Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Surviving the Puppy Years

Puppies! They are cute, adorable, innocent, playful, energetic, full of beans and often holy terrors!!!

As a brand new puppy owner, I've decided to document my journey and progress with my puppy in a series of articles.

All puppy owners have challenges and unique situations. My current situation includes my new puppy of seven months old. She is a Samoyed/Husky mix. I also have an 11 year male Belgian Shepherd mix and a 14 year old female German Shepherd/Collie mix. And just to add that much more of a challenge, I also have two senior cats, both over 15 years old. So you can imagine with all of us old ones, this young puppy has been an absolute shock! I knew  puppies have a lot of energy. But knowing that and actually experiencing it are two very different things.

I'm constantly being reminded that I don't have as much patience as I thought I had. And I don't like to admit it, but I've questioned my sanity a few times to bring a puppy into a house with two other dogs and cats.

But besides the obvious challenges of a multi dog household, there are advantages to having older dogs around. Their corrections are much better timed than my own, and just the right intensity to stop a puppy in their tracks. And their calm dispositions do have a positive effect on her.

Whenever my puppy does something that my older dogs would never do, I have to remind myself "she's a puppy". I must think that about 20 times a day. It's so hard to remember that everything is new to a puppy and they are curious, have endless energy and want to play all the time.

So far the absolutely most important lesson I've learned is that getting frustrated makes everything worse! But why is keeping your cool so difficult sometimes? How can a little tiny puppy push your buttons to the point of sheer anger? It's happened to me more times than I care to say, but I do know that if I just keep at it and remind myself that I am in control, it will get better. I won't give up.

One lifesaver we have discovered is our local dog park. It boats acres and acres of wooded trails and open areas. Whenever we go we always see many dogs of all ages and sizes. The dog park serves many purposes. It's absolutely wonderful for draining your puppy's energy; it provides your puppy with much need socialization skills, with both dogs and humans. And allows your puppy to run and play.

Another important lesson I've learned is that time outs are not just for children. My goal is to have a calm household. I realize puppies have a lot of energy and that draining that is essential. And in return I expect good calm behaviour. When my puppy gets too excited she  goes berserk. I've discovered that tethering her on a leash in the house forces her to calm down. Some people may think that's cruel but I disagree. I am simply disagreeing with the behaviour and controlling it. Once she calms down, I praise her and remove the leash. If she stays settled down, she can be free with the rest of us.

Keep in mind; it's your house and your rules. You are providing your puppy with food, water, shelter, health care, exercise, socialization, toys, love and countless other things. You have the right to expect certain behaviour in return.

  • Set rules and be consistent
  • Socialize with dogs and people as much as possible
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise
  • Give your puppy affection only when she calm

Crate training has been very helpful. At night and when we are out of the house, we don't have to worry that our puppy is messing things, chewing things or disrupting the other animals (other than having to listen to her whining). It's an easy way to potty train as dogs don't usually mess in their crate so the minute she comes out, she goes outside. If/when your puppy cries in the crate, be strong and don't give in. If you do you will be teaching them that making noise works and that is the last thing you want. At all costs ignore the behaviour. If you have just walked your puppy and she has relieved herself, she is fine. When you do let her out, make sure she is calm. And never ever put her in the crate as a punishment. Her crate should be a place to sleep and be associated with good things like feeling calm or getting her Kong or a treat.

I highly recommend taking some sort of puppy training class. Even if you have a lot of knowledge about dogs and already know how to train them, it's still a great opportunity for all of you. Your puppy will meet other puppies and  new people, and you will undoubtedly discover something you didn't know or didn't think of. And it's never a bad thing to explore different training methods. Not all dogs respond to the same to training so trying new things can be very beneficial.

If you are also experiencing the joys and challenges of having a puppy, remember that as difficult as it may be at times, all the hard work will pay off and you will have a loyal companion for life.

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