Remember: It’s a Puppy, Not a Problem
By Denise Fenzi
When my children were small, I removed valuable and breakable objects from the house. Same with my puppies. No more fights about “don’t touch this” or “don’t chew that.” When my children were small, we ate most of our meals at home; no more fights about how to behave at a table in public. If I don’t want puppies underfoot when I make food then I remove them from the room. When my children shared their toys or talked quietly with friends or remembered to remove their dirty shoes before entering the house – I told them I appreciated that! And the puppies? I help them too – they’re puppies. Doing their puppy best. But they still need to be given a chance to express their puppy natures.
I’m not perfect with my kids or with my puppies. I get frustrated. I get mad! But at the end of the day, I know perfectly well that I am the adult – the one who is responsible – and that there is nothing wrong with my child or my puppy for behaving like a child or a puppy. There is no problem.
My kids are doing fine. They are growing into interactive confident young people with excellent manners and joyful personalities. My puppies are doing fine as well, and consistently grow into entertaining, interactive, confident dogs with lively natures. No one is breaking things or chewing up the wrong stuff anymore. The best part is that the kids and the dogs seem to like me! They choose to spend time with me, which is why I wanted them in the first place! It’s working out okay, in spite of the fact that I spared the rod all around. It does not appear that I have spoiled anyone.
When you’re frustrated or mystified by your puppy, consider how you raised your children and you might find a comparable technique that will work just fine. Think of puppies as pre-verbal children. Show patience. Structure the environment for success. Accept that inconvenience will happen. Remember that what you do now is going to determine the type of relationship you will have into the future. What are you looking for? Do you want to be seen as an accommodating person who creates opportunities to do interesting things, or as a domineering tyrant that is best avoided? When you ask your dog or child to come see you, do you want them to come running with enthusiasm, or to experience worry and anxiety about your presence?
If you hit your small kids, yelled a lot, and considered their childhood a problem to be solved, then it would make sense that you would do the same with your dogs. But if you raised your small children with patience and you accepted that small children are not little adults, then you might find that you have all of the tools you’ll need to raise your puppies very very well. Now you just need a few tricks of the trade to give you ideas for how to manage specific situations and you’re on your way. That’s where a good dog trainer will be able to help you.
Find a trainer who focuses on what is right for both you and the puppy! Find a trainer who can help you understand appropriate management strategies as your puppy works through his more challenging phases. Find a trainer who can listen to you complain about how hard puppies are, and who helps you see the light at the end of the tunnel! Add a few skills like walking nicely on a leash and a solid recall, throw in a healthy dose of time and maturity, and you’re on your way to having a very rich and interactive relationship with a well behaved adult dog.
But start by understanding that there is nothing wrong – there is no problem. There is only a puppy, and training to be done. What happens now is up to you.