My husband and I did the unthinkable: We returned our 5-month-old puppy to her breeder despite the fact that our family loved her and thought she was adorable.
This was not our first dog. Our first puppy, a soft-coated wheaten terrier we named Lambic, lived to be 14-and-a-half, and we were heartbroken when she died. I thought we would never get another dog, yet, two months after Lambic died, my husband, daughter, and I went to see a litter of wheaten terriers and fell in love with the one we brought home. Truthfully, our puppy picked us when she sat in my 13-year-old daughter’s lap.
We were smitten.
Our daughter named her Eevee, after the Pokémon character. Eevee did great on the two-hour drive home. The trouble began the first hour Eevee was in our house. We tried to put her in the crate, which something Lambic never minded, so we could eat lunch, but Eevee wouldn’t stop crying and barking. During her first two weeks with us, we slept with pillows over our heads to drown out her barking at bedtime.
I work from home most days and thought that would make housetraining easier, but I soon realized it made it harder because there was no set schedule or routine for Eevee. Some days she wouldn’t go in the crate at all. Other days she would be in the crate for three to four hours. At a six-week training course, we were told to put Eevee in the crate several hours a day even when I was home. I would lure her into the crate with treats and pretend to go out, but Eevee was smart enough to sense I was still home. She would bark and whine until I let her out again.
I soon realized that Eevee wasn’t Lambic, and much like children, no two dogs are alike. Plus, my husband and I were used to an older dog that knew our family’s patterns and rhythms and didn’t need the constant attention and discipline of a 2-year-old child.
Don’t get me wrong; there are things we absolutely loved about Eevee. The way she rubbed her eyes with her paws when she first woke up, the little mewing sounds she made when you rubbed her belly, and the way she put her entire head and upper body out the car window to catch the breeze.
Even some of the naughty things she did were adorable. She liked to steal socks, even when they were still on our feet. She would bark at anyone eating Greek yogurt because she wanted some, too.
But all her cuteness couldn’t make up for the stress she was causing us, and slowly my husband and I started to hint that perhaps she wasn’t the right dog for our family. We had honest discussions with our daughter about how frustrating it was to be woken up at 2 a.m. and again at 5 a.m. because Eevee needed to go outside and do her business. We explained it bummed us out that we no longer went out as a family because leaving her in the crate for a few hours while we went to out to dinner or a movie often meant coming home to a messy puppy and crate.
Our decision to give up our puppy wasn’t as unusual as I thought.
The most common time to give up a puppy is after six months, Jme Thomas, executive director of the Motley Zoo, an animal rescue in Redmond, Wash., tells Yahoo Parenting. The time between 6 months and 10 months is usually the tipping point because this is when a puppy will try to push boundaries, she adds. “For even the most well-intentioned person, a dog might be too challenging, or it might not have been the right time to adopt a dog,” she says.
Before adding a puppy to your lives, Thomas says, you need to consider the expense, which is easily $2,500 or more during its first year alone, and whether you are ready to welcome a “toddler” into your lives. Having a puppy, she says, is like having another child who needs to be socialized, trained, and disciplined.
We were fortunate because our breeder welcomed our puppy back. If you don’t have that luxury, Thomas says to look for a rescue in your area rather than bringing the puppy to a shelter. And, if a shelter is the only option, check to see how crowded the shelter is and how often it is able to place puppies in new homes.
The hardest part about the entire situation was telling our daughter. She had promised to help take care of Eevee, and for the most part, she did. But as much as she was willing to walk the puppy and play with her, it wasn’t enough, and it didn’t ease our stress.
Although my husband and I shared with our daughter our concerns about the puppy and our stress level, we never actually asked her whether she thought we should return the puppy, and Elaine Taylor-Klaus, parent coach and co-founder of ImpactADHD, says that was a mistake.
“You should have made the decision with her,” Taylor-Klaus says, “so that she was part of the decision and it wasn’t something you imposed on her. You can even tell her, ‘We are going to make the final decision but we want your input.’”
“The hardest thing to do in a family is to have the critical conversations,” Taylor-Klaus says. “Your daughter needs to know how hard it was for you and to see that everything in life is not all idyllic.”
(Photo of Eevee: Lisa Rabasca Roepe)