Look at her. LOOK. AT. HER. FACE. I might be biased (quite, actually), but our little Hazel is the cutest puppy I have ever seen. After waiting over a year for a puppy, I’ve cried big, ugly tears for a dog on countless occasions. I wanted a compassionate dog, and I’m so blessed to say that I have just that.
Big eyes, little paws, and a wiggly tail—I turn into an embarrassing puddle of love as soon as my little fluff nugget walks into a room with her little nubbin’ legs. NUBBIN’ LEGS. My heart. She has it.
However, behind my (numerous) Instagram pictures of my sweet puppy, is the reality of a being new parents to an 8-week old dapple long-haired miniature dachshund puppy. Folks, words cannot accurately express my love and sheer adoration for my 3-pound-3-ounce angel, but let me share with you the side of a raising puppy without the social media filters …
So. Much. Poop.
If you’ve never witnessed the pure magic that is puppy poop, you are in for a real surprise. I don’t understand how she is physically capable of producing the volume of excrement our little fluff nugget does. It’s astounding, and frankly, I’m disgusted and in awe of this unexpected phenomenon unfolding on our carpet and yard.
Then if this surprise wasn’t enough, our little Hazel has a true gift, if not a calling, to walk through said excrement. Repeatedly. I’m convinced the cashier at Giant Eagle believes me to have a potty-training toddler at home for the amount of baby wipes I purchase.
Although I’ve never had a human child, I’ve babysat many children who turn into escape artists on the changing table. Hazel’s tactics put them all to shame. Trying to pin a squirming, whining, biting puppy down to pick and pull poop out of four hairy paws without getting poop on you or the floor is the most effective cardio routine I’ve ever experienced.
Maintaining a calm and soothing voice while you’re being bitten and growled at requires the next level of patience. Some days I have that patience, but most times I don’t. My neighbors then hear, “Then STOP walking through your POOP; don’t you back sass me, YOU did this to yourself!” (And yes, our angel has learned to be sassy before learning not to step in her own poop.)
This song-and-dance routine happens almost every time we take her outside, which is appropriately once every hour, ten minutes after feeding, as soon as you come home, as soon as she wakes up, and right before bed. Needless to say we all spend a LOT of time going outside and cleaning puppy paws. (Thank goodness she only has four. If she had more paws every one of them would still walk through poop I can guarantee you.)
Another fun feature my husband and I were unaware of before we became puppy parents is the true amount of nipping that can (and does) happen. Every single puppy is different. And it is critical to note that puppies nip as part of play and environment exploration. Every sweet pup has a unique personality, but goodness, if our little fluff nugget was a human toddler, she would be banned from every daycare, supermarket, and toy store in the tri-county area.
With a kind heart and innocently-curious intentions, she’s absolutely ruthless with her puppy fangs. The moment you walk into a room barefoot, the Jaws theme song begins, and it is already too late for you. Despite never eating chicken nuggets, Hazel perceives toes as just that, and she will attempt to devour them just like I do when I’m at Chick-Fil-A.
But our little over-achiever doesn’t stop there, and she doesn’t let her small stature limit her. Soon she brings you down before you have a chance to yell “TIMBER!” when she attacks the ankles and shins. Once you are down, goodness gracious, COVER YOUR EARS! I had never realized how fragile and delicate ear lobes are.
Eventually the initial shock will subside, and it will occur to you to enforce some discipline to curb this callous behavior. Scolding, yelling, ignoring, redirecting, disengaging, crating … all methods we have tried in vain. Sometimes these techniques are successful, and sometimes our little Hazel just doesn’t give a poop-filled paw about our training efforts.
Consulting training experts and reading puppy training books, we fooled ourselves into thinking we were totally prepared for the immense stubbornness of our 8-inches tall fluff nugget. Scolding sometimes works if she’s not too busy to listen. Ignoring only means she’ll go back to eating your toes. Redirecting is only effective if you already have a toy to distract her with; Lord help you if you are attacked sans dog toy in your pocket. And crating is effective (thank goodness), but if she had to pee, well now you have another load of laundry to do this evening.
When we were desperate, we tried using a spray bottle to curb the excessive nipping. I know, this practice has been labeled as cruel by some dog trainers, but I can assure you to our little Hazel, it was anything but that. We quickly discovered her love for water. The spray bottle became a game and an enjoyable one at that. The spray bottle tactic didn’t last for two hours in our household.
Despite our frustration and feelings of defeat, we continue to curb her excessive nipping the way many experts suggest: to disengage, walk away from her, and then put her in the crate for a “time out” if the first two steps don’t affect her. Needless to say, she’s in time out quite a bit.
I feel embarrassed to admit this openly, but I will: it’s a lot more difficult to train a puppy than I thought it would be. While I will NEVER regret adopting my precious pup, and I love her so immensely, I naively thought: I grew up around dogs, and everyone in my family has a dog, I know what I’m doing.
I did NOT know what I was doing, and I’m still not sure I’m raising our little puppy right. I have worried about it more than I should, and I have made myself feel guilty for not being as strong with training as I think I should be with her.
When Chris and I have both had difficult days at work, it’s exhausting to always go that extra mile to train her the right way every time. But we always try to do so. Even if we messed up a teachable moment (and trust me, I have), I take solace in that we will always TRY to train her effectively.
Patience is a beautiful and imperative virtue to develop, and I am so grateful to my sweet and kind-hearted pup for training me to become a more patient, gentle, and compassionate human. She forces me to slow down my busy mind and to play wholeheartedly now and then. Although I tend to sleep less these days, my quality of life has become enriched.
Amazingly, I’ve noticed that I’ve become more patient at work. Little issues don’t seem to affect me like they did before Hazel came into our lives. I’ve never noticed how adorably shaped acorns are until I’ve had to pry them out of her curious mouth. Or the considerable amount of sticks we have in our back yard, or how joyous and novel a simple maple leaf can be.
Experiencing life with Hazel is a miraculous adventure we never want to miss. Everything is fun and new to her, so it becomes just as enthralling to Chris and I as well. Keeping perspective and patience while I’m cleaning up puppy poop and putting another Band-Aid on my foot during her puppyhood is vital. These days when she’s bouncing around discovering what a cabinet is will flash before my eyes.
So despite our backyard being covered in poop, tripping over dog toys, baby wipes coming out of our ears, and toes that are not sandal ready, we are ecstatic with our baby, our sweet little Hazel. Through all the poop, nipping, and training, we wouldn’t change anything about her curious, determined spirit. Hazel makes us better humans, and for that we will never be able to thank her enough for gracing our lives with her adorable little self.
And if you’ll excuse me, little Hazel just walked through her poop again, and I have four paws to clean.
This blog is my open diary to anyone and everyone about my life and my crafts. Life can be difficult, but it's always beautiful, and I want to share that love of life and making.