Everyone loves puppies. They are cute, bouncy, playful and lots of fun! But before you make that commitment, ask yourself if you have what it takes.
PUPPY MYTH: IF I RAISE A PUPPY, IT WON'T HAVE BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS
In order to raise a puppy into a well-behaved adult dog, one needs to prepare for a variety of factors, including:
- Recognizing and finding quality breeders who breed for phenomenal temperaments for pet homes, not looks or titles, AND who understand the importance of socialization before the puppies go to their new homes.
- Learning common breed tendencies and how those tendencies will compliment or conflict with owner's lifestyle.
- Understanding and recognition of canine body language to spot stress, fear or early warning signs for aggression, even in puppies as young as 6-8 weeks of age.
- Developmental stages for the first 18 months and what needs must be met during those stages.
- Proper socialization techniques to ensure positive experiences with all people, places and things encountered.
- Training methods and techniques that prevent problem behaviors.
- Ability to prevent traumatic events (as perceived by the puppy) during developmental fear stages.
- Cooperation of all family members for clear, consistent training.
Raising a puppy is not for beginners. One needs to have an excess of energy and commitment to learn how to do it right and enough time to do it!
BAD COMBINATION: PUPPIES AND SMALL CHILDREN
What child doesn't want a puppy? Puppies are cute for a reason - their infant-like features invoke caretaking instincts in all of us.
However, the reality of raising a puppy with small children is never the idyllic scenario that kids and their parents imagine. Puppies will nip and bite, there is no way around it. The behavior will decrease as the puppy matures, but only if it is not reinforced - and children who run and scream and cry when puppies nip are lots of fun to playful puppies! Puppies soon learn that nipping makes kids run and running kids are fun to chase.
Puppies also don't "know" which toys are theirs and which belong to the children, so if your young children have trouble keeping their toys picked up, you may be facing a lot of tears as favorite teddy bears are happily eviscerated.
Puppies do not mature until they are 2 years old. This means that for two years, you will have the equivalent of an additional child in the house. One who doesn't speak, doesn't understand English, and needs significant guidance from you to learn human rules. On the upside, unlike children, you can teach your puppy to enjoy their crate when you go out to dinner at night - no sitter needed!
Parents should understand that the goal of teaching dogs to "obey" younger children is difficult to achieve, even for the most committed owner.
Younger children under the age of 10 can have trouble with the motor skills necessary to teach dogs and puppies new behaviors, not to mention the consistency necessary to prevent or solve problem behaviors.
If you're unsure of whether or not your child is ready to take on the role of dog trainer and caretaker, ask yourself if your child is capable of doing the dishes after dinner without assistance. If your answer is "no," then your child is likely not ready for a role in raising your puppy.
HOW MUCH WORK COULD IT REALLY BE?
Once the puppy is in your home, they have multiple needs that must be met in the first month, including:
- Safe socialization to new people, friendly dogs, strange sounds, sights and more.
- Housetraining/Crate training
- Prevention of:
Management and prevention of these behaviors may well last for the first 18 months of a puppy's life.
- Digging/Chewing landscaping
- Possession aggression (food bowls, toys, etc)
- Aggression when handled (grooming, etc)
- Training fundamentals (come, sit, accept a leash)
- Supervision and management of puppy with small children (<10 years old) to prevent injury and conflict.
This just a sample of the basics that need to be covered all at once. What could possibly go wrong? Considering most of the dogs relinquished to shelters are between 6-18 months of age, it is clear that plenty of things can go wrong when a puppy owner is unprepared.
Raising a puppy is not a beginner's task. Sure, many people manage to do just fine and raise happy, healthy, well-mannered pets. But the shelters are full of puppies who did not meet the Disney-induced image their new family had in mind.
If you have read this and still want to raise a puppy, CONGRATULATIONS! You are embarking on a 2-3 year journey that I hope will provide more joy than frustration.
If, on the other hand, this sounds like more time than you're ready for, an adult dog (over 2 years) from the local shelter may very well require less training and time and can still give you 10-15 years of companionship.
If you really want a wonderful companion who enjoys spending quiet time with you and your family, consider adopting a senior dog!
IS YOUR NEW PUPPY ALREADY HOME?
Don't worry! We're here to help. 4Paws University offers private lessons for puppies so you can get started on training and socialization now.
Lessons are initial held in your home (limited service area) and then in various puppy-safe locations for instruction on safe socialization.