It feels like things are just starting to get back to normal since we brought the puppy home just over two months ago. Pepper turns 18 weeks old today and I’m just now able to keep up on orders, make new designs for the shop and create content for the blog like I did before, all while giving her the care and attention she needs. I’ve typed a lot of weird, desperate and frantic questions into google these past two months but the one I searched for the most, and never really found an answer to, was, when do puppies learn to chill.
I knew bringing a puppy home, especially when I work full time from home, would be a lot of hard work. I did plenty of research leading up to the day – and I’ve raised one puppy and one difficult rescue dog before with my family – but I was not prepared for just how physically and emotionally taxing the first couple of weeks and months can be when you are the adult in charge. I felt like I’d given up my entire life to care for this rambunctious puppy that did nothing but pee on the floor and bite me. I could feel myself falling in love with her, and her bonding with me too, but the emotional strain of working doubly hard all day to get half as much work done and then not being able to relax and unwind at the end of it because she’s still here and still needs me was overwhelming at times. Add to that the constant fear that I’m doing everything wrong and will raise a bad dog and you can see why I really needed to know when this puppy would learn to sit still long enough for me to catch my breath.
I read many discouraging non-answers to this important question, most being:
- Small dogs mature more quickly than big dogs. – ok, thanks
- The puppy phase generally lasts one year but can vary by size and breed, lasting anywhere from around eight months, to two years. – surely, there has to be some difference between a ten weeks old and ten months old!
- Dogs don’t “chill out” until they are one year old; three years old; seven years old; some never do. – I don’t expect a stuffed animal, I just need to know when I can have a second to myself
These answers were very unreassuring to the new owners of an Australian Shepherd, a breed known to be difficult due to it’s high intelligence and high energy levels. I understand where they are coming from, it’s a hard question to answer when every breed, even every dog, is going to be different and you want people to be prepared for the realities of dog ownership before they take it on, but come on! Giving these types of non-answers to such a frantic question can make a person in a normal situation feel hopeless. I desperately needed to know when I would have time to sit down again. I just wanted to know when this puppy would stop needing 100% of me, 100% of the time. When she would sit on the floor and calmly chew a toy instead of trying to bite me all the time. When she could go for a walk without going crazy and having a meltdown in the middle of the street. When she would stop tearing across the yard just to rip my clothes. When my husband could greet her after being at work all day and not have her demand a blood sacrifice. Most importantly, when would life with a dog be at least a little more joyful than it was miserable.
So here’s my answer.
For my dog, who is a medium sized herding breed, spends nap times behind a baby gate but has at least one owner at home 90% of the time, takes three walks a day, and has had consistent, positive reinforcement, “tough love” style training since day one, she has just started to “chill” at four and a half months. What I mean by this is, she still needs constant supervision but is now able to entertain herself with an appropriate activity for a few minutes at a time, she can cuddle on the couch without immediately getting mouthy and we are able to control and deescalate her meltdowns when they happen. She is still very much a puppy and her training is nowhere near over, but she is now a silly, polite and charming puppy more often than she is mean, frustrating and destructive hell-beast. She still has bratty moments and can struggle to control her emotions when she’s tired, but she is starting to become a good dog.
All photos by me.