It happens. Impulse pet purchases and adoptions skyrocket during Christmastime. Kids beg for puppies. You assume your significant other wants that miniature poodle they've been whining about. Whatever the reasoning, you end up with a dog, everyone is excited a hell, and then the hype dies down.
Reality sets in hard. You're sleep deprived from the howling, have come to the realization that puppies don't come potty trained, and the nibbling on your hand and furniture isn't as cute as it was at 8 weeks old.
Welcome to Puppy Parenthood.
A lot of dog owners give up once the frustration sets in. People take the dog back to the breeder, shelter, or rescue. Getting a dog without any research seemed like a great idea at first, but now all the Christmas joy is gone and you're having second thoughts. Please don't give up. Dogs are lifetime companions, not cute, temporary damn playthings. If you think the latter, you don't deserve a dog at all. Ever.
As always, though, we've got your back, and we sure as hell got your dog's back during this time of transition. Let's go over some of the most common reasons families give up on their new pet, and how to overcome these obstacles.
Before we continue, we have an entire podcast that gives away free and invaluable behavioral advice. Take some time on your drive to work or on your afternoon run to learn how to become the best leader for your new pack member.
Top 3 "New Puppy" Concerns
1. I don't have enough time to take care of it. It needs a family where it can receive more attention and exercise.
Don't get stuck in thinking that your new puppy or dog requires hours of endless attention and playtime. While dogs are a time commitment, they don't take up as much you think. Puppies should be left alone to sleep for the majority of the day. Too much attention can makes for an anxious, overstimulated dog. YOU get to decide what kind of dog it becomes. If you want a calm, well-behaved dog, raise the dog with proper structure. It's not rocket science but it does take some knowledge and consistency in your role as a leader.
Your dog doesn't need to run marathons. The ideal amount is a minimum 45-minute structured loose-leash walk each day, no matter the breed. Structure means at a heel and no sniffing or marking unless you allow it. We actually have an entire blog post dedicated to this, as it is the most important time of your dog's day. A proper structured walk and structured training will reduce anxiety and energy, and also, importantly, help bond you to your dog and assert your role as a leader. For a puppy, walks, training time, and play sessions may be shorter and gradually increase with age, but go ahead and start setting up a walk and structured daily routine for your pup. By 6 months you should have a dog that adapts and welcomes a daily, structured environment.
2. The puppy is overly energetic, i.e. biting, chewing, not house trained, howling.
A puppy can be energetic. It's up to you to mold their behavior by rewarding positive behaviors (peeing outside, going to place command, etc.) and discouraging or correcting negative behaviors (biting, chewing). If the dog is exhibiting negative behaviors, you and/or your family are most likely reinforcing these by giving them too much attention.
Remember, what you pet (reward), is what you get. If your dog is energetic, anxious, fearful, or exhibiting other negative behaviors, the best thing for you to do is ignore your dog and let them self-calm and decompress in a crate or place command.
If you reward a behavior, intentionally (with treats) or unintentionally (by giving the puppy what it wants or attention), the puppy will continue that behavior.
Here's an example: the puppy starts howling, so you pick it up. You've just rewarded them with your attention so it will continue to howl.
You can only add or encourage a behavior with positive reinforcement and remove a behavior by correcting it. There is nothing wrong with giving your dog correction. It's actually instinctual and desirable. Dogs correct other dogs. Cats correct dogs. Snakes correct cats. Etc. It's how they learn.
3. The puppy can't be crated because it howls or cries constantly.
This negative behavior can be caused by a few things, but you're likely part of the problem.
There are ways to properly introduce a crate and ways to misuse a crate, as with any tool. So do your homework. Make sure you have sufficiently exercised your dog with a 45-minute structured walk and then let them relax in the crate. Start feeding and treating them in the crate (marrow bones are a great choice), so they learn it's a safe and desirable place.
If you're reacting to your dog's vocalization by soothing or letting them out, again, you're rewarding negative behavior. Wait until they are in a complete state of calm before letting them out. If you're worried about neighbors complaining, go ahead and reach out to them. Let them know that you have a new family member who's in an adjustment period. Being honest can prevent headaches. Hell, you can even add them to your Heroly network and let them be your allies.
Don't forget to listen to Heroly's Canine Club Podcast! You'll hear more information from Jonas Black, our resident expert dog behaviorist and number one smart ass in Austin, TX. In each episode, he sheds light on the dog training industry, destroys some common myths, and will help guide you in building a healthy relationship with your dog.
If you're new, we recommend starting with episode one. It's worth it.
You'll thank us, and your dog will thank you.
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