Puppy raising reality check

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)


  1. The most accurate advice I’ve read, being a new puppy owner – puppy now 8 months and definitely reaping the rewards of time spent with her. I liken it to having a new baby who is straight into toddlerhood! Glad I’m not the only one who has been exhausted 🙂

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  2. Spot on.

    We got an 8 week old mini daxie at xmas. and everything (literally everything) we read seemed to imply that if you use “x”method it will only take a few days.

    It took 2 weeks for him to get to the point of sleeping between 10pm and 2 am then going out for the loo and going back to sleep until 6 am. For those 2 weeks he’d go to sleep until 1 or 2, go out to the toilet and then scream the house down until we got up at 6 am. (thank god I had a solid 2.5 weeks off of work or I’d have killed someone.) all the advice made out that everything is quick and if you do it for an afternoon they will just “get it” made us feel like we were completely failing and that we had a dog with a problem and VERY nearly made us take him to a shelter.

    Everything also seems to state that if you let them do something once, that’s it, kaput, you’ve had it your dog is doomed to misbehave and become aggressive. This is nonsense. Everyone will make mistakes, both you and the dog, if you can train an adult dog you can re-train a puppy.

    I was terrified of leaving the dog alone because everything I read online seemed to insinuate that if they showed any signs of distress (even whining) they would develop separation anxiety and then you’d have a real problem. This again was fairly unfounded and it seems that genuine cases of this are quite few and far between rather than the norm.

    Looking back , i feel like an idiot for thinking like that now BUT I’m so glad we persevered as now at 14 weeks he sleeps from 10Pm until around 06:30 am and its getting there with the toilet training. He’s lively (as you’d expect from a pup) and loves the attention when I get in from work, but honestly He’s become much more a part of the family than I ever thought he would.

    To anyone reading this – Training is not an afternoon exercise no matter how many experts say it can be or will be. It is heavily repetition based and takes time. So don’t get down if it doesn’t appear to be working straight away. We’ve never used punitive methods against our pup, and he’s “getting it” just fine, it just takes a bit of time. If you want them to learn quick be prepared to put most of your spare time into teaching and rewarding.

    It all pays off in the end and is well worth the effort.

  3. Tx Rhys. Of course, society is constructed so that we expect everything to be immediate, at least! And yet no-one would expect to raise a child in a weekend… (I hope!). Good to hear all is going well with your pup – keep it up 🙂

  4. It will only be 3 years in May that I last had a young pup in the house, and it`s amazing how much I`ve fogotten. You comfort yourself with the notion that, having brought up 2 pups previously, you are an old hand and know the score. Yes, I remember the things I lost through damage, like my expensive digital camera; my glasses I foolishly placed on the table by my armchair, only to see them disappear into the garden, and be retrieved by me in a thoroughly mangled state, not to mention my best leather slippers. I could go on.
    Having moved to near the Suffolk coast, I decided Polly would like a companion; result, I now have a 9 week old lab bitch with boundless energy, and I`m having to pull the dogs apart to give poor Polly a rest. Of course, the pup is trying to chew everything, and I realise that I should have bought a textbook on which plants are poisonous to dogs, as I seem to have a thousand varieties she tries to chomp on. I haven`t been to the pub for well over a week, and it will be another 15 days before she is allowed out of the house. Even then, she probably won`t be housetrained, so inside the pub will be a no no. Polly was housetrained in 6 days, but my previous dog took over 3 months, and I think this one will be a long haul.

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