Thinking of Getting a Puppy? Here’s What It’s REALLY Like!

Bandit the foster puppy sits on a bed.

A rare image of Bandit sitting still.

Yeah, you know what puppies are like. Big eyes. Scrunchy little faces. Round bellies. Cuddly. Feet smell like corn chips.

But do you know what they’re like once you get one home?

I’m going to tell you.

Meet the Puppy

Luckily, I just happen to have a test puppy in my home.

Bandit is a 3 1/2 month old (labrador/boxer mix?) male puppy. He’s big—about 25 pounds.

I’m fostering him for the Tompkins County SPCA.

As puppies go, he is excellent. He’s sweet, listens well, and is a very happy boy.

He’s also a puppy. And a day in the life of a puppy is exhausting.

Which means I’m getting way behind in my work, missed a scheduled post on Something Wagging for the first time in months, and my house looks like a news photo for a major weather event.

And my entire day revolves around the 6 T’s of Puppy Raising.

6 T’s of Raising a Puppy

The next sixteen hours of my day will involve Time, Training, Teeth, Tinkling, Trust, and Touch.

Let me explain.


The puppy gets it all. Because when I turn my attention away from him, Bandit finds some way to cause puppy mischief: chewing my computer cord, pooping behind the couch, or carrying my magazine off to his bed.

It’s easy to avoid those little mishaps. As long as I keep my attention on him. Every. Single. Second. Of. The. Day.


Bandit is slow learning to sit on cue. But we’re working on it.

The big task for this week is to make sure he’s comfortable by himself in a crate. Otherwise, his new family will never be able to leave him safely alone.

And they’ll get their own serious case of puppy fatigue.


Puppies are fuzzy little sharks. They explore the world with their teeth.

Luckily, Bandit is very gentle with his sharp puppy teeth. Much better than Honey was at the same age.

But keep the eyes on those teeth. The second they go after the corner of my laptop, a table leg, or my hands, he gets a substitute chewy.


Bandit knows that he gets treats and love when he pees or poops outside. But he doesn’t yet know how to tell me when he needs a trip outdoors.

Training means taking Bandit downstairs when he wakes from a nap, finishes playing, or starts sniffing. It reinforces that we expect him to go outside. And it’s great exercise.

But it makes it damn hard to do anything else.


Bandit’s socialization window is closing fast. That’s a brief time in a young dog’s life when they form life impressions of people, places, and objects.

Good socialization means Bandit will grow into a confident and happy dog. So we’re exposing him to all kinds of new things in a non-threatening way.

Bandit loves people. Honey’s teaching him how fun dogs are. But he’s not so sure about vacuum cleaners, brooms, and hair dryers.

We’re working hard to teach him to trust the world is a happy place.


Did you ever notice how puppies with their mothers are always touching? They sleep in a pile. They crawl over each other.

When he gets over excited, Bandit’s favorite form of touch is to hump Honey.

Honey’s tolerant. But I’m afraid Bandit could learn a hard lesson from another dog if he tries to hump his face like he has Honey’s.

I’ve figured out that putting an overstimulated Bandit on my lap and stroking him calmly gets him past his hyperactivity.

Unfortunately, it does nothing to help me get some work done. If I move once he’s settled down, he needs a just-in-case potty break.

Which takes us back to the first T—time.

Raising a Puppy – The Good Stuff

Honey the Golden Retriever Comes home in the subaru.

Are you sure you know what you’re getting into?

As I look down at Honey, I see the benefits of raising a puppy. Because a well-raised puppy becomes a great, grown up dog.

But don’t think those cute stubby faces and puppy breath will convince me to do it again any time soon.

At least not until I can figure out how to raise a puppy while still earning a living.

Are puppies irresistible? Or do you like bringing older dogs into your home?


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  1. Of course puppies are irresistible, how else could we put up with them? We haven’t had a puppy in almost 20 years now – all of our ‘new’ dogs have been seniors which is a whole different challenge, but I remember the joys as well as the trials of raising a puppy into a healthy adult. Kudos to you for the effort you are putting into Bandit – he’s a handsome boy and is going to make a great addition to his new family.

  2. Great advice for anyone thinking of getting a puppy but with no idea what it entails. I, of course, am used to the little ones (kittens and puppies) tearing around my house and, when any have gone to their forever homes, I am left with constant reminders of their presence here – usually due to those teeth. Wouldn’t have it any other way though. Enjoy – they grow up so very fast.

  3. Hard to resist the lure of an adorable puppy and great post too!!!In my case with Max, you see this older pup and realize you won’t have to deal with some of the puppy challenges but then again, the old pups are rather set in their ways so to me it’s sort of a toss up but I sure am happy Max picked me!

  4. Hang in there. You know what the worst part of puppyhood is? It’s over before you know it.

    You and my sister are going through the same thing right now and while I’m sure it feels like you will never sleep again, Bandit is going to grow up and mellow out before you know it. Try to enjoy the wild times. 😉

    I do love your 6 Ts. Great for every new pup parent to recognize.

  5. We got Finn when he was nearly a year old. I wasn’t sad at all over missing puppyhood! Besides, at 16 pounds fully grown, he still looks just like a puppy! :)

  6. Absolutely everything you have put up there I had to do with Winston. He’s still learning though as he is only 8 months. He thinks towels and bath mats are toilets because of his puppy mats before he could get out. Although we never had to worry about him chewing furniture. He just never seemed interested in it :) x

  7. Sue at The Golden Life says:

    Great post, Pamela! You’re doing a great job with Bandit! And, yes, puppies ARE irresistible — that’s how Ducky ended up with us. :-) The little demon was only about 5 months old when I first saw her, and worked with her during my externship. Two months later, she was on the super urgent list at the (high kill) shelter, and we adopted her that day. We had had no intention of getting a third dog, especially a puppy, but here she is 6 months later.

  8. Oh my the trails and tribulations of those puppy years. We remember some of it fondly and a lot we’d rather forget. Oh yes and those teeth!!!!
    Have a super Saturday.
    Best wishes Molly

  9. Our Abby was like that too. OMD, I got nothing done! And those teeth! It’s why they have to make them so cute.

    Sending this to my sis who is getting a pup soon. Luckily she’s retired!

  10. I fall victim to puppy cuteness all of the time! I wonder which is more difficult, having to train a puppy or having to re-work an older dog that is already set in its ways.

  11. Great post! I’d always had puppies before, and after my old corgis died at 12 and 14 years old, I was lucky enough to find Dakota. She came to me at 13 months old, spayed, micro chipped, crate trained, obedience trained, “cat broke”, housebroken…instant dog, just add water! A big difference from getting a puppy was that it took her a long time to bond with me. She had never been abused or neglected, it’s just her reserved and introvert temperament. We make a great pair!

  12. Oh, the stuff we don’t have b/c Bishu was chewing everything and we were clueless puppy parents! I hope we can do better next time; our furniture is more expensive now…

  13. I got my guys as well behaved adults that someone else had done a good job training and socializing. If I ever miss puppyhood, I have some friends willing to volunteer theirs for puppy sitting. So far I haven’t even been tempted.

  14. 6 T’s… very creative. I’ve almost always raised dogs from puppyhood. But when it came time for my family to get another dog, we decided on an adult this time. It was a great choice. Pierson had a few issues when he first arrived but teeth (along with chewing) and tinkling were not on that list. :)

  15. Yes, you really have to know what you’re doing when you bring a puppy home, but you are so right that a well-raised puppy is a great dog. And each dog is different…easier in some things and way more difficult in others.

  16. I think puppies are fun, after you’ve had enough time to forget how tough it was with the one before! 😛 It is A LOT of time and effort, there’s no doubt about that. Kuster started crate training from day one and has done pretty well with it. I can’t imagine bringing a puppy home and not using a crate now!

    Most of the dogs we’ve adopted have been adults, though. Or close to adulthood, at least. Bunny and Morgan were both eighteen months old when we brought them home and Lilac was seven and a half. Ironically, the hardest of all our dogs to housebreak was Lilac. Most of the Greyhounds we adopt have lived on the track and are used to a very set schedule of turn out, so house training is very easy. However, a brood mama lives on the farm and has access to going outside to use the bathroom when she pleases. Figuring out her biorhythms was really tough. We got it in about two weeks, but it felt like a lot longer than it had with any of our other fosters.

    I’m not sure I have a preference over older dogs versus puppies. There are benefits and challenges to both, but I’ve found myself enjoying both scenarios!

  17. Thank you. It reminds me of the thing I didn’t do right when I adopted my pup – and he was 7 months old. Your advice is right on. I will think twice about getting a puppy even though they have the cutest faces and are so cuddly.

  18. I have this theory that puppies are so cute so that we don’t kill them for their ridiculous behaviour. They really are furry little sharks, but there’s just no feeling in the world like a puppy falling asleep in your lap. *sigh* It’s heaven.

  19. We adopted our dog from the SPCA when he was 6 months old. We were clueless, but somehow we all survived—-the legs on our kitchen chairs and all our throw pillows– not so much. He didn’t seem like he had been abused at all. They told us he had been with an older person who couldn’t handle him which I can totally believe because he was all over the place, eating everything and sundowning. He would go kind of psycho at sundown. He’d get the zoomies and start running around doing figure eights and then he’d jump on someone sitting on the couch and start biting them. But, we were lucky. He’s now 8 years old and has a great person(dog?)inality. He loves all people and thinks all dogs are his friend until they prove otherwise.

    I am definitely forwarding this post to my sister-in-law. They just got a puppy and have to take turns sleeping on the couch so they can take her outside in the middle of the night.

  20. Every couple of months I want a puppy. I completely forget the amount of hard work a puppy is and I want a puppy. I miss them, I want one, I miss puppies.

    And then my boyfriend reminds me.

    It’s not that he doesn’t help; it’s just that I’m the mom and something in me clicks when we have a puppy and I go into auto drive, raising our new family member, and I get exhausted. It’s so hard work. A friend emailed me to tell me she was adopting 2 lab puppies. She has mobility issues and I tried to convince her to adopt a senior dog instead, because she can’t manage puppies.

    But I’ll admit (don’t tell my boyfriend) that when she was telling me her plans, I got excited. I so love dogs.

  21. I agree a puppy is a lot of work. Especially if you are up to put your time and effort to make it as good as you can. Looks like Bandit will do great.
    One of the things that worked for us, was hanging a bell on the door that leads to the outside of the house. You can find them in Walmart.

  22. Puppies – especially Golden Retriever puppies! – are terminally cute, absolutely adorable, and turn me into a puddle faster than Bandit can tinkle. :)

    • FWIW: I’ve raised three so far – and while I freely admit the first (Beau) was a challenge as *I* did just about everything wrong, Zachary and Henry were a joy. :)

  23. I love puppies, but is has been almost 9 years since I’ve raised one. (Of course I should consider Delilah because I don’t know if she’ll ever outgrow her puppiness) yes it’s exhausting. You are doing a great thing for Bandit and whoever is lucky enough to welcome him into their home.

  24. I’ve grown rather fond of having older dogs, but if I ever get another one (bite my tongue!) I’d still get a puppy for the fresh start and to help with the other dogs getting used to another dog in house. I remember very well all the T’s, lol, hang in there Pamela and enjoy it!

  25. Puppyhood is such a wonderful and exhausting time. You post is dead-on! But what a great feeling when you realize that you have trained a puppy into a wonderful, loving dog.
    Gina & Oz

  26. I have a “special needs” puppy. Behavioral red flags, so the most recent trainer said after meeting with him & I one-on-one. I am worn out. I have never had a puppy or rescue dog who has been this challenging. I am pretty out of ideas. :/ I will never adopt a puppy again.