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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Ivy’s Christmas wish list

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There are lots of things I have done that I said I would never do since welcoming a dog into our home: total access to the sofa, occasional treats when I am cooking, asking Ivy questions (and ever hopeful of a response!). So with Christmas looming, I was wondering whether I’m going to be putting a Christmas present under the tree for her. Who am I kidding!?

Which got me thinking – what kind of Christmas gifts do people buy for their dogs? And what would a dog even want for Christmas? So, I asked Ivy for her top five gifts for her Christmas Wish List… and she answered!

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1. Advent calendar

Dear Santa.. please could I have an advent calendar? I don’t really understand what they are for, but if it coughs up a daily treat in the run up to Christmas, then it sounds like a great idea to me! My humans haven’t got me one yet, but I am happy to open more than one door a day to catch up!

Screenshot 2018-12-04 at 09.31.132. Christmas jumper

Why should humans have all the fun? I get a little chilly when I am out on my walks and so a nice Christmas jumper would keep me warm. What’s more, it would mean that I get even more attention than I already get when I go to the park!

0004937_12-inch-jumbo-odor-free-bully-sticks.jpg3. Pizzle sticks (yum yum)

Listen, this is my Christmas list, not my human’s Christmas list! I don’t really know what these are either, but they smell and taste delicious! However, whenever I have one my family pull weird faces and wrinkle their noses and laugh. But they make me very very happy, so I don’t care!

rBVaGFY-7liAfS67AAW6XO56_m0644.jpg4. Balls, balls and more balls

In my opinion – and this is MY Christmas wish list so my opinion counts – you can never have enough balls. So a good selection in my Christmas stocking would be much appreciated. I am not that fussed what they look like, but if there are a couple that squeak, that would be fabulous. I don’t just run after balls, I chew, chew and chew too, especially as I am teething at the mo’.

5062egg_cartons.jpg5. Egg boxes

Yes! Egg boxes. My absolute favourite for chewing, ripping up and generally destroying. Even better if there is a little treat inside as a reward for all my effort!

If I can get just one of these presents on my Christmas list I will be very happy. If I get them all.. well, Santa, I will feel like I have died and gone to puppy heaven!

What are you wishing for this year?

Ivy the puppy – a baptism of fire

Welcome to our world 1

Life with a new puppy… where to begin? There are quite a few things you need to get used to when you welcome a new puppy into your life, most of which you simply will not have anticipated!

Obsessive photo taking

Anyone would have thought we were gunning for a place in the 2019 edition of the Guinness Book of Records for the most photos taken in one day! She’s sitting – snap. She’s standing – snap. She’s running  – snap. She’s sleeping – She’s done a poo – ok, we did draw a line there, but that first poo did not go unremarked upon! And I must admit to having taken a picture of one of her poos, because it looked like a Stonehenge statue, but I have been expressly forbidden by the whole family to share it, even tho’ I know you might be desperate to see it!

 

Sudden popularity

Seriously! You’d think there was a sudden world caffeine shortage, the number of friends who suddenly wanted to ‘pop over for a coffee’ – more than ever wanted to come and see our offspring when they were born! I guess watching a new puppy bombing round the garden and generally being adorable is a bit more interesting than watching a baby sleep, but still!

 

Complete chaos

By day two or three, our kitchen began to resemble a crêche. Brightly coloured balls and toys scattered all over the floor. A wire pen surrounding her night time cage. Paw prints on the glass doors and floor. Wee mats, like so many discarded diapers. Just mess everywhere!

 

Poop and wee

E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E! Yes we knew this was going to happen, but seriously how many times a day can one small furry creature empty its bladder and bowels!

 

Who spilled the super glue?

Someone has definitely applied superglue to our new puppy. Wherever we are, so is she. If you move, she needs to know where you are going. When you leave the room, she follows. When I am making supper, if I stand still more than five seconds, she comes and lies on my feet, ever hopeful I won’t move and she can fall asleep! And don’t talk to me about trying to go for a wee alone!

 

Cuteness overload

Ivy is undoubtedly gorgeous. A whirling bundle of fur who just wants to have fun and cuddles. Every morning she greets us as if we have been parted for months – I don’t think we have ever been showered with such unbridled affection!

 

We are all in love!

 

Bringing home Ivy

Picking up Ivy - with mum and breeder.jpgDylan and Ivy, with breeder Louise and Ivy’s mummy.

The day has arrived! Dylan and I are the chosen ones. At 11am one Saturday morning the two of us head off to pick up our new bundle of joy. We are beyond excited and more than a little nervous. Will she like us? Will she cry? How’s her mum going to feel? Will she pee in the car? When will she first eat? You get the picture!

I should point out at this stage that none of us have ever owned a dog. Yes, we had done a lot of research and reading around. Yes, we have lots of friends who have dogs. And yes, we feel well and truly prepared. But as anyone who has ever brought home an 8 week old puppy will know – we did not know what was about to hit us!

We turned up at the farm and were met by the lovely breeder Louise. We stayed for coffee while she gave us some tips, the best one being “Don’t overthink it!“. A bit late for that, but as I was about to learn, there really is no point in overthinking because you just don’t know what you’re going to get. Yes, certain breeds have particular traits, but every puppy is different and every puppy develops at a different rate. Fooling yourself into thinking that you can be totally in control is simply not worth it.

Once we had everything we needed, including some food Ivy was used to eating, we got in the car and drove off. It’s hard to describe the feeling. I think ‘vulnerable’ probably does the job. We suddenly felt so protective of this little bundle of fluff who was not only being separated from her mum, but also her three siblings. And she was now 100% dependent on us. Gulp!

When we got her home, we put her into the garden and she did her first wee! That’s potty training nailed then… NOT!!

She had a lot of visitors on the first day. On the one hand I was a little nervous it might be too much for her, but on the other, the most prominent advice for those first few days and weeks was making sure she was well socialised. Well, we definitely ticked that box.

And so, the sun set on our first day with Ivy and our first night loomed.

I had set up her crate in the sitting room for the first night and put a pen around it so she could go in and out to pee and poo, but not roam. My plan was to ‘sleep’ on the sofa to keep her company (I shall just wait for the laughter to die down before I proceed). I turned out the light and the crying commenced. Poor little Ivy was not happy. To be fair, she settled after about 20 minutes, but every time she needed to go to the toilet, it began again.

Suffice to say, not a lot of sleep was had and by 6 in the morning I was sitting in the garden with a cup of tea wrapped in a blanket while she pottered around. I sat there thinking that there’s something very special about being up and outside so early in the morning while everyone else is asleep. Not so special that I wouldn’t have rather been tucked up in bed catching up on some sleep, but watching Ivy diddle around our garden did make me truly happy.

And so the first 24 hours had passed. Ivy seemed happy and our confidence was already growing. This was going to be a breeze!