Pandemic Puppies - Untrained = Unwanted
The pandemic brought a ton of changes to the world, and throughout it all there were some positives, like pandemic puppies. One of these changes was the dog and puppy shortage, where shelters were completely empty of dogs and simply couldn’t meet demand.
Since then though, parts of the world have been slowly shifting back to “normal” and the pendulum is swinging in the other direction entirely. As restrictions are lifted, pets are now beginning to be returned to shelters, or sadly getting their first taste of what being part of the shelter system is like. For some shelters the number of returned pets has already doubled and it’s not showing signs of stopping.
Pandemic Puppies - The Pandemic Trend
For most trainers this swing back in the other direction is pretty predictable and expected. First time dog or puppy owners often don’t know the depth of what they’re getting into. There are many misconceptions about dog ownership as well as a lot of idyllic views that are portrayed in media and entertainment about dogs and dog ownership. On top of this celebrity trainers give the impression that fixing problem issues is simple, can be done in the span of a hour long TV show, and just takes the right communication to show your dog that you’re the “Alpha”.
This of course is not the case at all, and other misconceptions and myths are alive and well, getting both dogs and dog owners into trouble, while complicating things for everyone. Another misconception that is extremely hurtful is one regarding training in general. Dog training is still viewed as a service that primarily is used for “bad dogs”, as a last resort, and NOT as a preventative measure. Thanks to celeb trainers too, many people think they have the know how and skills to address complex behavior issues, when the reality is that things just aren’t that simple.
So armed with the wrong knowledge, a general lack of experience, and a desire to finally have a dog, the trend of getting a puppy began. And who could blame these new dog owners? With the world shutting down, working from home, and generally more time to oneself and family, of course it was the right time!
Cute, Cuddly, and Running Amok
The main problem with getting a puppy, including pandemic puppies, is the training and learning curve that exists for both the pup and the dog owner. Often times owners are lulled into a false sense of security by the first week or two of owning a young pup, because of the ridiculous amount of time they spend asleep (16-20 hours), so aside from remembering to take the pup out regularly, provide food, and just a little bit of play or training, it can seem very easy.
But then the second phase of having a young puppy sets in. The phase where the pup no longer needs that much sleep and they are focused on learning and exploring, most of which is done at full speed and facilitated with needle teeth. Everything is a game, including things that you don’t want to be, like the stealing and potential chewing of non food items. And don’t forget the battle wounds hands can fall victim to from those hellish mouths.
It is also during this time when a puppy is learning the most and the fastest. A few repetitions of something is enough to make a habit, not 5 of 6 repetitions, but 1 or 2. So that cute jumping up and pawing at your legs that was allowed? That’s quickly going to develop into having a dog that’s part kangaroo who knows no way to properly greet someone. How about that budding pulling you’ve had on the leash? It’s going to be a much bigger issue if not nipped in the bud. Chasing the cat or kids? No good news here either.
Active training and preventing these things during this period is what should be happening with young pups. Going back to how dog training is viewed though, most owners do not get training for their pups at this time. New studies have just revealed that this age is in fact the best time to get training. But this knowledge on best practices simply isn’t mainstream, and it bites new owners right in the butt.
Puppies very quickly go from being cute and cuddly when they’re causing an issue, to capable of damage. That jumping up is no longer cute when there is 20-30 pounds of hyper slamming into guests, guests, children, or other pets. The nipping has sucked the whole time and is still an issue, only intensified by the amount of hand sanitizer that most of us use. The games of keep away, the zoomies at bed time, the refusals to cooperate, the inability to leave the pup by themselves without a meltdown, they’re just not floating anyone’s boat.
The truth of the matter is that new owners just aren’t cut out to do this on their own. When you’re following bad information, unsolicited advice from uncle JimBob, or just have a lack of knowledge on how to raise a puppy, success verges on the impossible.
Puppies and Planes
Humor me for a second and let’s replace puppy with plane. I have flown on planes, large and small. I have watched numerous shows involving planes, have seen the cockpit many times, and have physically been in personal, commercial, and even military aircraft. My dad even flew his own plane. I can identify many different planes as being planes, I have a rudimentary idea of what keeps a plane up in the air, and I even know some plane terminology, as well as theory of what to do in a small aircraft if you lose the engine.
Despite all of this exposure and experience, I can’t fly a plane. I think most people would agree that to do so would not end in success, even if I had double or triple the knowledge and exposure.
So why then with a similar knowledge around dogs and puppies is the idea of being able to do it all by yourself and succeed brilliantly so ingrained?
Puppies are NOT easy. There are so many pitfalls to avoid, a ton has to happen to make the puppy grow into a behaviorally sound dog, and this has to happen simultaneously while you’re also training the dog how to behave in the world and not be essentially a wild animal in your home. Without a trainer it becomes a task that is monumentally difficult and can very easily end badly and cost you a lot of time and energy down the road.
Training Before Rehoming
Training not only can prevent your dog or puppy from being a terror, but can undo bad behaviors that your dog may have or has learned. A lack of training is one of the top reasons why young dogs are rehomed; at 6-12 months they’ve just hit their teenage phase, which is bad news if they don’t have training. This is when dogs become “too much to handle” or “stubborn” “wild” “willful” etc. Their lack of training makes them challenging to rehome and the sad part is that they’ve not only done nothing wrong, but they’re good dogs. Their only fault is not knowing how to act appropriately.
Another thing we see with dogs who are this age and who haven’t had training, they can really struggle with change and can suffer from having sensitivities that are linked to fear. For these dogs being sent to shelters or being rehomed is extremely difficult. Shelters are reporting that there is an extreme influx of dogs who are right around that one year mark. Dogs who are essentially big babies and who are just not equipped to handle the rehoming process and shelter system.
It’s ok if you got a pandemic puppy and it’s also ok if they’re not living up to your expectations. It’s also ok to not know what you’re doing, or to feel overwhelmed by having this new responsibility in your life. You haven’t failed anyone by seeking professional help from a trainer, it shouldn’t be viewed as a sign of defeat to get help! That doesn’t make you less of a dog owner, it actually elevates you because you’re seeking out the tools and knowledge you need to be successful with your dog.
Rehoming happens, but training should come first. Dogs and families who don’t go through effective training are at a disadvantage when it comes to the quality of life that they experience together. Destructive behaviors, fear, anxiety, aggression, potty training problems, inappropriate greetings or house manners, inability to go on a peaceful walk, these are not a badge of honor or “just something that comes with dog ownership”.
If you find yourself wanting to have a dog, not wanting to rehome, but not knowing where to turn for answers or how to change your dog’s behaviors for better, reach out! I’m here to help you improve things for yourself and your dog and to help you get to your goals, supporting you the whole way through. Click the button below to start the process.