No-one has time for a puppy.
No, seriously, NO-ONE! Not even me, a self-employed dog-professional with no kids.
It’s 10 years since I had a puppy in the house. Sure, we fostered dogs when I worked in rescue. We even adopted one of them which resulted in a great deal of work for the next several years. But he was already an adult (albeit not a very well-trained one!). This is different.
I was chatting to a lady before Christmas who owns a dog, and is now expecting a baby. “It can’t be as much work as a puppy” she told me. Well, I’ve looked after a lot of human babies and she might be in for a surprise. But, I wouldn’t say a puppy is LESS work. Probably slightly less sleep deprivation, but that’s about it. I’d forgotten. The chaos, the reality of not being able to take your eyes of the little furry bundle for even a SECOND, the feeling you may never again get to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea and a magazine. Trying to find even 20 minutes to get some work done (I had already decided to take December off, but it was just as well I can tell you!).
So. Never mind New Year’s resolutions, here are 5 things to consider before you get taken in by the cute furry little face..
1. Housetraining. I’ve alluded to this before. Forget all those “Housetrain your dog in XXXX days” books. It takes AGES! It just does. Don’t stress. As long as you are following the best protocol (regular trips to the “correct” toilet area, lots of rewards, no punishment), you will get there. Pick up anything you don’t want the dog to toilet on (rugs, clothing, shoes!) and prepare to mop.
2. Biting. Professional call this “mouthing” because it sounds less scary. Here’s the rap: whatever you call it, it hurts. Puppy teeth are needle-sharp and when they are sunk into your hand it is painful. Don’t yell; you will frighten your puppy. Briefly stop interacting and wait for the pup to regain some self-control. Make sure there are plenty of “good” things around to bite (toys, boxes, chews) and PRAISE your pup when he chooses to sink his teeth into those instead.
3. Sleep deprivation / exhaustion. I’m 10 years older than I was last time and I’m tired. I’ve been tired since we picked up the pup 2 months ago. I’m also 10 pounds lighter and much fitter, so there are hidden benefits to never getting to sit down, sleep or eat. It will pass.
4. Not going out. Puppies don’t much like being left alone. For a while, I couldn’t visit the toilet by myself, let alone shower. As for a social life – forget it (although the puppy is now very well-versed in going to the pub!). Patience is your friend here; work slowly and methodically on getting your pup to be happy being left now (creating a safe space will help you) and, in time, your puppy will be fine with being alone. Meantime, subscribe to Netflix. This too will pass…
5. Guilt. Good one for dog professionals this, as obviously we are supposed to have puppies who are “perfect” from day one. As if! Puppy training is not magic, it’s repetition. So it takes time. As much time as each individual puppy needs. There is no point comparing your pup to the one next door in class, they are as individual as kids in a schoolroom. The reality is, your puppy is further on in some areas, other puppies are further on in others, they will all get there in the end. Keep going!
Meantime, I have the opportunity to create the most fabulous new member of the family. Like having a baby, it’s an exhilarating roller-coaster of a journey. Every day brings new experiences, new challenges and new successes. Even for me. I’ve been reminded, in a timely fashion, of what incredibly hard work puppy-raising is and that new owners need as much help, understanding and reassurance as new parents. Yes, you are doing fine: you care about your puppy and you are doing the best job you can. All will be well.
So, it may be true that no-one has time for a puppy. But if you can “make” time the rewards are huge. And if you can’t, you’re probably better off with the electronic version. They come with an off switch…
(Teksta electronic puppy: available from Amazon and other retailers)