Anyone who has ever had a puppy has probably experienced at least a few frustrating moments. There will be good days and bad days. People often ask me if I have any advice to offer first time puppy raisers. My answer is: Be patient. To me, patience with a new puppy is the most important aspect of training. Usually the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “puppy” is how cute they are, or that sweet puppy smell. But no matter how cute a puppy is, they almost are never a “perfect puppy.” They need to learn what behavior you want from them and that takes time and patience. Some puppies are easier to train than others. Puppies that can be very stubborn or have strong instincts can sometimes test the endurance of even the most patient people.
I have been told by many people that I have amazing patience with the puppies I have raised. This is always a great compliment, but I am the first to admit that I am not perfect. I too can lose my patience and get frustrated at times. When I have moments when I am frustrated that my puppy is acting out or not doing what I want, I take a timeout and try to figure out why. I have to ask myself: Does my puppy really understand what I am asking of him or her? How can I approach the situation differently? Am I asking too much of my puppy too soon?
I hear too often that people blame their puppies for bad behavior and call their puppy a bad dog. I look at things a little differently. Would you call a child a bad kid if they did something that was wrong but they just didn’t know any better, because they were never taught? If the answer is no, then why would you call a puppy a bad puppy if they just don’t know any better yet? It isn’t wrong to feel frustrated at times when raising a puppy, but how you handle it is crucial.
A few weeks ago, I was having one of those bad days with Patrick. The day started off pretty normally. We are still working on Patrick not bolting out of his crate in the morning, so we had the normal struggle to leash him before heading out to potty. Then we went for a walk and he pulled on the leash relentlessly no matter what I did. Matt was walking the other dogs just ahead of us and Patrick just couldn’t handle not being next to them. Patrick has grown really fast and has gotten very strong, so it can wear on me physically when he fights me. And fight he did, it was not a fun walk for either of us.
After the walk, we came home and had a little playtime, but then Patrick had an accident in the house despite having access to go outside. When I wanted to relax on the couch and have a few moments to myself because it had been an exhausting day, I was met with my large puppy trying to climb all over me no matter how many times I pushed him off. We both needed a timeout, so on his tie down Patrick went. I stayed very close by, but was really just mentally and physically done. But then I really started thinking, “What is the best way to handle a day like this?”
Puppies learn from every experience. What did Patrick learn that day? I realized that we didn’t have too many positive moments together, that was definitely not what I was going for. So despite being tired and a little achy, I decided to have some positive time with Patrick. I waited for him to be calm and settled for a little bit on his tie down, and then I let him off. I then sat on the floor and he immediately wanted to lay with me and fell fast asleep. I am very happy that I forced myself to do this. It was needed time for both of us to bond in a relaxed way.
Patrick is still a very young puppy and learning what behavior we want from him. He has a LOT of energy and at times can be very stubborn about what he wants to do. He can be like a toddler having a temper tantrum when he doesn’t get what he wants. He is learning that behaviors like pulling, barking, jumping, and tugging on things do not get him a positive response. But just like a toddler having a tantrum, Patrick does need a “hug” once that “tantrum” has passed to be reassured that he is a good dog. We have had many amazing days with Patrick where he has impressed us with how much he has learned in such a short time.
I hope that sharing my experiences with others will help anyone who has a puppy and has had a few bad days. This is normal and everyone goes through this at some point. After raising 14 puppies before Patrick, I can say that in my experience, you learn the most from the “more difficult” ones. I have found that spending the time to work through the tough times can really strengthen the bond between my puppy and me. The effort I have put into all my puppies has always been worth it. Whether or not they became guides, I am proud of how every one of them matured and became awesome dogs.
Written By Amie Chapman