It Takes a Village to Raise a Puppy
It’s a look everybody’s witnessed – the frazzled face of a new parent who hasn’t slept through the night, hasn’t eaten a decent, sit-down meal, hasn’t enjoyed a long, hot shower in days. It’s one of the most stressful and joyous times of life – there’s a new puppy in the house!
No one expects parents of human babies to “go it alone” while rearing their children. Advice, both welcome and unasked-for, is readily available from a wealth of sources: their own parents, professionals, friends, neighbors, teachers and passers-by. But all too often people are handed a new puppy and waved a fond farewell, without enough information to get through the night.
First-time dog owners can get frustrated and quickly disappointed. Puppies are supposed to be fun, but this adorable bundle of fluff won’t eat, won’t sleep, nips everybody, won’t be housebroken and chews everything except for its toys! What’s a new dog-owner to do?
No one should be embarrassed to ask for help. Adding a new member of the family is stressful and, unless you’re a female dog, you don’t have instinct to tell you how to do things right. Anyway, you don’t really want to carry your puppy around in your mouth by the scruff of its neck, or keep it clean with your tongue. The goal is teaching your puppy how to be a member of your family – not how to be a dog. It knows that part by the time you get it.
The first person you should look to for advice is a veterinarian you know and trust. Ask friends and relatives for recommendations and try to meet the vet before you bring your puppy home. A good veterinarian will even help you plan for your puppy, sharing resources for finding the right breed, a good breeder, and will advise you about what to look for and what to avoid in selecting your pup.
The reputable breeder who sells you your puppy should also be a valuable resource for information. Find out what quirks your breed may have and what to do about them. Some breeds are very independent, others are prone to separation anxiety. If the breeder isn’t willing to answer your questions, maybe you should look elsewhere. A good breeder will want to stay in touch with all of the puppies she produces – even after those pups have reached their “senior” years.
A third line of support for puppy rearing is a local class or club. All puppies should be trained, regardless of size, age or the owner’s experience. If you can, visit a class before you enroll – make sure that the leader’s style is compatible with your own thoughts about training. Is the trainer willing to listen and work with you? Do the students and puppies seem to be having a good time? Is the trainer in control at all times? And is the trainer accessible even after class is over? Many good trainers will allow previous students to participate in an occasional class to “brush up,” on their training.
There’s no reason a new puppy owner has to go it alone. If you have a couple of friends with dogs – ask the one whose dog is a pleasure to be around. The other one – the one whose dog is a maniac – may be able to sympathize with you, but may not be able to help. Ask people whose dogs you admire how they got that way. Ask for help at the local pet store or from the neighbor who has the wonderful dog everybody loves.
You can also find advice, both good and bad, at any hour of the day or night, on the internet. Be careful with it. Use the information thoughtfully; consider the source. If anyone, ever, tells you to do something with your puppy that you’re not comfortable with – don’t do it. Get some alternatives from a trusted source. You are your puppy’s best friend, guardian and advocate. Be safe. Be careful. Have fun.