Everyone is so excited; puppy comes home today! Some combination of the family heads out excitedly to pick up the fluffy little bundle of joy. Once home, everybody oohs and ahhs at Princess’ every little movement. Even her pooping and peeing activity rates special attention. Every time she looks at people they melt into puddles of gushing affection.
Fast forward a few months (weeks?)… Princess still poops and pees (of course) but is still not fully “house trained”. Now there is snow and ice to go along with the cold outside as you dutifully tromp out to the designated bathroom area. And of course it is you, because all that help that was so emphatically promised prior to Princess’ arrival has evaporated like water droplets on a hot frying pan – and probably with the same dancing speed. Princess, for her part, has found her voice and LOVES it – and the reaction she gets to it. She seems to put her mouth on everything, including any body parts that come within reach. Reality finally settles in: this fuzzy, noise-making, annoyingly energetic little mess producer surrounded by needle-sharp teeth (or so it seems) is your project now, and yours alone.
So why is this on a blog about training tips? Because training a new puppy or adopted dog can be A LOT of work. Accepting that challenge, having realistic expectations, and knowing that the end result is worth the effort can make the difference between having a lifelong companion and surrendering the dog. Families that give up dogs are not evil, heartless Cruella DeVilles – many if not most are quite emotional about it, regardless of the reason why they have to surrender. Some simply can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and are at wit’s end. Why spend hard-earned money and precious free time training Princess when she has turned into The Dragon Queen? A little inspiration is needed before I can even begin to impart knowledge and skills.
If there is one thing experience has taught me like no book could, it’s that the struggle to stay positive and guide a puppy or rescued dog through the myriad pitfalls to the goal of “Great Family Dog” is also an important part of developing the goal relationship of “Beloved Companion”. No question, it’s hard work. Management and training – lovingly insisted upon and consistently applied/practiced – provides the boundaries and framework of knowledge your dog needs to achieve those goals.
Believe it or not, assuming there is not a very good reason why the dog can’t succeed in your home, the tougher the struggle, the sweeter success tastes when you realize one day that you’re basically “there”. Not that your dog has reached perfection – that’s an unfair measure to set – and there have been compromises along the way (who knew a crate and gates would become part of the décor?). No, I mean that sense of connection, understanding, and love that comes with having journeyed long together. Every one of my dogs has been a “project” – more than I bargained for, and with far less help than was so enthusiastically promised. And every darned one of them has engraved themselves on my heart and soul. I hope you will be able to say the same someday.