A scratched cornea, twisted ankle, bruised nose. These are among the puppy-related injuries fellow furball owners have shared with me, a proud, albeit scarred, owner of a super-sized golden retriever puppy named Mabel.
Puppies are presented as the embodiment of everything good in this world. They’re cute, silly and squeezable. They provide stealth, slurpy kisses when you need a lift, and sleepy snuggles when the world feels like it’s moving too fast.
They will also destroy everything within their reach, take down small children in the neighborhood and create open wounds on any and all exposed skin with their razor-like puppy teeth and nails. These are the perils of puppies.
Sure, plenty of scientific research has shown that dog ownership has a variety of benefits. From reducing stress and lowering blood pressure to increasing physical activity and combating loneliness, dogs truly can be man’s best friend.
However, some may see them more like our best “frenemy,” a tricky combination of both friend and enemy. Really — does a true friend chew off baseboards, eat your favorite pair of shoes or figure out a way to urinate under a couch in the farthest corner of the room where it’s nearly impossible to clean? I should hope not.
Along with the chewing and potty mistakes, Mabel and her like are also known to growl, bite, bark, jump, scratch, mount, howl, whine and simply destroy. Add in vet bills and the cost of beds, food, toys, treats, leashes, collars and Halloween costumes — yes, it’s a thing — puppies seem to have it out for us.
So what’s a puppy owner to do? Well, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the key to having a good dog is having a well-trained dog.
This might imply, then, that the bad behavior isn’t actually the puppy’s fault. That’s right — it’s actually the owner’s fault for not properly training them. Training is considered an essential part of responsible pet ownership.
In fact, puppies can begin simple training — wearing a collar or learning about receiving rewards — at eight weeks. At 12 to 16 weeks old, they can learn to come, heel, sit, stay and lay down.
Puppy potty training takes a little longer, possibly four to six months, and requires consistency — your consistency — along with positive reinforcement and patience. It truly is up to you.
While the benefits of training are obvious — decrease in blood loss, neighbors less likely to sue, household absent of foul smells — a well-trained puppy is also a joy to live with and much more comfortable and confident in a variety of situations, both at home and out in public. Your bond with your puppy will also be strengthened during training.
So, while Mabel may still chew the rogue sock that falls out of a kid’s soccer bag or come barreling at me like a herd of one when I arrive home, she’s also managed to learn that her potty spot is outside the house and a treat for obeying is far better than a sharp “No!”
I, too, have learned a thing or two.
For one, if you take your children to look at a puppy, you will bring home a puppy. Furthermore, if you threaten to take back said puppy — even (mostly) jokingly — due to damage caused to house and home, your children will shun you until you swear on everything important to you that you didn’t mean it. And finally, no matter how naughty that puppy is, you will most likely love it and consider each and every peril of that puppy so very worth it. I know I do.