Many people compare getting a puppy to bringing home a new baby. We often get people inquiring about adult doodles from us (p.s. we don’t have any!) because they want a specific breed such as a Goldendoodle or Bernedoodle but feel overwhelmed by the thought of going through the puppy stage. Is getting a new puppy as stressful as it’s made out to be?
We feel strongly that if you have appropriate expectations on what puppies are like and are well-prepared, then the puppy stage can actually be really fun and exciting as you watch your puppy blossom and slowly grow into a well-mannered adult companion.
When we find new owners who are stressed with their puppies, it is almost always a lack of understanding of the puppy’s developmental stages. Some of the biggest frustrations we see are related to potty-training, play-nipping and overall “wildness.”
A New Puppy’s Potty Accidents Can Cause Owners to be Stressed
Frustration with potty accidents is a common cause of feeling overwhelmed with your new pup. We try to help set realistic expectations for our puppy owners that potty accidents can and should be expected until your pup is at least 16 weeks of age. Most dogs are not super reliably potty trained until 5-6 months.
Doodles are intelligent dogs and as puppies they may very well latch on to the concept of potty training in the first couple of weeks, which is why a spontaneous accident a few weeks later can be particularly frustrating and bewildering to new owners. Keep in mind your puppy is developmentally very much like a toddler or young child.
So he may grasp the concept of potty training but is still very distractible, excitable and does not have the bladder control of an adult dog yet. So with patience, consistency and maturity, your pup can certainly be reliably potty trained.
Another very common complaint we receive from new doodle owners is puppy nipping. This can be especially difficult for families with young children as young children often do not understand the difference between a play-bite and true aggression, and hurt feelings (and fingers) may ensue. Furthermore, the natural playful energy of children brings out the playfulness / excitement in your pup.
This can often spell fun for both parties. Parents dream of their kids romping in the backyard with their loyal pup, but quickly become frustrated when the puppy seems to be bringing out the worst in their children and vice versa.
Doodles in particular can be mouthy pups as the poodle was originally bred to be a retriever - so putting things in their mouth is truly part of their DNA. Combine the Poodle with another retriever breed (such as a Golden Retriever) or a herding breed (such as the Old English Sheepdog) and you can definitely expect a long nipping phase.
So again, if this resonates, rest assured that you are not alone. But also know that puppy nipping is a phase (a rather long, annoying one!), but it is something that your pup will outgrow as they get older, especially if you are firm and consistent with redirecting this behavior.
Puppy Owners Sometimes Get Stressed over all the Energy Their New Puppy Has
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of owning a puppy that encompasses a lot of other behaviors is the general puppy energy! Like other young animals, puppies learn so much about their world through play. In fact, that seems to be all they think about for their first six months or so of life!
Chasing, jumping, wrestling, and biting are all on the daily schedule for your young puppy. A puppy’s main focus is on exploring and playing — learning rules is of a much lower priority to their rapidly developing brains! (Learn about what you can do with your puppy all day to stay entertained.)
Owners are sometimes frustrated that they always have to keep an eye on their pup. Their pup is “always getting into something” or “he just won’t stop jumping/biting!” All of these frustrations are certainly valid. But it is important to remember that in many ways puppies are very different animals from adult dogs. We explain how to get over any possible “new puppy owner regret” here.
Developmentally they simply do not have the focus that an older dog does. Keep in mind that during their first couple weeks at home with you that every experience for them is a new one and they are often acting on instinct when it comes to jumping, pouncing, seeking out new objects to chew, etc.
So training certainly has an important place in your puppy’s day to day life, but it is also important to understand your puppy’s true need for play. Rather than growing frustrated with his distractibility, try to embrace your puppy’s curiosity and enthusiasm!
And while it requires patience, watching the world unfold through their eyes can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Giving your puppy certain times and places throughout the day to just “be a puppy!” can be helpful for both owner and pup. Just going out to the yard or a park to romp and run wild without worrying about your pup chewing on something he shouldn’t can help you and him relax and enjoy one another more.
Puppies, especially doodles, do have quite a bit of energy they need to release each day in order to be better behaved with you. Expect that your puppy will get “the zoomies” a few times each day or need some way to release his energy through structured exercise and/or play.
In addition to understanding where your puppy is at developmentally and embracing it, there are a few other keys to making the puppy stage less stressful that are worth mentioning. First, we recommend having a schedule for your puppy. We provide a loose guide for a good daily schedule here.
If given the chance, your doodle puppy will probably play with you all day. It is important to play with your pup, but it is also equally important to give your pup some rest time. Similar to human babies, puppies sometimes fight the urge to sleep, preferring to play instead. But also similar to a human baby, they can become overtired and cranky without their naps! Hence, why keeping your pup on a schedule can be very important.
Puppies generally need at least 18 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. In addition to making sure your pup has a nap schedule, giving your pup a few predictable things he can count on is helpful as he is learning to navigate his big new world. Dogs typically thrive on routine, especially as young puppies.
Secondly, it is important to remember that the puppy stage is short! As long as the days (and nights!) might seem, puppies grow up fast. And choosing to get a puppy rather than an adult dog does have its benefits as you can really shape your little guy’s behavior from day one to fit your schedule and lifestyle.
Don’t Let the New Puppy Developmental Stages Stress You Out!
The things you teach him at eight weeks of age will leave a lasting impression and positively affect his ability to bond with you and other people. Puppies gain your trust quickly since you’re their primary caretaker. By the time your puppy is six months old, you will notice a significant improvement in his ability to focus and abide by household rules. And by one year of age, your pup will be full grown (or close to it) and the puppy phase will be a distant memory.
If you keep all these things in mind and have a clear picture of what to expect, you may just find that the puppy phase is actually more fun and rewarding than it is stressful!
Jenna and the JLDD Team