The first night I trusted my puppy…was a mistake.

Once upon a time, I thought it would be a great idea to get a puppy. Looking back, I wasn’t ready. Mostly, I wasn’t ready for all the poop. And all the vomit. Rosie was a rambunctious little shepherd mix, which presented its own problems, but it seemed like she constantly had fluids coming out of her body. Apparently a puppy has bladder control for the equivalent of one hour to every month – so a 3-month-old can hold it for three hours. But I didn’t take the warning.

For the first two months after I adopted her, she slept in a crate in my bedroom while my older dog Daisy slept next to me in bed. This started making me feel guilty as I could see that Rosie was feeling left out. So, one night, when she was about 6 months old, I let her sleep with us. “She can hold it for six hours!” I thought. Sometime around 5 a.m., I heard a wretched sound in the living room. I turned on the lights and found what had to be the absolute most disgusting diarrhea I’d ever seen in my life all over the tan carpet. Luckily, I had a wet vac, but it was just thick enough that it required me to first do a little hand cleaning. I held my breath, as I almost vomited from the smell numerous times. Finally, I was able to move on to the wet vac. I was happy to put this all behind me. I entered back into my bedroom after taking the bag of diarrhea outside. I was greeted by Rosie vomiting on my pillow. “Laundry time, it is,” I thought.

That was a rough night. I’m pretty sure I cried. But looking back, I realize that this unfortunate set of events was just part of a process of learning to trust my new puppy. I gave her too much too soon. As the weeks and months progressed, I learned to give a little bit at a time and celebrate small victories. Here are some things that helped me:

Using Graduated Goodbyes

Don’t expect to let your puppy out of her crate one day and leave her to her own devices without you for hours at a time. Try 15 minutes and see what happens. If it goes well, try 30 minutes then an hour, and so on. You might experience setbacks here and there, but this is the best way to set you and your puppy up for success. When you return from your mini goodbyes, make sure to use positive reinforcement to let your dog know how well they did.

Investing in Bitter Apple Spray

Most puppies like to chew. Rosie once chewed my $80 Macbook cord. Another time, she destroyed a mini-pumpkin (this was actually a bit comical, as she had the innards of the pumpkin hanging from her mouth and the remnants of the small gourd between her front legs when I caught her orange pawed).

There are ways to deter puppies from chewing, however. Bitter Apple is a spray that can be found at your local pet store. Just spray it on anything that you’re afraid of your puppy chewing. Once they try, they’ll be disgusted by the taste and think again. Problem solved.

Keeping Your Puppy Busy

Boredom breeds bad behavior. Make sure your puppy is getting enough exercise, first and foremost. To keep their minds active, also consider buying puzzle toys that force them to work for treats. This will keep their mind away from mayhem.

Reinforcing Potty Behavior

Your puppy should be very clear on how to alert you that they need to potty. Make sure you are consistent on this one. Here’s one way to teach your pup to alert you.