Should you even be thinking about getting a puppy?
DO NOT, I repeat:
- Do not get a puppy if you like your free time.
- Do not get a puppy if you do not like babies.
- Do not get a puppy if you are living on a shoestring budget and can’t afford to replace multiple items in your possession.
- Do not get a puppy if you need your sleep, like clean hands, or place a high value on a nice lawn.
On the other hand, DO:
- Do get a puppy if you are willing to accept gobs of slobbery, unconditional affection.
- Do get a puppy if you like to laugh.
- Do get a puppy if you like to get out into the fresh air or like to snuggle into warm fur.
- Do get a puppy if you enjoy seeing life blossom.
There are seven basic secrets to surviving the puppy stage.
SECRET #1 – Really want a puppy
Be committed to the relationship, like you would to a young child who has high need levels. Puppies need immense amounts of love, supervision, and interaction. If you have a caring attitude toward your puppy, you will be less stressed about the level of care it needs. You will also be in a better frame of mind to problem solve effectively.
SECRET #2 – Spend lots of time with your puppy
This is not spoiling your puppy. Time together is needed for you both to bond with each other. This will also get you in tune with your puppy’s needs and methods of communication. Time with you will also mean that your puppy is more likely to get lots of chances to be active with appropriate supervision.
SECRET #3 – Have a puppy oriented routine
Until it is older, your puppy needs your life to revolve around it. This will
- Greatly enhance house training.
- Make sure the puppy gets regular activity and rest.
- Make crate training go more smoothly.
- Help you maintain sanity because you have a plan.
- Get the puppy used to a routine, which can then be adjusted more easily when it gets older.
- Help the puppy relax because it knows what to expect.
SECRET #4 – Feed your puppy at regular and timely intervals
Having food available only at specific times makes it easier to predict when your puppy will need to relieve its bowels. If its last food is early enough in the evening, there is less likelihood of nighttime emergencies. Regular meals will keep your puppy feeling content and be easier on its young digestive system. Also, if you feed it good food regularly, you will be less likely to give it snacks that might not be as nutritious or might be harder for it to digest.
SECRET #5 – Let your puppy sleep by your bed
Some people go so far as to have their puppies sleep in their bed, but that is not my cup of tea. However, dogs are pack animals and will be very lonely – and noisy – if left to sleep alone in some isolated spot. They will learn sooner to sleep peacefully if you are near. You will also sleep better because it will be easy to just glance and see how your puppy is doing, even if it is still learning to be quiet in its crate.
We did get Boo (short for Boomerang) when she was very young, not quite six weeks old, so I did resort to sleeping with her on my chest on the couch by our bed for the latter part of a few nights. Having her at least start in the crate for the first half of the night made it more natural to work into the whole night in the crate over the first month.
SECRET # 6 – Crate train your puppy
It is important to have a safe place to keep your puppy when you are busy. There are times when you will need to work on something or run errands. A crate is a safer and more comfortable place for the puppy than being chained somewhere or being in an outside area. There will probably be times when you want to travel with your puppy, too. This will be much less traumatic for the puppy if it is already used to spending peaceful time in the crate.
SECRET #7 – Give your puppy plenty of safe and controlled opportunities to be around other people and pets
A puppy who is used to noise and commotion will be more relaxed about life in general. Make sure to let small children interact with your puppy while keeping them all safe from each other’s careless youthful exuberance. If you have cats in the house, let them hang around each other and enforce limits on responses. Then your puppy will think all of these things are normal.
Get out and about with your puppy. This helps accustom them to unexpected encounters and being outside of its own territory. Take them to farm stores and banks. I was even in a Hobby Lobby recently that allowed properly controlled dogs to come in!
Seeing your puppy engage with other people will help make you aware of issues that might not be as obvious when it is just with you. It will also make you happy to see other people have fun with it. After your puppy is six months old, go with it to obedience school so you can both get trained.
When is it not a puppy anymore?
Boo the bird dog is an 11 months old puppy now. Some days I am still amazed that I survived her young puppy stage. I am very glad I did, though, because her companionship is delightful.
Most people say that a puppy is young until about age six months. At that age, more strict obedience training can be taught. Boo and my husband attended Scotch Pines Dog Training classes together. I had already gone through the classes with an older dog of mine, so I was able to help with some of the training at home. At first, Boo didn’t seem to be responding all that well, but by the time she graduated it had made a huge difference.
My husband also introduced her to bird hunting concepts along the way but was kind of discouraged until she hit about nine months old. At nine months, it all seemed to click. She’s still a puppy, unpredictable and excitable, but she loves to retrieve birds for him and has hiked many miles in the brush and along the Snake River. I hope to write more about that another time.
Call us crazy, but we are already talking about our next puppy. Knowing the secrets about handling the puppy stage means we can make it a more enjoyable time and be assured of the puppy becoming an adult dog we want to be around.
DO get a puppy if you can.