So, your brand new bundle of fun arrives in just a few days! You did your research, you found the type, breed and sex of pup that would fit seamlessly into your home and lifestyle. You have the crate, the harness, the lead, the bowls, the toys, the food and the bed. You’ve read the books and watched the Youtube videos. You’re all set. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, here’s some stuff that seasoned dog people know but rarely pass on. Why? Because it’s not nice to be bursting your happy bubble and shattering your eager dreams. However, I’m going to do those things so you don’t have nasty surprises and you know that this stuff happens to just about everyone and is totally normal!
You will not get a full night’s sleep for another month.
Ok, that may be a wee bit of an exaggeration, but I can assure you that after your pup has been home for a few days it will feel as if you’ve not slept for a month! Puppies tend to rise early, usually at dawn. They then demand you take them outside before having breakfast and a good old romp about. Puppies also tend to sleep a lot during the day, saving their energy while you are busy so they have plenty for playtime all evening. Expect bedtime zoomies! And once you actually get your angel into the bed or crate and settled, they will be waking you up, at the very least once, during the night to go outside again. Luckily this stage only lasts a few short weeks for most pups.
Puppies never read the house training manual
You know, the one that said they need to go outside every couple of hours? That is absolutely true – if the pup is sleeping. However, active young pups can be pee and poo machines, producing all sorts of messes in the blink of an eye; about every 15 minutes in some cases. By the time you have been primed for emergency interruptions a few times you will have the reflexes of a Ninja warrior on speed. And then you will be exhausted while your adorable bundle recharges their batteries, bladder and bowels in preparation for the next round.
Puppies are time wasters
I’m convinced puppies possess some kind of weird time warping device. Where once you had a normal day of 24 hours, now you only have 16. This means that you never have enough time to shower, do the dishes, read a book, chat on the phone or check Facebook. Instead you are walking with pup, playing with pup, supervising pup so they don’t choke themselves, clearing up the wreckage from pup’s last play session, taking cute photo’s to put on Facebook (should you ever get the time to post them!) and wondering where the time has evaporated to. Get used to it. The older they are, they more active they are. Enjoy those first few weeks of babyhood when the little hell-raiser actually sleeps for a while! (And if your puppy is too active, you may want to read about the importance of adequate rest.)
You may not always like your puppy
You took two minutes to grab a bathroom break for yourself. You came back to find your BEST shoes are now toeless sling-backs where once they were trendy lace-up boots. Or the cat is being used as an animated squeaky toy because curiosity put it in range of the grabbing, chasing machine and it couldn’t get out the cat-flap quick enough. The ways a puppy can push your buttons are as numerous and varied as the sizes and shapes puppies come in. If it can be done, there is a puppy, somewhere, who has done it. And an owner who was not best pleased about it. If the worst your puppy does is chew a few things that are replaceable (and shouldn’t have been on the floor in the first place) consider yourself lucky! If you’d like to be able to interrupt yucky behaviour without turning into an ogre, check out this little ebook.
Oh, boy do they ever! Really, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone; dogs are predators after all, and being able to use teeth and jaws appropriately is a survival skill. It makes sense to practice as a baby. Quite understandably, most puppy owners object to being the recipient of that practice. It can hurt; those needle teeth are incredibly sharp and when applied to skin or clothing can do damage. ‘Puppy biting’ covers a multitude of sins, from gentle mouthing (often gun dogs) to all out chomping (terriers!). However, for most puppies it is just a phase they grow out of and with a bit of common sense (stop playing if your pup gets rough etc.) and appropriate feedback, they don’t grow into Cujo.
You may think you lost your mind
After about a week or two of this you may be wondering what on earth possessed you. It’s not unusual for the reality of owning a puppy to be at complete odds to what you had in mind. It’s hard work. Really hard work. The pup’s personality may not be exactly what you expected. Maybe he’s very independent or aloof and you were looking forward to warm snuggles? Maybe training or housetraining isn’t going smoothly? Or your pup can’t be left alone for more than 5 minutes without screaming the house down? Or maybe you just don’t feel that bond – that oxytocin rush everyone told you about? The warm fuzzy feeling when you look at your latest family member?
It’s ok. It’s not unusual to think there is something wrong with you because right now, all you want to do is swap the little B@!#*$d for a bag of sugar; in fact, you might even pay someone to take it away! These feelings of frustration and angst are absolutely normal. Your entire life and routine have been turned upside down. Your time is no longer your own and you have a being that doesn’t understand a word you say (and probably couldn’t care less) running rampant around your house leaving a trail of destruction and mess. Take a very deep breath. Put the puppy in a safe place with toys, stuffed Kongs and whatever else you can find to entertain it. It’s not forever. It gets better remarkably quickly and if you are struggling, a good positive reinforcement trainer can work miracles. You are not alone in feeling like this but you don’t have to struggle alone either.
Quick tips to save your sanity
- Plan. Everything. Have some kind of schedule, a predictable routine for household and puppy. The less you have to think about what needs to be done next, the easier life will be.
- Have a crate AND a puppy pen. During the day, place the crate in the puppy pen. Include a toilet area of some kind. Add toys, chewie things and maybe some food stuffed toys. You now have a safe place to put puppy while you attend to other things, like going to the bathroom, grabbing some lunch or checking Facebook.
- If you have a large yard, section off a bit as a puppy toilet area. That way the little hellion can’t disappear in the dark to chase the cat or play keep-away at 2 in the morning. An alternative is to always take puppy outside on a lead, at least until you have some sort of recall software installed!
- Discuss house rules with the family and stick to them. If you don’t want a large dog doing it, don’t let your small, cute puppy do it. Within weeks you will have a much larger, not so cute adolescent to deal with and it’s not so much fun when they use you, and all the furniture, as a trampoline.
- Mental stimulation is your friend. Forget about trying to wear the Duracell© Bunny out with exercise. By the time your pup is 16 weeks he will be able to run rings around you. Lots of physical exercise such as lead walking for long periods isn’t good for young, soft bones so to get some peace and quiet mental exercise can’t be beaten. Training is mandatory but it’s not the only game in town. Hiding food or toys around the house or yard for pup to find in scent games, using stuffed food toys for meal times, slow ‘sniff walks’ in interesting places, all engage and develop the puppy mentally.
- Plan for the future mental health of your puppy. Socialisation to get your pup used to the sights and sounds of the human world should be a priority. This doesn’t mean throwing the poor guy into the thick of the dog park or a kiddie party, it means ensuring that pup gets lots of positive, enjoyable trips to places that will be a normal part of their life. It’s worth noting that it doesn’t take long for young brains to get overwhelmed. The best approach is short but frequent outings to provide good experiences with plenty of mental stimulation without overload. These types of trips will help tire him out as well as help prevent fearfulness in later life.
All in all, getting a puppy can be both a wonderful experience and hell on wheels – sometimes both within a few minutes of each other. Stick with it, grit your teeth and count to a very high number while putting pup in his safe confinement area so you can do whatever you need to do to restore your calm demeanour. Enjoy the funny, sweet and fun times. Remember the pay off for all your blood sweat and tears will last well beyond those pesky puppy months. You can also read up on the best things to teach your puppy, common puppy raising mistakes – and how to avoid them, as well as how not to undo all your hard work.
A word of warning: if you see ANY of the following, or your puppy is biting hard enough to be leaving deep indents or drawing blood, contact a qualified positive reinforcement trainer immediately. Signs your pup needs professional help:
- Stiffening or freezing, especially around food or items of value (including people)
- Showing whites of eyes
- Snarling (full tooth display)
- Barking and lunging at people or dogs
– Sarah and the Gang