Over the course of the past year, TAPS, as well as most other rescues and shelters, have had a significant amount of puppies available for adoption. They are cute, playful, and well, who doesn’t love a puppy?
Adopters should remember that puppies are a commitment even when they begin to grow and mouth and play with their sharp puppies’ mouths and claws. Puppies are a commitment as they begin to grow and are tall and lanky and goofy and run into things and knock them over. Puppies are a commitment when they rough house with your toddlers because they don’t understand their size. Puppies are a commitment when they are in an adult body and still have the puppy mentality and chew and jump up on you. Puppies are a commitment.
Sadly, no matter how hard we try to educate adopters, we are still seeing a significant increase in adoption returns when puppies hit the 6-9 month mark. They are no longer little and cute, now, they are in an adult sized body, but unfortunately, have not had a consistent foundation of training. What was forgivable when a puppy is 10 pounds isn’t forgivable when the puppy is 70 pounds…though they haven’t been consistently trained to learn appropriate socialization and manners. It is not the dogs fault that it was not trained how to be well-mannered and socialized as it grew up. 6-9 month-old dogs are coming back for simply being puppies that grew up without consistent training.
Puppies do not train themselves. They need work and consistency and patience. It is an adopter’s responsibility to start training puppies from the day they are adopted to help them grow into well-socialized and mannered adults. Jumping as a puppy at 8 weeks old continues in a puppy that is 7 months old unless they are trained not to jump when greeting people. Puppies require consistent training over time and won’t learn to stop jumping if not properly trained with regularity. Puppies who mouth at 8 weeks old continue in a puppy that is 8 months old unless they are trained that it is inappropriate. If they have been allowed to inappropriately mouth for 7 months, they won’t stop it overnight with a simple no. Puppies who aren’t taught leash manners from very early on will continue to pull when they are 9 months old and weigh 80 pounds unless they are taught leash manners while growing up. You won’t be able to teach them leash manners with one training session if they haven’t been consistently worked with on a leash.
Training is not one size fits all either. While one puppy may be treat motivated, another may be squeaky toy motivated. One puppy may be motivated by praise and attention, another puppy may be motivated by an extra game of fetch. One puppy may pick up a new skill set with three weeks of repetition and another may take two months of consistent training.
One thing is for sure, if you wait to start training until there is problematic behavior, it will take longer to correct. If you wait until your puppy is an adolescent or full grown before you start to socialize, exercise and train it, it will take longer to change the behaviors that you want to change. So many people think one training session will fix the behavior. Puppies growing into full-grown dogs are living, breathing beings and like humans, it takes time to change behaviors. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Whether you are a senior citizen who has chosen to take on a puppy because it will keep you young, or a young family with toddlers that want to raise your child with a pet, it is your responsibility to learn how to incorporate that puppy into your life from the day you bring it home. We see so many returns from senior citizens because sharp puppy claws and teeth are scratching their thinner skin and young families who say the puppy is too rough for their toddlers. We see puppy returns from young professionals who work long hours and socialize on the weekends. They simply don’t have time to commit to raising a dog. When shelter staff and rescue volunteers talk to you about these issues, please listen and understand we only want the best for you and the puppy.
Raising a puppy is a true commitment from day 1. When you put it off until day 2, 3, 4 or until the puppy is 6 months old, it only gets harder to train them with each passing day…and it’s not fair to the adolescent dog to come back to the shelter for simply being a puppy that grew up.