How to cope with a new puppy

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09 February 2021
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It’s surprisingly common, but it will pass! Trainer and behaviourist Carol Price advises on how to cope.

With spring arriving, people’s thoughts often turn to the joys of getting a puppy, imagining how wonderful and exciting it will be to welcome a new pet into their homes, who they will then raise to be an exemplary dog. That is the ideal we all begin with anyway. It’s just that the reality can often be quite different. 

People won’t always tell you about the more testing aspects of getting a new puppy, especially during the early weeks or months — the upheaval, exhaustion, and fatigue, and the darker feelings that you have made some big mistake or are getting everything wrong. 

This overwhelming early sense of puppy panic is a far more common phenomenon among new owners than you might think, but always much easier to get through with the right mixture of reassurance and practical advice. So here is my 10 point guide to making the arrival and rearing of any new puppy that much easier to deal with.

1. Early wobbles 

First, be aware of how normal it can be during the earliest weeks or months of getting a puppy — and after the initial euphoria of his arrival has worn off — to sometimes have feelings of doubt or panic about the huge new responsibility you have just taken on, because puppies can be destructive, exhausting, extremely energetic, and also throw your whole former cosier household routine upside down. 

You may find yourself mopping or sweeping various accidents or messes off the floors at midnight, your washing machine will constantly be on, and it will no longer be possible to peacefully watch ‘EastEnders’ without some whiny fluffball in the kitchen furiously demanding your attention. 

Just realising how common it is to have such early panics and doubts, mostly due to chronic exhaustion, can really help. What you also need to know is that all these feelings pass with time, as both you and your new dog adapt to each other, so just accept them for what they are and ride them out.

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2. Understand  the vital importance of damage limitation 

Too many people make owning a puppy harder than it should be by letting them have the whole run of their home from  day one. Remember, puppies can never know the true value or importance of anything you own, including your new designer shoes, antique hall table, and the Playstation console controller. But  the greater access you give them to precious furnishings or belongings of yours, which they may then wee or poo on, or chew and trash, the more this will undermine your growing relationship with your new dog, because it may inevitably result in some anger, resentment, or upset on your part.  

It is far better to keep puppies in their own, limited quarters to begin with, using a crate and a larger penned area for example in the kitchen, and/or separating the puppy from the rest of the house with a dog gate. Choose anywhere where the floor is easy to clean and the pup cannot trash, chew, or poo and wee on anything valuable. This simple measure alone should be enough to greatly reduce your stress.

3. Take the same approach to your garden

Give your puppy his own limited play area and toileting place in the garden. Put his favourite toys and chew items in it when he is outside, then fence off any other garden areas or plants you do not want him to have access to. Having his own fenced-in garden area will also keep your puppy safer, and maybe also cleaner!

4. Take toilet training seriously

A number one reason why puppies fail to master toilet control earlier, or more reliably, is down to less scrupulous early training, such as not taking a puppy outside religiously every half hour, or immediately after a sleep, play session, or meal to relieve himself. Then instantly putting a command to what he is doing correctly — like ‘Be clean!’ — and praising, then rewarding him with a very tasty treat. If you do not go out with your puppy as outlined, to keep repeating and reinforcing this training, even when it is dark and in all weathers, he will continue to have more accidents indoors, or go on believing that going to the toilet indoors is OK for want of any better guidance.

To read the full interview and the rest of the March 2021 issue of Your Dog you can purchase a copy here​.