I am likely to get to flack over this but this is something I have been deliberating on writing about for some time. I am addressing a few scenarios that in my opinion, are not usually good for raising a puppy. I have tough training clients and tough dogs but I have an equal amount of normal, typical puppies who end up in homes of people who are ill prepared to handle them. For now I want to separate them into two groups. The elderly/retired and the busy. First, I love my Grandma more than you know but I would firmly tell her “Hell no” if she suggested she wanted a new puppy. Likewise, that family of 3 kids under 10 yrs old with busy parents who work 8-10 hr days should also consider other companion options than a new puppy.
Puppies are simple for the most part and even if you get a companion type breed like a Maltese or Yorkie you may be in for trouble if you aren’t prepared. When I say prepared I don’t just mean you went to the pet store and bought $500 in toys, food and bedding. I am talking about prepared to get off your butt every hour to take the dogs out, prepared to get on the floor and play with it, prepared to get up when it jumps on you, prepared to adjust your life you love 180 degrees to accommodate a furry toddler. Seriously, there is nothing drastically different in your responsibility from raising a puppy and a toddler. Puppies grow up faster but that first year or two is not something to joke about.
Let me just put myself in my clients shoes. If I was 70 yrs old, retired and alone I may want to get a dog. Sure a dog but that isn’t necessarily a puppy. Puppies are fast, they nip, they pee and poo a lot and need to be exercised and be mentally stimulated to prevent problem behaviors. The problem with many older clients is that they are well, slow and set in their ways. They don’t remember the difficulty of their last puppy. I hear this from their mouths every time. Heck just getting the treat down to the dog’s mouth is a slow process, now put a leash in the other hand and ask for perfect timing. It is a challenge.
My job is to find solutions to problems like this and I do, I promise, but this seems like needless pain and trouble when there is a simple option. Adopting an older dog is such a good choice over a puppy. They typically come potty trained and require less activity from the owner, assuming they wisely picked a breed that matched their lifestyle.
My other category of pet owners who may want to bypass a puppy is the “busy” family. Don’t get me wrong. This actually works out ok sometimes but it is that special family and special dog that makes it work. I am only saying that overall this is a more challenging situation. From the get go I have more unwanted potty, chewing, nipping, attention seeking behavior than from a family who’s life is more consistent. With busy family lives and little time because of activities and work, the puppy learns bad behaviors fast. As much as I loved dogs growing up, I admit I was bit a few times because of my spastic and high energy behavior. I didn’t get to have a puppy until I was over 10. I think this was a great decision by my parents.
Now if you have a ton of money to spend on training, daycare, walking, etc. you may have a chance in either scenario but I am not writing this for you. I am writing this for the average family who wants companionship from and dog and thinks starting from scratch with a puppy is the best option. Let me remind you that even highly skilled dog trainers get flustered by puppies. These are little lives and when it doesn’t work out, puppies are likely to be re-homed or dropped off at a shelter when they are too much to handle. Owners may even resort to last chance training protocols that involve unnecessary aversive measures, damaging trust between the owner and the dog, all in the name of having a dog who behaves like you want for your now sedentary or all too busy lifestyle.
Having said all this, I will always come running to the rescue when needed but I would like to see more thought go into the acquisition of a new dog.
Be well and wag tail!
OC Canine Coaching www.occaninecoaching.com