A guide to navigating the challenge and adventure of life with your dogs.

Thinking of Returning Your New Puppy to the Shelter/Breeder? Please Read This First

Dear puppy owner,

So you’ve adopted a puppy who has turned out to be a little terror, and you’re thinking of finding her a new home. Despite your best efforts, some problem has come up: the puppy won’t stop biting, won’t stop pooping all over your house, or maybe she just requires a lot more work than you were expecting.

I feel your pain. And this letter is not a guilt trip – I’m sure you’ve heard the “Ohmygod how could you! A dog is a lifetime commitment!” lecture already. That kind of thing doesn’t help you, and you will find none of that here. This is just some friendly advice from someone who has been there.

I’d like to introduce you to my puppy, Friday.




Does this sound at all familiar?

It seems that no amount of research can truly prepare you for the challenges involved in bringing a new puppy into your life. Challenges like:

“If this puppy doesn’t stop biting me, I’ll no longer be responsible for my actions.”

“How am I supposed to housetrain this puppy if she has an accident every time I look away for five seconds?”

Biting, chewing and housetraining: the leading cause of newly-adopted puppies being put up for sale on Craigslist.

The biting thing was the biggest issue with Friday. She never. Stopped. Chewing. On. People. It seemed like anything we did to stop it just made it worse. My family came really close to finding a new home for Friday. So I understand being totally frustrated by this kind of behavior.

There is a lot of advice out there for dealing with these issues, and it can get pretty complicated. It doesn’t have to be complicated. To deal with each of these issues (and more), remember this simple strategy:

Prevent or ignore undesirable behavior. Show the puppy what you want instead, and then reward good behavior.


How this looks for biting:

Your puppy has to learn that when she bites too hard, good things end. “Good things” are whatever she wants at any given moment. Usually, it’s play. So when she bites, you end playtime. To end playtime, stand up and turn away instantly. This has to be clear and consistent. No nagging, no “if you bite me one more time I’m leaving” kind of stuff. “But what if my puppy just attacks my feet?” So what if she attacks your feet? Wear closed-toe shoes. For her, attacking your feet while you stand completely still is much less fun than you playing with her. After a moment, show the puppy what you want instead by offering a toy (bonus points if the toy is filled with treats) and playing tug.

There’s a tutorial for stopping biting here.

If your puppy is biting your children, teach your kids how to be a tree.

For housetraining:

Read this post.


That “What have I gotten myself into? I can’t do this!” feeling? That’s normal.

Like I said, no amount of research can prepare you for the experience of your first puppy. It’s a kind of culture shock, and the only way to really learn is to do it.

The “maybe this wasn’t such a good idea” phase is something that most people go through when they get a new dog. It’s usually worse for first-time dog owners, but it can affect even the most experienced dog people.

The doubts usually set in a few days after your puppy comes home.

You might start to think that this is way more work than you were expecting. You might be put off by the disruption that having a new baby dog brings to your family. You might be afraid that you’re doing everything wrong.

Chewing, biting, housetraining and everything else that goes with raising a puppy can seem like huge problems. I know it felt that way with Friday. However, after ten years, and after working with hundreds of dogs, I can tell you that these issues are not as big a deal as they seem right now.

Puppies eventually stop trying to bite everything that moves. They eventually develop the bladder control to “hold it” for more than five minutes at a time. Eventually they grow up and no longer need 24/7 care.

It gets easier.

If you are seriously considering finding a new home for your puppy, my advice is to wait it out. You will settle into a routine. You’ll work out what you’re doing as you go. The overwhelm will go away.

Need more help? Need to vent? Email me. Please.

I don’t want you to have to get rid of your pup any more than you do. So if you need some advice, a listening ear or a pep talk, send me an email: contact@3lostdogs.com. I’m happy to help. Write “puppy help” in the subject line so that it’ll stand out in my inbox.

UPDATE FEBRUARY 2015:

This post now has a sequel: New Dog Making You Miserable? You’re Not Alone
And now we have a detailed, step-by-step puppy survival guide. Check it out:
I Got a Dog – What Was I Thinking?

This too shall pass.

Friday is now ten years old (she’ll be 11 in February). She is the sweetest dog you’ll ever meet. All those horrible puppy behavior issues that made me so angry are now a distant memory -a memory that I can laugh at. I love her dearly and can’t imagine how I ever considered sending her back to the pound.

Puppyhood is a crazy time. It requires a lot of work and it will probably drive you nuts. But it doesn’t last very long and when it’s over, you will miss it. So enjoy it while it lasts, keep your sense of humor, and take lots of pictures.

A Guide to Surviving Life With Your New Puppy

Update, February 2015: Because of the overwhelming response from readers, I spent the last year working on a ebook based on this blog post.

I Got a Dog – What Was I Thinking? is about what to do when raising your new dog turns out to be a lot harder than you expected.

You’ll learn:

  • How to housetrain your dog even if she’s had a lot of accidents
  • How to stop your puppy from biting (with a training plan that actually works!)
  • How to teach your dog not to freak out when he’s alone
  • How to survive bedtime with a puppy who whines all night
  • How to stop being stressed and overwhelmed all the time
  • And more

Sound like something you could use?

Click here to learn more