Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time, but for many new dog owners it is also quite nerve racking! We are suddenly in charge of this little life and need to make sure we keep them safe and meet all their needs, as well as raising them to be the best dog they can be. There can be a lot of conflicting information and advice out there and there is undoubtedly a huge amount of pressure on any new puppy parent’s shoulders to get things “right.” So, what can we really expect from our new family member?
Let’s be realistic…
Everyone has big aspirations for their new puppy – the perfect companion, loyal, affectionate, sweet, playful, calm. Most dogs will certainly tick these boxes eventually, but it’s important to remember that puppies are just that – puppies. They are baby dogs and they are not born knowing the rules of our human-centric world. They are also animals, who have species-specific needs and will exhibit natural behaviours. They will have strong instincts, some of which we have deliberately bred to be incredibly strong!
New puppy owners should expect the new addition to be hard work in these early days. Puppies explore with their mouths so they are likely to bite things – inanimate objects as well as other household members. They are excitable and may bark and may jump up at people. Young puppies are not yet able to “hold on” for long when they need the loo, so you should expect the odd accident – no matter how well laid your toilet training plan is! For the same reason, you should expect to get up at least once in the night to let them out for the toilet, until they are old enough to last through the night. You should also expect a few sleepless nights, supporting your puppy to ensure they settle in their new home. Their whole world has just been turned upside down and they’ve been taken away from all they knew, so they will need your compassion.
You can also expect to have a new best friend! Puppies are building strong attachments and you’ll probably find your pup will want to follow you around and be involved in whatever your up to for much of the day. They are clever little information sponges and you will be amazed at the things your new puppy can pick up and understand at such a young age. Hopefully you’ve read our blog about choosing the right breed for you and have selected a puppy whose breed traits suit your lifestyle and preferences, so you will enjoy seeing their little personalities blossom as these traits begin to show – whether it’s a retriever puppy dutifully bringing you toys or cushions when you arrive, a terrier who could not be happier to play tug with you or a beagle learning how to use that incredible nose!
You should also expect your new pup to sleep – a LOT! Puppies need 18+ hours of sleep per 24 hours, and an overtired puppy is not much fun! You may need to help them out by managing their routine and settling them down for regular naps throughout the day.
How long should we expect it to take to train our puppies?
A big priority for most new puppy owners is training – we all want to enjoy an easy life with our canine companion, and that means teaching them how the world works and ensuring they are able and willing to engage and listen to us in different situations. So how long should we expect this process to take?
Gone are the days of the 6-week puppy course – we know now that dogs learn very similarly to us, meaning they need to work on developing skills and learning over an extended period of time if we want the lesson to really sink in. Just like we humans go to school for many years to master the topics we want to be good at, so too can we expect our dogs to need dedicated, ongoing training if we want them to perform behaviours reliably for us. Dog learn best by layering their learning over a period of time, building on a skill one criteria at a time at their pace. Imagine you are learning a new language – you can practice as much as you want over a single week or even a month, but if you then don’t work on it for the rest of the year you will probably have forgotten much of what you learned by the time you come back to it. If you want to become fluent and be able to apply the skill in real life, you need to work at it consistently over time.
Not only this, but our dogs go through lots of internal changes throughout the first couple of years of their lives. Adolescence is a tumultuous time for our dogs, with their brains literally rewiring themselves! It’s really important that we continue to make training a priority not only during puppyhood, but into adolescence and adulthood. This is why we offer a 44-week training programme, to provide continuous support throughout your young dogs’ formative life stages. Training classes are not only useful for teaching our dogs specific behaviours, but also for providing appropriate socialisation as they mature – attending group classes throughout adolescence has also been proven to reduce the likelihood of a dog exhibiting aggressive behaviours.
What can we do to measure our success?
Training progress is not always linear. This seems obvious when you think about it – who doesn’t hit a plateau sometimes when trying to learn a new skill. You may have even experienced a slip backwards when trying to improve performance! We all have good and bad days, and there are so many variables that can influence how we behave in any given situation. The same is true for our dogs – they can have off days, develop anxieties, or simply find certain things difficult. they reach adolescence, certain things in the environment may become more distracting to them than they used to be – such as other dogs. It can definitely feel like we’ve hit a wall or gone backwards from time to time.
We work hard during training to motivate our dogs, but it’s equally important to keep ourselves motivated, too. We are a big part of this team! We’re well aware of how hard it can be for dog owners to acknowledge their own accomplishments in training, which is why we have devised our Dogversity training school as well as our 6-level certificate scheme. Our 44-week in-person training course allows dog owners to work their way through each certification level, so they can get the recognition they deserve for their dedication and hard work. Our Dogversity online training school also allows members to work through our Beginners School, Secondary School, Dogploma, Dogree and Dogtorate so you can clearly see everything you’ve covered already, as well as what you have ahead of you!
We know that raising a puppy is an incredibly challenging but equally rewarding endeavour, and we at Best Behaviour are passionate about helping to support dogs and their humans on their training journey. We look forward to working with you and your new puppy to help you meet and exceed your personal goals, as well as inspiring you to rise to the challenge and see just how much you and your new family member can achieve together! There are numerous difficult phases to work through during puppyhood and adolescence but, as part of our training family, you will have support from likeminded dog owners – who have been through it too – as well as professionals to ensure you get through these as smoothly as possible, so you and your pup can get on with making memories together!
To be part of our 44 week training program book here