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“What Have I Done?”
Adjusting to Puppyhood Again

“I completely forgot what all this was like.”

Such is the exhausted testimony of many new-puppy owners, particularly those who haven’t raised a puppy for many years.  For families who have just said good-bye to a beloved senior pet, the transition can be traumatic.  Over many years, they had become accustomed to the low-energy, quiet, easy company of their adult dog.  They had taken for granted that their long-time pet was housetrained, accustomed to being alone, uninterested in chewing slippers and content with a stroll around the block.  Now, their new puppy has arrived, and reality has set in.

Here are some thoughts to help smooth the transition from senior dog ownership to puppy-raising:

  1. Sign up for Puppy Kindergarten.  Some owners may feel this is unnecessary, saying, “I’ve raised puppies before…I know what to do.”  Remember, though, that raising a puppy is not a one-person job.  Your puppy must interact with scores of new people and new, friendly dogs in order to build behavioral health.  A well-structured puppy class can help you with the basics (socialization, housetraining and bite inhibition) and provide behavioral help as your puppy ages.   Even those who have raised a puppy before can benefit from a good class.
  2. Socialize, socialize, socialize!  There’s a reason we said this three times.  Old Sparky didn’t become an easy-going dog by accident, but because you introduced him to your neighbors, your friends, your friends’ kids, and so on.  This may be more challenging without young children at home, and will almost certainly require more advanced planning than before.  Refer to Ian Dunbar’s book, “Before and After Getting Your Puppy” for tips on throwing “puppy parties”, properly introducing your puppy to children and many more activities.  Take your puppy somewhere new every day and ask strangers to feed him tiny treats.  Aside from housetraining, this is the one task you absolutely cannot put off. Start today!
  3. Avoid “Old Shep Syndrome”.  This is the inevitable comparison of the new puppy against the dearly-departed pet, and it takes many forms.  “My last dog didn’t chew the shelves!”  “Sparky never needed to go out to pee at 2:00a.m.!”  “Bella never got into the trash!” and so on.  The reality is that your old dog probably did do these very activities; it was simply so long ago that you forgot about them.   Bear in mind that you had the benefit of 10-plus years to train your previous dog, versus the seven days you’ve had your puppy.  You will train this one, just as you managed to train your old one.  Give yourself and the puppy a break!
  4. Supervise or confine.  Get ready to spend what feels like every waking hour watching your puppy and taking her out to pee, every hour.  When you can’t directly supervise her, she will be in her kennel.  Leaving her loose and unattended will result in accidents and will slow the housetraining process.   By twelve weeks of age, most puppies can hold it during the night (when their metabolism slows) but will still need to go out every hour during the day.  This is hard to cope with after years of living with a thoroughly-housetrained dog, but it must be done.  Remind yourself that old Sparky was once a puppy himself!
  5. Provide adequate exercise.  This is among the rudest of awakenings for once-again puppy owners, as insufficient exercise can lead to all sorts of behavior problems: chewing, barking, mouthing, cat-chasing and so on.  When your puppy hits adolescence, his need for exercise will only increase.  If you truly cannot exercise your dog as much as he needs, consider hiring a dog walker, signing up for 1-2 doggy daycare sessions per week or asking a friend to help you.  If your friend likes to jog and your dog is over a year old, ask her if she will take him along for a run.  Avoid long walks (over a mile), running your dog on leash and encouraging her to jump over objects until she is at least one year old.  This is not because she lacks the energy to do these things (on the contrary!) but because the growth plates at the ends of her bones are still developing:  hard exercise on leash can inflame these growth plates, causing swelling or even stunted growth.   Aim for several short walks a day instead of one long one, and provide plenty of off-leash play with friendly dogs in a safe environment to burn off unwanted energy.  Click here for more information about AHS’ puppy playgroups. You can also talk to your vet about appropriate exercise for your growing pup.

There is no question that raising a puppy is a lot of hard work, but it can also be very rewarding.  If you have questions about your puppy’s behavior or would like more information about obedience classes, call Behavior and Training at 763-489-2217. 

This material is copyright of Animal Humane Society and can only be used with written permission.