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!

How to choose a puppy or kitten

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Choosing to own a puppy or cat has to begin with making sure that everyone who lives in your house is on board. If one of you is not keen, the chances are that it is not going to be a happy experience, so it might be wise to shelve the idea for now.

It is also important in the case of buying a puppy, that at least one of you is around for some of the time on weekdays. Dogs are pack animals and will become anxious and unhappy if left on their own for long periods of time on a regular basis.

So assuming you have a full house of thumbs ups, it might be worth doing a bit of research into costs before you make a final decision. These costs can include:

  • Initial purchase price which can vary between breeds and pedigrees
  • Vaccinations – cats and dogs need to be vaccinated before they can go outside to avoid catching nasty diseases
  • Spaying and neutering should you decide to take this route
  • Ongoing costs of food, flea treatment and worming
  • Insurance – an absolute must to avoid expensive vet bills should your pet have an accident or develop a long term illness.

Once you have done your research and you are still keen to take the plunge, the following pointers should be taken into account. Some of these are more applicable to dogs than cats, but either way you want to make sure you are buying from a reputable breeder rather than a ‘breeding farm’.

Pointer 1 – Make sure you are confident that the person selling puppies or kittens is a responsible breeder. Ask questions such as ‘Can I meet the mother and father’, ‘Has the puppy been fully socialised?’ Ask to see photos so you can see the surroundings that they have been born into. Of course visiting is imperative and will give you a much better feel for the breeder as well.

Pointer 2 – If a puppy or kitten is being sold as a pedigree, ask to see the paper work of the parents first.

Pointer 3 – Don’t buy from a pet shop. While smaller animals might be well-cared for, larger animals may have come from trade farms and may have health and behavioural issues as a result. What’s more, you don’t want to be supporting this kind of cruel practice.

Pointer 4 – When you go to choose a puppy, be careful that your heart does not rule your head. Choose neither the timid runt of the litter, nor the gung-ho over-confident puppy. Both are likely to have behavioural issues and while these can be overcome an experienced trainer, it’s better to opt for the well-rounded middle pup if you have the choice.

Pointer 5 – Experts advise against buying two puppies at the same time, even if they are from the same litter. However cats will thrive with company, especially if you are out at work all day.

Pointer 6 – Make sure you research different breeds before making a choice. Both cats and dogs have very different temperaments and needs depending on their breed. This is more noticeable with dogs, some of whom need a lot more space and exercise than other and there are certainly differences in ease of training too.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Of course read around, but don’t become overwhelmed. Yes, it’s an important decision and yes there are certain rules you really must follow, but common sense and some research around should see you making the right choice for you.

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Coco and Sadie’s Christmas wish list

I don’t know this for a fact, but I am pretty certain that while most families will be going out to get a gift for under the tree for their pooch, less will be thinking the same for their cats. But this year we have a dog and it seems churlish not to put something under the tree for our feline friends too.

So, Coco and Sadie, over to you. What is on your wish list this Christmas?

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Dear Santa, our top choice for under the tree is a cat nip toy. It drives us crazy! (but in a good way!) And one each if you don’t mind, none of that sharing malarky – The Dog is getting her own gifts and so should we!

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A new scratch post would be puuuurrrrrrfect! There is a new thing in our house we are calling ‘The Dog’ and she needs keeping in her place. So our beautiful claws need to be sharp and on point!

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If we are honest, we are not 100% sure what these are, but we just know that they are our favourite toy. We bat them round the kitchen, run around with them in our mouth and pretend we have caught something and then chew them to pieces! We used to have loads, but since the youngest human in our house has grown out of them, they are in scarce supply.

101329511.jpg4. Roast chicken

Dear Santa, we know that our humans are having roast chicken for Christmas lunch and we want some too! We know that The Dog will get scraps under the table. We would prefer ours served in our proper eating bowls and no bones s’il vous plaît!

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So after we have stuffed ourselves on roast chicken, all we will want to do is curl up in front of an open fire. Bliss!

We have been very good this year and have only hissed at The Dog when she chases us around the house, so we have our paws crossed for a bountiful Christmas!