Even though I’m a dog trainer and make my living solving doggie problems, there are certain puppy problems we can’t avoid—they come with the cute faces! Knowing about these annoyances ahead of time re-calibrates our expectations and reduces frustration.
Here are four areas and their unavoidable problems:
Puppies need frequent toilet breaks. Think every 30 to 60 minutes when outside the crate. This is a major pain if you live in a third floor apartment and your 30 pound Great Dane puppy can’t (and shouldn’t ) climb the stairs.
Puppies need to toilet in the middle of the night too. It’s usually only once or twice,and you shouldn’t be up for more than 5 minutes, but you will have to set an alarm and roll out of bed. Don’t worry: this doesn’t last forever.
Puppies cannot ‘hold it’ while you’re at work. At 8 weeks old, most puppies are physically capable of holding it for two hours during the day. If you work a typical 9-5 job, you’ll need to construct a long-term confinement area with appropriate indoor toilet. (And just to state the obvious, crating the puppy doesn’t mean he can hold it drastically longer. Crating does help with housetraining, but only within his physical limitations.)
Puppies need you to go out with them for toileting. Every single time. Even if it’s 30 degrees and raining, or 105 and no shade.
A word of warning: even if you do all the housetraining steps correctly, there will still be a few accidents. I prefer keeping puppies on solid surface flooring like tile, laminate, or hardwood until their bladder and bowel habits are reliable.
Puppies need active involvement with an adult several times per day. You’ll need to get up earlier than usual to give him 30-60 minutes of your undivided attention before work. When you get home, you’ll have to spend another 30-60 minutes with him straight away before stopping to relax or make dinner. He’ll need another one or two sessions of time with you again before going to bed for the night—these can usually be a bit shorter.
When you cannot give him your undivided attention, he’ll need to stay in his crate or long-term confinement area. This prevents him from making poor choices that lead to bad habits.
Puppies bite things. They bite things on the floor, things on the walls, things you’re wearing, things you thought they couldn’t reach, things in the yard, things edible, things inedible…you get the picture.
The most successful and least destructive way to get through this phase is to create and maintain a puppy-proof area with clutter-free floors, tables, and chairs. This is where the puppy will spend the majority of his time—he’ll have lots of legal things to chew, and fewer illegal things.
Puppies are equal opportunity biters and will target your skin and clothes given the chance. For the first several months, petting the puppy means offering a legal chew in one hand while stroking with the other. His teeth will be on something, and if you go empty-handed, that something is likely to be your empty hand.
Ladies, swinging dresses and skirts tend to be a favorite target; keep those in the closet for a couple of months until he’s beyond the phase.
“I knew it would be work, but I didn’t know it would be this much work.”
--Mom of three young kids and a puppy
Adding a puppy to the family is like adding a toddler who carries around a pack of razor blades for use at his pleasure and discretion. Be prepared for very little down time if you’ve got kids and a puppy.
An adult must be 110% engaged, providing supervision and feedback anytime puppy and kids are together. This takes energy and is impossible to do all the time; plan on baby gates and crates to keep kids and puppy physically separate when you cannot be involved.
Puppy and kids cannot be left to entertain each other while you tackle the to-do list.
Although these problems are unavoidable, you do not have to be miserable. I cannot make them disappear completely, but I can make them less intense. Contact me if you’re in the Round Rock/Austin, TX area and need help with your puppy problems.