Over the last few years I’ve gotten more than a few calls from people that are having “big” problems with their new puppies. With a grave voice they tell me how they think that there must be something genetically wrong with the pup; or that he must have been taken away from its mother too early; or that he’s aggressive or dominant (at 8 weeks old); or that he is simply the “demon seed.”

I try not to laugh – I really do – as I tell them all the same thing: congrats, you have a healthy puppy. Too many people don’t really understand what comes with getting a puppy. Most just see that cute little puppy face and start daydreaming about cuddling on the couch as the pup rests motionless in their arms. Then they get the little guy home and reality sets in big time.

Puppies are a lot of work and a big responsibility. They don’t come from the dealer fully loaded and ready to go. They enter your home as a dog – a dog that has no idea how to live in a very human world with a bunch of furless bipeds. It’s up to us to teach our puppies exactly how to behave and get along with us.

Puppies are going to do things like a dog, no matter what. It’s our job to show them how to be a dog in the human environment. The good news is that puppies are more than happy to do things our way if we take the time to teach them. And it does take time. There’s no shortcut through the puppy period. You can’t get a well adjusted adult dog without the mouthing, whining and occasional accident. That comes standard with every puppy. I feel the puppy months are a rite of passage that every dog owner has to go through. If you survive, you can handle anything your dog will do in the future.

The first few months of a dog’s life are the most important and will be the most time consuming for you. I recommend stocking up on a lot of patience when you bring that puppy home. You have to expect them to be puppies. Don’t begrudge them for it, accept it and help them to learn. Every “bad” thing your puppy does is an opportunity to teach him the right thing to do. The worse he behaves, the more chances you have to set him on the right path.

The first day of my puppy kindergarten class is always the same. Everyone comes in with the same sleep deprived bags under their eyes, the same scratches on their hands and the same question on their minds: “is there something wrong with my puppy?” Once they look around and see that same look on the faces around them, and the same fresh blood on their fellow student’s hands, they are somewhat comforted, at least temporarily.

Puppies are a lot of work but they are also pure joy. Unfortunately you can’t have one without the other (although I’ve seen some really extraordinarily good pups). Once a day, you’ll want to throw you new puppy out the window (sometimes more), however, the smiles that your new dog will regularly deliver to you is well worth the trouble.

So, no, there’s nothing wrong with your new puppy. He’s actually a quite normal, healthy pup that will grow into a great adult dog if you just take the time to teach him how to live in your world. Be patient and enjoy every day with them.

photo by: Rafael Acorsi

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