Sadie and Coco meet Ivy..

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The prospect of introducing Ivy to our cats Coco and Sadie was almost certainly the most nerve-wracking aspect of getting a puppy. I mean let’s face it, dogs and cats are the most notorious of adversaries. And while I’m a sucker for pictures of cats and dogs snuggled in perfect harmony on Facebook (see above), I was under no illusions that this was going to be an instant cat/dog love-fest!

And I was right! Ivy’s first encounters with either cat was brief.. very brief! Ivy would spot Coco or Sadie, her little tail would begin to wag and her eyes light up at the prospect of a new playmate. Her absolute confidence that they would feel the same way saw her bounding across the garden to greet them, only for them to leap 10 feet into the air, turn tail and scarper as fast as their furry feline feet would carry them!

Our house is on four floors and we have placed a gate on at the bottom of the stairs to the top two floors, thus providing a safe haven for Coco and Sadie when they lose patience with Ivy (they seem to spend quite a lot of time up there.. just sayin’!) That said, they do seem to enjoy taunting her by sitting on the step just above the stair gate staring and then staring some more, driving her into a frenzy! Such fun!

We have now reached a state of.. I’m not sure I can call it peace and harmony, but I suppose ‘acceptance’ would be the best word to describe it. At least on the part of Coco and Sadie. They have learned that if Ivy is in the kitchen, the best way to cross the room to their food or the cat flap is up high. So they leap from table to chair to kitchen work surface – pretty impressive as it happens. And yes, I do see the irony of having spent two years trying to get them NOT to go on the work surfaces, now actively encouraging it!

Coco, who is a little dot of a cat, knows exactly how to put Ivy in her place. A carefully timed hiss and a flick of a sharp claw does the trick. Sadie simply C…B…A (‘can’t be arsed’ according to son Noah!). Ivy will chase her and she lollops away slowly to the safest spot.. but she takes her time. I am not sure ‘lollops’ is even a word, but it seems to be quite descriptive of Sadie’s gait. So the cats ‘get it’ – this ‘thing’ is here to stay and avoidance is key. Ivy not so much. Ever the optimist, she will bark and chase when she sees either cat – she just wants to play!

I sometimes wonder what the cats are thinking. Do they blame us for this new intruder? I don’t think so. They are still as affectionate as ever. Like I said, I think ‘acceptance’ pretty much sums it up. I do wonder more of a bond will form when Ivy calms down a bit.. but I’m not holding my breath!

How to prepare for a new puppy!

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So your new arrival is imminent. Exciting times! But before you go and pick up your precious bundle of joy, you need to make sure you are prepared.

Preparing will involve a shopping list, but how much you spend is entirely up to you. Pretty much anything you need to buy for your new puppy falls into camps – basic or high end. And for many of the things you need, basic will do just fine.

Food and water bowls. Go for heavy bowls or stainless steel with non-slip bottoms. Anything lighter or plastic will get chewed or even carried around, so best to avoid those.

A bed. Your puppy is going to want somewhere warm and cosy to curl up, especially given that they will spend up to 18 hours asleep to begin with.Image result for dog in dog bed

Familiar smells. Before you bring puppy home, check with the breeder that they will supply you with something that smells of puppy’s mum. This is really important for those first few days when your puppy is acclimatising to their new family. The familiar smell of their mother will give them comfort and make them feel safe.

ID tag. It is the law that all dogs wear an ID tag on their collar detailing their owner’s surname and contact phone number. Don’t be tempted to put their name on the tag, as this makes them easier to steal.

Microchipping. Microchipping is also well worth the investment. It is a simple procedure whereby your vet will insert a small chip into your dog. The chip will hold all details about your dog including your name, address and telephone number. This means that if your dog were to go missing and was handed in, its chip can be scanned and you are far more likely to be reunited with your pet.

Toys. For puppies, mental stimulation is as important as physical activity (in fact, perhaps more so). While young puppies sleep for most of the day, when they are awake they will want to play – both with you and with toys. There is an endless supply of toys on the market designed with your puppy’s enjoyment and safety in mind. Which leads me onto my next item..

Chew toys. Puppies love to chew. It’s a basic instinct and also very soothing for them when they are teething. What’s more, they will chew pretty much anything, which can prove to be destructive on your furniture, carpets and other belongings. Make sure you have a supply of chewy toys that it is ok for them to gnaw at – you will be glad you did.Image result for dog chewing toy

Grooming. You might want to take your puppy to a trained professional for their first groom. Clipping a wriggling puppy’s claws can be quite daunting, so we would recommend having it done by a groomer until your puppy is used to it. However you might want to equip yourself with a brush and some dog-friendly shampoo for when your puppy comes in mucky from a walk.

A crate. Many dog owners swear by crates and we think they are pretty good too. A crate can be used for transporting and for sleeping. Dogs will gradually associate their crate with being a safe place to snuggle and get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. What’s more, in the early days they can be used to begin the process of toilet-training as dogs prefer not to poo or wee in their own bed.

Puppy food. When you first bring your puppy home, you will want to continue feeding them whatever they have been fed by their breeder. Everything will be new for them, so they will find some familiarity a comfort. After that, it’s up to you to do your research and decide what food is best for your dog. Opinions vary widely over different diets, so it really is your choice, but do make sure you are feeding them good quality food that has clearly labelled contents so you know what they are eating.

Image result for puppy eatingLead and collar. You won’t be taking your puppy out for walks for a few weeks until they have been fully immunised. However, you can get them used to wearing a collar and being on a lead almost as soon as they come home. There are hundreds of collars and leads on the market – the choice is yours – but do bear their comfort and safety in mind when making your choice, not just how stylish it is!

Poo bags. You’d be surprised at how many ‘preparing for a puppy’ checklists forget to add poo bags! These are an essential you are going to need from day one and throughout your dog’s life, so make sure you have a good stock of these. There are many different kinds on the market, but we would recommend going for strong and environmentally friendly bags.

Choosing a vet. While your puppy may not need to visit the vet until they are ready for their first immunisations, you will still want to choose a vet before you bring your puppy home. Ask friends and neighbours for recommendations and perhaps even visit a couple before making your final choice.

Pet insurance. Once you have chosen your vet, you can ask them for their advice on pet insurance. They will almost certainly have an insurer they recommend, but they should also offer you advice on shopping around and the kind of insurance you should be looking for.

So, it looks like you’re all set to bring your fur baby home!

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New puppy – reality check!

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I said this blog would include the highs and lows of having a family pet and I would be doing you a disservice if I wasn’t honest about those first few weeks.

While we are all in love with Ivy, the reality is that a new puppy is exhausting, frustrating and messy! And along with that comes some mixed and confusing emotions. What’s interesting is that no one talks about those feelings when it comes to owning a pet. It’s as if it’s OK to admit to struggling with a new baby, but not with a new puppy. And having had two babies myself, I do appreciate that a baby and a puppy pose very different challenges, however they are challenges nonetheless. And it doesn’t matter how many people try to prepare you for the reality, until you are in it, you can’t ever truly be prepared.

First came the biting, or what I should more properly call ‘mouthing’, but which frankly felt like biting! Puppies explore the world with their mouths and consequently with their deceptively small, but very very sharp baby teeth. They also want to play, and having only just left their siblings and their parents, they take time to learn their boundaries. Ivy will sink her teeth into anything that moves, including ankles, hands, arms and in her excitement once my nose and lip! Ivy also seems excessively fond of terrorising the youngest member of our family, Noah. Yes, our strapping, rugby-playing 14-year-old was being bullied by our puppy! We had an introductory puppy training session after a couple of weeks and were told it was natural for a puppy to pick on the youngest member of the ‘pack’ – sorry Noah!

It may sound silly, she’s only a puppy after all. How much damage can she do? But until you have had a puppy’s razor-sharp teeth sink into your ankle and whose grip only gets harder as you try to get her off.. well, when it’s constant it can be quite wearing.

Now let’s talk about toilet training a puppy, which apparently, for some, is a breeze. In the early days we made mistakes and weren’t diligent enough in making sure she went outside every half hour. We also began by using training wee mats, but the trainer advised us that they would only prolong the process by teaching Ivy to wee and poo on the mat rather than outside. It’s worth remember that having a new puppy is as much a learning curve for the owner as it is for the dog. Suffice to say, Ivy is now 20 weeks old and we are still potty training!

At about 14 weeks I began to feel quite despondent, wondering what we were doing wrong. We took her out regularly, never told her off when she had accidents and yet even if we had just been for a walk and she had done a wee and a poo while out, sometimes she would have an accident within five minutes of being in the house. I will talk more about potty training in a later post, but if you have never had a puppy before, you begin to wonder what you are doing wrong.

It turns out, nothing! I joined a very active and supportive Cockapoo facebook group when we got Ivy and asked the question about potty training. Turns out every pup is different. Some said it took their puppy 12 months to properly crack it! So I stopped beating myself up and carried on with what I was doing. And slowly, but surely, we are getting there!

I suppose our remaining frustration is the fact that Ivy hates it if you leave the room, even for just a minute. I did not hear the term ‘velcro dogs’ in reference to Cockapoos until after we got Ivy, but it certainly is a very apt description. Until she is fully toilet trained, we don’t want Ivy to have free-rein in the house, so a stair gate stops her following us upstairs. Instead she sits at the bottom of the stairs and barks until we reappear. It doesn’t seem to matter what we do to reassure her, or whether we are gone for one minute or five, she will sit and bark until we come back! We have still not cracked this, so watch this space!

I’ll talk about the wonton destruction in a later post, suffice to say bringing home a new puppy is not a bed of roses. And it’s ok to admit to the struggle and ask for support – it will get better and it will be worth it! And we never stop loving our Ivy Rose!