Ask Not What Your Puppy Can Do For You

Each person has their own reasons for taking a puppy into their life, so it is important to decide from the start - before you choose your puppy

What Your Puppy Can Do For You

 

Each person has their own reasons for taking a puppy into their life, so it is important to decide from the start – before you choose your puppy—exactly what you require from him. We will then look at what he will require from you.

Most people say they would like a calm, friendly, responsive and well-mannered companion, but how else do you see your puppy’s future role in your life? ,

Some people want their dog with them at all times, and that means sitting on their lap when they are relaxing, in their car, at their place of work, on their bed – in fact the dog will be their constant companion, rarely spending time away from than. In some cases their dog might take the place of a child, husband or wife. And that is all fine, as long as you remember he, is a dog. His presence on your sofa or bed is by your invitation only, curtailed when you decide, and that he never has the right to demand. Clearly defined roles are what give him peace of mind, security — he knows the rules and knows that they do not vary — and provide a stress-free existence for a dog.

Other people want their dog to be a dog and to them this means that he does not accompany them to bed, does not sit on them and does not go to work with them (and, of course, a suitable plan will be in place for him if this should be the case). They will play with him and give him affection, but will never become ‘soppy’ or imagine he has human emotions — in fact he must never cross the line between being a dog and a surrogate human. This is often the case when a dog has been taken for a specific purpose — to do a job of work — and dogs will be fine with this less emotional view of them, just so long as their human is also kind and just.

Many people want a dog to join their family with children, with the twin reasons that firstly it is good for their kids to have the character-building experience of caring for a vulnerable creature – it is a valuable life lesson in teaching them compassion and responsibility – and secondly, of course, it is a chance for that very special, uniquely enriching and never forgotten bond that can exist between a child and a dog to be forged.

Some people will think, ‘Blimey, that’s a bit deep — I just wanted a dog!’, but for most people, if they really think about it, there will usu­ally be more to it than that. The majority of people fall somewhere in between these categories and all of these scenarios will be just fine for your chosen companion. And whatever your reason for having a dog, the basic ground rules are the same.

Your Suitability

So, you have decided that you and your family will benefit from the enriching presence of a puppy. It will — good choice!

But how suitable are you for a puppy? It is important to consider every angle, for instance;

  • What will be your puppy’s daily routine? Do you have time to walk, play with and educate him?
  • Will someone be with him for the majority of the day? If you do work foil time, have you thoroughly researched suitable dog walk­ers or daycare?
  • Have you owned a dog before, and if so was the relationship easy and rewarding for both of you? In other words, was your dog a source of pride and enjoyment for you — or embarrassment and stress?
  • Do you have a suitable home in which to easily accommodate a dog? Does it have a garden or other enclosed outdoor space?
  • Have you considered the impact on your previously spotlessly clean home — and your landscaped and perfect garden?
  • If you have children, do they understand the responsibility involved when caring for a vulnerable creature?
  • Have you researched a secure and knowledgeable place at which your dog can stay if you go away without him?
  • And last but not least, can you afford the upkeep?

Let’s think about all of these questions in more detail.

Will someone be with him for the majority of the day?

Dogs are naturally pack animals – in other words, family animals. They have evolved to become man’s companion. They crave company. A lonely dog is an unhappy dog – and will develop all kinds of stressed behaviours which can more often than not lead to it becoming a prob­lem dog. Do you have time to walk, play with and educate him? If you will be away from your dog for a whole working day (which, if commut­ing, can be ten or eleven hours of solitary confinement for a dog), and you cannot arrange for a friend or relative to be his companion for at least two thirds of that time, you must make provision — which either means a recommended dog walker or ‘doggy daycare’. Ask yourself this very important question: Why are you getting a dog at a stage in your life when you cannot be the companion he needs?

Have you owned a dog before, and if so was the relationship easy and rewarding for both of you?

If you’ve lived with the ‘perfect’ dog who gave you no problems at all, you must have been doing a lot that was right. But bear in mind, dogs are so adaptable and willing to fit in that very often it is not until you come across a problem that you realise just how little you know about how their minds work. We often hear, ‘I’ve had this breed all my life and have never had a problem until now!’ With the correct training, your dog can be changed from being a source of embarrassment and stress to one of pride and enjoyment.

Do you hove a suitable home in which to easily accommodate a dog?

If you do not have a garden, or at least some kind of enclosed area directly accessed from your door, the logistics of your puppy’s toilet training, and later on his ability to simply go out and relieve himself, could be prohibitive — particularly if you live a few floors up in a block of flats.

Of course, all new owners will need to endure the freezing (and often wet) period of accompanying their new puppy into the garden each time he wakes, feeds or simply looks as if he needs to relieve him­self— but this period is finite, and ends when the puppy gets the idea of asking to go out, going out on his own and relieving himself without the need for company. Just when the initial enthusiasm, the ‘I don’t mind — bless him’ is wearing off, your puppy is learning to ‘go solo’!

But if you do not have a secure enclosed area for him to do his busi­ness in, the ‘accompanied pooping and peeing’ never ends. Firstly, you will have to use a harness and lead from the word go — not desirable when it is far better to introduce this piece of equipment gradually and progressively. Secondly, even if your dog has a strong bladder, he will still need to relieve himself when necessary, and the process of donning outdoor clothes and removing yourself from a nice warm room into a windy, rainy, freezing night, will soon lose any of the appeal that it had in the first place – and what if your poor pooch has an upset tummy and rouses you at 3 a.m. with a desperate need to relieve himself?

The alternative is to continue to use newspapers and puppy pads.

This is totally unnatural for a dog once he is out of the ‘nappy’ stage. When he has become an adult, a dog would never mess in the den area, and this would be a source of stress to him (if he becomes very unsettled you could find that your whole flat has turned into one giant canine toilet — the puppy pads, litter tray or whatever you have provided for his needs, totally ignored). Quite frankly, it is not a viable alternative.

Of course many dogs do live very happily in apartments. Their owners have worked through the difficulties and have accepted the problems and extra work that having no outside access brings – they consider it a small price to pay for the joy of living with their dog. However, these problems are very real, and they do have to be carefully assessed and viewed, without rose-coloured spectacles. If you live in a flat or apartment with no outdoor access, make sure that you are pre­pared to go the extra mile to make the effort required.

Have you considered the impact on your previously spotlessly clean home – and your landscaped and perfect garden?

Even if you have cleverly picked a small, short-haired, non-shedding breed, your house and garden will probably never be the same again! That is not to say that you will be condemned to living in a smelly, chewed, dug-up, dwelling (if you follow the advice in this book, you should be able to direct your puppy’s behaviour along less-traumatic lines), but with the best will in the world, as any parent will tell you, neither children nor puppies equal ‘show home’.

If you have children, do they understand the responsibility involved when caring for a vulnerable creature?

Young children love pets. Young children also love cuddly toys, but will treat them rather less than gently on occasion for no discern­ible reason (to an adult mind). And children often view puppies and cuddly toys in the same light. The relationship between a child and dog can be magical – but it can also be a source of fear and misery for the dog, and extreme danger to the child. Before you get a puppy, make absolutely sure that your children understand that a dog has needs and feelings, just as they do. Ask them to read Patch and Truffle’s introduction to this book (pages xvi-xxvi). Find a friend with a friendly older dog and teach them to greet him appropriately. Pass on the knowledge you have gained from this book, in an age-appropriate way. Take them to your local rescue centre, where there will often be talks on puppies and other help avail­able. In every way, make them aware and respectful of what it takes to give their puppy a happy life.

When you bring the puppy home, restrict your children’s access to times when you can supervise. If you have very young children (tod­dlers or babies), make sure they are supervised at all times. You cannot leave children too young to understand how to treat animals alone with a dog, even for a few seconds — it is unfair on both child and dog, and very, very dangerous.

If you consider this advice unnecessary or find all this too much effort – please, do not get a dog.

Have you researched a secure and knowledgeable place at which your dog can stay if you go away without him?

Do you have obliging parents or friends who would be happy to look after your dog when you go on holiday? Alternatively, dog walkers and doggy daycare centres often will also board the dogs they care for. If neither of these options are open to you, you will need to thoroughly research reputable kennels or professional dog sitters in your area. Personal recommendation is the best way – anyone can say anything in an advertising blurb. It is surprising how many people book their wonderful holiday, then at the last minute say, ‘Oh good grief- what about the dog?’ Unbelievably, this is one of the reasons that dogs are dumped in rescue centres.

Can you afford the upkeep?

Chapter 6 discusses the essentials in full, but costs will include: meals and treats, dog beds, toys, vet visits, dog walkers or doggy daycare, and holiday costs, and not forgetting there may be the need to replace chewed human belongings.

 

With luck your dog will be with you for ten to fifteen years. The decision to bring a dog into your home should not be taken lightly — all too often it is, and this is one of the reasons that the rescue centres are full to bursting with unhappy, unwanted dogs. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

Very few people set out to be cruel, but very many people are guilty of unthinking neglect. They would be horrified to realise that they fall into the category of ignorant dog owners, but are too complacent or lazy to take the trouble to learn what their dog needs and what makes their dog tick, and do not provide a stress-free home.

Paws for Thought

Your dog should be your companion, a valued member of your family. If you are not prepared to go to all the trouble above for this sensate, vulnerable creature — do not get a dog! Rather, wait until your life is conducive to having one.

By reading this book, you are taking the right first step. If you have read this chapter and thought, yes, I still want a dog, then read on. We will guide you through the process of choosing the right puppy, bringing him home and introducing him to the world (and how he should behave in it). The last chapter is a trouble-shooting section that we hope covers every problem your dog might start to display in his first year – and beyond!