Winter Puppies

The smart time to get a puppy is in the spring—the days are warmer and longer, and it’s easy to get a puppy outside for exercise and training. As you might know from a previous post, Mike and I got a puppy in October. Two, in fact. In October. I never said I was smart.

I know winter is a bad time to get a puppy, because I’ve done it before. We got Phynn in December 1997. But we have been blocked by circumstance from having a dog for so long that I feared something would come up between now and spring that might foil our plans. We decided to go for it.

And so, here we are, in the middle of a deep freeze with two ten-week-old puppies.

The main thing to watch is that their extremities not get too cold. That means long hikes around the outer reaches of our field are on hiatus, and many shorter walks are the ticket. Their feet were toughened up pretty well before the snow started flying, but they are still little bitty puppy feet. And their bellies are just an inch or two from the crust of the snow. Poor Pendleton gets an ice ball that forms around the hairs at the end of his little Johnson every time he goes out! However, they do expend a lot of energy bounding through the snow, so the shorter walk is still good exercise.

The house we are renting is well outfitted for dogs—gates are built into many passageways between rooms, and a bunker-style doghouse anchors the fenced backyard.

Speaking of the fence, we are waiting for the dogs to grow big enough that they can’t squeeze through the one panel of fence that has larger holes in it. Cap’n is particularly adept at escaping, especially now that the snow gives her a couple inches of added height.

I bought a bale of cedar chips for the doghouse-fort, but they didn’t work: Cap’n was constantly trying to eat the chips, and they were so odiferous that Pendleton wouldn’t go near it (cedar is a delicious smell to me, but not to him …). So Mike replaced the chips with straw, to great success. Even when the wind howls down from the ridge, the doghouse-fort is warm and dry.

Best doghouse ever! See the puppies in action at

Best doghouse ever! See the puppies in action at

Since the puppies have to be inside most of the time, it is imperative to give them lots to do. I get small stuffed animals and other children’s toys at the local thrift shop—way cheaper than buying official dog toys at the hardware store. I just make sure they don’t have any little pieces (wheels, hats, etc.) that can be chewed off. I’ve gotten a number of old blankets and towels (for wiping snow from feet and Johnsons) there as well.

Even with the inconveniences of wintertime puppy husbandry, I’m so happy we didn’t wait to get dogs.

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