• Lisa Mullinax, CDBC


"If you raise dogs from a puppy, they won't have behavior problems." I rate this one a MEGA MONSTER MYTH. Where do dogs with behavior problems come from? They each started as puppies. And someone thought it would be easy to raise that puppy. Contrary to conventional wisdom, raising a puppy is not a beginner's task. The first month home (if adopted at 8 weeks) happens during the most sensitive period of development, when socialization - safe and gentle exposure to novel environments, people, and animals - is critical. The one thing that almost every case of reactivity and aggression have in common is a lack of *good* socialization. Now, during that time, you're also working on housetraining. That article on the internet said to take the puppy out every hour and give them a biscuit when they potty outside. Sounds super easy, right? HAHAHAHAHA It's just never that simple. As with any sort of training, you need to be prepared to adjust to the needs of the individual puppy and there are many variables that can make housetraining challenging - especially if your puppy came from a pet store or an online seller. Okay, socialization and housetraining. Doesn't sound too bad. You think you can work that into your schedule for the next month or so. But wait! There's more! Next comes the biting. Everything. By biting, I'm not talking about aggression. I'm talking about the fact that puppies use those mouths for everything. When they want you to play: BITE When they are teething: BITE When they are exploring: BITE When they are cuddling: BITE Pretty much the only time puppies aren't TINY TOOTH TORNADOES is when they are sleeping. Again, conventional wisdom says to tell the puppy "NO BITE." Ah, if only I had a dollar for the number of times I've seen puppies bite the finger pointed at them while their owners chanted this, I'd be typing this from my beach house. Puppy biting/mouthing is inevitable. But it doesn't last forever. Only the first 6-8 months...maybe longer if you or the kids inadvertently reinforce it. Then there's the chewing. Think those cute little dents left by puppy teeth are the extent of it? I'm going to need you to sit down. At around 5-6 months, your puppy is going to go through a second teething phase. The kind that destroys your great-grandmother's dining table and one shoe from every pair you own. This lasts about a year. Sure, you can try using Bitter Apple and other things stores are all too willing to sell you. But nothing stops the chewing except for the end of teething. You're just going to have to dog-proof the house and wait it out. Yes, providing them with appropriate chews will help, but it won't stop the dog's need to chew. Okay, so, we've got socialization, housetraining, mouthing/biting, and chewing. Anything else? Well, yeah. You still need to teach your puppy to come when called, sit, lie down, stay, walk on leash without pulling, accept handling for grooming/vet care, plus basic manners like greeting people without jumping or grabbing their grocery bags and running around the neighborhood in a wild frenzy. Also, genetics play a significant role in behavior. So, you could do all of this and still end up with a dog that exhibits fear, reactivity, or aggression, which means you'll need to eventually learn how to manage and modify behavior, anyway, on top of everything else.