Did you know instantly that your dog was for you as soon as you saw them? When me and my parents first met Paprika (my very first dog) at the pet store, I knew we were meant for each other! She quickly came over to us and loved us with no hesitation. It just felt right.
Our first few months together flew by. Just like all new dog parents, those early puppy-love days with Paprika were perfect to make lots of one-of-a-kind memories and set the stage for our life together.
Here are some of the things I did (and some I wish I did) to celebrate those first few months and develop our lifelong bond.
Capture sweet moments with your smartphone
My favorite puppy pic of my dog is when she is relaxing on her chair “Taz” (literally a small fluffy chair with the Tasmanian devil from Loony Toons on it). She loved that chair and that was her spot to be. I’m so glad I got it to remind me of those times.
Monthly milestone pics of important moments will be precious to you as your dog grows. Puppy faces change to gray muzzles so quickly. You’ll want to be sure to capture a lot of their firsts: the first time they meet the other pets, their first puppy training class, the first time they visit the vet or groomer. My biggest tip is to pick out your favs and back up the rest of your puppy pics each month, so they don’t get lost or deleted. Afterward, you can safely remove outtakes from your camera roll so you have plenty of room for new photos and can avoid the dreaded “out of space” message.
Schedule a session with a professional pet photographer *waves*
Professional photos are a MUST because professionals will get the best action and emotive shots while also being able to take photos at super awesome locations that can really tell a story. An experienced pet photographer will be able to capture the love between you and your pup. Even if you are camera shy, a professional photographer will make you look great, and you’ll have a record of the beginning of you and your dog’s journey together.
I wish I had a professional pet photography shoot done because once our dogs had passed, looking at certain photos of them really helped us to remember all the wild and crazy stories as well as all the precious and fleeting moments we had together.
Set a routine that includes fun and exploration
Routines aren’t just when your pup sleeps, eats, and goes potty. Schedule time for snuggles and fun or a weekly adventure, so togetherness grows as your puppy grows, too.
In our house of two dogs and three cats, Kerrick usually wants to play first thing in the morning. He’ll bring his choice of toy up to you and want you to throw it. Then Hermes will come along and chase after Kerrick, trying to take his toy from him! In your routine, think about all the unique ways you can bond with your dog, like including a quick game of tug after a potty break. Set aside time for morning or evening walks, cuddles before bed, or playtime after dinner. By making routines less “routine,” you and your puppy can infuse joy in more minutes of the day, and set a bond-forming habit for life.
Build a training foundation so you speak the same language
Proper training early on will help your puppy make sense of the world, and you both can bond over those joyful ah-ha moments when you discover you can communicate! While you can certainly train your dog yourself (which we did a lot of! - the first things our dogs learned to do was sit and shake), getting professional dog training can really help your dog go beyond the basics and learn deeper skills, like not jumping up on people when they first enter the house or being more comfortable around other dogs so they can have an easier time learning to socialize.
Having a solid training foundation is vital because it sets the tone for the proper relationship between you and your puppy. It will help him to stay out of trouble, give you peace of mind, and also help to exercise his brain! You and your puppy learning to understand each other is the key to a long and successful relationship.
Adventure together for puppy socialization
Get out there and enjoy life! I remember always going up to my grandpa’s house in the mountains on weekends. We’d visit family and do a BBQ and sure enough, with enough family, there was soon a large pack of dogs that all got to meet one another. These meetings were vital to them getting along with one another and getting all their energy out. Weekly adventures help your puppy grow into a happy, comfortable adult, and build your own lifelong habit of seeking out new experiences together.
Have fun, but don’t overwhelm your puppy with too much stimulation or with frightening situations. Pay attention to how your dog is responding to new sights and sounds, and take a break if you see any signs of fear or stress like barking, growling, or lots of yawning.
Preserve your puppy’s paw print when they are small to compare when they are grown!
I wish I had made paw prints of Bandit's tiny puppy feet.
Recording a paw print every few weeks to chart their growth is educational and surprising. You can also use paw prints in art projects or to make keepsakes like ornaments, memory box items, or for necklaces.
Be sure you are using a non-toxic medium. I like Ranger’s Archival Ink because it is waterproof. If you don’t like ink, non-toxic paint works too. Avoid homemade salt-water-flour dough. It can make your dog very sick if they chew up the finished craft.
Take the time to ensure puppy memories aren’t forgotten
Paprika, Bear, and Bandit have all passed by now, living to a nice age of 13, 18, and 16, respectively, and I still think about our first months with the chaos of puppy life. I’m so glad I took the time to absolutely fall in love and build a deep connection with each of them. Most importantly, I’m glad I saved the times we shared in words, pictures and traditions. I wish I’d saved even more of them!
Did you do something else meaningful in the early days that you think more puppy parents should try? How did you capture those puppy moments? Shoot me an email and let me know or tag me on Facebook or Instagram @pawfectphotomoments.