Many families choose to add a new puppy to the family on, or around, Christmas. They are so cute, and tiny, and the kids promise to take great care of her. And then, it happens. School starts again, and all the help goes out the window. The kids don’t play with her, she needs housebreaking, and she’s starting to chew up everything you own. You’re starting to think you don’t want a puppy anymore.
Before giving up and finding a new home for your puppy, try these 5 steps to reconnect with why you purchased your puppy.
1. Start Puppy Kindergarten
If you brought your puppy home without a training plan, you basically set yourself up for a lot of extra work. Puppies thrive on physical and mental stimulation. Taking your new puppy to puppy kindergarten sets up a foundation for the bond you hope to eventually have with this little critter that keeps pooping everywhere.
Puppy Kindergarten also sets you up with a professional who can help you with the issues your puppy may face in the future, like resource guarding or destroying the house. If possible, call a local Obedience Training Club. Obedience Training Clubs (or OTC’s) use groups of experienced dog trainers to teach each class, and offer classes all the way from basic baby puppy kindergarten to extremely advanced skills. You’re more likely to have very experienced classmates, and they provide support beyond the first few months.
2. Redistribute the Chores
On Christmas, the kids promised to feed and clean up after Fido, and now that school’s started, they’re not interested anymore. I know the little buggers know how to wear you down, but hold them to it. It’s no fun being the person that always has the “crappy” chores.
Stop being the only person to pick up the poop and fill the food bowl. You’ll resent your puppy a lot less if you’re not the only one elbows-deep in housebreaking.
3. Teach Puppy to Ride in the Car
Bond with your puppy by taking her with you as often as possible. While you shouldn’t take your puppy to the grocery store, she can go to the park and to soccer practice, and even to some non-food stores. The more time you spend with her, the more you’ll like her (and the less bored she will be!)
If you have a SUV or larger vehicle, set a crate up in the trunk area. While you can teach a larger dog to ride with a seat belt, puppies that aren’t housebroken should ride in a crate. She also will probably have motion sickness, so vomit will stay in her crate.
Put her in the crate, just like you do at home, with a good toy. Offer water, but don’t feed her in the car or she’ll either vomit or poop. The more often you take her in the car, the more she will enjoy it. They quickly learn the “routine” and wait at the door to hop in.
Remember that if the temperature is above 65 degrees, she can’t be left in the car. So don’t take her unless you can take her in. It only takes a few minutes to kill a dog in a closed car.
4. Invest in some mental stimulation toys.
Puppies need tons of mental stimulation to stay happy, but they can’t exercise for very long. Puzzle toys provide intense mental stimulation and keep puppies busy when you are in the room but not directly interacting with her.
Other toys work great with puppies, too! Boredom busting toys keep puppies busy for hours, just like an Exersaucer keeps your infant occupied. Even something as simple as a cardboard box full of toilet paper tubes and kibble can keep a puppy occupied for a half hour or more, giving you time to pay the bills, vacuum, or watch a TV show.
5. Build Your Bond
When you don’t want a puppy anymore, it’s likely because you haven’t built a strong bond with your puppy. Don’t forget that building a bond takes work. Puppies are cute and fun, but they are also tedious and can cause sleep-deprivation. At first, you have to work to develop that initial attachment.
Spend at least 15 minutes straight, three times a day or more, interacting with and playing with your puppy. Encourage every member of the family to do the same. Teach the puppy tricks, or just play a game. The more you interact with your puppy, the more you will like your puppy. Your puppy will also learn more about you and your mannerisms, and will respond.
Remember that this 15 minutes shouldn’t include losing your temper or becoming upset. Your puppy will need guidance on good behavior, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be harsh. Puppies respond best to a quick correction, followed by a distraction to a new activity.