Casey and Gimli out for a walk

7 Tips For New Dog Parents

If you couldn’t tell from my Instagram, we got a lab mix puppy about 2 months ago from RACC, and he is about 4 months old now. His name is Gimli, after the dwarf in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. (If you missed our jaunt along the Tolkien Trail, you can read about it here.) Puppies are a lot of work. I get very little me time, because he’s not yet at an age where he can entertain himself. But he’s totally worth it. Isn’t he just the cutest? We sought out dog advice from sources we trusted, and figured a few things out on our own too. Here are a few tips for dog parents we’ve picked up along the way.

(These are by no means awesomely captured pictures in this post. Puppies move a lot. Sometimes they do cute things when lighting sucks. Taking pictures of puppies is hard.)

Dog Food

Dog Food Advisor is the best all in one source I’ve found for checking the quality of your dog’s food. Dogs don’t have a variety of nutrition sources like humans, so their kibble has a big impact on their growth and health. Make sure you consider the age of your dog, as well as it’s breed size when deciding upon a food.


Puppies literally can chew up everything, even their food and water bowls. I decided we were going to spend a little more money and get bowls that Gimli would never destroy. They are also made in the USA and that gives us peace of mind that they won’t contaminate his food or water.

Spot to Play. Or sleep.

Keeping an eye on puppy boy while making dinner is a handful. This foldable ex pen has been a game changer. He has his own spot to play in a contained area where I can see him. Gimli takes lots of naps in here too. The step through gate means we can walk in to easily change his water bowl without trying to lean over the side to pick it up. We have another hand-me-down ex pen that’s galvanized, and we’ve used it outside while we do yard work. Not the prettiest thing to have in your house. But let’s be real, when people come over they’ll be too busy playing with your puppy to care.

Car Rides

We each have one of these hammocks in our car. They have stayed in place and are easy to take out if we need room for people to sit. There’s a short leash/seat belt that can hook into a collar or harness. We ended up getting Gimli a harness. If we’re ever in a crash and he gets jerked around, a harness helps direct that force through his chest, rather than having all of that impact on his neck through his collar. Since he’ll grow out of it soon, we bought an inexpensive harness without doing much research.


Gimli’s nails grow super fast. We got this rotary tool so that we could regularly grind/file them down. It’s small motor does make a sound, which sometimes distracts him and makes him think he should bite it. This is an ongoing battle in our household. We’re wearing him down. Pun intended.


Puppy boy is spoiled with toys like any good dog is. He likes them all: ropes, squeakers, canvas, stuffed, balls. In addition to his conventional toys, he loves old towels. He plays tug, chews on the corners, and drags them around. Someone told us to roll up a damp wash cloth and freeze it. Apparently this is a thing for teething babies. Works for puppies too.


We taught Gimli to do several things on our own, i.e. sit, stay, down, paw, etc. But we enrolled him in a puppy class at a local dog training venue. (I highly recommend if you’re in my area!). Gimli would probably grow up to be a fairly well behaved dog from all of the work we’ve done. However having a trainer guide you through the process is way more efficient than learning on your own, class helps to provide socialization, and trainers can be an excellent resource for all sorts of behavior related issues or questions. Search in your area for a training club or ask your vet for recommendations. We’re getting a better education than we would at the pet store, and it ended up being cheaper.

A few other dog related posts you might enjoy:

How to Manage Your Dog in a Cone

7 Things to Do With Your Dog in the Raleigh Area

I’m always up for learning how to be a better dog mom. If you have any tips to share, drop a comment below!

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