I had an amazing 121 training session last week in the home of a 9-week-old puppy. He has 100% landed on his paws. A lovely family of four, 2 children aged 8 and 11. They are besotted and want to do everything possible to set their puppy up for success. They held off getting a puppy until as a family they had time to do all the training that the new puppy would need. They did research on different products, breeds, socialisation, how children should behave around dogs, how to toilet train the pup and how to help him settle at night. When I got to their home I felt they knew almost as much as I did about puppies and that feeling is rare. Usually, I am called in when it’s starting to go wrong and it was the first time in years I was called in and it was all going perfectly. However, this was the whole families first experience at owning a dog, even the parents did not have dogs growing up, so there were no expectations of what a puppy would/should/could do, they just did as much preparation as possible and were enjoying the whole experience of having him join the family.
The reasons why people make the decision to get a dog fascinates me. In the last few weeks I have asked a lot of the new puppy owners I have met what was the reason they decided to get a pup, and while there have been many different reasons why they decided to take the plunge, there is one reason that makes me ponder new dog ownership more than others
“I grew up with (insert breed here) and I want to experience the same relationship with a dog that I did growing up. My childhood dog was amazing”
Now, in my mind I feel that’s a lot of pressure for any new puppy joining a family. Lots of expectations already in place of how this new little puppy should and will behave.
“When you release expectations, you are free to enjoy things for what they are instead of what you think they should be” – Mandy Hale.
Usually it is between 15-25 years since the person last had contact with their childhood dog and let’s face it, almost all good memories just get better and better with time. Our childhood best furry friend may have played catch with us in the garden, followed us and our friends as we ran through the fields, licked away our tears when we fell off our bikes, but I am willing to bet it was your Mum & Dad who picked up the poo, paid the vets bills, looked after the basic training, bought its food and paid for boarding when you went away on family holidays. Like a lot of things that we experienced as children, we did it without having the major responsibility for the medical, financial and education worries. Also, the social environment most of us grew in as children is now vastly different. Many of us are now time poor, running to catch up with ourselves between working 40 hours a week, fitting in whatever lifestyle choices we want and family commitments that it can leave little time for a new arrival of the four-legged kind in our homes. Does this mean I am anti people getting dogs for this reason? Absolutely not.
I am anti people putting high expectations on any new puppy dog to join the family. High expectations can lead to big disappointment and repeated disappointment can lead to apathy. And all puppies deserve better than that from us.
Having puppy is a lot of hard work, and you must be willing to put the effort in to show your puppy how you would like them to behave. When we have had a dog in the past, we tend to remember all the good things about them. Our old dog would walk beside us down the street and not try and run off so we expect the new dog should do this too. Our old dog used to love playing tug so we expect this dog will too. Our old dog was happy to be left alone for 6 hours a day when we were at school so we expect this dog will get used to it too. Our old dog never ever soiled in the house, so we expect this dog to be 100% house trained quick smart too.
Every single puppy I have the pleasure to meet is different, even if they come from the same litter and live in the same household, they all have their own personalities, likes and dislikes and it is our responsibility as responsible dog owners to encourage and show them how we want them to behave to fit in with our families and lifestyles. How can we help this puppy be as great a dog as our childhood family dog?
Set your puppy up for success & work towards building brilliant new memories.
- Preparation – do your research. Be honest, do you have the time and energy to look after a puppy who will grow into an adult dog that can live for possible 15 years? If the true answer to that question is yes, research breeds, rescues groups, breeders. Check out the financial costs that will come up, vet fees, grooming, dog training, diet, pet minding, dog walkers/day-care if you work out of the home. It does add up quickly.
- Action – so you did your homework, you got the puppy now it’s time to put that research into action. Get moving with your puppy vaccinations asap, get socialising with your puppy, sign up for puppy training classes. What you put into your puppy in the first few months of his life with you is critical. If you never do another training class in your dog’s whole life, sign up for a puppy class and have your pup learning how to live in our human world from the start.
- Make time -everyday to be with your dog. While you are running around, commuting in and out of work, dropping the kids to swimming, doing the shopping etc. your dog is at home waiting for you, the bringer of all good things and happiness for him. A quick walk around the block while you speak to someone on your phone is not much fun for him. When you bring the dog for a walk, make it time for you and him and build up that amazing bond. Play with him or just sit and be with him. Just commit to spending time with him and only him.
We all have great memories of times past. Cherish every memory you have of the dogs that you grew up with, but remember life is for living, enjoying the present, making new memories, building new bonds and taking on new challenges.