Awww Mom! Can We Keep Him?
Puppies. They’re ADORABLE. Everyone loves them, right? But what everyone doesn’t realize is just how much work they can be. Warmer seasons always bring more into rescue, that usually means more teenaged dogs in the shelter systems in 6-12 months. It’s important to keep the commitment in mind as you’re cuddling that adorable little ball of fuzz with the wickedly awful, but somehow incredibly irresistible breath.
1. Puppies are like babies, and the saying “I slept like a baby” is a bold-faced lie.
Most responsible breeders send their pups home around 8 to 10 weeks old (other, less responsible breeders send them much younger, sadly). If you think about a human baby at this same age, they’re typically sleeping just a few short hours at a time… and puppies are no different. They’re hungry, they’re restless and bored, they’ve had an accident in their crate… they’re awake. Being prepared to sleep on the couch, and being up every 2-3 hours for potty and play breaks isn’t something most people consider.
2. And then there’s the whole housetraining thing…
2. We’ll get into overall training in just a moment – let’s first talk about those accidents in the crate. And on the dining room floor. And on the carpet in the office. And… and… and… it’s everywhere! Puppies, like babies, have tiny little bladders that don’t hold much, and need to be relieved often; however unlike babies, they don’t wear diapers, so when they let go wherever they are, it means a mess to clean up. One of the first (and most important) training jobs you’ll have with your new bundle of joy is housetraining – some people are great at it, some struggle. This is one of the top reasons family pets are surrendered, so it needs to be a top priority… and it’s not easy to master for us, or our four-legged friends.
3. “Training? But she’s so cute, I can’t start training her yet!”
This is an actual quote from an acquaintance, in reference to a 10-week old puppy they’d adopted who was quickly developing some bad habits. Training and socialization can be a lot of fun when approached properly, but are also an incredible amount of work. Learning to walk nicely on a leash, master basic obedience commands, and interact appropriately with others (regardless of species) will take time and patience, but will make life with your dog about a million times more bearable. Training should start day 1 when your fuzzy little friend comes home, and needs to be a part of everything your puppy does. Consistency is key too, so pick whatever method works best for you and your family, and stick to it.
4. Little exploding bombs of destruction
So you’ve decided you can handle the lack of sleep and all the work the training and socializing will take, and puppy is coming home. You’ve got TONS of toys: chewies, squeekies, stuffies, ropies… but that puppy doesn’t even care! She wants your shoes, your coffee table, your houseplants and your favorite purse. Puppies are destructors, and you have to be willing to sacrifice any and everything in your home, happily.
When that sweet little stinker nuzzles into the crook of your neck and falls asleep, just remember that it won’t always be like this. Try to picture the other side of the coin, when you’ve been up all night, you’ve got puppy poop stuck in your hair, your favorite handbag is covered in tiny teethmarks and you’ve got pee stains on your socks. It gets better, but know that it’s a big job and commitment right from the start. Far too many puppies are surrendered into the shelter system because we, as humans, have failed them, and we owe their sweet little faces better.
As a last note, remember that – just like with people – certain behavioural traits can always bubble to the surface as puppies reach their version of teenage years. Think of the wonderful, calm puppy who starts to develop a very strong prey drive as she nears a year old; many times, these are personality traits that are inherent to a dog’s wiring. It’s nature AND nurture that makes the final product. For this reason, if you’re looking for a new addition to your family, it might be best to investigate a mature dog, who has been through screening and assessment, and won’t have any surprises down the road.
By Leigh Oxley, HugABull volunteer and past foster mom to Bruno, one of the cuties pictured above.