My Puppy is Exposing My Deepest Flaws
*Originally published November 23, 2021*
If it were up to my husband, we would have gotten a dog literally the day after our wedding. I grew up in rural Virginia. That’s where you could own a dog and let him live outside. They’ll get into things, they’re rarely ever trained well, and you don’t have to worry about most of the things other dog owners worry about because — unless the weather gets bad — that dog stays outside.
My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t know a household without a dog. Even those that were more along the lines of “outside dogs” were still loved and treated as part of the family. His time living away from his parents, followed by living with me, was the longest time he can remember not having a pet in the home.
There’s no doubt that my husband is a certified Dog Lover. But for me? I’d say I’m definitely more of a Dog Liker. I like dogs and find them cute, but when it comes to ownership experience I have none. Until recently, I had never had to have a dog in my direct care. Have I assisted someone else? Sure! But if we’re talking about vet appointments, walks, feeding, playing, and training? None of it. I was a complete novice dog owner.
In case you are wondering: No, my husband didn’t get us a dog against my wishes. I did want us to have a dog eventually. But he definitely needed to do a lot more persuading to get me on board with the idea of getting one now of all times.
Adopting a puppy during the pandemic seemed to be all the rage in the beginning. People were working from home longer than they had ever before, and to offset the loneliness they took on the responsibility of owning a dog. I’m sure for a lot of people it was a great experience. However, as society inches closer to normalcy (I use that term very loosely), people quickly found out that owning a dog while working from home is a completely different experience than owning a dog while working on-site. As a result, there has been an increase in dogs needing to be rehomed. Compared to most, we adopted our puppy relatively late during the pandemic. Meet Tyson:
The funny thing about Tyson is that he’s completely different from the dog I had in mind. I had in my mind that we would adopt a chill, small to mid-size dog that grows to be maybe 30 lbs at the most. However, Tyson is a high-energy Weimaraner/Labrador Retriever that may end up being 80+ pounds by the time he reaches full growth. We officially adopted him on July 4, 2021 when he was about 9 weeks old. At the time of writing this piece, he’s 6 months old.
Lucky for us, at the time of adoption I was still working from home and would continue to do so for quite some time. Shaquan had never gotten to work from home during this pandemic and had always been working on-site. This meant that most of the time it would just be me and Tyson. The novice dog owner and a brand new puppy. I’ll admit that the first day was pretty rough; so much so, that when my husband came back home and he asked me how things went, I immediately burst into tears. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do this and that we had made a huge mistake by getting a puppy.
Of course, he immediately calmed me down and we talked more about how the day went. Honestly, it was mostly just me learning how to communicate with our dog. It also didn’t help that the attorneys I worked for were making it a pretty busy day. But my husband reminded me that I had been prepping for this. I had researched, read articles, and watched countless videos on dog training; and then I did even more research on Tyson’s specific breed. While it was still a little bumpy, Tyson and I were able to develop a routine that would eventually get him used to sleeping in a crate, being alone for short periods of time, and not having any accidents in the apartment.
While Tyson is a well-behaved puppy for his age, he obviously still has a lot to work through. We’re definitely not done training him yet, but I would say I’ve come a long way from that very first workday. At this point, I do enjoy having a dog; even more than I thought I initially would. But it would be dishonest of me to say that it doesn’t come with its own daily challenges. It’s much more than just having an IG stories box labeled ‘dog mom’ and playing around all the time.
My Flaws: Magnified
I’ve heard it said that when you have a child, it puts into perspective some of your best (and worst) traits. I can’t speak on that, as I’m not a mother. However, I will say that this has definitely happened to me since we adopted Tyson.
To be honest, this is something that I was already coming to terms with when it comes to the flaws in my personality. While I may not always show it outwardly, I tend to be pretty self-focused. I wouldn’t say it’s to the extent of not doing anything for anyone, but let’s just say I’m not always happy about it. Before Tyson, I actually had a pretty consistent routine. And due to the pandemic, I had become accustomed to a great deal of alone time. Every morning I would do some sort of workout, shower, do a devotional, meditate, and maybe even fix a nice breakfast. I could do my work without interruptions, and after work, I had plenty of time to dedicate to any projects I’m working on. The biggest adjustment after getting Tyson was me coming to terms that I–to a certain extent–needed to give up some of that alone time and take care of him. And, as petty as it sounds, I needed to accept the fact that my husband and I are going to have to work out time together around the dog. One thing about Weimaraners is that they’re a very clingy breed, and of course, he was still a very young puppy; just like things were overwhelming for me, I had to remember that it’s even more overwhelming for him. Back then, he couldn’t stand being left alone and would cry and whine until I came back in and let him out of his crate.
Again, this isn’t something that was necessarily news to me but it was definitely magnified by having a dog that would ‘sometimes get it, and sometimes not’. Tyson is a smart dog and catches on to things pretty quickly, but it doesn’t change the fact that everything needs practice and everything needs repetition. Just because he would nap in his crate one day doesn’t mean he’d do it easily the next. It was always frustrating not being able to leave the room without hearing his whining, and I don't enjoy the fact that his attention span is about the size of a gnat these days. Sometimes I would lose my temper and–honestly–there are times I still do now! One of the things I have to keep reminding myself is that 99% of the time Tyson’s actions aren’t blatant acts of disobedience and it never is attached with any malice. My expectations of his behavior need to match up with 1) his age and 2) how much we’re training him. It’s all a learning process; and if he can figure out how to sit, stay, shake, fetch, sleep in the crate, and not pee/poop in the house, then he can definitely learn how to not pull on the leash or lunge at strangers/other dogs. Everything takes time.
Listen, I love a chance to lie down and watch Youtube videos. But this is a specific type of laziness I was experiencing. To put it plainly, I would expend so much energy on work + taking care of Tyson that when it came to anything else, I was heavily neglecting it. I neglected my blog, my writing, working out, etc. At first, I thought it was the fact that I had a pet that was making me unhappy. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t Tyson making me unhappy, it was my inability to keep up with the things that did make me happy. Along with that, I found myself making the excuse of being tired and drained from taking care of Tyson to not do anything else. I wasn’t making time for friends, for meditation, for writing, etc. Literally every day it was just work + Tyson. Knowing what I know now, it’s becoming easier to make time for the things that kept me happy and healthy; and as a result, I don’t get nearly as impatient with our dog as I did in the beginning.
If you’ve read any of my content, you’d know that this isn’t new at all. I’m always having to keep my anxiety in check. However, a completely new layer of this has been added with the addition of a pet. When I think of responsible dog owners, I think about owners who have dogs that don’t jump on people, that pay attention, that can take a walk without being chaotic, etc. There are times that I feel like I’m doing great with our dog, but then there are times when I feel like I’m doing everything wrong.
I definitely don’t want to be “that” dog owner who can’t gain control of their dog, allowing them to jump all over people and failing to hold their attention so that they don’t chase squirrels, birds, and autumn leaves blowing in the wind. These are all habits that Tyson currently has, and I worry that if we don’t resolve them soon we could have a very unruly dog by the time he’s fully grown. The lunging and jumping may seem cute when he’s 50 lbs but probably won’t be seen as such when he hits 80. I worry that I’m not training him properly, I worry that he doesn’t get to play with other dogs enough, and I worry that he’ll continue to have an unhealthy attachment to me and my husband.
But I have to put these things into context. More often than not, those ‘perfectly well-behaved dogs’ I see when I’m out are MUCH older than Tyson, and probably have a less energetic temperament as well. Secondly, Tyson’s behavior is actually quite normal for a puppy his age. Third, even if we can’t do it ourselves we can always hire someone to give our dog further training on leash walking and impulse control.
I’m Grateful for Our Dog
Obviously, there are plenty of things about pet ownership that I’d like to do without. But ultimately, those things are also what’s helping me do better. Having a puppy is challenging, but it also helped me put into perspective how I tend to get easily discouraged, lazy, and abandon the time management skills I’ve been working so hard on for the past few years.
As much as I don’t like his whining or picking up his poop (HUGE in comparison to his current size), I love our dog. No matter how much of an attitude I have, Tyson is always happy to see me. It’s nice having him beside me chewing his Nylabone while I’m on my work laptop. And it’s cute how he likes to lean on us or sit on our feet. Even though I worry about his behavior, pretty much everyone we meet describes him as a well-behaved puppy (especially for his age). He’s mild-mannered and has yet to show any signs of aggression. Actually, he barely even barks outside of being excited (or desperately need to go outside to relieve himself). He approaches every dog as if he’s about to make a new friend; whether it’s a Pitbull, another Lab, or a Great Dane, he’s going to approach ready to play. And let’s not forget that shiny black coat; literally, every time we go out someone is going to stop me and say “he is SUCH a pretty dog!” I’m pretty sure he knows it, too.
Tyson is a dog that is happy to see everyone, so much so that he’ll want to jump on you and lick you; we’re working on that part. But if you see him, be sure to tell him he’s a good boy.