We all know that being around challenging children is HARD. Being involved in their lives means that we have a significant role we are playing – and yet it can sometimes mean we think that to be doing a good job we have to keep it all together and not let others know how hard we are finding it. We can be honest – but only a bit…


I wrote this several years ago, when Hinton was 9 months old. I wrote it for me and never intended to share it – but have decided I would, in case it resonates with anyone else out there doing significant work and finding it HARD right now.


“So I cried today in a room of women and four-legged furry beauties.
Hinton - outside green
I was done.

‘My furry boy’ is a real challenge at the moment – in ways that no one knows if they just look at him.
In fact if you just look at him, you would say how gorgeous he is, and you would want to touch him (EVERYONE wants to touch him).

You would have no idea about what it is really like living with him at the moment. The stubbornness, the independence, the inescapable attraction for anything new, how unbelievably strong he is when he wants something, and then there is the sensitive tummy, sensitive temperament and unpredictable VERY mushy toileting.

My ‘boy’ is 9 months old and a real conundrum in so many ways.
I’m not just saying it. He has had his trainer scratching her head more than once.

We went to our regular socialisers puppy class today.

It was clear to the trainer as soon as we arrived, that I needed some extra support and I didn’t deny it.

The trainer took him and I sat there with tears pouring down my face. Exhausted.
It turns out that some dogs are like this when they hit teenage stage.
It turns out that they are not all this hard, but some are.
It turns out that in some ways he is very normal.
It turns out that in some ways he is very different, and not all the standard ‘normal’ approaches are helpful for him.

It was lovely for them all to notice and comment on the good bits they see in him (he can do rocking sits and downs when he has a mind to, waits and stays are there too, and I think the stories of how he now copes with being handled, poked and prodded which he totally HATED a few months ago, actually really impressed them).

And that is it, the conundrum. He is not all bad. Not by a long shot. I wouldn’t swap him for any of the other pups. He is ‘my boy’ [for now] and we are going to work this through together, we will both be changed by it, and come through wiser.

That is where we are going. But to get there I needed today.

  • I needed to be around the wisdom of others who ACTUALLY KNOW what it is like being a puppy socialiser.
  • I needed to hear encouragement from others who ACTUALLY KNOW what it takes to be a puppy socialiser.
  • I needed to hear and receive affirmation of the good job I am doing with him from people who know the investment of time, energy and life it takes to train a pup like this.
  • I needed time out – even just a few minutes – of not being on the end of the lead, to regroup and get myself into a calm state again. Time to look at him from a different perspective and realise there was no other puppy in the room I would want to take home instead.
  • I needed to hear from people who are more experienced than me, that being at the end of myself did not mean I was a poor socialiser in anyway.
  • I needed to hear stories of the depths that others (who seemed to have it all together and appeared to know what they are doing) have been to with puppies they have socialised in the past – and to see one of them sitting there with the very same puppy, now calm and in control of himself, happy, snoozing and ready for the next stage of training.

Hinton-puppy class 9mths
And he needed time away from me.
Right then, he needed time being handled by an expert.
He needed support from someone who was calm and grounded, who could help him move on through those minutes in a positive way.

It takes a village to raise a child apparently.
It surely takes a community to raise an assistance puppy.

So as I am writing, we are home now. He is asleep by my feet.
Still gorgeous. Still a teenager. Still so much toddler.

Socializing an assistance puppy has to be up there with some of the hardest things I have ever done.
But I’ve heard many parents say the same about parenting.
I’ve heard many teachers say the same thing about teaching.

I am SO grateful for the support and expert training I have around me. While everyone wants to throw their two pennies worth of opinion at me –  I know who I am choosing to listen to. I am learning so much about dogs, about people, about me, and I have chosen to change and grow through it all… Socialising my first assistance puppy IS an adventure and I’m not done yet.”

SO from one honest heart to another – let me ask you these 9 questions:-

  1. Are you doing something significant?
  2. From 1-10 how hard is it at the moment?
  3. What is hard about it that no one else would know from the outside?
  4. Do you compare yourself with others who appear to have it all together?
  5. Who would you need to hear positives from to really receive and believe what they are saying?
  6. When was the last time you had ‘time out’ away from those children?
  7. What are the specific positives or developments that you can see are still in your children, even in the midst of a challenging phase?
  8. What emotional support do you need?
  9. What specific expert support do you need?


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