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I always thought getting a new puppy would be easy. I was wrong. Six weeks ago, I brought home an adorable bundle of joy called Oscar, as a surprise birthday present for my daughter. Our family have had lots of pets, from goldfish to horses, and of course dogs, but I had never nurtured a puppy from 8 weeks old. I read and received lots of great advice, but some things were either significantly underplayed or completely omitted.
It is normal for puppies to cry after being separated from their mother and litter mates, and like most new pet parents, I expected some pining. I chose to sleep Oscar in a crate in the kitchen which I knew would mean helping him to settle. I did NOT however, expect to spend quite so many hours sat by the crate before I could sneak away to bed. Puppies of 8 weeks are supposed to sleep for 18-20 hours per day and my puppy chose to use up more than his quota of awake hours keeping me from my slumber during the night…and even more annoyingly, he was still ready for breakfast by 6am!
A week of staying close to reassure him and Oscar began to settle himself to sleep (some nights there was a bit of whimpering but no distress) and after two more weeks of setting the alarm for 3am, to avoid crate accidents, he started to sleep through. At 14 weeks he has now moved into a larger crate, and I have had to start setting my alarm for work again as he doesn’t wake me. Apart from weekends, of course. He wants his breakfast at the same time, every day, regardless of what time I go to bed. I fear the lie-in is an elusive thing of the past!
Having had a child, I breezed through the section on puppy toilet training, confident that it could be no harder than potty training…surely?
Stood outside in the freezing cold at 3am mid-February. Pacing the garden trying to encourage a playful puppy to have a “toilet” as the rain pours down. Moisture seeping through your slippers, having forgotten to change them at the door. Giving up after 20 minutes, wiping paws, wet dog jumping all over your clean pyjamas…and THAT smell as soon as you turn your head! Aaargh!!!
Toilet training a puppy takes patience, perseverance and understanding. You can’t sit them on a potty in front of the TV and wait it out (in the warm). Each dog is different, and you have to try and work out what suits them best. Oscar didn’t like the wet ground when he was very small so wouldn’t perform, but if I carried him to his toilet patch, he would do his business and run back in. Luckily, he has grown out of this…or maybe the weather has improved? The season in which you embark upon this tough task can have a huge impact on the experience, so choose your timing wisely.
Puppies eat almost anything. What they don’t eat, they chew. And they can find and scoop up their chosen delicacy at lightning speed. Be prepared to have your hands in your pup’s mouth constantly, I have been mostly fishing out…
Fluff, socks (Oscar’s record is 5 in his mouth at once), grass (mown grass in particular, is irresistible), table legs, diaries (Oscar ate March and left me in complete chaos), prized garden plants, snail shells (react quickly if you hear a crunch due to the risk of lungworm), bugs, stones (which have already cost me a vet bill after panicking that he had swallowed one), plant pots, boxes (Amazon are a particularly good chew)…the list goes on.
He hasn’t yet indulged in cat poop, which many dogs find especially delicious, but he did save me the job of cleaning up his vomit after a spot of travel sickness in the car. There I drew the line…I didn’t fancy fishing for that!
You have an idyllic vision of your children smiling and laughing as they play and cuddle your cute puppy in the garden. Your pup might have different ideas… and getting a new puppy isn't for the faint of heart.
Having been removed from their sibling playmates just as the fun was getting started, puppies are looking for someone else to play with, chew, bite, tussle, and chase. Fortunately for them, small people are the perfect substitute, and if like my daughter they love rolling about on the floor, your puppy will just assume that they are fair game. It’s great for me that Oscar prefers to chew a plait than the furniture, but as he gets bigger the play gets rougher, and when she ignores him, he tries to hang off the bottom of her trousers as she walks away.
Keeping them both safe is of course paramount (particularly if you have younger children) but I hadn’t quite appreciated the importance of ensuring that a child of 10 years old understands the boundaries for puppy play. Teaching them to walk away when a cuddle starts transitioning to rough play can be difficult when all a child wants to do is love the puppy and all the puppy wants to do is show his love…in his own way.
It seems like common sense but do not think about getting a puppy if you can’t cope with the brown stuff! You will have to deal with a lot of poo…on the kitchen floor, out on walks, in his crate, on your shoe, on other people’s floor and on your puppy-come-poo-magnet. Accidents will happen and could keep happening for many months so there will be lots of chances to test the efficacy of your chosen odour eliminating cleaning spray!
Poo bags are a fantastic thing to keep public areas and your garden poop free, but they are not hazard-free. When out walking with a friend, keep your eye on the bag as you tie it, and before carrying on your conversation. Puppy teeth, false nails AND poor concentration can all result in sticky fingers. Also note, poo bags have a shelf life. A colleague was gifted and gratefully received some compostable bags, until they disintegrated, at the critical moment, leaving her with a turd in hand and with a few miles to carry it home.
Even if you find it hard at first, you will come to appreciate a good dog poop and will even find yourself observing and squishing it as you put it into the bag. Different types of food can impact the nature of a dog’s poo, but it is also a key indicator of health. Just this weekend, Oscar gave us a scare as he was unwell, and it showed in his loose, pale coloured stools. Pre-puppy, no-one could ever have convinced me that I would be so elated to squish a firm, steamy poo between my fingers at 7am this morning…it’s just one of the many things no-one told me about getting a puppy!