• Puppy Steps

Should I get a puppy?

French bulldog puppy

Should I get a puppy? It sounds a very straight forward question doesn't it. The unfortunate reality is that most people underestimate exactly what taking on an untrained puppy involves.

Whilst most of what I am going to talk about refers to untrained puppies some of the pointers and information also applies to trained puppies too.

Things to consider before rushing out and buying a puppy

So you've thought about getting a puppy. You've done some research into what breeds. You've looked at some pictures and you want to take the next step of actually getting a puppy but you're still a little unsure of if its the right decision for you. Here's a few things to think about to help you make that decision.

8 week old cocker spaniel puppy ready for training
  1. Do you have time for a puppy?

  2. Do you have the patience for a new puppy?

  3. Can you deal with sleepless nights?

  4. Can you give a young puppy the training they require?

  5. What will happen when you go to work?

  6. What happens when you go on holiday?

  7. Is the rest of the family/household on board and supportive in taking on a new puppy?

Do you have time for a puppy?

New puppies are very time consuming. Often when bringing a puppy home that is straight from its mum and litter mates they have no training and have no idea of what your rules are. They have no boundaries, no discipline, no manners and no toilet training. They need almost constant supervision.

They don't have hands like we do so explore new things with their mouth. If it is within reach of the puppy it will at some point try to investigate it. They only have small bladders and will frequently toilet, it is your job to have eyes in the back of your head, watch them at all times and give them regular toilet breaks.

Do you have the patience for a new puppy?

A new puppy will test your patience. Constantly doing things you keep telling them off for, chewing objects they shouldn't, toileting in the house, often where you want them to do it the least. Biting and mouthing constantly when they want to play. When we're in the right frame of mind and understand that we have brought home the equivalent of a human toddler then all this seems minor and should be expected. But combine this with sleepless nights, children, work and the stresses of daily life and these tiny, almost insignificant, things can be enough to test the patience of a saint at times.

Can you deal with sleepless nights?

Sleeping orange roan show cocker spaniel puppy

When a puppy leaves their mum and their litter mates to go to a new home they can be very unsettled. They may cry, they may go off their food, they may have sleepless nights, they may develop an upset tummy. Our job is to make them feel secure, safe and loved.

During the day this is relatively straight forward to do. If they can see you, snuggle into you and you can make them feel like they aren't alone then it is often enough to help them settle.

The challenge comes at night when the house is quiet and you want to go to bed. This is when a puppy can feel very vulnerable and alone. Some may settle after a few minute, others can cry for hours and get themselves very worked up if left. This can last anything from just the first night to a few weeks.

To help settle them I sleep downstairs with them next to me. Just them knowing you are there can be enough. Soothing them with your voice or gently stroking them until they settle works well. Once they are settled when left the next challenge is getting them to sleep through without needing to go out. Again some may do it from day one but more often than not young puppies will wake to toilet in the night, which again makes sleepless nights a big part of the early days of puppy ownership.

Can you give a puppy the training they require?

Trained cockapoo and french bulldog puppies

The first 16 weeks in a puppy's life are a key development stage. The experiences they have during this time will stay with them for the rest of their life.

At this early stage they are the equivalent of a young toddler and take everything in, they're like a sponge. Start as you mean to go on. From day one put rules and boundaries in place.

We start training puppies from 8 weeks of age using positive reinforcement. Don't wait until they're 6 months of age. You wouldn't let a toddler run wild with no rules, manners or boundaries then try to put them in place as a teenager would you? Could you imagine how that would go?

Start them young. Read books, use the internet, watch YouTube. If you don't feel you have the time or confidence then look for a local trainer who can help, you'll be grateful you did as they grow in size and confidence.

If you want to learn how we do it at Puppy Steps then here's our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKIdoukkXgSBB6XeLwc0dxA .

What happens when you go to work?

As I mentioned earlier your puppy doesn't want to be alone, certainly not in the early days. You'll need to build up the amount of time they're left alone for. Start with short periods then build up to a few hours, at most. Your puppy will need toilet breaks. It will need feeding and it will need some social interaction.

That's not to say you shouldn't get a puppy if you work but you will need to put some care in place for your new addition, just as you would a small child. Look into doggy day care, a local dog walker who can come and spend some time with your pup through the day, a friend or family member who can help look after them through the day. All of these things need to be taken into consideration.

What happens when you go on holiday?

Just as when going to work you need to consider what happens when you want to go on holiday. Be that in your country or be that abroad. You will either need to look into dog friendly holidays or having someone look after your puppy. There are kennels but my own preference is that they are in a home with someone. A dog which goes from being in a home environment then is left alone in a kennels will often take time to adjust and sometimes they do not cope well at all, they are social animals and don't do well with long periods of being alone.

Is the rest of the family/household on board and supportive in taking on a puppy?

Happy family with their trained puppy

Its important that the whole family is on board with taking on a puppy. Its a huge lifechanging commitment and not one that should be taken lightly.

If one member of the family is set against a puppy then it can make owning one even more stressful and can cause problems, especially if sleepless nights and accidents are added to the mix. It can put strain on relationships and result in having to rehome the puppy.

Having to rehome a puppy once you and the family have built a bond with them is emotionally and mentally very difficult.

Remember most of what I have mentioned refers to untrained puppies brought straight home from their litter. Some of the points do apply thought to trained puppies too.

Please don't take the decision of owning a puppy lightly. Its a huge commitment and one which needs to be thoroughly thought about. Whilst owning a puppy can be very stressful and hard work it is also extremely rewarding. If you don't feel like you have the time to put the foundations in place for training a puppy then speak to us at PuppySteps and see how we can help to make the process less stressful. We can't guarantee to be able to help but we will make sure that you've thought about the process thoroughly and are offer our help and advice about puppy ownership.

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