What do you need to know before getting a puppy? As doodle breeders, this is a very important topic to us! We take educating our future puppy parents seriously as we believe appropriate expectations and understanding of a typical puppy’s development will help our puppies transition into their new homes and overall provide a more pleasant experience for owners and pups alike!
When we do hear of complaints or frustrations from new puppy owners, it almost always seems to stem from a lack of understanding of where puppies are at developmentally! So here is what we would want every owner to know before getting a pup:
You should know that your puppy most likely won’t be potty-trained until 12-16 weeks of age
We have heard of various websites or trainers advertising potty-training in as little as 3 days or a week. While it is possible that you may have a particularly magical puppy who can learn the ropes this fast, the vast majority of puppies will take quite a bit longer to be truly reliable. We’ve trained a lot of puppies and some really do catch on extraordinarily fast, but this is definitely not the norm. So we prefer to set the expectation that it will take your puppy at least a couple months to be 100% housetrained.
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.
Furthermore, timing is key! Young pups are really just learning bladder control at 8 weeks of age, so often have only a very short time between realizing their bladder is full (if they notice at all!) and needing to go. Because of this, pups generally do well in smaller areas as they are learning.
The closer the door is, the easier it will be for him to alert you before it’s too late. If the door to their potty area is several rooms away or down a set of stairs, then you will almost certainly have an accident to clean up. So combining a few potty training tips like this with a solid dose of patience and consistency, your pup will eventually be reliably potty trained.
Before you get a puppy, know that they’ll test boundaries and engage in obnoxious behaviors that are difficult to break
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 pup. A puppy’s main focus is on exploring and playing — learning rules is of a much lower priority to their rapidly developing brains!
Owners are often 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.
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 simply acting on instinct when it comes to jumping, pouncing, seeking out new objects to chew, etc.
Biting in particular is probably the top complaint we receive about puppies. 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 play/excitement in your pup. And puppies can bite hard. It can sometimes feel aggressive because it can really hurt, especially when a pup is really wound up playing. But rest assured, puppies are rarely truly aggressive.
Your puppy’s biting is a lack of inhibition when it comes to playing-rough and not knowing proper boundaries yet. It can be a difficult behavior to break but understanding the motivation behind the behavior (often excitement and a desire to play hard) will help you as the owner address it calmly and consistently, which is exactly what is needed to eventually kick this nipping behavior to the curb!
If you have previously trained an adult dog and are new to puppies, you may be surprised and discouraged that your puppy does not seem to be getting the hang of curbing some of these behaviors. In general, adult dogs do catch on faster when it comes to stopping unwanted behaviors like jumping, biting, etc. simply because their adult minds are less wrapped up in an almost obsessive need to play!
But while it may take longer to truly break some of these negative behaviors, the positive to starting out with a puppy is that they are a blank slate in many ways. You as an owner can decide exactly what boundaries you want to set and how you want to train your dog from the very beginning. You can make sure he is well-socialized and avoid certain stressors.
Interestingly, it seems that each puppy is different when it comes to difficult behaviors. For some owners, the biting phase is simply relentless. Others report their pup is not too much of a biter or chewer but they simply cannot break the jumping or demand-barking. So try to focus on the strengths your pup does have. And in the areas where he is struggling, remember that this is a developmental phase and with consistent training and developmental maturity, you will eventually have a well-mannered companion on your hands!
Before you get a puppy, know they need daily exercise and playtime!
Puppies, especially doodles, do have quite a bit of energy they need to release each day in order to be better behaved with you. So 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.
All of the unwanted behaviors mentioned previously will tend to be much worse if your pup has been cooped up all day. If he is exploding at the seams with energy, it will be difficult for him to focus and respond to correction.
Most young doodles do well with roughly an hour or two of exercise each day with some free play sessions in between. As a younger pup (2-5 months), this should be broken up into several sessions — a couple short walks around the block and a few rounds of fetch time in the backyard throughout the day, for example.
Most pups are ready for a burst of activity first thing in the morning and it also helps them to settle down well for the night to have another stretch of exercise in the evening. As your puppy gets older, he will still need exercise, but often is able to go for a longer, more strenuous walk and then settle down for a good part of the day.
Understand that like a baby, your puppy needs sleep!
We bring this one up a lot because it can often get overlooked as a crucial element to your puppy’s wellbeing right alongside of training and exercise! Everyone has heard of the comparison that a puppy is similar to a human baby.
While we don’t subscribe to this comparison on every level, we do think there’s something to the scheduled naps! Every parent knows that if given the choice, your baby will fight sleep in order to stay up and keep playing and exploring the world! But as most parents can attest, it is of critical importance to help your baby settle down for a nap even if he/she does not want to in order to avoid the overtired-crankies!
Believe it or not, puppies can get a serious case of the over-tired-crankies, too! An overtired pup can be a lot like an overtired toddler — they can become forgetful about their obedience and become more frenzied in their play. Often an increase in biting, jumping, etc. can be a sign the pup has reached a frenzied state of over-exhaustion. 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. Usually, they are ready to tucker out after an hour of activity and play time. Naps are generally 30 minutes to 2 hours. These are all very rough averages, and every puppy is different, so pay attention to your puppy’s cues. If you have established a good crate-training rhythm, then puppy nap time will be easy—he will know that his crate is a safe, resting place and you can simply place him in his crate when it’s time for him to nap.
In conclusion, before getting a puppy there is a lot to learn. There is a big commitment when it comes to teaching, training, and exercising your new little buddy. However, having the appropriate expectations is key when it comes to enjoying the puppy phase.
There are many positive aspects to puppyhood — I mean simply looking at the cuteness of an 8 week old puppy is an enormous benefit to getting a puppy! If you can trust the developmental process and embrace their energetic, playful, curious spirit, you will find yourself laughing and being able to relax with your pup. Just remember — they grow up fast!
Jenna and the JLDD Team