We get a lot of calls from new puppy owners one to two weeks after their new addition has arrived home. These calls usually go one of two ways:
- Puppy has just started doing X. She hasn’t done it the whole time we’ve had her (in new-puppy-owner time, it’s been years since she came home), and she just suddenly started. I must have done something to upset her, what have I done wrong?
- Puppy has just started doing X. She didn’t do it before. She’s doing it to spite me, she hates me. How can I fix this?
To clarify, it’s the same problem in both scenarios, just seen from two different mindsets.
So what has happened?
Does puppy hate her new owner? Or has the owner ‘broken’ the puppy? Which is the correct viewpoint?
Well, there’s a third option. Let’s take a look at this from the puppy’s point of view…
How puppy sees all this
Puppy has lived her WHOLE life in a warm snuggly environment with mum and some siblings. Milk on tap, furry snuggles guaranteed, the same faces day in day out for 8-10 weeks. This has been her whole existence.
Up until the point that you turned up to whisk her away from everything she’s ever known. Taken to a new environment, with new sights, smells and sounds. Puppy is understandably quite nervous about it all.
Suddenly she’s being told things she doesn’t understand. Sometimes there’s yelling, sometimes she’s being picked up and fussed when she could live without it. There seem to be some expectations of her, but no one’s told her the rules.
She does the puppy equivalent of keeping her head down. Staying small and unseen while she figures all this shit out.
After a while, a week or two say, she comes to the conclusion that despite some of your weird quirks, you guys are the providers of all things good – food, water, snuggles, play. She starts to relax a bit.
And her true self, her personality starts to appear. And she starts to do things that she hasn’t done before.
So it’s not that she’s trying to spite you, dogs live in the moment – spite and revenge require a lot of forethought and understanding of what others are thinking. Dogs don’t have this. That’s us anthropomorphising and projecting our own emotions onto her.
And you’ve not broken her. It’s so easy to have self-doubt about raising your pup, especially if she’s your first. And fears – I remember all the fears when Kimber came home. It’s almost crippling at times.
But why do some pups not go through this?
Dogs are like people and will react differently to different situations. Some are more timid, some braver, and some just foolhardy. Some pups may have had more socialisation when at the breeders, and can take more things in their stride. Some just might be showing their personality in ways we don’t see as unfavourable, so we don’t notice it as much.
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