Kona came to live with us on the Easter long weekend when she was 8 weeks old. It was perfect timing for us, as it meant that I would be able to spend the first four days at home with her, and P was able to take 2 weeks vacation so that he would be around to assist with her house training. We picked her up from the breeder mid-afternoon on Good Friday and our introduction to puppy-rearing quickly began.
That first weekend was a blur. Our days were completely focused on making Kona feel comfortable, getting her used to the crate, and house training. Oh, and hosting Easter dinner for both of our families!
I spent the first night on the couch in the Family Room, next to Kona’s crate. A couple of times she would begin to whimper, but as soon as she saw me stretch or otherwise move, she would quiet down and go back to sleep. We made it through the night without any need for a bathroom break. After that first night, she didn’t whimper at all.
Before we brought her home we had great plans for P to do some house-related projects (building a shed, overseeing fence construction). How naive were we! Within a few days we realized that those plans were not likely to happen. Her bladder was tiny and she needed constant attention! Luckily puppies also spend a fair amount of time napping. In those short nap times we managed to try to get as much done as we could.
One of the first things we learned was to take training books with a grain of salt. As I’ve mentioned before, we did a great deal of reading before bringing Kona home. The book we relied on the most, by Dr. Dunbar, led us to believe that house training would be a breeze, we’d never have an accident and if we did it would be our fault. That is a lot of pressure to put on first-time dog owners. We were very hard on ourselves and very frustrated when house training didn’t go smoothly that first week.
Looking back, now that Kona is successfully house trained, I realize that the book is unrealistic and misleading on this topic. Yes, we had accidents and they were due to mistakes we made (not reading her signals properly, or not taking her out immediately after sleep or exercise). But unlike the book implies, it is not the end of the world. It is normal and expected to have an accident or two. Once we stopped stressing about preventing accidents and we learned Kona’s schedule and signals, the process of house training became a lot simpler.
Those first few weeks were pretty intense. Puppies under 4 months of age are high maintenance!!! By the end of the first week we feared she wouldn’t be ready to be left alone for the workday after P’s vacation ended a week later. Thankfully puppies mature very quickly and by the end of the second week she was used to being crated for up to 4 hours at a time.
There are a few puppy things we miss from those first few weeks. The way 8-10 week old lab puppies run and pounce toys is unbelievably adorable. Plus, Kona was small enough to be a lap dog, and very cuddly when she was napping. All the cute-ness aside, we’re now enjoying having a maturing puppy, whose obedience and manners grow day by day.