We recently welcomed adorable little Cache into our lives, and, nearly two months later, I am even more confident that it is one of the greatest decisions we have made! That being said, it’s not all furry cuddles and puppy kisses. I strongly believe that every person should have an animal in their lives, but puppies literally the highest maintenance pets you can get! They have a lot of energy and consistently share your space, so there are a lot of things to consider, especially if you live in an apartment. If you are thinking about getting a puppy and are trying to figure out what to expect, here are the four main questions we thought were important when we were considering getting a puppy and why their importance was validated once we had him.
You can find some extra time and energy when needed
Let me tell you the story of a typical day. I wake up to Cache yipping high notes I didn’t know the human ear was capable of hearing, grab a treat from the nightstand as I stumble over to his crate, and spend five minutes trying to coax him into a sit so that opening the crate door is more like releasing a paintball than a cannonball of puppy claws, kisses, and wiggles (I love how excited he gets to see me, but if he is too excited, teeth can get involved).
We then run outside before he pees on the carpet, where he pees and then gets distracted by twenty different things before he poops. We then return inside where we spend fifteen minutes playing tug of war and learning fetch to try to get some of his energy out before I throw on the first outfit I grab to drop J off at work. When I get home twenty minutes later, the button that locks my car seems to turn the volume up on my puppy and I can hear him start yipping through the second-floor window.
Cache still naps for a lot of the day, so I assume that is what he does when we are gone, but he quickly learned the sound of our car locking, so, by the time we have unlocked the front door, he is often literally jumping with excitement to see us. (To clarify, that level of excitement appears even if I’ve been home all afternoon and J gets home or if we went grocery shopping for half an hour!)
Puppies really should not be cooped up for more than four hours at a time, and you need time to play with and potty them every time you let them out if you want to speed up the housetraining process. By the time we have taken him out and played with him enough that he is satisfied with chewing on rawhide, it’s usually been about 20ish minutes, so be prepared to give your puppy lots of love every time you see him!
You have put thought into what size dog you want
Apartments are small, so we intentionally found a puppy that will probably not get larger than 30 lbs, and we are already seeing two major reasons why that is important.
First, puppies should not stay in a crate very long, so they need a separate space they can play in when you can’t keep a strict eye on them. We put up a baby gate and puppy-proofed our bathroom area, so you don’t specifically need a puppy pen, but I am frequently grateful that Cache is small enough that he can’t jump over the gate! He’s decently close though, so I’m hoping he doesn’t keep trying as he gets bigger. I can almost guarantee a larger puppy would have managed to hop it by now.
Second, though we play with him often, Cache will occasionally drop what he is doing and suddenly start sprinting laps around between our living room, kitchen, and bedroom with the energy of a hyped-up greyhound! However, since he is small, he can run and we can play fetch between the living room and kitchen in our 700 sq ft apartment. When we dog-sat my husband’s family dog, who is 100lbs, fetch looked more like her turning around and trotting a few steps. True, the personality and energy level of the dog will be more important than the size, but getting a smaller dog takes out some of the gambles of personality. If you don’t want a smaller dog, be careful about your choice.
You are willing to take the ultimate commitment to learning patience
Training is a process that lasts every day for at least a year if done well and requires at least weekly refreshers afterward. You can send your dog to puppy school, but, even then, you have to actively reinforce good behaviors and discourage bad behaviors every day if you want that training to stick.
Yes, even small dogs need training. Especially with small dogs, you need to constantly find opportunities to help them be comfortable with children and being picked up, to not bark at every little thing (even if it is bigger than them), and to get along with other people and animals. You may think that they will stay in your apartment unless they need to go to the bathroom, but chances are you will need them to be well behaved during an unusual situation at some point, and that first year of life is the best time to get them comfortable with new things.
It drives me bonkers how my neighbor’s two chihuahuas will bark at our puppy the entire time he does his business and go crazy every time we walk by their door. I refuse to have my pup become an obnoxious small dog! Every day we practice sitting nicely before we go out and we frequently sit by the bike path with toys to get him used to people going by without greeting everyone. He still tries to jump on every person who greets him, has a hard time dropping the ball when we attempt to play fetch, and makes a valiant effort to drag me where he wants to go, but he is slowly making progress. It’s a long process, but, if you want a well-behaved pup, you will need to put in the hours!
You already have a plan for house training
Puppies develop a preference for peeing on a specific texture, so, if you decide on puppy pads, plan on using exclusively puppy pads for a while. However, grass should be your go-to if possible! If you live on the tenth floor of a building, that might not be realistic, so figure out what spot you are going to run your puppy to when he starts to have an accident.
We are only on the second floor, so, if Cache looks like he has to go or starts having an accident, we scoop him up and sprint out the door, down the hall, to the grass at the bottom of the stairs where he can do or finish his business. At first, this was happening multiple times a day, even though we were bringing him outside nearly every hour. After nearly two months, he still has accidents about every other day, though nowadays it is more excited peeing rather than actively deciding our carpet is a large toilet.
Housetraining takes at least 6 months of vigilantly keeping a routine of frequent potty breaks, generously praising and rewarding for going in the right places, and trying to keep your temper when he goes in the wrong place. You cannot really say your dog is housetrained until he has gone 3 months without an accident. If you are getting a puppy now because you are not starting your new job for three months and you want him trained and free to roam the house as he pleases by then, think again. Even if things are looking good at 6 months, your dog will need frequent training until he is a year old to avoid any bad habits, and you probably should not completely trust him to not chew or pee on anything until he is two.
At the end of the day, all these things are just logistics. If you have the time and are willing to put in the energy, training a puppy can be one of the most rewarding things you can do! I have loved learning how to communicate with Cache, helping him conquer fears, and showing him different ways to play and have fun. The companionship and love he gives me, especially while J is away, are definitely worth making sure I have real pants on every two hours to take him outside to go potty in the cold.
Dogs are wonderful if you train them right, and not a moment of training has felt like work for me. A “cache” is a hidden treasure, and the more I work with Cache, the more I realize how I have only seen the very edge of all the love he wants to give me. As we continue to train him, I am confident that our energetic kissing machine will become a true partner and friend.