Last Thursday I was in Woodstock with some Home Dog Training clients and their one year old Golden Retriever named Tyson. Tyson was a beautiful dog and “all Golden”. He loved to run and jump and was always happy to meet and play with anyone. This made him a fun dog to play with, but a little unruly to manage. He needed a little structure and direction in his life and my clients just couldn’t seem to get that done. Luckily, this is our “training sweet spot” and we were very successful in teaching Tyson that although he can have fun, he has to obey and respect “Mommy and Daddy”. My clients were thrilled with the results and couldn’t wait to continue what they had learned that day.
As we were finishing up, they asked me about giving a puppy as a gift. Their niece loved coming over to play with Tyson several days a week. They had been visiting Golden Retriever breeders in the area and thought it would be a wonderful surprise to give their niece “her own Tyson” for Christmas. They hadn’t talked to his brother and sister-in-law about it, but since they had no problem with their daughter playing with Tyson, were sure that having their “own Tyson” would be no problem. What did we think?
I told them that there are a lot more things for them to consider before placing a Golden Retriever puppy under the Christmas tree. It is true that they are sweet, cute and cuddly. Who doesn’t love a puppy? Even though I don’t doubt their perfect intentions, studies have shown that many new puppies end up at animal shelters. A study done several years ago with animal shelters analyzed data and found that 54% of the dogs turned in were six months to three years old and over 15% of them were under six months old
Playing with a puppy at a friend’s house and having a puppy 24/7 in your house are two very different scenarios. It is important that they determine if their cousin and her entire family really want a puppy. They are not battery operated toys that can be turned off and put on the shelf in the hall closet. Even if their best information shows that the family wants a puppy of their own, we suggested that they consider putting a stuffed puppy with a gift certificate from the breeder under the tree. Let them pick out the puppy themselves.
I continued by saying that I was not trying to be negative (most of our dogs came to us as puppies), but simply realistic. His brother, sister-in-law, and niece need to understand that when they are adding a puppy to their family, they are incurring a 15-year responsibility. It requires a great deal of time and effort. Their niece, who loves Tyson, didn’t have to experience potty training, crate socialization, teething, and tearing up of pillows and other stuff around the house. Puppies are great, but for all the “wonderful yings”, there are some really “annoying yangs”. A slightly older dog that is potty trained, calmer, and socialized may be a better choice.
Even if his brother and sister-in-law (didn’t tell the niece because it is a Christmas surprise) seem ready for a puppy, they must understand that the gift comes with a very large time commitment and important responsibilities. They also need to understand that even if their daughter has always said “Oh, I would love a puppy and I would take care of it”, this is not going to happen. The parents will always do most of the “hard work” with the puppy.
In any case, we always stress that we need to give our new puppy the best chance for a wonderful and long life. These are some suggestions that Robin and I have given to our clients over the years:
- Do your own homework on puppies before you do anything. Understanding what to expect during your puppy’s first year is paramount in acting on his needs and not reacting to surprises.
- Provide your puppy with calm direction, clear direction and repetitive consistency.
- Have everyone in the family agree to the house rules about caring for your new puppy. Assign tasks that define how every family member will work and socialize with the dog.
- Puppies aren’t free. Plan for the expenses that will appear the moment your new puppy arrives. Food, vet visits, and training are some of the “new family expenses” that must be included in your budget.
- Get a dog crate and use it. The crate is a critical part of your puppy’s potty training. It also allows you to keep him safe when you can’t watch him. Proper socialization with the crate provides your puppy with his needed “safe place” as he gets older.
- Be sure to “puppy-proof” your home. Puppies are curious and will want to check everything out. Place items such as wires, plants, and anything you don’t want broken out of his reach. Also, lock away toxic chemicals and other things such as antifreeze, fertilizers, alcohol, detergents and tobacco.
- Baby (doggie) gates are great and we suggest you use them. They are the perfect training device to close off restricted areas of the house. This helps your puppy learn where he shouldn’t wander.
- Only give your puppy “dog-appropriate toys”. Items like the puppy-sized Kong™ are best for his chewing and focus. Never give your puppy old clothing or shoes as toys. He will think that it is OK to chew stuff like that and then find “a lot more chew toys in your closet.”
- If you are becoming frustrated, talk to your Vet. They can often help because “they see a lot of puppies and puppy owners”. If your frustration persists, think of going to a puppy class or have some in-home puppy training. The one thing you don’t want to happen is to allow bad puppy behavior to persist into their adult life.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over fifteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.