Balancing Puppy Training with Mental Health
There’s an elephant in the room.
Today is not the first morning you have burst into tears because of your puppy’s unstoppable, maniac behaviour. You’re tired. The late nights and early mornings are taking their toll. You’ve crime-scene-cleaned countless accidents indoors. There’s still plenty frustration of trying to fit in training around zoom meetings. You’ve been bitten more times than you care to mention and your dog friends all say the same thing;
“It’s only puppy behaviour, it’ll pass.”
Gee, thanks guys.
If what I just said sounds familiar you are not alone. Owning a puppy is hard work, and there isn’t much evidence out there in books or online as to just how much it can drain our mental health. But it does. You knew it would be tough, but this is a whole new world of pain.
Why aren’t they honest about it on Instagram?
I don’t know, but I am here to help you join up the dots to start feeling better.
Many of my clients have come to me at the absolute end of their tether.
The dog is driving them crazy – despite coming so far there is still so much they need to learn and life is getting in the way. The dog is growing fast and they feel hopeless. Was getting a dog a huge mistake?? Some are even thinking of re-homing their dog.
When my clients cry on the phone, I know they have reached their absolute limit. I wish they knew how often this happened. How totally okay it is to cry to a stranger. I know just how hard dog training can be – I do it every day and even with my skills and experience, sometimes a bad day is just a bad day and you can begin to doubt your ability and progress.
How to Find Balance
Puppy training is much harder than they say. Some factors will make your journey harder than it is for others.
- Working breeds (a pup from champion parents often makes for a high-stamina pup)
- High energy breeds (I commonly see Gundogs, Huskies, Terriers and Cockapoos for training)
- Very intelligent dogs (Even a hint of Border Collie or German Shepherd can turn the tables)
Here’s how to find balance for your dog, your training journey and most importantly your mental health.
Step 1: Have a Plan
What is your game plan long term? Do you need to balance puppy-hood with work, family or business life?
Is your dog care plan sustainable? Are you taking on too much? Yes dogs are our responsibility but often we all need a helping hand to make it work. Just like kids, having a grandparent or day care on hand is an asset.
Do you have a trainer, walker or day care in place? If your dog is high energy and needs more than 3 hours exercise per day, outsourcing the issue is a great way to save yourself time and worry.
Shop around, there are so many pet care professionals in the world and many of them have all kinds of fantastic experience to make dog ownership a manageable and happy experience.
Step 2: Take a Break
Literally. Pay someone else to do it for you. You can even hire me, (yes ME) to board and train your dog in a 5 star rated home boarding environment. When your dog is with me, they can learn tonnes of useful commands, manners and get a proper exercise schedule in place that will save you time and energy. I’ll even sort that niggling lead-pulling and transform it into lovely heel work.
While the dog is away you can play! Or catch up on sleep, the choice is yours. Strip the process back to basics. What does your mental health need to reset and recuperate? And before you start with all of that guilt of having a great time while your dog is in “bootcamp”, remember you have literally nothing to feel bad about. That dog is so loved and really landed on their feet when you came into their lives.
Sometimes we all need a break from being a full-time parent (whether you have fur-babies or human ones). That’s totally okay! When they’re with me, I can promise we have fun by the bucket-load.
Step 3: Talk to Someone
I defy anyone to say they have never felt so crap some days that getting out of bed has been impossible.
When we dream of getting a dog, in our minds we often skip ahead to the good bits. Dream-dog territory. Thinking about all of the wonderful rambling walks we can do – skipping through endless valleys and woodland in the sunshine; or how lovely it would be to have a little friend cosied up next to you by the fire in winter. We’ve all been there.
The reality, however can hit really hard. When you have a dog, suddenly there is a life that has constant needs which have to come before your own. That’s a tough gig when you realise its for the next 15-20 years. No more lie ins for you mate, your best friend wants to go for a wee at the crack of dawn. Will it ever end??
If what I just said filled your heart with dread; fear not. Dogs take a while to get used to the routines at home. Lie ins are possible and you will have those lovely walks. But in between that is the space where we all need to find the balance between mental health and dog care.
When was the last time you sat down with a professional and talked about your mental health?
If the answer is never, you might want to jump on the new trend of hiring a professional to help you understand any anxious or unsettled feelings that may be cropping up. I think it’s safe to say we all get them from time to time. Thankfully there are plenty of superb people in the world who are completely gifted and qualified to help you pick apart what you’re feeling and how to move past it.
Step 4: Comparisons
Don’t compare your dog training journey to other people. We are all different, as are our dogs. Some dogs take more time than others to meet training and socialisation targets. Sometimes we have setbacks like medical issues, or life gets in the way. I have trained so many dogs where training fell by the wayside because of a surprise pregnancy, bereavement, illness, divorce, etc. The good news is dogs can be pulled back from the brink – dogs are amazingly flexible and re-training is part of my adult dog boarding school.
You never know what’s around the corner but what I can tell you, is there are loads of people and services who can help you find calm and reset no matter where you are in your journey with your best friend. Instagram influencers don’t always show the whole story, so don’t get sucked into that old chestnut. It is a silly business.
Check out these resources to help you have a better day tomorrow: