Category Archives: Lifestyle

Social Puppy

Socialization with Kids

There is this whole thing called “socializing” your dog that I never knew existed before we got our puppy. The ASPCA defines it as “helping them learn to be comfortable as a pet within human society”. Basically, when your puppy is still very young, you want to have introduced him to as many new things as possible, so he doesn’t suddenly see an umbrella for the first time at 6 months and freak out. And even more important than being ok with umbrellas, it’s a way of helping to ensure that your dog will be more relaxed/friendly and less fearful/aggressive as he gets older.

[Side Note: This is a little harder to do in a city where you may be told not to take your puppy out before he’s had all of his parvo shots. We’d heard that areas like dry sidewalks and the sand at Crissy Field were low risk for parvo, so we weighed the trade-off against the higher probability that our dog could turn out to be a scared meanie if we kept him too sheltered early on. But before making the decision for yourself, you should talk to a vet or another dog professional to see what’s right for your puppy in your area.]

It was very helpful that we had our dog Brewster going to puppy daycare every day with the dog walker & trainer Pamela Wyman of DogEvolve, because with both of us working full-time and only having weekends to take our dog out and about, we never would have been able to introduce him to nearly as many things by the time we’d had him only a month. We focused on a lot of things around the house — introducing him to the vacuum cleaner, giving him a bath and using the hairdryer on him, rubbing his paws/ears etc. to make sure he was ok with “handling”, etc. — and treating him the whole time so he would create positive associations with these new things.

When we’d go out, we’d look for anything new that we could introduce him to — dogs of various breeds and sizes, children of all ages, strollers, balloons, shopping carts, wheelchairs, canes, drunk frat boys. We started joking that we were using positive racial profiling, looking for people of different ethnicities who might want to pet or hold our dog. One day we thought we’d hit the jackpot when a group of Black, Latino and Asian school children surrounded Brewster at the park. We just kept treating him, petting him, and letting the kids give him treats to teach him  that kids (of all ethnicities!) were his friends and he shouldn’t be afraid of them. I was joking that I should have called the title of this blog “How Not to Have a Racist Puppy” — but seriously, the last thing that we liberal San Franciscans wanted was a dog that only liked people who looked like us.

At 10 months, our puppy Brewster is one of the friendliest, best-behaved dogs, and I think that’s largely because of the effort that we and our trainer Pamela put into socializing him early on. He runs up to new people to greet them, plays with big and small dogs alike, and even let my fiancé’s 3-year-old nephew give him a hug after he had earlier tried to hit him on the head for about an hour straight.

Myth: Puppies are Simply Adorable

Brewster First Day

Let me explain. Puppies are adorable, but they are not simply adorable. They are also a LOT of work and can be frustrating at times. Nobody tells you this part! My theory is that it’s like how people forget the memory of pain, once they’re past it — after their dog grows up, they only remember how cute he was as a puppy and forget all the hard parts. (Incidentally, this must also be the reason that women have more than one child.)

My now-fiancé/then-boyfriend and I decided to get a dog on something of a whim, after seeing a really cute dog on the street and finding out about the great qualities of its breed (hypoallergenic, doesn’t shed, very friendly, good health traits). We had talked loosely about how nice it would be to have a dog, but how we weren’t ready to get one now — too much time and responsibility, not enough space in our city apartment, etc. And yet after petting this adorable, lovable dog on the street, and hearing great things from its owner, we walked away saying, “Should we get one?” And two months later, we were bringing home our new puppy.

When we went to pick him up, he immediately captured our hearts, and we were totally carefree playing with him, holding him, and watching him run around with the other puppies. But the second we left, things got harder. He was whimpering in his crate in the back seat, and then seemed to be in shock when we got out in the public, overwhelmed by the huge space and all the people who kept trying to pet him. It felt slightly more comfortable with him at home, but within a day , I was stressed and practically in tears because he hadn’t peed in 12 hours. I thought a puppy wasn’t supposed to be able to last 2 hours, much less 12!

We got in a couple fights that week over who was going to get up early with the puppy to take him out, who was going to be home in time from work to feed him dinner, how much attention we had to give him in the mornings, and how long it was ok to leave him alone. The sounds of his cries when we were trying to crate train him were unbearable! I suddenly understood how new parents must feel when they were sleep-deprived and getting used to the responsibility of caring for another living being.

Of course, after we made it through that first week, and then the first month, things got much easier. And now, after owning our dog for 6 months, we are the ones coaching the new puppy parents and telling them not to worry so much, because things will get a lot easier soon. We’ve also learned how to be able to continue living our city lives with a dog and how to incorporate him into our lifestyles as much as possible. We love discovering new brunch spots with outdoor seating, bars that allows dogs inside, wineries up in Sonoma & Napa that are dog-friendly, and great dog parks around the city.

This website is designed to help navigate the new world of owning a puppy in a city, with specific resources for San Francisco. Please note that we are not experts by any means, just average doggie parents who have learned a lot about raising a puppy in the city and discovered a lot of dog-friendly places in San Francisco and wine country. We want to be able to live a fun city life with our  puppy, and help others do the same!