Q: My partner and I are in a four-legged standoff. He wants a puppy because, “Puppies!” I don’t because we just decorated our wonderful Cobble Hill apartment. I can already see a puppy turning the wood legs of our coffee table into his favorite chew toy. And what about our poor sisal rug? My partner insists that people with dogs have nice furniture, and ours will survive if we train our puppy. I’m not so sure. Who’s right?
A: A puppy can certainly destroy a set of sofa cushions in minutes. But as your partner points out, people with nice furniture do have dogs. So how do they do it? By setting — and sticking to — rules about how and where their pet can roam until it’s old enough to be trustworthy.
Before bringing a puppy home, you and your partner need to agree on how you would protect your nice stuff. “It’s not just about training a puppy, it’s about getting everybody on board,” said Andrea Arden, a dog trainer in Manhattan.
If you don’t want pee stains on the sisal rug, don’t provide an opportunity to go there. Roll up the rug until the dog is sufficiently housebroken, or keep it off it at all times. The same goes for all the living room furniture — if the puppy doesn’t have access to the coffee table legs, it can’t chew them.
Crate the puppy when you can’t supervise it, and use baby gates or pens to limit where it can roam. At other times, keep it on a leash in the apartment so it’s always within arm’s length.
“Management is, in the simplest terms, about setting the puppy up for success by doing all you can to prevent predictable mistakes,” Ms. Arden said. “Until I felt that this puppy has good chew-toy habits, I’m not going to give them access to areas of my home where they can do damage.”
Eventually a dog will be trustworthy enough to sit in your living room. You may even trust it on your sofa. Or, you may want a dog that never sits on human furniture. And that’s OK. Just set the rule immediately, and once the dog is allowed in the living room, train it to relax at your feet.
If all this corralling feels like a burden, consider adopting an adult dog instead. “It’s not like you’re going to get an adult dog who’s going to be like Lassie,” Ms. Arden said, but “generally speaking, getting an adult dog can be less taxing on your furnishing.” Maybe less taxing on your relationship, too.
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