How to handle a puppy gone wild

By: Tudor Robins

© Jacobson Author: Canadian Living Credits: © Jacobson


How to handle a puppy gone wild

By: Tudor Robins
You're sleep deprived. You're wiped out from catering to the minute-by-minute needs of a small, very demanding being. You can no longer go anywhere by yourself -- not even the bathroom.

There is nothing like bringing a new baby into your life – even if the new baby is, in this case, a puppy.

"Bringing a new puppy home is very much like adding a new child to your household," says Christa Chadwick, director of animal care at the Ontario SPCA.

Because such an intense commitment is required, it's not surprising that pups are sometimes surrendered to a shelter by people unprepared for the work involved. And Chadwick says if you don't properly train your puppy, you can end up with real behavior problems in your full-grown dog.

That's why it's important to be prepared for some of the toughest – and most common – puppy behaviours.

"Puppies explore their environment with their mouths," Chadwick says. "That can be your fingers, it can be your favourite pair of shoes, it can be electrical cords. You name it; they try and taste it."

Puppies aren't born house-trained and teaching them to go outdoors can be a long – and messy – process.

Nighttime outings
"Until he's housetrained, your puppy won't necessarily be able to make it through the night," says Chadwick. "You'll need to be prepared to get up once or twice in the middle of the night (to take your pup outside)."

Kids and puppies are cute but they can also be unpredictable. Bottom line? "I wouldn't ever leave kids and puppies alone together," says Chadwick.

Of course, while all this may sound daunting, there are countless people out there who have been through it and lived to tell the tale of how a demanding puppy grew into a wonderful dog who enriched their life. Chadwick offers the following tips for getting through the puppy stage:

Seek out support
"Speak with people who have had puppies before – friends, family members, veterinarians, dog trainers in your area," Chadwick says. "Your local animal shelter is a wealth of knowledge."

Page 1 of 2 – more puppy training tips on the next page!
Equip yourself
The right toys will help occupy your puppy and give him something appropriate to chew on. A crate will keep your puppy out of trouble when you can't watch him.

Learn for success

Chadwick strongly recommends attending puppy classes, which usually start when your pup is between eight and 12 weeks of age. Classes give you and your puppy a chance to socialize with other pups and their owners. "Everybody looks like they're sleep-deprived, everybody is covered in nicks and bruises from their puppies," Chadwick says. "It makes it more fun to have good support."

Do the right thing
"Spaying or neutering is an essential part of being a responsible pet owner and it also prevents some behaviour problems and a lot of medical problems. It can mean a longer life for your dog," advises Chadwick.

Are some puppies worse than others? While Chadwick doesn't like to classify any puppy as 'difficult', she says there's no doubt some are more energetic than others and puppies with certain personalities definitely fit better into particular types of households.

"Like people, puppies are all individuals with different needs and different temperaments," says Chadwick. "There may be some that, at first, you don't feel like you're connected with. But puppies are malleable. They change. You teach them. It's all about being patient and having realistic expectations."

And while there's no universal age when puppies settle down, it is realistic to expect that eventually they all will. Chadwick says the work you put in early on will pay off. "Starting them off with good basic manners makes them much easier to live with," she says.

Read more:
5 reasons to walk your dog more often
How owning a pet is good for your health
Photo gallery: Cute Canadian pets

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How to handle a puppy gone wild