Spring is here and many people are starting their hunt for a future furry family member. What an awesome time to raise a puppy! Potty training and socialization in the spring and summer is much easier than it is in the winter months and the extra daylight always makes outdoor adventures and play seem more achievable. Before you pick out your new perfect pooch, keep in mind that some of your expectations may not match the reality of puppy owning. While puppies grow up into dogs, they have their very own set of special truths that make puppy owning both a joy and a pain at times.
- Puppy Proofing
Expectation: Puppies are small, sweet and cuddly and can’t possibly get into anything that you put away. They are basically helpless. By using a crate and moving everything off of the floor, you have it covered.
Reality: Puppies are geared to learn by exploring and using trial and error to find things that are rewarding to them. You may have purchased every toy in the pet store, but your puppy will certainly find a loose carpet thread or the leg of your coffee table infinitely more exciting and will need constant supervision and redirection to only chew on the appropriate items. Crating is definitely the way to go when you cannot supervise, but don’t expect to get much else done while your puppy is out exploring.
- House Training
Expectation: Seems simple enough: puppies need to pee and you will take your puppy out whenever they give you “a sign.” You may even try those nifty bells sold in stores to get your puppy to alert you to their needs. Soon enough your pup will be a pro at going out to potty.
Reality: Puppies have no idea why we hate to see urine and feces inside but they quickly realize that you look super angry when you see their mess and often learn to hide potty behaviors by sneaking off behind a couch or into another room. They can also pee super fast! Looking away for a few moments can result in a mystery spot so be sure to get your pup on an appropriate food, water, and potty schedule right away. Accidents happen. Be prepared with proper enzymatic cleaners and try to get back on track right away.
- Cuddle Bugs
Expectation: Everyone takes home their pup with visions of curling up on the couch and stroking super soft puppy fuzz as your puppy drifts off to sleep in your lap (and who doesn’t love that puppy breath?!).
Reality: Puppies can be phenomenal cuddlers,when they want to be. There will surely be times when you want to cuddle and your puppy would love nothing more than to chew your hands, your pant leg, or your hair. You will wonder to yourself whether you adopted a puppy or a shark, as those baby teeth can be extremely sharp. Puppies come home right after the neonatal period when chewing and teething starts in earnest and their desire to gnaw can be fierce. Be prepared with adequate chews (like raw bones, animal ears, and bully sticks) and you will escape this stage with fingers intact.
Expectations: Dogs bark. You will teach your puppy to be quiet on command right from the start. Here is where your puppy actually pleasantly surprises you: they snuffle, they whimper and whine, but they don’t bark. Cha-ching! You lucked out and your puppy is a non-barker!
Reality: Puppies generally go home from their breeder or foster parent between 8 and 12 weeks. Puppies that age do not really bark. Dogs find their voice closer to adolescence. While some breeds are more vocal than others, all dogs bark (or yodel in the case of a Basenji). By socializing your dog early and acclimating them to sounds and sights you hedge your bets that they will not exclaim their presence to every dog and person they see.
Expectation: Your puppy will be your new best exercise buddy and love going on long walks with you. You are also fortunate enough to have a big yard for pup to explore and tire out in.
Reality: Your puppy will walk approximately 10 feet before stopping in their tracks and refusing to move, or maybe they will struggle against the leash in every possible direction and drag you towards every fun sight or smell. Walking on a leash is unnatural behavior for a dog. Your first few weeks will be spent teaching your puppy the mechanics of walking on a leash and you will need to find ways to burn puppy energy at home since walks won’t get you far. Your unsupervised yard is a plethora of trouble waiting to happen: garden digging, fence chewing, door scratching and anxiety building trouble. Puppies left to mind themselves in the yard often become territorial fence barkers and no one wants that. Your yard is a good place to play with your pup, but not a good babysitter.
- Greeting People
Expectation: People love puppies and you know you need to introduce your puppy to tons of people of all types. Piece of cake.
Reality: Most people do love puppies: they love them so much that they can reinforce bad behavior like jumping up to say hello, which is cute at 5-20lbs, but not so cute at 30-100lbs. Some puppies are also scared of some people, like children or cane wielders, and forcing your puppy to say hi or allowing people to approach your scared pup may lead to defensive behaviors or reactivity down the road. Socialization is very important, but always move at your puppy’s pace and make sure they are enjoying everything and everyone you introduce them to. If you see any signs of fear or discomfort, contact a trainer to solve the issue before it becomes a bigger one.
Expectation: You have a plan and hopefully a crate. Puppies love their crates, so says the internet, and will happily sleep in their den until they are old enough to sleep on their very own dog bed or in bed with you.
Reality: Many breeders will introduce puppies to crates before sending them home which can make the transition much easier for you. However, the first night with you is likely their first night away from mom and siblings which can be traumatic. Spending time playing crate games and putting the crate somewhere comfortable in your home goes a long way in making those first few nights easier for you. One mistake you may get lulled into making is letting your puppy sleep in bed. While very young pups will sleep through the night, most adolescent dogs will get into trouble and putting an adolescent into a crate for the first time is infinitely more difficult. Some puppies cannot be crated for one reason or another, so this is where a baby gate or small room like a laundry room can be helpful. Be prepared to help your puppy learn to love their crate.
The one expectation that you can be sure is a reality is that you and your pooch will love each other unconditionally and improve both your qualities of life. Having and raising a puppy is an amazing experience if you are prepared for the realities of puppy ownership.
Head Trainer- Perfect Pooch
AKC CGC Evaluator