Before I got Eko, I read just about every puppy book and website out there.

1I felt like I was completely prepared to raise my new pup

But as we all learn at one point or another, there's a big difference between reading about something and actually doing it. Life has a way of throwing things at you that don't appear in any book.

2There was no chapter on what to do if your puppy rigidly splays on the ground and stubbornly refuses to move for ten minutes 3Thankfully, Eko was a forgiving pup and didn't hold all my miscues against me

All the reading I did about raising a puppy was invaluable, but there are a few extra-curricular lessons I think are worth sharing.

4All puppies are not created equal. I thought since I'd been through puppyhood with Eko, puppyhood with Penny would be a breeze. But raising a puppy isn't formulaic or color-by-numbers. Each puppy requires individualized care 5Puppies are time travelers. There is no other explanation for what they can do when you turn your back for "just a second." 6How!? How!? Avoid lots of pain by avoiding leaving your puppy unsupervised for "just a second." 7What's cute now isn't cute later. Don't let the puppy cuteness overwhelm your brain - full grown dogs who jump on visitors, eat your shoes or get mouthy are not cute! Put the training in early and it will pay dividends for years to come 8Rig the game so you always win. With Eko, I tried to train him to do what I want and then reward him. It worked, but it was tough. With Penny I realized I could reward her whenever she did what I wanted, even if it happened by accident. This form of training is especially great for scatter-brain puppies

Above all else, I think the most important lesson I wish I'd known is that your puppy is who they are. Many people think of puppies as blank slates who we then shape into the dogs we want. But that's not how it works.

Every puppy comes with their own personality and disposition. We can guide our pups' development, but we can't fundamentally change who they are.

9The puppy you get... 91Is the puppy they'll always be!

Of course, no matter how much we know and learn, there's always more that will surprise us and teach us.

We are never fully "ready" for a puppy. But if we're ready to work, learn and love (and lose a shoe or two) - we are ready as we'll ever get for life with a new pup.