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No Walk in the Park - 5 Mistakes I Made as a New Puppy Owner!

I thought I knew exactly what I was getting myself in for when my I decided to welcome a new puppy into my family back at the beginning of the year. As someone who has always lived with dogs since a very young age and worked with them for the past 10 plus years (including fostering a host of rescues with behavioural issues), I was pretty confident that someone with my level of experience would have no issues whatsoever introducing a new puppy to the family.

Hey I had done it numerous times before. The only difference this time round would be is that I now have a 15month old baby to juggle in the mix.

I remember telling my husband that it would be no different just because we have a baby in the house and I think I even convinced myself that it may even be easier as I’m at home a lot more these days.

How wrong was I...

The reality of adding a new puppy into the household that inhabits a very energetic little boy who just recently was up on his feet hit me hard. My naivety about the whole situation is laughable now but in reflection I do believe that a few lessons could be learnt from the whole experience.

Mistake number 1: Not asking my husband to take time off work with me.

Getting a puppy is like welcoming a new baby into the family they need a lot of time and attention from the word go. Having decided that Dylan would not be allowed upstairs to allow for separate living space for my son, so that if one needed time alone then they could. The plan was for me to sleep downstairs on the sofa for the first couple of nights until Dylan settled in and became more relaxed in his new environment, before leaving him on his own. The first night we set up a puppy pen with his new bed toys and puppy pads should any accidents occurred during the night, and after a few little whimpers he soon settled and slept beautifully.

Now if everything had continued going to plan I think I would have gotten away with it. However, anyone who has young children at home will be fully aware that nothing ever quite goes to plan. Unfortunately, my son became ill within 24 hours of the puppy arriving home. As a result, my son was waking up numerous times a night which meant Dylan was waking up numerous times a night. Dylan also displayed quite severe separation anxiety from the start so every time I walked upstairs to tend to my son or even go to the toilet it would set him off in a frenzy of panic and howling. As you can imagine my neighbours were not too pleased being woken up 2 nights in a row at 3am with a howling frantic puppy next-door.

During the day with my husband stuck at work and me looking after my sick son, Dylan had to take second place which only exacerbated his anxiety levels further. In desperation I had to admit defeat and allow him to come upstairs and sleep on the landing.

Then after a few months of allowing him to settle slowly using cognitive behaviour therapy and positive reinforcement I was able to build his confidence up enough to move him back downstairs. Had my husband taken time off work during the first week we would have been easily been able to share roles and avoided a lot of the headache.

Mistake number 2: Not getting a dog crate at the beginning

Now I know a lot of people are not a fan of crate training their dogs. I get it I do. I personally hate the fact that so many owners use them far too much as a punishment or to keep their dogs locked up for hours on end. But as someone who works in an industry such as mine I have come to appreciate the benefits of a dog who is comfortable sleeping in a crate. Even if you never shut the door just having them used to being in one can be so beneficial should you ever need to separate them for whatever reason or even to rest after injury. So why am I telling you that I regret not getting a crate sooner.

One-word FOOD.

Dogs (Beagles in particular) are notorious foodies and babies and notoriously messing eaters. My son quickly learnt that any food he didn’t want to eat if he threw it on the floor the puppy would eat it for him. He found this hilarious to the point that my son would even start to throw food he did enjoy on the floor just so that Dylan could have some. Having a dog crate has eradicated this behaviour as now Dylan enjoys being in his crate at meal times with his own special treat and my son is no longer worried about Dylan being left out or going hungry. Unfortunately, the dog crate hasn’t convinced my son that broccoli tastes nice or prevented him from not throwing any food on the floor but at least now I don’t worry about Dylan eating foods he can’t have and getting sick.

Mistake number 3: Not ditching the puppy pads sooner

I was 100% convinced that toilet training my new puppy would be easy. And in my defence I have toilet trained quite successfully numerous dogs from puppies to adults with very little hiccups in the past. I have always used positive training and when our puppy came home I followed the toilet training rules to the letter.

  • Let your puppy outside every hour.

  • Let him outside within 20minutes of eating / drinking or straight away after waking up from a nap.

  • Stick to a regular feeding / nap schedule.

  • Praise him when he goes to the toilet with a treat every time.

  • Ignore any accidents in the home.

  • Use professional pet cleaning products to remove any sent.

So why didn’t this work?

Well I hit a few snags from the word go. Firstly, as I explained earlier Dylan had quite extreme separation anxiety from the moment we got him. To the point that being at the other end of a room was stressful for him let alone going outside on his own. Now in my house we have a set of French doors leading out onto our garden and even though he could see me at all times through the pain of glass this wasn’t close enough and he would freak out if I tried to put him outside on his own.

Not a problem I hear you say just go out with him then you won’t miss the chance to reward him when he relieves himself.

Great idea in theory but…

Dylan was very private and shy when it came to going to the toilet he would flat out refuse to go to the loo in front of me. This resulted in a dog who would stick to you like glue, refuse to got to the bathroom for as long as possible but when it got to the point when he couldn’t hold it no longer he would sneak off to hide and go to the toilet in the house. If I tried to interact with him in anyway, pick him up put him outside or walk over to where he was hiding he would stop relieving himself and continue to hold on for even longer.

It wasn't just the garden that was an issue even on walks he refused to go. I discovered very early on we could be outside all day when he came to work with me and he would refuse to go to the toilet as soon as I got home he would sneak off and relieve himself.

Having worked with many dogs with separation anxiety of this level, I knew that all Dylan needed was more time to build his confidence up. Slowly with the more positive experiences he had the better he would be. Knowing that this would be a slow progress and in an attempt to save my flooring I put puppy pads down which initially worked great. Dylan soon learnt to use them. The issue now was that he became reliant on them. So much so that even if he was outside in the garden he would bring himself in to go to the loo.

The problem with puppy pads is they give your puppy permission to go to the toilet where they are placed. So after consulting a few local dog trainers it was decided to remove them all together / move some outside. Unfortunately, Dylan didn’t follow the puppy pads and continued to relieve himself where the puppy pads once were. In hindsight I believe I should have removed them much sooner or not used them in the house at all as I honestly feel it hindered his toilet training progress. Thankfully now we are finally toilet trained but it did take about 5 months to get to this point.

Mistake number 4: Believing that I could fit in all my dog training in the evenings

I remember in the beginning when Dylan first arrived I set aside time each day after my son went to bed for dog training. As good as this was it wasn’t sustainable. As a full time mum and business owner there was only so many evenings I could set aside for dog training before my chores list got too long. Not to mention not spending any time with my horse or husband.

I had to adapt and learn to incorporate dog training on the walks when my son was with me. Even if it meant that on occasions I didn’t let my son out of his pram straight away so that I could spend 10 minutes practicing my recall or some impulse training. I am lucky that one of my dog trainers is a mum herself and allows me to bring my son along to my sessions. She is also not bothered if we have to stop mid-session for snacks or nappy changes. The training field we use is fully secured so my son is able to wonder around freely and join in the dog training if he so wishes.

(little video just to show how awesome his recall is coming along)

Mistake number 5: Getting a puppy

I’m pulling your leg here.

Dylan is not a mistake and if I was to go back in time I would most defiantly do it all over again in a heartbeat. When I see my son and Dylan interact with each other and play it actually makes my heart melt. My son adores Dylan so much. One of his first words was puppy. I know growing up they are going to become the best of friends. But in reflection I most defiantly would do things differently next time round.

Not that I’m planning there to be a next time any time soon.


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