If you follow me on IG, then you’ve noticed my content has been 97% puppy since last Tuesday when we welcomed our sweet girl Levi to our family! Not only has this moment been a dream come true for us, but we also never expected how much our lifestyle would truly change in one short week. Both Thomas and I grew up with family dogs, but there’s something about having your own puppy that hits differently. We’re equally stupid exhausted & beyond happy with all the new things we’ve had to quickly adjust to since Levi’s arrival. I guess you could call it ‘great practice’ lol but truly, I’ve never been so excited about this new role as a puppy mama & Thomas as a pup parent as well.
Why The Breed & Where We Got Her
I’ve been OBSESSED with Australian Shepherds ever since I was 6 years old. My Grandmother had a mini aussie and brought her over frequently growing up. I fell in love with the sweetness and intelligence of the breed instantly. Over time, I’d interact with the breed at horse shows (very popular in that realm) and it only solidified my admiration for them. They’re an EXTREMELY active breed, needing tons of space and opportunity to run (think 2-a-days every day at the gym-like.) Not only do I love that for a dog, but also knew it would be the right breed for me & Thomas’s active lifestyle (hiking, swimming, running, etc.) Also they’re known to be very kind & gentle with other animals – a very important factor to consider, given the dog would have to get along with Manny, our senior cat.
Last May 2020, we placed our deposit with Green Valley Australian Shepherds for this beautiful girl with the expectation we’d get her Fall 2021. I’ve followed them on Instagram ever since 2016, a little bit after my family dog Jasper’s passing (he was a black lab.) I finally felt ready to look at puppy content & naturally, I gravitated towards Australian Shepherd IG accounts that popped up on my Discover Page. That’s where I came across The Mabey Family & their amazing story behind their Aussie breeding program. I instantly fell in love with the adorable Aussie puppy videos posted daily, especially because of how interactive they were/are with exposing their dogs & pups to everything imaginable – aka kids of all ages. Needless to say after a few short days after following them, I made up my mind that my first “personal” dog would be an Australian Shepherd & it would be from GVA.
Given how beautiful the litters are & the fact they don’t overbreed their dogs (another big reason I fell in love with their program), the waitlist is over a year long. So in the early months of the pandemic last year, Thomas and I had already made the decision to move back to the suburbs once our lease was up. We knew we’d have a yard and access to everything a dog of this breed/energy level would need to be happy. It was in this moment that the time felt right to get on the waitlist & then place our deposit for a puppy in late 2021 – over a year out but it was officially happening, we were getting (my) dream dog.
We knew we wanted a Merle Female (either red or blue) and were willing to wait until the pup with the right temperament for our lifestyle would become available. Ultimately, the personality & temperament was most important to us but figured over one year out would provide us with a more likely chance to get the coloring we’d love to have as well. We’d have enough time to move, out of our apartment, get the house settled and be well prepared for our lives to change forever by the time Fall 2021 arrived. Then we got engaged… and put plans into motion for our wedding that would also be in Fall 2021. I got so nervous thinking about the timing – training a new puppy weeks out from the wedding is less than ideal. So I reached out to GVA in December 2020 to let them know that should a merle female become available sooner than the fall, and had the right temperament for our lifestyle, we’d be more than ready to accept her. Honestly, I didn’t think we’d get lucky getting her so much earlier than expected (given the waitlist length) but we did, and got notice our beautiful girl was to be ours in late February of this year.
Story Behind Her Name
I learned “Levi” was a family name on my mom’s side and always loved it as an option for a boy (human or animal.) It wasn’t until Thomas and I were discussing potential names for her back in January that it came up as a unisex/girl option for the pup. We wanted to name her something that was 1) easy to say & her to remember (2 syllables & ending in a vowel), 2) something we liked saying out-loud, over and over again.., and 3) represented her breed/coloring as a blue herding dog. Thinking about cowboys/girls in their Levi Strauss Wrangler Jeans & the fact I’m always reaching for my modernized pair of Levi’s denim, it became the perfect name choice for her.
Current Schedule & Training Plans
We’re feeding her 1/3 cup of Purina Pro Puppy Lamb & Rice Kibble 3x a day. When she gets older, we plan to switch her over to a regiment like Farmer’s Dog or Fresh Pet but for now, this is what the breeder & our vet has recommended. We’ve started to introduce her to treats and rewarding her whenever she responds/comes to her name. She also knows “Sit” very well at this point, which blows my mind how intelligent she (& her breed in general) truly is. We don’t love the idea of a leash yet but with the help of treat rewards, it’s getting better with each go-around the house.
We’re currently crate training her & it’s going super well so far! The choice to do this with her immediately was one we both agreed on from the start, having grown up with puppies/dogs that were also crate trained and recognizing it’s the best way to implement a safe space & routine with any young dog. As she gets older & can be trusted overnight, we will introduce the idea of a dog bed but will allow her the choice of crate if she feels more comfortable with it over the bed option. I had dogs that loved their crates and slept in them throughout adulthood, and she very well might be the same. Right now her crate has a divider that makes it smaller for her size, so she won’t use half of it as a bathroom and the other half as a bedroom while we potty train her. As she grows, we’ll remove the divider so it’ll fit her more comfortably, even as a full-size adult.
As for evening whining/crying, we’re actively implementing The Ferber Method with the exception of the first whine/cry. Every time she wakes up during the day & that first time at night, we immediately take her outside to pee. She’s learning the routine of going outside right away after sleeping and it’s going very well so far – hardly any accidents in the first week! The Ferber Method is very hard as new puppy parents, but we’re finding it super beneficial (esp for her breed) to do when it comes to nighttime in the crate alone. She’s learning that we won’t come every time she cries and is beginning to put herself to sleep after a couple howls. Each night it’s getting less frequent and the cry episodes are getting shorter. She’s already going into her crate willingly during the day whenever she’s ready for a nap, which is honestly the best feeling in the world to know she isn’t seeing it as a punishment & only as a safe bed space.
With every day, her stamina is increasing which means getting her to take long naps is slowly becoming more of an endeavor to accomplish, especially during the work week. So we’re working on teaching her how to be comfortable in her crate for small increments of time when she’s not tired. It’s been a struggle but crucial if we ever want to feel comfortable leaving her in the crate alone when the time comes that both Thomas and I need to leave the house without her.
Once she gets her 2nd round of shots, we’ll be able to take her out to places like dog parks & dog-friendly establishments so she can learn to socialize with new people & most importantly, other dogs. One of the things I’m most nervous about raising her in the suburbs is not having the ability to socialize her as easily as we could in a city-setting. My family dogs growing up rarely left the property (granted it was a 6 acre farm) so whenever we brought them outside the home to the vet/places with dogs & new people, they’d go nuts. So in the meantime, she’s coming along everywhere it’s safe to bring her with us – mostly our parents’ houses – and having her be held/interact with lots of different people outside of Thomas & myself. Not only do we want her to feel comfortable going for rides in the car and understand we’re her safe zone, but it’s crucial in these first few weeks to do so in order to boost her confidence as she grows into her teenage & adult stages.
Introducing Her To Manny
I plan to write a more focused, dedicated post in the upcoming months as their relationship (hopefully) improves but for now, I can confidently say it’s going a lot better than expected. Introducing a new puppy into an adult/senior cat’s home, especially if the cat has been an ‘only child’ for several years, is far from simple. Normally, it’s the kitten that gets brought into a dog’s home or both animals grow up together as youngsters. So I truly didn’t have high hopes there would be the opportunity for blissful coexistence in this home for at least multiple months.
Manny has been around dogs before, from my childhood and in college, so he’s not new to the idea of this type of 4-legged animal. Yet, he’s never had to share our small home with one until now. Naturally, he hissed and attempted to swat at her upon first meeting which terrified Levi and had her screaming from fear. After that, we made sure that she learned to respect Manny’s space by being still & not running up to him without his approval whenever he entered the living room. We also made sure to block the side of the house with the bedrooms off so he had his own safe space to be away from her whenever he desired alone time (very important for cats in general to have.) Ensuring he didn’t feel forced to be friends with her has allowed him to comfortably include himself in the room with us on his own terms; knowing that, it’s apparent that he doesn’t ‘love’ the idea of her but isn’t pissed off about her existence either. Both Thomas and I have been very on top of making sure he gets the same amount of love & attention as Levi, which Manny definitely feels good about. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have expected him to willingly be in the same room as Levi at all.
We still watch the both of them like a hawk whenever Manny decides to come into the room but as I type this out now, I’m watching Manny sit on the kitchen chair with Levi fast asleep underneath. I’m so hopeful they’ll find friendship within one year but even if they just learn to be ok with the existence of the other, that’s fine too. Only time will tell though!
New Puppy Essentials
We got the 37″L because it’ll fit her size once fully grown. In the meantime, we have the temporary barrier piece that came with the crate in the middle so she doesn’t sleep on one side and use the other as a bathroom spot. I ended up buying her (2) crate mats as I felt one didn’t provide enough cushion for her in the puppy stage. Eventually she’ll sleep with probably just this plush one but for now, two keeps her cozy. I also picked her up a soft puppy blanket that she loves to chew & snuggle with at night.
I got (3) sizes of this adorable, & very on-brand cactus bowl so she can use them throughout her growth stages.
She doesn’t love being left alone, even when we’re in her sight lines so we got both the pen and cable stake to allow her some freedom while learning patience and understanding as we build trust with her responding & coming to her name when called. The cable tie-out will most likely be the most-used option, especially as she outgrows the pen but for now, we’re working on getting comfortable with both.
You’ll end up using these.. A LOT. I carry extras in my car & in my bag to have on standby.
She can’t fit into the harness yet, but we have it for when she grows to fit & we begin to take walks early in the morning or whenever it’s dark out. I also got her this beautiful collar & matching leash from The Foggy Dog and already planning to add more “seasonal collars” to her growing wardrobe once she’s full-grown. Oh and yes, I got the coordinating, planty-vibes potty bag holder too.
Probably the most important thing to get as a new pup/dog owner, based on the amount of stories we’ve heard from friends about some crazy circumstances where having insurance was a complete blessing. We went with TruPanion as a recommendation from our family vet, but we’ve also heard great things about Lemonade as an option too. Right now we have the basic payment plan but as she gets older & increases the likelihood to be more prone to injury (given how active the breed is) we’ll probably end up upgrading our plan to accommodate. Or maybe not, but it’s nice to know we have the option to do so if needed.
TOYS & THINGS
Our friend recommended these two toys as great developmental tools, as well as great distractions for her when we need to keep her mentally stimulated. For the Treat Puzzle, we went with the Level II and might get her the more advanced ones as she gets older. And for the Squirrel toy, we went with the large size so she can enjoy playing with it as she gets bigger & not have to worry about her accidentally swallowing one of the squirrels.
What’s great is that this one can go in the freezer & allows for endless flavorful chewing she doesn’t get easily bored with. Excellent for her teething right now too.
She loves cuddling with most of these in her crate, especially this grunting unicorn. We figured having a few soft items in her crate would help serve as substitutes for her siblings during these first few nights being separated from them. She loves having them in there with her and has adapted so well in the meantime, not showing any signs of being sad or missing her brothers & sister.
The OCD in me needs everything to have a place & thanks to this crate storage box, her multiple toys have an aesthetically-pleasing home.
FOR ON THE GO + CLEANING UP
Since we hope to take her out with us as much as we can, getting her comfortable in the car young is top priority. I got this booster seat for her while she’s still puppy size so I can easily drive without her moving about the car when Thomas or someone isn’t with me to watch or hold her. When she gets older, we’ll use a seatbelt harness clip for her on road trips that take us on the highway. It’s been proven the safest way to travel with your dog in the car from what I’ve read too.
One of my friends has a monogrammed L.L.Bean tote bag for her pup so I followed suit and got one for Levi too! I’m pumped about the color we chose & the fact it has a zip-top – super clutch. I also ordered this bag insert to help maintain some organizational order with all the things going inside her bag.
We used this over Easter weekend while at our family’s homes and it was such a hit! Having a bed for her to sleep in comfortably during her naps helped her adjust to the new/loud surroundings much better – as well as allowed Thomas and I to be able to move about freely without worrying about her location at times. This will come in handy whenever we travel with her in the future. It doesn’t come with a bed mat so I ordered this soft, plush one (also machine washable) and she fell asleep instantly once placed on it.
In the event we’re someplace where we can’t take her outside as easily, having these are great backups. Although we truly haven’t used any of them on her yet after reading articles about teaching her to go outside over the pads if you can do so. Otherwise she’ll learn she can go to the bathroom on any flat surface in the home, which we hope to never introduce as an option if we can help it. But nonetheless, always good to have these as a backup solution.
Great travel options for food & water purposes. We got the water bottle for when we go on hikes or find ourselves in a place where water isn’t easily attainable for her.
These are great to have on-hand for visible dirt & gentle enough to use around the eyes & ears. The balm won’t be used much until she starts going on walks, where it’s more likely her paw pads will become more raw from the concrete/pavement. But love its dual purpose whenever her nose appears dry or gets sunburnt, especially during the warmer months.
Already we’ve had our fair share of spills and stains happening on all surfaces. And whenever you have to clean up a stain, it becomes challenging to do so with an active puppy running around. So I only use non-toxic options that I don’t have to worry about using and needing to wait until dry for Levi to safely be around them. These two non-toxic cleaners I’ve found to be most effective and have all the muscle that the chemical ones have. The red wine stain remover is AMAZING for those deeper, darker stains that happen (i.e. spilling an entire cup of coffee on a light grey rug because the dog spontaneously decides to jump on you from behind while you were trying to watch the morning news on the couch.)