The Ugly Truth Behind the Second Year of Being a Dog Mom
Hi there!! For anyone who is new to my blog, let me introduce the whole crew here. I’m Carson Presley, and I write the content behind Girls & Dogs, Oh My. I’m graduating college this May (err--sort-of, just not traditionally because of the Coronavirus).
The luckiest person in the world, I have two adorable Labradoodles! Scout, who is two-years-old, and Ryder, who is just 9-weeks-old.
My better half, Spencer, is the most amazing dog mom who helps me keep a handle on our two wild fur babies.
Together, we love traveling. We love packing up our Jeep and exploring new places. We’re also (until recently) first-time dog owners.
In other words, we’re young and make a lot of mistakes--which is where the inspiration for this blog came from!
I want to be able to share all of our journeys and dog mom lessons with you all--especially our mistakes--so that you all can have the best possible experiences.
Every Monday I post new content with our latest adventure, traveling advice, dog mom tips and tricks. Sometimes I post more than just Mondays, so make sure to subscribe for updates! You might also get a rockin' discount as well :)
You want to get a pup and you're determined to be the best dog mom possible.
You've done your research and you know everything about the first year. You're totally ready ... or so you think.
You probably haven't read about the second year. Neither did I.
That's why I'm sharing my struggles that I had throughout the second year of being a dog mom and share what I wish I would have known from the beginning!
The first year:
Your baby is a pup. They’re so cute. So fluffy. So tiny. Everyone wants to get a little boop on the snoot. I mean who wouldn't?? They're so cute.
That’s all the cute stuff, though. Behind closed doors, baby Fido is tearing apart all of your shoes, going potty in the house—and still has those velociraptor teeth that he just looooves to use on your hands.
You were prepared for these things. Every article you read told you this information so you knew what to expect. And you’re convinced it only gets better from here….because no one has told you any differently.
The second year:
The second year is what no one tells you about. The second year is the most frustrating year of parenthood. You’re asking yourself “How? Why? What do you mean baby Fido isn’t an angel after the first year?”
Well, let me tell you from first-hand experience.
In the first year, you teach Fido to sit, stay, down, and all other behavioral training.
The second year is when all of the training (or lack of training) really makes or breaks Fido’s future because you have to maintain those skills.
Your pup will act out and sometimes even rebel. You have to stay on these skills and discipline as necessary, especially when your pup doesn’t behave.
When Scout was hitting her puberty stage, she would blatantly ignore me. She acted as though she forgot all of her training and didn’t even know who I was at times!
It was cute because of how outrageous it was, but also incredibly frustrating.
And the data reflects that. Let’s take a look.
According to the ASPCA, 6.5 million pets are given to the shelter every year. Of those 6.5 million, almost 3.5 million of those are dogs.
Petfinder adds some context for this statistic:
-Most dogs are given up between 5 months and 3 years
-Most dogs were only owned 7 months to 1 year
-Most of these dogs (96%) had not done obedience training
One of the saddest facts, IMO, is that 80% of animals in shelters who are euthanized are healthy and could have been adopted.
What does this information mean and where does it come from? How is it that so many puppies are unnecessarily given up when they could have been saved?
A large cause of this statistic is that people aren’t ready for the struggles of the second year.
They often think that their pup is “untrainable,” when in reality, it was because they didn’t prepare for the long-term responsibilities of growing their family. Sad, but true.
As I previously mentioned, the first year is truly the foundation for the rest of you and your pup’s lives together. When people don’t create a solid foundation for their pup’s life, then they are creating an unstable foundation for the next couple years.
Training is a lifetime commitment, not a linear line of progression where they learn and learn and never regress. You, as a puppy parent, should be committing your time and energy to take every opportunity as a chance to train.
Here are some of my tips to help you with this lifetime commitment of training:
Don’t move from one skill to the next too quickly. Make sure that your pup can successfully perform the task a solid 80-90% of the time before moving on to a new skill.
You can teach them multiple things; however, you need to continue to reinforce them. For example, you can teach little Fido to sit and lay down in the same time frame, but you need to continue to reward each of these skills until they can do them with great accuracy.
Pro Tip: Use these tasty treats to keep Fido interested!!
You need to continue to train your pup even when they have seem to have their skills mastered.
One easy way to do this is to treat everything as an opportunity to train your pup. What works for Scout and I is to give everything to her as a reward. In other words, when she successfully performs a task, she is rewarded.
During play time, I make her sit or lay down before I throw a toy for her. When it’s time to feed her, I make her sit, stay, and “leave it” for an extended period of time before she can eat. Making these moments into training opportunities reinforces the skill.
Without this reinforcement, your pup will do as she or he pleases because it is unclear what you expect.
Throughout development, your doggo’s energy, motivation, and hormone levels all change. These factors alter their ability to be consistent with you.
As a parent you need to have patience and understanding with your pup. This is the time that it is most necessary to provide boundaries.
With Scout, I had to increase the amount of discipline and reinforcement as she grew up and began pushing the boundaries.
Dogs need different levels of discipline and reinforcement, both positive and negative. For example, Scout really only needed positive reinforcement from 14-weeks-old until about the 1.5-year mark.
For the next 6-8 months, she also needed negative reinforcement so that we could maintain those boundaries and keep her in check with the expectations that I had her for.
Once she was around 2 years old, we settled into a routine with a balance of what each of us need and expect from each other.
For successful training, you need to make sure that you know your dog, have bonded with them, and are able to know what they need. For example, some dogs are motivated by treats, others by toys and play time, and some by affection.
Bonding with your puppy when they are young or when you first get them is critical! It allows you to understand them, be close to them, and know what they need from you.
If you are struggling to understand what your pup needs from you, do a quick online search for their breed and what kind of characteristics they need.
Maybe try “What kind of owner does [insert breed here] need?” and a handful of results should turn up.
Now you know why millions of dogs are abandoned every single year, most of which is likely preventable.
Share this knowledge as well as my 4 greatest tips to help you succeed in your second year of being a dog mom! Pass these along to your friends and fellow dog moms so that they can be prepare for their second year as well.