, that may mean getting another. (Yes, really. IMO, two is almost always easier than one.)

As for distraction: Since my Violet has the attention span of a newborn gnat, throwing a toy at her head is a lot more effective than screaming “NO!!!!” every time she does something she shouldn’t. (Though this does to some extent depend on what that “something” is.) Luckily, most of my homemade toys are based on the use of recycled denim, well-worn bed linen and raggedy towels braided into cool shapes. As such, they bounce nicely off her thick skull.

3. Time to think about pet insurance. Even veterinarians need pet insurance. The prospect of a gastrointestinal misadventure or an adverse orthopedic experience is enough to scare me into getting a policy. After all, specialists are expensive! (Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation on a pet insurance carrier.)

4. Get up to speed on the science. Recommendations are changing all the time. So much so that even we veterinarians can find ourselves practicing yesterday’s medicine if we’re not careful to watch out for the newest thinking in pediatrics. Here are some issues commonly in flux:

Read up on these issues here. Vetstreet has it all.

5. Relax. Find ways to play in places where the two of you can relax. That may mean spending more time in a well puppy-proofed room, in a puppy class or at the park.

Socialize Your Pup

Oh… and try not to stress so much about taking your pup out into the world without her full complement of puppy vaccines. It’s far more important that your puppy get out and experience the world than that she remain “safe” but bereft of a well-rounded social experience. That being said, it’s best to limit your pup’s exposure to dogs you know for a fact have been vaccinated, rather than unknown pups at the dog park.

And remember that sometimes you have to *make* time to enjoy your youngling. After all, frequent positive interactions provide the building blocks for the powerful lifelong relationship you doubtless hope to establish.

Have fun!