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Being an aware owner

Updated: 4 days ago

Most suggestions around training and socialising puppies assume your puppy is well adjusted, outgoing and healthy. (Even then, you have to be careful not to overface your puppy.)

A few years ago I was in Animates and heard a puppy screaming. A short while later I saw a lady carrying a shivering puppy in a towel. I chatted to her. She had got the puppy a day earlier and because he was smelly she had brought him out for a wash. This was all too much for the puppy and he tried to say so. He was ignored. The owner meant well. She just didn’t know what she didn’t know.

I gave her my contact details, but she never got in touch so I don’t know how things turned out for them, but that was way too much, too soon for that baby.

Remember the socialisation period (from 3 weeks to about 16 weeks) is all about the puppy discovering what’s safe and dangerous. That should be the focus of your work with them. I keep new babies at home until I’m certain they’re ready for a bit more. For a well adjusted puppy this may be a day or two, for timid puppies it may be a lot longer.

The new experiences need to be POSITIVE and ENJOYABLE. If the puppy is a tiny bit apprehensive, then recovers, it’s fine. If they are screaming in fear – it’s way, way too much. 

Remember we are stretching comfort zones, not trying to snap them.

Nowadays, many, many puppies are not getting the start they need in life. Some people are simply breeding dogs to make money from selling pups – or their dogs breed simply because the owners didn’t neuter them.

Many breeding dogs have NO genetic testing to see what diseases the parents may carry. The structure and temperament of the dogs often isn’t considered. Pregnant bitches often don’t get the care they need during the pregnancy or after whelping. Puppies don’t get the care and socialising they need. Many puppies are sold or given away very young, just so that the owners can get rid of them.

Kind, well meaning people take them on, not realising the puppy already needs remedial work and some will never be the pet that family wants because the damage runs too deep.

If you want a great pet and companion – choose your puppy carefully and rear them carefully. You may feel sorry for a puppy, but if you buy them, you may be buying a lifetime of struggle. That can lead to a broken heart, so think hard about whether that’s really something you are up for.

Dogs with big problems can lead you down the path of learning a lot more, developing empathy and becoming a much more skilled owner and trainer. You're also likely to ride an emotional roller coaster of disappointment, sorrow, loneliness and frustration along the way.

I know. I’ve been there. It has been an incredibly valuable experience, but I don’t want to go there again. I try to use my experience to help others avoid it!


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