It’s all a matter of perception.
Maybe, for a start, your friend is laid-back and easy-going. While you are wired and anxious by nature.
Perhaps your friend is the kind of earth-mother who can cope happily with a household of children and pets with no cares about being houseproud.
It could be that this is your first puppy, and your friend is on no.4.
Are you comparing apples with oranges? Your friend’s dog could be mature and settled, while yours is still a wild puppy.
Or maybe … just maybe … the dogs are different, and yours is more challenging.
Is this your first puppy? Many people remark on how easy their second child is compared with their first. The unfortunate first child has to deal with all the expectations, hopes, and fears - not to mention the awkward and novice parenting - and of living up to everything her parent always wanted in a child. Your first pup suffers some of the same unrealistic expectations. Take it easy!
The breed or type of your dog will make a big difference too. Especially if you went for a dog that is bred principally for looks and not purpose or temperament. Many of the currently fashionable so-called “designer dogs” would fit into this category. What I mean by that is that if the breeder is selecting for looks, then temperament may not get much of a look-in. This is where the extreme importance of choosing the source of your puppy wisely comes in. You want to know that the parents’ temperaments have been assessed along with their looks. We’ve all met good-looking cads in our life! We don’t need a four-footed version in our home if we can possibly help it.
If you have chosen a breed or type of dog that has been bred for hundreds - or thousands - of years to do a certain thing, and do it very well, that behaviour will be inbred in the dog. It will be part of his instinctive drive and no amount of saying NO will change that. So you have to know what you’re up against.
If you don’t want a dog with a strong prey-drive, you may want to avoid sighthounds. If you don’t want your dog to herd everyone into a corner, a herding dog may not suit you. And if you don’t appreciate your lap being filled with socks, twigs, and teddy-bears, maybe pass on a retriever. If you just want a quiet life, don’t choose a high-energy dog!
Having said that, there is no doubt that ALL dogs are trainable. All dogs will respond to force-free training where they find out for themselves what works - and what doesn’t. But there isn’t any need to make the task harder by starting with more challenging material.
Adult rescue dog
You may have chosen to rescue a dog from a shelter - good for you! - but it's not necessarily roses all the way now. All adult dogs have established ideas and things that they do, desirable or undesirable. So there may be a certain amount of un-training to do while you re-train what you want.
Keep in mind also that a re-homed dog can easily take a couple of months to settle into his new home and know that it’s for keeps. I get lots of emails from people saying “He was great to begin with then after he’d been here two or three months he suddenly started doing xyz, out of the blue.” What was happening was that the new dog was scared to put a paw out of place when he first came, and chose to keep a low profile. Once comfortable and at home, the dog’s true nature is expressed - along with some things you’re not mad about, like reacting to other dogs or house-visitors, or hogging the bed. But don’t worry! A properly-qualified trainer will have the knowledge and experience to turn this around.
Different strokes for different folks
Your approach to training - indeed to life - could be very different from your friend’s. It’s a long slow process to teach a child not to put sticky fingers on prized possessions. It can be a long slow process to teach an enthusiastic puppy a new (and foreign) way to greet visitors that doesn’t involve flattening them.
So a relaxed approach is far less stressful for everyone involved. Parents make their home as childproof as is convenient so they don’t have to be standing over their child all day, telling her what not to do. Employ the same strategy for your puppy, who comes equipped with splendid teeth and claws for optimal demolition work.
1. Be sure your puppy is in an area where both he and your home are safe, then relax!
2. Young puppies should be in the same room as you at all times - except for the large amount of time they’re asleep, when they can be in their crate. Your dog earns his freedom as he demonstrates that he is reliable in new areas. So he doesn’t get free access to the living room, or the garden, until he has proved that he will not dig, soil, bark, or chew, while you’re not watching.
3. If your dog is an ardent chewer, invest in a doggie playpen and feed his habit with lots of chewable items. If his way of playing with the toys you give him is to rip them to shreds, then that’s his choice. Get cheap toys from the charity shop, or plait ropes out of old jeans, so you’re not invested emotionally in the state of the toy. It’s his toy - allow him to know best how to enjoy it. You can, of course, teach him interactive play with you with his toys, so he finds they’re more fun when you are hanging onto the end of them.
4. Ensure your pup is getting the right amount of rest - this is around 17 hours a day for an adult dog. Yes, 17 hours a day. So, more for a puppy. “He never stops,” is always a red flag to me. I know there will be behavioural issues with a dog who can’t switch off. And people usually find their puppy’s behaviour improves dramatically - especially in relation to biting - once they’re getting enough sleep. And if your puppy is not yet giving you a peaceful night’s sleep, read this one.
5. Tailor your expectations to your dog, his breed or type, his history, and your experience. We don’t expect our toddler, or our schoolboy, or our lovesick teenager, to behave like responsible adults. We educate, coax, and encourage them to reach this state of virtue - often ignoring the things they do which we don’t want repeated. Remember that “educate” means literally “lead out of”. So we are using our knowledge to lead our hooligan child or puppy out of the darkness of ignorance, and into the civilised world. This takes time!
6. A puppy of around six months old is developmentally somewhere near a child of 9-12. Don’t expect too much too soon!
7. Be careful what you draw attention to! What you focus on is what you get, so be sure you show your dog what you’d like him to do in any situation, rather than nag and complain when he doesn’t know. This article will give you some guidelines.
Once you satisfy your new companion’s basic, instinctive, needs - and adopt a realistic view of the training task ahead - you’ll be able to put some boundaries in place so you can all get along in the same household without friction.
And start enjoying your dog’s individuality!