If you are a new dog owner who has done lots of research and wants to do everything right, well done! Unfortunately, if you are banking on having a ready-made puppy, complete with toilet-training, walking on the lead nicely and not chewing anything, as I was when I got my first dog, unless you are extremely lucky, you're barking up the wrong tree!
But no matter how much reading you've done, nothing can prepare you for those moments when you feel like tearing your hair out, screaming and calling up your breeder/ rescue centre demanding a refund. This post isn't going to tell you off and it's not equipped with miracle training tips, it's just to reassure you that it's okay to feel frustrated. It happens to the best of us; just take a deep breath and keep moving forwards...
What to expect when you're expecting... a puppy
1) sleepless nights
Your puppy has likely just been taken away from her mother and siblings, it is expected that she will feel a little lonely, but it is at night, when you're upstairs in your beds, that she will let you know. Be prepared for feelings of guilt when you hear those heartbreaking cries, but try not to be the helecopter parent, jumping in to cheer her up, it may make her realise that crying = attention. The best thing to do is to try to sleep through it, she will stop, I promise, and when she wakes up in the morning you can make a big fuss of her for being such a good girl! She won't think anything else of it, but it might stay on your conscience and make you feel like the grinch for a long time afterwards. Some owners may prefer to stay close to their pup for the first few nights to comfort them, and slowly move further away each night, and that is fine, too, if it works for both you and your puppy.
Please, for goodness sake, do not rub your puppy's nose in her 'accidents', that's just plain nasty. I don't think anyone would consider doing that to a kid who is learning to use the potty, it's not nice for either parties involved, and may make your pup afraid of going to the toilet altogether. Instead, as hard as it seems, ignore those little 'presents' your pup leaves you if they're not in the right place, and when your pup does do her business in the designated area, reward her with food, toys and attention. It's all well and good me telling you to stay calm, but when you're woken up early in the morning, walk downstairs only to feel the squelch of puppy poop between your toes, it can be hard to take a deep breath, forgive and forget.
Your pup may only chew when they are teething, or they may chew all through their puppyhood, the key thing to remember is, if you left it lying around, it's fair game. My puppy had very expensive tastes, she sucessfully chewed her way through two pairs of Abercrombie and Fitch flip-flops, an Abercrombie hoodie, a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses and a door. Yes, a door. In all fairness, some items are harder to keep away from your puppy than others, a door is included in that, and so are the stairs, the carpet and the furniture, so if you catch your pup chomping away on them then tell them a firm 'no' and move them. Chewing can be a sign of boredom, and since it soothes their gums when they're teething, it would be unfair for them to not be allowed to chew anything, so pop to the pet shop and stock up on toys before your pup comes along. And hide your most prized possessions!
Puppies will be used to playing with their brothers and sisters, and puppies play rough! It's not surprising, then, that you may end up with tiny bite marks on your hands and feet. What you need to do is keep calm, shrieking and running away will only make the game more exciting to the puppy, walk away from her and don't give her any attention until she calms down. When she's calm make sure you reward her reward her with treats and play. Let her know that playing with toys is fun, but playing with fingers and toes is not. Make sure she has lots of fun, stimulating toys, as biting is often a side-effect of boredom, not aggression. If she is showing real signs of aggresstion, you should contact a dog behaviourist before it gets out of hand.
5) stressful lead walks
"What is this unusual piece of string around my neck, it seems to be restraining me from doing what I would like to do, hmmm..." Leads are not natural and a pup won't be walking like an obedience champion from day one, so introduce the lead and collar slowly. It is perfectly normal for your pup to freak out, bite the lead or pull, just keep a constant suply of rewards coming when pup is being good, you want the lead to have positive connotations, but you also want pup to be relaxed and not overly stimulated when being walked on the lead. It may feel a bit embarrassing walking along the street with a yo-yo puppy on the end of the lead, but come on- it's a puppy! To the casual onlooker, the cuteness will override the naughtiness!
6) picking up poop
Most owners dread the idea of picking up dog poop. The thought of having to physically bag it up and carrying it around until you find a bin is enough to put some people off getting a puppy altogether. But sh*t happens, and if you just ignore what it is you are doing it's really not all that bad. A bag of poo actually makes for a good hand-warmer in the winter!
7) rolling in and eating poop
'Eau de fox poo' may be your puppies favourite fragrance, but there arent many people who find it quite so alluring. Eating poo can be a sign of a poor diet, or it could just be a disgusting habit that you need to distract your pup from doing. If your pup spots something the fox left behind, keep her attention with treats and reward her if she ignores it, also make sure she has a great recall so you can call her away if you see her sniffing around. Try not to cry, fox poo is gross but it's not the end of the world, just give her a nice bath and put it behind you.
8) some of the best years of your life
With a bit of luck, your new family member could be with you for the next 15 years, and those years will be amazing. Not many things come close to owning a dog, so although I can't say you will enjoy every second, you may fall down in exasperation at times and wish you got a rabbit instead, but those good moments will outnumber the bad ones hundredfold. Chin up, you have all of those fantastic times to look forwards to!