State of the Blog: Happiness is…

Jul 24, 2015



I’m off today driving a few hours away to pick up my new puppy.  I had a Miniature Schnauzer growing up, and she was the greatest dog.  So I thought maybe it was time for another little companion.

I’m a little nervous.  I’ve never cared for a pet on my own before.  Living in a condo, I don’t have a yard.  But I think she and I will be okay once we get over that initial rough patch.

If anyone has any tips for caring for a new puppy, I would appreciate it.  Have a safe and fun weekend!

xoxo, Belle


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  1. Carrie says:

    You will be so happy having a furry friend to keep you company.

    As someone who has potty trained two puppies while living in a condo you may want to carry her outside as you start out, or keep some paper towels in your purse. It got to a point where the puppies knew not to have accidents in the house, but the condo hallway and elevator were fair game. Totally embarrassing and not fun to deal with when you are trying to rush out the door to work in the morning.

  2. ADL says:

    Happy puppy! I highly suggest paper training the dog, if she isn’t already. My yorkie is paper trained and that was hugely helpful living in my condo in DC. If she has to go, she knows where to go and doesn’t make a mess of the floor.

    When I first got her, I took her outside every two hours when I was home even if she didn’t do anything.

    • Danielle says:

      THIS! We paper-trained our puppy since it was so cold outside when we first got her, and she’d stand outside shivering instead of doing her business.

      If your puppy tries to rip up the puppy pads when left alone, there are pad holders with a grate over the top that keep them from getting directly to the pad.

      I also highly recommend having a bottle of Nature’s Miracle and ZEP spot remover ( on hand during potty training. This spot remover is the absolute best for potty accidents on carpet or other material.

  3. Gigi says:

    Congratulations! I got my now 12 year old mastiff during law school, and it was a wonderful time. We got to bond, train, and spend lots of time together. He cheered me through the bar prep in Hawaii and Louisiana. He has improved my life in a million ways. Wishing you both a lifetime of live!

  4. Anna says:

    Our dog always loved my husband more than she did me. Here’s why: he helped her to fulfill her prime directive. She was a Brittany and loved to run around and find birds. No amount of dog treats could replace this. So, I was relegated to the “slow littermate” role–we did love each other but she would only spoon me if husband was out of town. So if your new pup likes adventure, become her/his adventure buddy. Also, let your pup know, humanely of course, who is boss. A lot of bad doggy behavior can be handled with loving training by the head of the pack. I.e. you.

  5. NH says:

    My husband and I live in a condo as well and just adopted a 6yr old doxie. We take her on long walks when we get home from work and in the morning, and on weekends walk her as much as possible or visit the dog park. Since you are getting a fresh puppy I would suggest acclimating her to everything and associating them with a treat- the car, the bathtub, the vacuum (sounds silly but a lot of dogs hate it).

  6. Linda L. says:

    How fun! We adopted two shelter puppies in 2013, so I have loads of tips.
    1. Put everything out of reach or behind closed doors. Everything. They chew. On everything. I lost some shoes. Not good.
    2. They really can’t hold it very long until they are about 4 to 6 months old. Puppy pads should work if you can’t come home on your lunch hour or have someone else let them out.
    3. Take him or her everywhere you possibly can. Get the pup used to noises and people. I have one super friendly dog and one who is afraid of everything. I got the scared one in the fall and over the first several months there was no one around when we took walks and nothing going on because it was winter and she didn’t get used to being around noise and people. Now we can’t take a vacation without the dogs because she can’t be around anyone but us.

  7. Clementine says:

    My dog makes my life so much better. He makes sure I get exercise and go outside, even on days when I’m maybe feeling like I’d just hide indoors all day. He’s wonderful for my mental health and gives so much more than he asks for.

    Things that I wholeheartedly believe in: Consistency in training, Crate Training (put a blanket over the crate if puppy cries at first), setting clear rules for what we do in the house, good dog trainers, bribery with treats to train. I actually disagree with paper or puppy pad training- for me, if doggie has to go it’s outside and there is no confusion. I have found a local dog walking service who was happy to do the occasional ‘take pup out to go’ if I got stuck late at work. Enjoy your new buddy!

  8. Mary says:

    Congratulations on the new puppy! Is it a Miniature Schnauzer? One of my dogs is a Mini Schnauzer. She’s almost 10 years old now, and she has been a great companion.

  9. Mo says:

    Belle, I also got my first puppy in law school and it was absolutely the best thing I have ever done for myself. Almost 13 years (and two cross-country moves) later, he’s still by my side. I agree with ADL, if you can study at home and go out every 1.5-2 hours the training process should go pretty quickly. After the first 2 weeks my B only had two accidents (one of them ON my contracts book, which I couldn’t blame him for! I kind of wanted to do the same.)

    And toys. Leave toys everywhere. If 90% of the items within reach are a toy, your shoes/furniture/toes/underthings will fare much better.

    Best of luck!

  10. Jess says:

    Definitely crate training. And we taught our puppy to ring a bell when he needed to go out. Worked like a charm.

  11. MHS says:

    Congratulations! We have 3 rescue dogs, including a mini schnauzer mix, and they add so much joy to my life! I’d echo the need for consistency. Prepare yourself for the possibility of a few rough nights in the beginning. I cried with the first two because the whining at night was so heartbreaking…and I was deliriously tired. Once that passes, you’ve got a new best friend for life. Also, puppy/baby gates and lots of stuffing-free chew toys (Kong knots are great). Freeze dried liver treats make good training tools. Positive training methods have worked well for us. Lots of socialization and a reliable dog walker. Our mini schnau was ridiculously easy to potty train, so wishing that for you as well! Enjoy your puppy, dogs are so good for your soul! Love your blog!!!

  12. Melissa M says:

    I just adopted my first puppy in November and I was terrified – she was barely 3 months old and I’d never had a dog before so I know how you’re feeling.

    My tip is mentally prepare for potty training. I didn’t use puppy pads, I just took her out every 2 hours then began transitioning her to a 4 times a day schedule as she got a little older. There were some days I wanted to pull my hair out when she’d have 3-4 accidents daily in the apartment but I just had to keep reminding myself to be extremely patient because she was still learning.

    Also, I started taking my pup to the dog park when she was 4 months old and still take her as often as I can. A lot of dog parks have separate sections for big and small dogs. It helps get their energy out and learn how to behave around other dogs.

  13. Tammy says:

    I live in on the 8th floor of a condo building and Fresh Patch saved my life ( It will definitely come in handy during the middle of the night when you just can’t get yourself dressed to go out.

  14. Carolyn says:

    I got my puppy when I was in law school and it was the perfect time to do so. I was able to study at home so I could let her out every 2 hours. The best advice my dog trainer gave me was to put her crate in my bedroom. Dogs are used to being part of a pack, and as a pack, they all sleep together. If your dog sleeps in your room he/she will feel like they belong to your pack. Sleeping in a separate room does not facilitate the proper bonding. A puppy needs to feel close to their mom. I put my dog’s crate in a corner in my bedroom where she could see me. I covered the top and sides of the crate with a blanket so it felt more like a “den”. Best of luck! It will be the best decision you have ever made!

  15. Crystal says:

    Congratulations! I endorse everything above.

    A few more tips:
    1. A carpet steamer (with a wand for furniture) was one of the best investments I ever made.
    2. Consider trying to train your puppy in place of feeding it at least one meal a day in a bowl. Start with the basics (sit, down, come), obviously, but you can work up to fun ones. It’s good to get started with training early, and this method sets aside time *every day*. Plus, it’s great mental stimulation for a puppy and great bonding time for both of you. (I highly recommend the books 101 Pet Tricks and It’s Me or the Dog.)
    3. Consider a puppy socialization hour and/or training class. Mine offered great tips about crate training–because I couldn’t bear to hear her cry when she went in the crate. They gave me great advice on how to get her better accustomed to it. And the supervised play was wonderful, too — I learned a lot about OK play and not-OK play, and various warning signs. Plus we made dog-friends (and dog-parent-friends) that we still have!
    4. Try not to buy too much right now. Even though your puppy will stay on the smaller size, s/he will grow out of things! And as for toys, some just aren’t to your puppy’s taste–you have to wait and see what they like.

    Good luck! We can’t wait to see how it goes!

  16. r says:

    Crate training is the best thing we have done. We dont have to put our girls ( I have 3 dogs) in there anymore but its nice to get the used to a place they feel safe and that allows you to lock them in for their safety when you need to. We keep ours up all the time and the girls often go in to nap and lay. we dont use it for punishment

  17. Shelby says:

    Crate training is definitely the way to go. We had our puppy house trained at 10 weeks old (less than 2 weeks after we got her) through crate training and using bells on the door. I also highly recommend Nature’s Miracle Urine Destroyer. It completely eliminates all odors and stains associated with the mishaps of potty training.

  18. Molly says:

    Lots of dog (and people, but especially dog) socialization. And post a lot of pictures 🙂 🙂 🙂

  19. Goldie says:

    Congrats! I’m in DC with a 67 lbs dog in a condo, and he loves his life! Here are a few tips I’ve accrued from having a dog in a small space:

    1. Crate training is a great way to go. Dogs love having a den and a safe spot. While I no longer use the crate, initially it was next to the bed. He started off sleeping through the night, and still does! It was a great way to avoid a crying puppy who misses his pack.

    2. Avoid puppy pads. Dogs don’t want to soil where they live, and in allowing them to do that it takes a huge step backwards in training. It’s just a short term fix.

    3. When training, just cut up some hot dogs or five extra affection. No need to go broke buying expensive “training” treats.

    4. I know it’s horrible to bring up in July, but once the weather turns cold, invest in some booties and an overcoat, if your dog has a lot of fur. Trying to get snow balls out of fur can take forever, and the salt on the sidewalk can really irritate their paws. This is the one I have and it is a lifesaver for snowy romps!

    5. Enjoy every minute of it!! Hey grow so fast and give nonstop love and affection!

  20. Sunny says:

    Hi Belle! I’ve never commented before but wanted to say that as someone who just adopted her own baby animal for the first time (I’ve had family pets all my life), be prepared for a kind of high stress few weeks! After a few months my life has finally begun to normalize, but I just wasn’t prepared for how much worry I would have when I first started caring for another living being. But: it will all absolutely be worth it when you have a wonderful puppy to take care of and to give you affection during finals (and — blech — bar prep).

  21. Maryn says:

    So exciting! I’m sure you will be so happy, after you get past the sleep deprived puppy period 🙂

    Looks like you have some awesome tips already, the only thing I would add is get a subscription to Bark Box! We started getting them for our rescue pup a few weeks after we adopted her and honestly it’s the best day of the month, every month. Seeing her play with a fun new toy and getting to try new treats and snacks is so great – she really loves it and it keeps her doggy bin well stocked without having to get overwhelmed by the pet store every month.

    Also, find a great dog-sitter / house sitter that you trust and have them come over a few times so you can be prepared to leave your dog with them if you ever need to travel, especially on short notice. That’s been so helpful for us.

    Good luck!

  22. Kim says:

    Super exciting? for any new dog, picking up on potty cues is one of the toughest transition issues – if in doubt, take them outside; invest in a good enzymatic stain remover and don’t underestimate the intelligence of the dog. Puppy proofing is an ongoing process.

  23. .Cheryl says:

    How exciting, congratulations! All the above advice is good. Just have to tailor it to your baby puppy.
    Simple effective pet stain cleaner for carpets:
    1. Pick up all feces, or blot up urine with paper towel, etc.
    Feces can go down the toilet.
    2. Sprinkle baking soda over the stain.
    3. Pour white vinegar over stain. It will bubble up like your 7th grade science volcano experiment, neutralize odors, and bring up any residual feces stain or urine in carpet. Blot dry. If stain still persists, pour over some bottled soda water if needed. Blot dry. If stain still persists, use a hydrogen peroxide bleach like Clorox 2 (never chlorine bleach) to lightly scrub out stain. Blot again to help dry, let it completely dry, and vacuum any excess baking soda if needed.
    Thank heavens little puppy stains are like that–little.
    Again, congratulations for your new adventure.

  24. Karen says:

    Definitely consider a group training class. It’s good for you, and it provides an opportunity to learn and socialize for your pup. Congratulations on the new addition1

  25. Reagan says:

    I got a miniature schnauzer puppy yesterday! I was nervous about taking care of him by myself, too. I can honestly say that it is easier than you think and I am already so much happier because of him. I’m paper training him and make sure you have plenty of chew toys. Please keep us posted and thank you for this post, as I love all of the suggestions from your readers.

  26. Amy says:

    Socialize, socialize, socialize! Get that little puppy exposed to as much as possible. As long as she’s ok with any environment, who cares if she knows how to do tricks?

    Congrats on your new little fur baby! They are the best!

  27. Anne says:

    Please don’t use puppy pads unless you are willing to let the dog go in your house for the rest of his/her life. I’d also warn against teaching them to ring a bell, any smart dog will eventually use this just to get attention and it becomes quite annoying. I’ve never had a yard for my very active dog and I found sticking to a bathroom schedule to be extremely useful. And I found that not having a yard actually made it easier when I was in grad school because I HAD to take her on walks, which gave me mental breaks I needed. Good luck!

  28. Kristen says:

    My pup just turned one last week! I agree with crate training over puppy pads. Less confusion and now he loves his crate – it’s his little home! My local pet shop had free puppy play sessions where a Trainer would lead the class. He learned a lot from that and I added training classes early with lots of trips to the dog park. Enjoy!

  29. Melody Thomas-Morgan says:


  30. Meggie says:

    I found Dr. Sophia Yin’s “Perfect Puppy in Seven Days” to be an excellent guide for creative training and puppy development. Our puppy is still far from perfect, but this book gave us effective, positive tools that made training significantly more manageable. She includes a socialization checklist and fantastic visuals to illustrate particular techniques.

  31. Lauren says:

    Congratulations! I had miniature schnauzers my entire life until my best little guy passed away last July. I’m currently in a tiny apartment, but when I get a better place, I need that love. Wishing you and puppy the very best!

  32. Alison says:

    The first few months are rough, there’s a reason puppies are so cute 🙂 but it gets better and they are worth it.
    I set my alarm to take her out in the middle of the night. Crate training was essential in potty training.

  33. Tricia says:

    Besides all the comments above! This helped us a lot during the night when we brought our puppy home. I know it seems super silly…but it helped!

  34. Barbara says:

    Belle, Congrats! You are going to be so happy. We’ve had six dogs over the past 18 years or so and all of them have made a huge positive difference in our lives. Some great tips already but in addition:
    1. If the puppy is less than a year old, she will be teething and as someone said, she will want to use your shoes or furniture unless you help her out. Nylabone makes some great puppy pacifiers. Let her chew on them, supervised. When she’s alone, put everything chewable away.
    2. I agree about the pads if you aren’t on a 10th floor apartment and outdoors is very far away. If that’s the case and you have a balcony, one of those fake turf potties on the patio is great. Pads get ripped up, and pads and your carpet are the same thing to most dogs. Our first beagle never did understand the difference during her 11-year life.
    3. Do take her to dog parks and to people places so she sees the world and isn’t afraid of it or too needy.
    4. Enjoy her!

  35. Sarah says:

    How exciting! I can’t comment how training a new puppy like some other fabulous readers have above but I can say that my grandmother had a Miniature Schnauzer when I was growing up and she was the best dog! Well behaved, good with kids and a great companion.

  36. KM says:

    How fun! I got a dog before a couple years before starting grad school, and she’s the best thing for my sanity. (Except when she gets sick in the middle of the night…)

    For training and just a general approach of thinking about a dog’s behavior, I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend Patricia McConnell: — especially her book “The Other End of the Leash.” Taking to heart things like this really reduced my stress level, compared to the dogs we had growing up.

    Also this, about bringing home a new dog, specifically:

  37. maureen says:

    Congrats! I agree with other commenters that crate training is the way to go. Avoid using newspaper and pads. I have a lab that just turned 1. Needless to say, she’s still very much a puppy. These are the very best training videos I’ve seen: Trust me I spent hundreds of hours looking and trying different training methods. Enroll puppy in a socialization class. Do not take your puppy out of your yard, especially not a dark park, until it has all of it’s shots.

    Good luck and enjoy!!!

  38. T Mck says:

    Rule of thumb. If she eats, take her outside. If she drinks take her out. If she plays take hr out. If she wakes up take her out. If she hasn’t benen out in an hour, take her out. When babes have accidents in the house, it’s our fault!

  39. Gretchen says:

    We love our Pembroke Welsh Corgi Bella — that we got as a puppy from a horse farm/corgi haven in Western NJ before moving to NC. Heartily endorse the 2 hr potty training visit to the outdoors, crates and using the tiny liver treats for training (about the size of your little fingernail. Also, despite many toys, an out of sight and quiet puppy means they are up to something!!! My daughter had the heel of her new, expensive ballroom dancing shoes gnawed. My PRADA glasses (frames) were snatched from an end table and chewed up. Mostly she would snatch napkins or papers off tables and rip them up when she was a puppy…. now she is 4 and is perfect! Dog parks and Camp Bow Wow (day care) are her Favs. MOST IMPORTANT — They need to understand that YOU are the ALPHA DOG. And don’t be surprised if the first day or two the puppy is a little depressed and doesn’t eat much Leaving the pack is a little traumatic. Watch old episodes of THE DOG Whisperer… Enjoy!

  40. Mimi S says:

    When my toy poodle was a puppy I would play music or leave the tv on while I was gone. The bill was a little high but it helped calm his anxiety. Also, leave a piece of clothing or a blanket with your scent in their area. It also helps with anxiety.

  41. Rach says:

    Aww, congrats on dog parenthood! Good luck and post lots of photos of your sweet friend. 🙂

  42. Michelle says:

    Congrats! I have 2 mixed breed 2 year olds. Consistency is key – go out on the same schedule every day, set a bedtime for the pup, establish morning / evening rituals. Ours are crate trained, and still use them every day. We made the crate the happy place – treat when they go in, feed meals there, etc. Feed a good quality food (we use Blue Buffalo) and be careful if you change from what the breeder used. His/ her belly will need a blend of old and new to properly adjust. Most of all, have fun!

  43. Anne Mallen says:

    Puppies are great. Post some pictures. Makes me want another one.
    1. They are really cute but prepare yourself to take them out every 2 hours. I think the rule was they usually pee after a nap, after some vigorous play, and after they eat/drink. So.. basically all the time.
    2. Make vet appointments now so you can get them on a schedule for things. Plus you have someone to call if you’re worried about something.
    3. Train them with food at home. We used hot dogs and low fat string cheese. Less expensive than treats.
    4. Puppies play differently than adult dogs do so encourage puppies to play with other puppies. Socialization is great!
    5. Get them used to things you’ll have to do as they get older.
    a. So train them to allow you to handle them. I was taught to train them to sit and calm them. I think it was keeping them at your left side, holding them by the scruff with your right hand and sweeping a hand under their butt/back legs to get them in a sit position. stroke their back and encourage them to stay in that position. They usually will fight you on this but practice a little every day.
    b. Other things to get them used to early – brushing them or combing them, baths and brushing their teeth. The earlier you get them used to those regular habits, the better.

  44. shannon says:

    I second reading Patricia McConnell’s book The Other End Of The Leash. I was a first time dog owner (I had dogs growing up but this was MY first) and I found it instrumental.

    Another great one is How To Speak Dog which really helped with silent communication, like figuring out my dog’s feelings. What I thought was aggression was actually fear a lot of times. It also helped me when she was introduced to the dog park, because I could “read” the other dogs better.

    I cannot stress enough to get them comfortable with touching….touching ears, teeth (for brushing), feet (for nail clipping), face etc. I wish I had done a better job with the feet. Most dogs don’t like their nails clipped but if I had gotten my dog more used to it, it would not have been the stressful event it became.

    Most of all, be consistent and keep us posted on your progress!

  45. Aly says:


    My puppy is the best decision I have ever made. I can’t imagine life without him! As for training, a lot of ladies have given a lot of good tips, but I will give my 2 cents too:

    1. crate train. crate train crate train. What I found helpful when I was training my puppy was going home over my lunch break (I worked 10min from home) and letting him out for the first month. It helped him get use to the crate without having to be in there for a super long extended time and reinforced the potty training. Also, make sure that you use the/treat the crate positively and not as a punishment.
    2. take classes or if you’re comfortable enough on your own to teach obedience do it and keep doing it. you will be do happy that you took the first several months to train than to deal with life long obedience issues.
    3. ALWAYS reinforce good behavior. It doesnt always have to be treats – in fact it shouldnt always be treats, can be hugs, kisses or playing with a favorite toy. Then the pup is just doing it for the treat.
    4. Potty Train! DO NOT USE PUPPY PADS. It teaches them that certain spots in the house are ok to potty even when the pad isnt there. Instead, take your pup out every 1-2 hours. It seems ridiculous, but like a toddler learning to use the toilet you have to keep asking and offering before they will do it on their own. Also, my pup was OBCESSED with drinking his water when he was little. I would out water out and he would drink the whole thing and I would have to let him out in the middle of the night to potty. I started taking the water away at 9pm (an hour before bed time) so that he wouldnt have to go out at night – worked like a charm.
    5. socialize. socialize. socialize. Dog park, puppy classes, walking, brunch/stores that allow puppies. Use every opportunity that you can to get your puppy to meet as many people as you can in the first 6 months.
    6. Walk your pup! This “tip” is part obedience, part bonding and this is my favorite part of the day. I put on music or a podcast and go for a 2-3mile walk every evening. It is so relaxing. Remember though, the walk is just as much your walk as it is the dog’s walk. You will want to take your dog places, so walking on a leash and good behavior on one is vital.
    7. Never behavior correct retroactively. Dogs don’t understand like people what they did in the past. We think they do but they really dont. If you see them chewing on the shoes or peeing thats when you correct the behavior – in the act – not after.
    8. I am not good at this one but I have heard that its a good practice: Dont use your dog’s name negatively, only in a positive manner. The thought is that you want the dog to associate you calling their name as a good thing (duh) and come when you call it, instead of yelling and them associating it with being punished.
    9. clip nails and brush them daily/weekly – up to you but good to get the pup use to the nail clipper early. My dog is 4 and still struggles with the clipper.

    There are so many other “tips” but really, it takes getting to know your puppy and yourself and what will work best for the two of you.I am looking forward to posts about how your wardrobe changes / you work around the dog hair (ugh daily struggle for me).

    Hope this is helpful!!

  46. Em says:

    Dogs are so awesome. They can be hard work, but totally worth it for all the cuddles and unconditional love you get. I agree with so many of the comments above. I’d add two more — train him from very, very early not to bark or react to noises in the hallway or outside. We adopted a rescue jack russell when we lived in a 450 sq ft studio apartment in Dupont Circle, and that was one of the first lessons we taught her. Apartment dogs get a lot more stimulation than dogs in single-family houses, so be sure to consistently teach him it’s no ok to bark anytime someone walks by the door. Second — and i wish we did this, but we did not — don’t let him sleep in your bed. I caved on this early, and as much as I love my pup, haven’t gotten a decent night’s sleep in my own bed since. No matter what size they are, they take up as much space as they can, and end up either forcing you out of the covers, or pinning you down. Get a dog bed. I so badly wish we had done that. Good luck!

  47. Hayley says:

    One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to have a calming feeding ritual. Dogs who are territorial about food can be dangerous to children and other dogs.

    Puppies are naturally very excited about feeding time, so what we did was let our puppy watch us pour the food in the bowl and then have her sit next to the bowl for a few moments before eating. If you put your hands on the puppy’s chest at this time, you can feel her heart racing. Take a second to rub her head and body to soothe her excitement. What you do is calm her down for a few moments, make her focus on waiting for your command to eat her food. We would tell Finley (my puppy) to sit first, and then we’d call her away from the bowl to sit somewhere else. Eventually we added other commands like heel, down, etc.. and then we’d say “Finley” and allow her to eat at that time.

    Starting this routine from the beginning instills your authority over the dog and very quickly removes the puppy’s sense of “ownership” of the food, which will make her less territorial or likely to snap at children or other animals who may interfere one day after food has been poured into her bowl.

    I can’t say enough how positive this routine has been for my dog (now 2.5 years old)—hope it works for you!

  48. Jenna says:

    +1 to everyone that said that getting a puppy while in law school was the best decision. I got my dog in my third year and it was perfect timing. While I have tremendous guilt leaving her alone all day now that I’m working there is no way I could handle a puppy right now. Have fun and remember that the hard work pays off when you have a well behaved dog that people actually WANT to be around.

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