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!

Breaking down barriers

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Everyone we know is getting a dog. E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E! I love it – I get the cuddles and licks and the adoring looks and tail wagging and dog walking… all without the responsibility. AND I don’t have to pick up their poo! Win-win!

“It’s fine picking up their poo”, says my friend Ems. “It’s like changing your own baby’s nappy.. it doesn’t bother you.”  Yeah, right!

I love animals. I’m constantly reposting videos of a cute row of ducklings following mother duck, the cat who’s adopted a mouse, the handsome dude who has rescued a baby deer (I am just looking at the baby deer, honest!). My husband has got used to me asking: “Can I have a baby elephant for Christmas?” or “I want an aardvark for my birthday!”. He knows it’s tongue in cheek, but plays along and responds with a very firm “NO!”.

But, this summer we were sat on the beach when a couple walked past with a gorgeous little puppy. As I melted into the sand, I turned to my husband and said “Can we get a puppy?”, fully expecting the usual resounding “No.”  But instead he said, “Sure. Why not?” Me: “What, really?” Him: “Yes, really!”

Squeeeeaaaal! We’re getting a puppy!