8 Things No One Tells You About Training a Puppy

You’ll find millions of articles about training puppies. But none of them tell you the secrets I’ll share with you here.

Sally is a Basset Hound foster puppy from the Tompkins County SPCA.

I couldn’t possibly be as much trouble as you tell people I am.


When You Get a Puppy, No One Tells You…

You can train a puppy so she NEVER pees in the house. You just can’t do anything else.

Errorless house training relies on liberal use of a crate or your having the attention of a hungry hawk outside a prairie dog convention.

You’ll have the wackiest dreams.

Like that one where you dream you’ll be able to sleep all the way through the night.

The only thing more crazy-making than the deep bark of an adult dog is the high, squeaky yap of a puppy.

‘Nuff said.

If you praise a puppy exuberantly enough for peeing outside after she barked as you stepped out of the shower, your neighbors will finally know how you feel about bikini waxing.

Note to self: get a longer bathrobe.

Everyone wants to pet your puppy. No one wants to help train her, clean up after her, or feed her stuff that won’t have her throwing up in your shoe in an hour.

Yuck, squishy.

Everything is a chew toy to a puppy.

A leash. A tie. A remote control. A boob. A Golden Retriever tail.

No one is safe. No one.

The more people who are “watching” a puppy the more trouble she will get into.

“I thought you were watching her.” “I thought you were.”

As many times as you ask in frustration, “Can’t you just grow up?” you’ll feel sad because they grow up so fast.

Your Turn:Β What are the unwritten rules you’ve learned about puppy training?


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  1. It’s been so many years since we had a puppy, but the one thing I remember clearly is their ability to escape from most any barrier. I used to feel guilty about crating her, so we’d try to block off part of the kitchen to keep her contained – what a joke. How this little 10lb bundle of energy could climb up over the turned sideways chairs & sofa backs to escape was beyond me, but she always did.

    • Sue at The Golden Life says:

      Shadow was a little Houdini, too, so I had to laugh at your description!

    • Yeah, I remember one of our first fosters, Buster. Every time I came home from work, he would have gotten out of his four foot tall exercise pen. I finally decided he must have squeezed out between the door and the gate. But I sure would have liked to see him do it. πŸ™‚

      Lucky for us, not every puppy is a Houdini.

  2. Sue at The Golden Life says:

    As you can see from my reply to SlimDoggy, Shadow was an escape artist, too. Funny, now that she’s a “grown up”, she accepts the puppy gates and just gets comfortable wherever she happens to be. Callie was an easy, mellow puppy. She cried the first night or two, for a few minutes, but by the third night, she just curled up on her bed and went to sleep. And she used the potty pads I put on the kitchen floor right from the start. Of course, sometimes she didn’t quite make it all the way on to the pad, but at least she tried. πŸ™‚ Ducky is still a bit of a challenge, but it isn’t her fault.

    • Isn’t it amazing how every puppy is different? Even Callie and Shadow in the same breed.

      Honey was easy at night and great with house training. But she was the most vicious, mouthy biter I’ve ever known. It hurts me just remembering.

      Hard to believe this dog with a mouth of velvet could ever have been so nasty.

  3. The one thing I remember about potty training a puppy is that there is no window of opportunity for doing anything other than taking that said pup outside as soon as they finish eating. Answer the phone, a fast pee break for yourself or even pulling that last blouse from the dryer to hang it so it doesn’t wrinkle. Doing any of those things and a zillion more will leave you cleaning a puppy mistake πŸ™‚

    • Oh yes! So true.

      I remember moving off my seat as I saw my last foster go into motion. He still managed to pee in the doorway before I got to him.

      My husband hasn’t learned this lesson yet. He still thinks he has time to watch the punchline on the Daily Show joke he’s listening too. πŸ™‚

  4. We know we thought you were watching one. Oh my those puppy days and lack of sleep. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly.

    • Well we’re doing better. We got up 4 times the night before last night. But only 2 times last night. Here’s hoping for 1 tonight!

  5. I’m getting so nervous about the arrival of our pup when reading this! I don’t know how we did it 20 years ago (yikes, it was longer than that…). I just know we weren’t good at it but she still survived and she grew into the most beloved dog. πŸ™‚
    I need to remember to enjoy it and recall what puppy breath is all about. <3

    • Just keep breathing. And know you’ll make mistakes. We all do.

      I’m not a crazy puppy person. When Honey was a puppy I always thought of her potential. Which made me even more tense because I kept worrying I’d screw her up.

      You’ll do great. And your new pup will be lucky to live with someone who has learned everything she needs to take care of a pup. Just always remember those hot paws. πŸ™‚

  6. You just wrote 8 reasons why I will probably always re-home older dogs. I do need a puppy fix now and then.

    • You and me both, Jan. And yet I keep on fostering puppies. Is the universe trying to tell me something? πŸ™‚

  7. Much as I love dogs, I really dread puppy training. Makes me really appreciate older dogs. That said, it does really pay off to start training and socializing a puppy early on.

  8. My sis has a brand new pup and they are getting NOTHING done! Puppies are a total PITA – that’s why they make them so darn cute! Otherwise no one would put up with that stuff!

  9. OMG – puppy training! I haven’t had a puppy in over 30 years and she/I nearly didn’t make it through then. She chewed on everything – my shoes, the couch, the tv knobs, the joysticks to our video game, the labels on all our canned goods, brillo pads… you name it! She even chewed a tube of superglue and glued her front paws to the carpet! Puppies are adorable, but I’ll stick with my relatively calm 10 year old dog – thanks!

  10. “As many times as you ask in frustration, β€œCan’t you just grow up?” you’ll feel sad because they grow up so fast.”


    Although we don’t know how old she really is, Starr had a few “puppy-ish” behaviours when she came home, which was only a few months ago, and we’ve only seen them once or twice before they’ve disappeared πŸ™ As much as I want her to grow up – physically and psychologically, I will miss the days when she laid on her back and batted at hands, hair, tshirts, toys.

    Although one thing she doesn’t seem to be growing out of is being picked up and carried. Yes, she’s about 18″ at the shoulders, and 14Kg. If she grows much more I won’t be able to pick her up any more – and I know we’ll both miss that!

  11. Oh, that next to last one. I think every accident Silas had was while we were “both” watching.

  12. LOL, I have to agree with all of those. Puppy breath is the very best though.

  13. That even after they grow up they sometimes still pee in the house! πŸ™‚

  14. Ah yes, I still remember that moment of terror in the silence: “where’s the puppy?”

    I would have loved to know about clicker and marker training far earlier. I think I would have been a better and more patient trainer, and I think I could’ve helped Elka be a more confident dog (though she handles most things that come at us with aplomb).

    SOCIALIZATION! Find a puppy kindergarten, find a friend who has a vaccinated, dog friendly adult, ANYTHING. Safely and appropriately socialize your puppy with dog savvy people and dog friendly dogs, so that he or she continues to learn appropriate play (carrying from lessons Mama and siblings gave), and appropriate greetings.

    These are my two big ones.

  15. Yup.

  16. I often say, “I really miss it when the dogs were puppies…they were SO adorable!” , and then hubby reminds me of the chewed-up shoes, the toilet training, the leash-training, etc and I really appreciate having my grown-up dogs now. It is a very special time when they’re puppies but it’s hard work too. Best thing about puppies? When they fall asleep in your arms. Emphasis on the ‘fall asleep’.

  17. Del was our first dog and we got him from 8 weeks old. Although he was amazingly cute and fluffy, it was extremely hard work. I was quite naieve about it all, and only going through the experience will let you know how it truly is.

    The potty training was interesting πŸ˜‰ I’ve never been up and down so much in my life, and standing outside at 3am in the snow was bizarre! I went through so much kitchen roll and floor spray too! Luckily, Del potty trained pretty fast, but I’ll never forget those first few months. But strangely, looking back, I loved every minute and wouldn’t hesitate going though it all again.

  18. LOL! Here’s one. Puppies WILL walk and sleep in their own poop. I keep hearing about how great crate training is at helping to potty train a puppy because supposedly the puppy will poop on one side of the kennel and not where they sleep or eat. Not true! I don’t know how many times I’ve had to clean up a poopy puppy. Not only did they walk in it, it seemed like they danced and rolled in it without a care in the world.

  19. Excuse me while I try to erase the vision of the short bathrobe from my head. I’m guessing you’re NOT a fan of The Great Brazilian that isn’t? I haven’t had a puppy in decades so can’t really say but I do agree with your last point.

    • I was wondering if anyone was going to be “brave” enough to go there–of course it’s you. πŸ™‚

      I can see the point of a Brazilian bikini wax if you’re giving a capoeira demonstration in a thong.

      But any “sexy” grooming that makes it impossible for you to have sex half the time (you’re either letting the hair grow out for your next waxing or recovering from your last one) is a waste of time in my book. I guess I won’t be welcome on any Brazil beaches anytime soon, huh?

      And probably not in my neighborhood either, after the other day’s display.

  20. Sounds like such fun, yes, even the little teeth! One day I’m gonna have to break down and get a puppy. Not any time soon of course, but eventually. πŸ™‚

    • Maybe we could work a deal. If I ever get another puppy of my own, I’ll send her to you for the teeth part. Honey just about killed me. πŸ™‚

  21. I think I pretty much always end up with older pups but I did get my Zaya as a baby and getting him not to pee on things…wow was that a challenge! One of the reasons I almost passed on Max…soooo happy I didn’t :)!!!

    • And I think house training is just a little harder with a male puppy. So it is really good that Max won you over. πŸ™‚

  22. No one tells you…
    You need to train YOURSELF before they come home because training starts immediately! Sure helps to have some idea what to do the day they come home!

    Puppies love to shred pee pads and toilet paper… at least my Rocco does! Key the toilet paper under lock and key!

    Puppies will carry your shoes outside when you’re not looking and you’ll wonder why you only have one shoe for every pair that used to be in your closet!

    hee hee! I love having a puppy but he sure is a lot of work!

  23. Frankie was about 10 months old when I got him and thank goodness he had his adult teeth because he was a Honey and I’ve still got faint scars on my arms as reminders! I raised quite a few Sheltie puppies, many years ago now, and in recent years have adopted dogs that are young but past puppyhood. I love puppies but have no interest in raising another one … but I’d never turn down the opportunity to savour some puppy breath. Sally looks so lovely and you’re taking wonderful photos of her πŸ™‚

    Oh and I’m so glad GLP got you to spill the beans about the brazilian or not, lol πŸ˜‰