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Some Things to Consider Before Getting a Puppy

Updated on August 5, 2012
5 month old Irish Setter Puppy
5 month old Irish Setter Puppy

What's it Really Like Living with a Puppy?

Puppies are cute, cuddly and fun. Or that’s the way they appear in photos! But many people who buy a puppy – even those who’ve had other dogs beforehand – find that they get a lot more than they bargained for once they bring him home.

The best way I can describe it is to liken it to suddenly having a two year human toddler thrust upon you. They are into everything, don’t understand what you’re saying (especially the word ‘NO’), still need potty training, won’t sleep through the night and manage to get hold of and destroy your favourite possessions. Think of the energy you need running round after a child in the ‘terrible twos’ stage and you’ll be getting close to picturing how much work it’s going to be looking after a pup.

Bringing up a puppy is an amazing experience, seeing it grow and turn into an adult dog who’s hopefully well behaved and a loyal friend. But it’s very hard work. And it is definitely a case of you get out what you put in. If you’re not prepared to spend time training , you will end up with a rather unpleasant, unruly and disobedient dog.

Almost as soon as the pup comes home new owners start to discover what they’ve let themselves in for. First it’s house training – it’s not the your pet's fault that you didn’t read the signs and take him to his paper or into the garden quickly enough, but sometimes it seems like they’re doing it on purpose. And then there’s the first few nights. However people have prepared themselves, leaving a pup alone crying and whining is extremely tough. Not giving in and letting him cry for a few nights will pay dividends in the end, but so many people find in reality they cannot do this, so he starts sleeping in the bedroom, or even in the bed!

One of the worst traits is their biting. When you get a puppy at eight weeks it will have needle like extremely sharp teeth. Their teeth are made that way so that they can chip off bits of food as their jaws are not strong enough to crush bones yet. The adult teeth start coming through around the 4 month mark, when they will have an overwhelming urge to chew as their teeth are growing. Those tiny puppy teeth are absolutely lethal, and some are so bad at biting their owners that it’s seems like they’ve transformed into a baby alligator. But biting, however vicious it seems on the receiving end, is all part of their development. It’s something you have to live through, and does stop eventually.

As well as their owners, puppies chew everything in sight. It is no point wasting time trying to tell him that your shoes are not the most delectable tooth cutting toy there is, he just won’t understand. The easiest way to manage with a puppy is to keep anything he shouldn’t chew out of his way, and to make sure that he has plenty of toys and chews he can destroy.

Puppies need to be socialised with other dogs, people and as many things as possible that they’ll come across during their lives. Up to 16 weeks he will be best able to take in new experiences and learn how to deal with them. A pup who hasn’t been exposed to something during this window of opportunity will find it hard to properly engage with it later on in life. So for them to be able to learn the correct behaviour around other dogs, children, to learn that car journeys are fun, to understand they must not chase other animals means that a lot of hard work needs to be put in on the owner’s part during the first couple of months of pet ownership.

Before bringing him home you’ll be saving yourself a lot of grief if you prepare your house and garden first. Anything chewable should be removed to a safe place. Arrangements should be made for where he is going to sleep, and where he will toilet. In the garden you should check that you don’t have any poisonous plants around. And as far as the garden goes, if you have an amazing show of flowers be prepared for these to be pulled up by the roots, holes dug in the lawn, and trees pruned where they don’t need to be (depending on size of pup of course!). If you don’t want the pup to get to something, then fence it off. Or make the decision your first year with your pup is going to be fun, and sacrifice your flowers for a while.

All puppies have their good and bad points – some are quick to be housetrained but trash the garden. Some don’t nip their owners, but tuck into the furniture instead. Some sleep through the night, some don’t! Make sure you don’t get upset when it seems someone else’s pup is perfect – you can be certain that there is some problem they are having to deal with.

If you’re thinking of getting a puppy on a whim, think whether you can really go through the early stages of his life with him. If you want a dog, but haven’t the time or patience there are a lot of adult dogs in rescue homes just waiting for a home like yours. Some may have problems, but many have just arrived there through no fault of their own due perhaps to a change in circumstances of the original owner.

If you can look at a puddle on the floor and laugh it off saying it needed a clean anyway, if you can think of the loss of a pair of shoes as the opportunity to go shopping, if you can laugh when your prize lawn has a hole the size of a crater in it and all because the cuddles and licks and unqualified love and affection make up for everything, then go ahead, get a puppy and enjoy.

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