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Keep Calm and Train on

So, you brought home a cute, fuzzy puppy and you were so excited to add to your household! Maybe you did a bunch of research about the breed and raising a puppy; or maybe adding to the family was a little more spur of the moment. Regardless, it's been about a week or two weeks and the honeymoon phase has definitely worn off. Now, you're concerned that you've actually brought home a raptor with the speed of a cheetah, the stealth of a ninja, and the teeth of a tiny shark.

Cue the panic.

After bringing home a puppy (or, let's be honest, the same thing happens when you bring home an adult dog), I can pretty much guarantee that there will be at least one day when you wonder what you got yourself into.

  • Is leaving home to go to work in the morning an "escape" for you? Been there.

  • Is there a bit of panic when you wonder if this is going to last forever? Felt the same myself.

  • Are you perhaps wondering if you've made the right choice in adding to your household? I've felt that doubt, too.


All of those feelings, all of those questions are completely normal! I've heard things along those lines from nearly every one of my clients; I've heard them from friends and family; and I definitely said some of those things myself after we brought Ruby home.

In general, the most common "complaints" or events that inspire the most feelings of panic revolve around the following:

1) Difficulties with house training House training is a process - and a very individual process at that; no two dogs are alike! You may find yourself getting a little frustrated and getting a little bit close to your wit's end with some of the difficulties the process may present. And, if you brought home an adult dog, you may be surprised to find that indoor accidents are a thing (these aren't uncommon, considering the stress of a re-homing situation and being unfamiliar with a new home, etc.).

My recommendation: My biggest recommendation with house training is consistency - it's absolutely key. Be consistent with when you take your puppy or dog out, with where you take them, with when you deliver the reward for doing their business outside. And don't be afraid to go back to the basics - even with your adult SideKicks! Read more in my House Training 101 post!

2) Biting or nipping (particularly during play) Puppy teeth are SHARP and our human skin is fragile! Play time with a teething puppy can seem like death by a thousand cuts some days. I definitely felt this pain (literally and figuratively) with my Ruby; since she's mostly herding dog, it's in her genes to nip at moving objects - hands, feet, clothes, etc.

My recommendation: Prevention can sometimes be your best bet. Learn when your SideKick usually gets revved up and nippier than usual; during those times, introduce a play activity that is calming or won't rev them up even further. Examples could be offering your SideKick a chew toy, giving them a treat toy or food puzzle (read this post for ideas!), toss a ball away from you. If those aren't super successful, try teaching your SideKick that play time ends when teeth touch skin.


3) Getting. into. everything. Puppies do a lot of exploring; it's how they learn about their environments and, well, everything. On top of that, our SideKicks are opportunists: if there's something to take advantage of, they're not going to pass on the opportunity - even if that "opportunity" is your favorite pair of shoes or a whole plate of freshly baked cookies on the counter...

My recommendation: You've heard of baby-proofing the house, I'm sure, so put those same goggles on and puppy-proof your home (this applies to adult dogs, as well!). Utilize baby gates or closed doors to limit the rooms your SideKick has access to; clear counter tops of temptations; and clean the floors of anything you don't want chewed on or destroyed. Your SideKick can't chew on something, eat something, or pee on something if they don't have access to it. I can personally say that the floors in my house were never cleaner than when we had a puppy!

4) Whining or barking in the kennel/crate Regardless of your new SideKick's age, barking, whining, and crying in the kennel are common in the first few weeks of a transition period or kennel training. You may notice that your SideKick is vocal in the kennel at night or when you're leaving for work (or neighbors may report back to you with complaints...), which can be annoying or frustrating (particularly if you're losing sleep because of it) or it can really pull at the heart strings.

My recommendation: As the general stress of adjusting to a new home and routine fades, the vocal response to the kennel often fades, too. However, I always recommend taking some solid time to introduce your SideKick to the kennel - make it a fun place to be, teach them that it's not scary, and, as slowly as you can, increase the time they spend in it. Check out some Kennel Games to make this process a little more fun for everyone!

5) Relationship with the resident dog(s) If you have an existing, resident dog or dogs in your house already, you might be having difficulty navigating the relationship between them and your newest SideKick. The dogs may become fast friends or they may never fully seem comfortable together. Either dynamic going on in your home can sometimes require some fancy footwork to avoid stepping on toes.

My recommendation: Most important when introducing your new and existing SideKicks is giving them time. Along with giving them time, supervision of any interactions is key. Your SideKicks should never be thrown together and asked to start sharing space and resources and attention immediately; regardless of how well they get along, I do not recommend leaving them together unattended until you're absolutely sure there's no risk of a fight or conflict (note: this may take days or this may take weeks!). If you think you might have something serious going on between your SideKicks or you've encountered a situation you feel is beyond your abilities, don't hesitate to reach out for help from a professional trainer (me or another positive reinforcement trainer you trust)!

With each and every difficulty listed above (and even difficulties I didn't list), there is a light at the end of the tunnel! My overarching piece of advice? Enroll in some kind of training with your SideKick! Get that brain active and teach them the things you like them doing as alternatives to the things you don't like seeing!

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