The people that will have the easiest time raising a puppy, are those that have realistic expectations for what a puppy is capable of, and the amount of structure that is required in raising them. Here are the most common gaps between an owner's expectation and the reality of welcoming a puppy into your home.
#1 Snuggle Time
People expect to log lots of snuggle time with their pup. They dream of running their hands over their puppy's soft coat, as the puppy takes a loud exhale and curls up contentedly by their side.
The reality is that at times that you want to snuggle, your puppy will be more interested in using your hands and clothing as a chew toy. You will wonder if you brought home a puppy or a piranha.
#2 Puppy Proofing
People expect that "puppy proofing" is a fairly simple process. They think, "how much trouble could this little guy get into?" And they reject the idea of crates, baby gates, and exercise pens as being too restrictive.
The reality is that a puppy's brain is built for exploration and creativity, and will find objects you didn't even know you owned. He will bite, pull and/or shred anything that's not nailed to the ground. You've bought a plethora of different chew toys, but his default is always to pull at the threads of the rug, or chew on table legs when he feels bored.
People expect long walks that will not only burn the puppy's energy, but will also help them to fulfill their new year's resolution to exercise more. A match made in heaven.
The reality is that you will walk 20 feet from your house before your puppy freezes. When you put pressure on the leash to urge the puppy along, he will dig in his heels. He would rather sit still and take in the sights, sounds and smells of his new environment than go on a 20 minute walk. If and when your puppy does start to walk, it will be at a snail's pace. You will have walked approximately 100 feet over the course of 30 minutes because he's so busy sniffing and/or picking up every leaf, twig and cigarette butt (eww).
#4 Potty Time
People expect potty training to be a pretty straight forward process. Puppy has an accident? Lead him over to the accident, show him what's he's done, be stern. Rinse and repeat and in no time puppy will learn not to potty in the house. Leaving the back door open or installing a dog door will make the whole process effortless, since the puppy will take himself out when nature calls.
The reality is that your puppy learns very quickly that you are prone to fits of rage when you see urine or feces. So he considerately "holds it" until you're out of sight, or looking the other way. Going outside is an option, but creeping into the back room or behind the couch also produces the same outcome. So why not?
Your cute puppy runs up to you when you arrive home, and jumps up to lick your face. You melt. You coo and pet the puppy. The more excited the puppy is, the better it feels, so you rev the puppy. When friends and family visit you are warmed by his display of friendliness and proudly stand back watching how free and wild he is when expressing his love. He does the same thing with people he meets on walks, and you can't imagine how this could ever be a problem. The expectation is that the puppy will grow out of this type of "puppy behavior" .... so you might as well soak it in while you can.
The reality is that puppies get better and better at every behavior they practice. Behavior builds! By the time your puppy is a year old you will have an adult dog that goes wild when anyone walks into the house. Long red welts will appear on legs, scratches from the claws of a dog that was very effectively "trained" to demonstrate his love and affection in this manner from a very early age.
#6 The "Non-Barker"
People bring home a 2 month old puppy, and after 2 or 3 weeks confidently declare to their family and friends that they have a non-barker. There is a tremendous amount of relief associated with this, because they know how difficult it can be to live with a very vocal dog. They expect that the behavior that they see now is constant, or at the very least, leaves little room for deviation.
The reality is that most dogs only find their "voice" in their adolescence or in early adulthood. There is no correlation between the time at which your dog begins barking, and the frequency or intensity with which they will bark as an adult.
#7 Backyard Dogs
Many people decide to get a dog because they have a great backyard. A lot of times they put in a dog door so that the dog has a choice. Or they keep the inside off-limits altogether at certain times during the day. The expectation is that the puppy will be more content outside with more stimulation, and less likely to get into trouble.
The reality is that a puppy or adult dog that is unsupervised outside (whether it's their choice or not) is likely to get into a whole host of problems. They frequently dig up the garden, or with passing time, become hyper-territorial around the fence-line. They are also more likely to vocalize from boredom, or scratch at the back door from frustration. The anxiety and frustration resulting from this type of isolation can manifest into other more serious behavioral issues over time.
Here is a link to a blog I wrote, that briefly touches on different ways to cope with common "puppy problems." It's called Eight Quick Tips for Raising a Puppy.
This article was written by Alyssa Lapinel, CPDT-KA. She is head trainer and founder of Legends Dog Training, based in San Diego, California. For more information about training services you can go to her website: http://www.legendsdogtraining.com . Legends Dog Training offers behavior consultations, private in-home lessons, skype sessions, and group classes. Questions, comments and "sharing" is always appreciated.
Alyssa Lapinel, CPDT
Certified by the Council for Professional Dog Trainers