Living with a Puppy

There are lots of books and sources of advice on choosing and buying your puppy, training, house training, socialising, puppy classes and so on, but in this article I want to write about living with your puppy. I have recently acquired a young rescue dog, a puppy really and I have not lived with a puppy for over twenty years, all my dogs have been or are adult rescues, most of them with behavioural issues and I have completely forgotten how demanding having a puppy in the house can be.

Be Clear, Teach and Guide

Your puppy is an absolute baby when it comes to live with you and it has not read any of the books. All it knows about how to live is what it has learned from its mother along with its instinctive natural behaviours. So we must try to understand our puppies and take the time to teach the puppy to do things properly. We then need to give them the chance to practise doing it well. This takes considerable time and commitment and can be extremely frustrating until the puppy begins to understand what we expect of them.

And beware, Seemingly harmless behaviours in a new puppy can lead to potential problems later on such as allowing a tiny puppy mouth to chew your hand or picking up a small dog that scrabbles at your legs.

Make every thing the puppy does worth while, dogs do the right thing because they get something out of it, a treat, a game, attention from us.

Be Tidy

Puppies chew. It is a very natural behaviour and they need to have plenty of opportunity to do this. The problems with living with a chewing puppy are firstly, destroying our things and secondly, swallowing bits which may get stuck and need surgery to remove them. We can avoid a great deal of this with one or two important rules. For us that is. Be really, really tidy. If your pup can’t get at your things it can’t chew them. Or swallow them. Make sure your pup only chews toys that it can’t destroy and break bits off. And very importantly teach your pup to give things up when you want them to. If your pup has your mobile phone in its mouth, don’t tear after it shouting expletives. Wow thinks pup, what a great game of chase this is and that phone must be really valuable it you want it so badly. So why would your pup want to give it up? Take a deep breath, go and find a piece of cheese or chicken or some really fantastic treat, calmly offer it your pup in exchange for your phone. You will be teaching your pup that it is always safe to give something to you because it will get something else in exchange. And if you have a really smart pup that learns to collect things for a reward – well it may be a bit of a pain being brought a constant supply of bits and pieces but that is preferable to damage, surgery and potentially a dog that will bite if you try and take something from it.

Mad Time

Many puppies have a sleep button and a mad crazy button and not much in between. These mad times often coincide with when we are busy with other things, first thing in the morning and early evening. That is the natural daily cycle for the pup and to a large extent we have to go along with this. Puppies do need to learn to switch off but they also need to play and sometimes this may not be at a time that suits us but if it is what your pup needs then a happy medium is required.

Compromise

Dogs wish for nothing more than to be part of a family, enjoy daily walks, regular meals and a comfortable place to sleep. Listen to your puppy and hear what they are saying. You have chosen to have a puppy, the puppy has not chosen to live with you so the responsibility to compromise lies with you.

And finally remember – it doesn’t last for ever and all the effort you put in now will pay off when your dog is a happy adult, relaxed and easy to live with. Enjoy.

Living with a Puppy 2

Following from the last article about living with a puppy, I will now write about my puppy, who inspired the last article. I will call him Pod (name changed for his protection).

He is now 7 months and he came to me from rescue when he was about 4 months.

He is finally improving but…. He chews, steals, gets frantically over excited and really boils over, he pulls my hair and grabs my clothes, he still wees in the house and he is obsessive about food.

In his favour he is very intelligent, affectionate, and playful and gets on with all dogs, people and cats. So once he learns to control himself he will be a wonderful dog. Until then he tries my patience many times a day.

Six thirty in the morning I am standing in the garden in my dressing gown waiting for him to do a wee and poo. He can’t quite hold in all night yet.

Breakfast has to be the most incredibly exciting thing in the whole world. He spins around and barks frantically. He will eventually sit and wait for his bowl, but you can see that it is hard because breakfast is so exciting.

He gets a short walk during the day as we work on building up his leg which he broke before I got him although I don’t know why I bother taking his exercise easy as he tears around the garden like a hysterical demon but I like to think I am doing the best I can to protect both his leg and his psyche.

All day he has to actually be taken out into the garden very regularly and told to wee otherwise he will still wet in the house. I’ve taught him to wee on command but I have to stand there until he has done his poo. If I go inside and leave him he will not do anything – until he gets back inside. If it is raining he really doesn’t want to get wet and the wee ends up on the step just outside the door as close as he can get. Even if the weather is nice and the door is open he will not reliably take himself outside yet to wee, he needs to be reminded.

During the day, if he is left for a short while, he will settle down and sleep. I used a crate for him until recently but he gets to go with the big dogs now. However, if I am trying to do anything around the house he is into it all, causing chaos. His mad time, mentioned in the last article, lasts most of the day. It would, frankly, be easier to shut him up but then he will never learn so I struggle on. He collects shoes, clothes, cushions, he shreds paper, empties bins, leaps on the hoover, pulls washing off the line and digs up the garden. He is constantly on the lookout for something, anything, to go in his mouth. So I have to be very, very tidy, I close doors and I don’t leave anything mouth sized on surfaces. I have even had to remove two shelves of books at nose height from the bookcase as those came off the shelves and were great fun to tear up. And I can’t wear my usual big long wallopy tops and cardigans or he will hang off them.

He does know seven words, ‘off’, ‘sit’ ‘down’, ’come’, ‘wait’, ‘walk nice’ and ‘look at me’, and is pretty good at them for a fraction of a second when nothing else is happening so we are now working on building up his concentration and distraction level.

Supper time is just as exciting as breakfast and we have another frantic time of spinning and barking until his food is ready and I can try and ask for some calm before he eats.

A mad play in the garden with the other dogs follows {even though I know they shouldn’t do it with a full stomach}. Then he has to go in his crate while I eat supper otherwise I would spend all meal saying ‘off’, ‘sit’ and rewarding him while I develop indigestion. That is finally getting better, he will settle down while I have a cup of tea and a biscuit but a whole meal is too much for him to hold it together for at the moment.

I am not his pack leader – that is an outdated concept, but I am his guide, teacher, mother, protector and trainer. I will not use any punishment, all his experiences and learning must be positive and although he still has a long way to go he is a very happy puppy and it important to me that he remains happy and confident while he learns how live in his human world. I do not want him depressed and inhibited by constant nagging and shutting away which would probably be much easier on me, so I soldier on being endlessly patient and positive while I try to give him as many experiences as possible and help him to learn to deal with them in a way that suits us both.

And at about 8pm he will get up on the sofa beside me snuggle up close, and sleep for the rest of the evening.

And then I really love him!!!