You may have had dogs all your life and consider yourself an experienced dog/puppy owner, but are you SURE you are ready for another puppy? I see a lot of puppies in my job and with that, a lot of owners at the end of their tether with their puppies (normal) behaviour.
The problem is that puppyhood is like childbirth – you go through it, vow you will never do so again and then forget all the bad stuff & repeat! I can’t tell you the amount of times I have heard a puppy owner say “my other dogs have never done this!” or “my previous puppy wasn’t this bad!” - I have even said this with my own dogs in the heat of the moment! But you need to remind yourself in that moment that that is probably not true.
So below I have described some of the most common puppy challenges ALL new puppy owners need to read! Even if you have owned 1 million puppies and feel you know all of this. Read it, think about it, imagine it and try to prepare for it!
“I think my puppy is aggressive!”
This is probably the most common sentence I hear from puppy owners…. And it is not always new puppy owners either! I have heard this from many an experienced dog owner who has simply forgotten the joys of piranha teeth in a baby dog!
Puppies BITE and they bite hard! You watch a litter playing with each other and there is constant mouthing, biting, chewing. You may hear the occasional yelp, growl, bark and other vocalisations in the form of play. When your puppy comes into your home, they are going to almost certainly bite! Don’t brush this off as a 5 minute training fix, your puppy could be biting for a good 8 weeks whilst they mature and settle into their new way of life with you. This means preparing your children for this and setting up plenty of safe zones, puppy safe areas & management strategies to reduce the biting. You will not be able to communicate to your puppy in a few short days that you don’t like the biting. In fact, squealing, shouting “no!”, running away or physically pushing/moving your puppy can only serve to encourage them to bite MORE! So if you think you/your kids won’t appreciate puppy biting, you need to put preparation in place to minimise the stress during this time.
“My puppy is hanging off my clothes all the time!”
For those of us who have had puppies recently, you will likely remember well the aforementioned piranha hanging from your trousers, sleeves and dressing gown as the most inconvenient times! This is usually paired around the bitey stage to really add to our rapidly increasing stress levels. Your puppy will hang off anything that looks fun to grab, because they are a puppy! No amount of toys in mouth and distraction will encourage your puppy to ignore you and play with the inanimate object in front of them. You are much more fun! So be prepared to pull those old clothes out the back of the wardrobe for a few weeks. Your sunday best may as well be put away for a while, you wont be seeing that around your puppy any time soon. Your “dog shoes” (for nipping out to the toilet in the middle of the night) will probably have holes in and no backs on. This stage doesn’t last forever, but it is a stage nonetheless and one you need to prepare for!
“My puppy is destroying my house!”
Puppy proofing is incredibly important when you are looking at getting a new puppy. You will need to be prepared to move all of your valuables and items you don’t want your puppy getting. This includes not leaving your shoes around, not leaving food where pup can reach them (and this includes when they are adult size too). Expect your puppy to want to chew EVERYTHING! You will need to change your habits and potentially quite a bit of your house for the foreseeable future until your puppy is much older. Be prepared for this! You are also going to want a puppy safe area for when you need to leave your puppy. This may mean dedicating a large part of your house to a pen or moving your house around. You will need to make some sacrifices and changes for your puppy.
“My puppy is not getting toilet training!”
Puppies can take a while to understand toilet training. Before 3-6 months, puppies don’t actually have a huge amount of bladder control so any toilet training you get before this time is a bonus! Your puppy is having to learn a totally new rule that makes no sense for them.
“I thought my kids and puppy would be best friends!”
Puppies and kids are a very hard combo. For starters, puppies bite (see point 1!) and kids don’t tend to appreciate that. Secondly, kids are very exciting to a puppy. When they inevitably bite them, kids often scream and run around – this makes the game twice as exciting whilst they try to grab the bottom of their trousers or their socks. Kids can quickly become scared of puppies if they weren’t used to mouthing puppies previously. It’s really important that if you are considering bringing a puppy into your home with children, that both the puppy and the children have zones where the other can’t go. Play and interaction must be supervised at all times and YOU as the adult must be ready to step in and manage any situation before it reaches a point where either party is getting upset. You will not be able to leave your puppy and children alone if you are busy and this is something that needs to be factored in.
“My puppy doesn’t sleep through the night!”
For those of you with children, puppies are much like them! Puppies rarely sleep through the night at a young age because they usually can’t hold their bladder all that time. So be prepared to get up with your puppy a few times a night to let them out. It is also worth mentioning here that when you first bring your puppy home, they have never been without their mother and siblings. This is an incredibly scary and overwhelming time for your puppy so do not expect them to sleep downstairs on their own for the first few weeks. This is a time your puppy needs to adjust and not experience anything scary. Instead, be prepared to sleep downstairs or have pup upstairs with you for the first few weeks until they are more settled.
“My puppy is never tired!”
It can sometimes feel like your puppy never stops! With this, the urge to keep on exercising them sometimes comes to mind. What we need to remember is that puppies aren’t always born knowing how to “switch off”. If we have a really busy house or routine, often puppies don’t even consider winding down and switching off for the day without a little encouragement from us. Then imagine an overtired toddler who likes to bite! This is what you will have on your hands. The tendency is then to exercise your puppy further to “tire them out” and this only exacerbates the issues further. It is important to teach your puppies about relaxing, calmness and downtime from a very young age. Be equipped with a safe puppy den (crate or pen), stuffed kong’s, chews and treats and assign regular “chill out times” for your puppy. This may mean you need to change your routine (see my next point).
“I don’t want to change my routine for the puppy!”
Unfortunately, you will almost certainly have to change your routine, at least in the short term for your new puppy. If you are not prepared to do this, now may not be the right time to invite a puppy into your home. Your puppy is going to need taking out every 30 minutes for a toilet break, regular meals (3-4 per day), play and enrichment, daily training, regular downtime and there will likely be a change in sleeping patterns for you too. You may have to change your schedule so you can spend enough time socialising your new puppy to the outside world. You cannot leave your puppy at home for 8 hours a day whilst you work. These are all things it’s important to think about and discuss with the whole family before committing to a puppy.
“My puppy wont walk on his/her lead!”
Puppies are not born being able to walk on their leads. In fact, dogs love to walk much faster than us and rarely in a straight line. To a dog, lead walking is utterly pointless and pretty boring. Dog’s do what work for them and what benefits them, so we’re going to have to work really hard to show our dogs why lead walking is more fun that it looks! Lead walking takes time, patience and consistency. This is not going to take a few walks to crack. Lead walking training requires consistency from EVERYONE who walks the dog. Don’t expect to be going far on your walks to begin with, you may only get three houses up the road. A good plan for lead walking right from day 1 is vital. Don’t wait until your puppy starts pulling to teach appropriate lead manners. It can be useful getting a trainer in to help you before your puppy is even able to go out on walks, if this is something you are not sure how to tackle.
“My puppy is stealing things”
This is one I hear often. I’ll take a moment to explain possession in a dogs eyes.
In humans, possession is all about purchase – who bought and paid for it. If I leave my coat at your house, it’s still my coat because I purchased it, haven’t sold or gifted it to you.
In dogs, possession is finders keepers. If you leave your slippers lying around, in your dog’s eyes they are free for the taking. If you had wanted them, you would have kept a hold of them. The fact you left them lying around means they have been discarded and abandonned as far as your dog is concerned. The result is that often dogs “steal” things and we get very frustrated! In reality, our dogs are just collecting things they find that are “free for the taking” and in fact WE are the thiefs when we snatch these back! It is so easy to accidentally teach your puppy to guard their items by quickly teaching them you are a thief. Before you get your puppy, be prepared to move all valuables and items that your dog may take to a safe location. You want to be well equipped to teach your dog to “drop” and “trade” in a positive way, so they don’t see you as a threat to their items too.
“My Puppy is digging!”
Some puppies like to dig, some don’t. There isn’t much to say about this one in preparation other than consider that your puppy may be a digger and you need to prepare for this. You may want to pop some dedicated planters/sandpits down for your dog to dig in, or you may want to hold off that expensive garden renovation until your pooch is a little older.
“My other pets don’t like my puppy!”
This is a big consideration before adding another pet. Your cats/dogs/animals that you have currently may have loved your previous dog, but are you sure it is what they want? Remember this is your dog’s home too. Do you have the time and patience to gently introduce your new puppy to your resident animals? This is something that is really important to think about now.
“Help, my puppy is now an adolescent and forgotten all his training!”
I will be writing a separate blog post on adolescence at a later date. But at the moment, I want to touch on the fact that your puppy will one day be an adolescent! What comes with this is challenges. Your pooch will be easily distracted, new instincts my appear and their drive and desires may change. Their motivation to listen and learn may appear to dip and they may even seem to forget things you have spent months training! Remember your puppy is not testing you during this time, your puppy is trying to navigate adolescence and everything that comes with that. Are you prepared for an adolescent dog?
Puppies are a LIFELONG commitment.
Where do you see yourself in 15 years? Do you see yourself somewhere you can still keep your puppy? You are not planning on going overseas, back to education, changing jobs? For many of these situations, your puppy/dog will be able to come with you but these are things you MUST think about for the future.
What will you do if you are renting and have to leave this home? What happens if you cannot find another home that will allow you to have pets? What happens if you have more children? What happens if you change jobs? Do you see yourself living where you are forever?
Can you afford the possibility of your dog becoming unwell with a lifelong condition? Are you able to be there for your dog and provide them with whatever they need?
Are you financially stable to support your puppy and their needs? This includes not just the initial outlay but food, grooming, chews, toys, vet care and more.
Are you able to dedicate the amount of time that is required to training and walking a puppy? This is not something that can go on the back burner, especially in the early days when socialisation is so critically important.
Can you ensure that for the first 8 weeks of your puppy ownership, you can put the work in to expose and train them to the absolute best of your ability. After this time you will need to continue with the same dedication.
Are you able to work through frustration and failure without taking this out on your puppy? Your puppy will get things wrong, you wont always communicate things perfectly and you may get things wrong too. You need to ensure your puppy doesn’t pay for this.
Do you have any medical problems or considerations that would make it difficult to meet all of your puppy’s needs? Are these medical concerns that will inhibit your puppy to reach their full potential and lead a fulfilling life? If the answer is yes, do you have a support network who are able to help you to ensure the above are met?
Do you have the openness to listen to advice and help from professionals and your puppies breeder should the need arise? It is so important to remember that nobody knows everything. We all need a helping hand and a touch of advice sometimes. With puppy ownership, it is so important to take it.
If you get to the end of this article and think “My puppy won’t do any of these things!” - YOU ARE NOT READY FOR A PUPPY! Do some more research, spend time around more young puppies (for hours at a time, not a quick visit!) and prepare yourself!
Take all of this in and really think it through. You want to prepare yourself for a life changing, bitey, chewing, bundle of fun, then keep reading and researching but cautiously proceed! You may also want to read my blog post.