Ryan and I will be the first to say we never thought we’d have a tiny dog, especially after loving super-athletic and crazy Sadie so much, but there’s something special about a teeny peanut puppy, too. We waited 1.5 years after Sadie passed away to bring another dog into our lives and having Pepper join our family only served to remind me just how much we LOVE having a dog in our home. Dogs are just the freaking best and Pepper adds humor, love, craziness, snuggles and so much love into our lives.
Pepper + The Boys
Pepper is the most tolerant, amazing dog around our boys which is saying a LOT because she’s showered with tons of attention and affection from our dude crew all day long.
Not only does she seem to handle their attention well but she seems to genuinely enjoy it most times and always likes to be in the middle of their games and playtime. She seeks them out to shower them with kisses (we have to tell Ryder and Rhett to CLOSE THEIR MOUTHS because this can get gross) and will happily cuddle up in their laps or against their legs for chill time on the couch. (Ryder said he likes to “make her a ‘b'” with his legs because the little ‘b’ shape of his leg is where she likes to cuddle up and sleep the most.)
Pepper doesn’t mind being held or carried by the boys (we’ve coached them on how to carry her safely) and they also know that if Pepper does her little growly noise they need to respect her boundaries and give her space. (This doesn’t happen often because she is some kind of super-patient puppy angel.) Pepper loves sprinting into the boys’ bedrooms in the morning and doing her little bunny hops at their legs until they bend over for kisses. Rhett loves saying, “Peppy miss me!” when she comes flying into his room and meets him at his crib for some love in the morning or after his nap. All the boys insist on Pepper kisses before they go to sleep every night.
(Ryder + Pepper + The “Pepper” he made)
It’s also been really cool to see how Pepper goes to each of the boys for different things. She seems to know who is there to play and run around at top speed with her (Chase), who is always down for cuddles and kisses (Ryder) and who is tiny enough to have toys and remnants of snacks available for her at eye-level (Rhett).
Big Dog vs. Little Dog + Potty Training
We’ve had a lot of people ask us how it feels to go from a bigger dog to a little dog and my first response is it has felt WAY easier… we’re talking night and day different. I’m sure a lot of this has to do with the breed of dog we had before but puppy Sadie was 10/10 insane so puppy Pepper has felt like a breeze for us.
Vizslas are extremely high-energy dogs that require a lot of exercise. We had to majorly prioritize miles of walks/runs or trips to the dog park for Sadie for years to feel like we were taking care of her exercise needs. I will never forget meeting a couple with an older vizsla at the dog park when Sadie was around 2 years old. We asked them when their vizsla started to slow down and chill out a bit and they laughed and said, “Oh, around 10 years old.” They weren’t wrong. We would love to get another vizsla eventually (if you ever see one available to rescue in the Southeast U.S., please let me know) but right now Pepper is a great fit for us for a myriad of reasons.
One of the trickier aspects of owning a little dog, and something I didn’t know before we got Pepper, is that they are notoriously more challenging to potty train. This has certainly proven true for us, as Sadie was really easy to potty train and Pepper is still working on it. She’s come a long way in the three months we’ve had her but we definitely have to be on top of letting her out every 2-3(ish) hours or she may have an accident. Thankfully she can make it through the night without a potty break now! On the plus side, an accident from Pepper looks like little poo-Skittles and is really easy to clean up so it’s not as big of an issue if an accident happens.
Crate Training Update
We got Pepper from a rescue organization when she was (we think) around 6 months old. The rescue had her crate trained which sounded great to us, as we failed miserably at crate training Sadie. (Note: Crate training is not the same thing as potty training — another thing I learned after we got Pepper. Haha!) I fully believe crate training dogs can be such a positive thing for them and since we knew we’d be moving shortly after Pepper joined our family, we wanted to keep up with crate training so she’d have some consistency in her life after so many transitions.
After two rough nights in her crate in our rental house (and one horrible night in our bed), she adjusted well and would sleep through the night without making a peep. I don’t know what happened but when we moved, she freaked out in her crate at nighttime. It was awful and we couldn’t handle the barking and whining. We tried all the things (keeping my hand in her crate, keeping her crate next to us, moving her crate away from us, giving her treats, positive reinforcement, etc.) but she just seemed so, so unhappy at nighttime.
It was right around this time that I believed I was in the process of losing another pregnancy and I told Ryan I just wanted Pepper in our bed with us at night. (A big part of our motivation to crate train Pepper at night was thinking we’d be sharing our room with a newborn baby in the summer.) Sadie always slept with us and curling up in our bed at night with Sadie and a book was one of the most wonderful, peaceful times of my day every day. I missed a warm, fluffy little friend by my side at night and from the first night we let Pepper sleep in our bed with us in our new house, we haven’t looked back. She’s happy. We’re happy and we’re okay with this decision.
Pepper still goes in her crate in the day if we leave and seems content to do this with a treat and her toys. (Yes, I crazily set up a camera on her and watched her after we left the first few times. She usually just naps in her crate when we’re gone.) Pepper also uses her crate to hide her toys and treasures from the boys. We’ve found everything from the boys’ stuffed animals to marker caps in there. She’s a sneaky little thing!
Pepper is nine(ish) months old which means she is still very much a puppy and teething up a storm. Thankfully little Pepper teeth aren’t crazy destructive (crate training in the day also helps with this!) but we’ve all learned that anything left on the ground is fair game for curious Pepper to run off with and destroy. She really seems to love chewing on the boys’ little plastic toys and has ruined her fair share of things but thankfully nothing too treasured.
One cool thing is that we actually found two of Pepper’s puppy teeth after they fell out! The boys wrote a note to the tooth fairy asking to keep Pepper’s baby teeth so they’re still around our house somewhere.
It didn’t take me long to Google whether or not you can run with a chihuahua or terrier (the breeds we think Pepper might be) and I was pleasantly surprised to find that even little dogs love running and long walks. Ryan joked that he entered “phase two” of his relationship with Pepper when he realized she could easily handle longer walks. Walking with Sadie was one of our favorite things to do in the world so having a little furry friend join us on our family walks again simply feels right. The longest walks Pepper has been on so far with us are 4-mile walks around our neighborhood and she handles them like a champ!
Pepper has also been on a few hikes with our family so far and loves exploring outside! She is an adventurous, energetic little girl and we’re excited to have a little dog to bring along on our outdoor adventures again.
Our biggest challenge with Pepper at the moment is her infatuation with other dogs. Pepper is seriously social and goes crazy when she sees another dog… especially a BIG one. (She calms down once she has the chance to meet the dog but goes crazy if she cannot meet them.) The rescue where we got Pepper actually told us this about her and said she would fly out of her crate and had no fear approaching big dogs at the rescue.
This personality trait has certainly continued and it’s a bit of a challenge when we’re walking her and she starts pulling and barking up a storm trying to get over to any dog she sees. (She’s actually not at all barky otherwise so it’s a little jarring!) It’s getting better but it’s still frustrating and I welcome any tips you guys might have for helping train her in this area. Thankfully she’s tiny and easy to control but I know it likely makes other dog owners and their dogs uncomfortable, especially if their dogs are not social and don’t want anything to do with Pepper. I’d love to see her behave more calmly in the presence of other dogs and just looked into local dog parks so we can socialize Pepper more frequently as well. (She does well at the dog park around little dogs but REALLY seems to want to go into the big dog area. She’s obsessed!) I hope more frequent socialization and staying firm on our training (saying “no” and walking the other way when we see a dog on our walks) will help her improve in this area. Again, please give me alllll the tips if you’ve been in this position with a pup before! Sadie could not have cared less about other dogs and would just give them the stink eye and keep walking on her merry way so this is uncharted territory for us.
Embracing and Loving Another Dog
If you’ve been reading this blog since the “Sadie days” you know how much Ryan and I adored Sadie. I never grew up with a dog and Sadie was the first dog I ever owned. I truly had no idea how much she would wiggle her way into my heart and how her velcro-dog personality that didn’t believe in personal space would impact my life. It may sound dramatic but having Sadie by my side every day truly impacted my heart for the better on a daily basis. She reminded me to find joy in the simple things — cuddles, nature, hikes, family, running at top-speed, a special treat, a warm bed. I quickly realized how people could become so obsessed with their dogs because I became one of those “crazy dog people.” Ryan did, too.
When Sadie died, part of me worried another dog could never and would never come close to replacing Sadie in our hearts. This is true. Sadie is Sadie but Pepper is Pepper and that is a wonderful, beautiful thing. Once our hearts felt ready for another dog, we were on the lookout for a new companion and a wonderful furry friend to welcome into our family while still recognizing Sadie would always have a firm, irreplaceable place in our heart. (If you knew Sadie you’d know this is exactly how she’d want it. She’d never want us to “move on” from her and likely rolled her eyes at us from heaven when we got Pepper. We like to think Pepper is slowly winning Sadie over by proving to be more of an outdoorsy, adventurous dog than we anticipated.)
Pepper is her own little 6-pound ball of love and fluff and perfect puppy sweetness. We adore her and frequently say she’s a 10/10 dog. Somehow we found ourselves another velcro dog and that makes my heart so, so happy. There’s something so comforting about Pepper’s presence and the way she loves to curl her tiny body up on my chest when I lounge on the couch. She always seems to find her way into my lap when I’m on the floor playing with the boys and is never far from my heels when I’m walking around our house.
In the three months we’ve had Pepper, she’s added so much to our lives. I knew we’d love Pepper from the moment we met her but I never could’ve anticipated the way our boys have completely fallen for her. They always want Pepper around and seek her out for playtime, cuddles and kisses. They crack up with big belly laughs when she bunny hops after her toys, hunts for our feet under our blankets, falls asleep upside down or gets a serious case of the zoomies. She’s quickly become an integral part of our lives and our family and we are so thankful we found our little Fuzzy Pepperoni!