What does your new puppy need?

Coco the Doberman
Meet the new addition

In my last post (which was an eternity ago) I raised the question of what a puppy actually needs when they arrive in your home. In a world where we are bombarded with marketing experts who show us what we must have, it’s hard to know what is essential.

Having now shared my home with our new puppy for two months, I can now answer that question. You may have already guessed, as it’s taken me so long to write another post, but the answer is time!

hourglass full of red sand

In an ideal world you really need to not have a job, social life or indeed any other commitments which will take your focus off your puppy for more than 10 seconds.

So what else do you need for a new puppy?

Back in June I wrote that you need ‘care and attention’. I should have said you need ‘eyes in the back of your head’. Four pairs of eyes would be useful, along with quick reaction times, a good standard of fitness and a life devoid of anything else except watching and training your puppy!

4 pairs of eyes

‘Eyes in the back of your head’ are good for the times when you believe your puppy is at one end of the room as you try to sort out the laundry only to find your puppy has managed to get to the washing basket undetected and is now eating a pair of socks.

‘Four pairs of eyes’ are good for when you believe your puppy is still sleeping peacefully on the lawn outside when in actual fact they are finding escape routes out of the garden, pulling washing off the line, digging holes and eating fox poo all in a matter of seconds.

Coco chewing slipper

‘Quick reaction times’ are necessary when your puppy decides to squat right in front of you to do a wee or poo and you have to scoop them up to get them outside. This skill is also essential when they are running off with your latest bank statement or other paper document, flip-flop or slipper or seem to be chewing on something when breakfast was finished two hours ago.

Man doing press ups

‘A good standard of fitness’ is required to keep up with the ninja style moves of your puppy, as they run one way and then another, as you chase them for the above items.

Okay, maybe I am exaggerating slightly here but you get the idea. Yes, they still need feeding, love and exercise but from the moment you get your puppy, you will be active until they sleep.

Understand how a puppy ages

If every human year equates to seven dog years then at the age of 8 weeks, when you bring your puppy home, they are like a baby of one year and four months. They are walking (just) but sleep a lot and everything is new to them. They are more cautious and afraid of new noises and experiences and will want to stay by your side. Everything they do is cute and funny. We reward them for biting our noses and digging little holes in the garden.

At the age of 12 weeks, your puppy is similar to a two year old ( 1 year and 9 months old). A moving, inquisitive creature who gets under your feet and into trouble. We call the baby years, ‘the terrible twos’ and the same applies to puppies!

dog looking sheepish

They will love to dig holes in your manicured lawn and enjoy watching you fill it in so they can dig it up again the next day. When they ask to go outside and then two seconds later come back inside again, you will find a wee or poo by the back door but in the house. They will not want the chew toys you bought and prefer your expensive trainers, kindly left by the back door for them. Your hand, jumper and ankles are also very good chew toys that your puppy will enjoy. Puppies will sleep a lot but normally when you need them to go for a walk before going to work. And they will continue to become more inquisitive, bolder and stronger. And as they get older, their cute little ways are now not so funny.

Puppy as entertainment

Those of you old enough will remember the slogan ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ when the country had a growing problem with people buying a puppy as christmas present and then getting bored  and unable to cope with a growing dog into January. Now, sadly it seems we have to say the same for the summer holidays. A report in the Times on Sunday this week stated that there had been a large number of calls to rescue centres around the country about giving up the family dogs who were only wanted to entertain the children for the summer holidays. Dogs Trust had an increase of 50% in calls about rehoming unwanted dogs last Monday and Tuesday when the children went back to school.

Child jumping in air with dog next to him

This phenomena coined “Mary Puppins” is not new. Lots of people buy a puppy for the summer holidays so the children can play with it and be entertained. The problem is when people realise that they don’t have the time to dedicate to it, especially with everyone returning to school and work after the holidays. Battersea Dogs home reported that they had an increase in calls in July and August about rehoming pets because the owners wanted to go on holiday!

Do you have the time?

This morning I was walking with a fellow dog owner who complained that his dog never returned to him when called. When I asked him if he had tried dog training classes he answered that he didn’t have the time. He also never had the time to take this dog to puppy classes and only got the dog for the children when they passed their piano and violin grades!

So this is a plea for anyone thinking about getting a puppy. Just do me one favour and ask yourself, “Do I have the time?” because this really is the most important thing a puppy needs.

Mum hugging puppy

Baby or puppy?

Puppy pushing pram

I’m about to become a mother. And for those of you who know me, I do hope you weren’t eating when you read that or you have probably spat the food all over the floor.

Although I am nearly 50, I have decided that it is time to do it again. To become a mother. To care for something helpless. To have something love me unconditionally.

I know there will be sleepless nights. I know there may be problems with feeding. I will not look forward to the trying teenage years but I don’t care. I’m ready to do it again. In two weeks time, I will be the proud mother of a nine week old puppy!

This is not a new experience. I owned a beautiful mongrel twenty years ago who I often refer to as ‘my first baby’. She was an amazing dog, pet and member of our family and I trusted her implicitly. With me, she went through four changes of address, numerous jobs, infertility treatment and finally, the addition of twins to our family. None of this phased Bella. I was devastated when she died on Christmas Eve five years ago.

Beautiful Bella walking in wood
Beautiful Bella!

At that time, lots of my friends started to get dogs and although I missed the dog walks and being part of the ‘dog gang’, I couldn’t get another dog, not yet. It hurt too much. Even people bringing their dogs to my house upset me. When a family pet dies, some people get another one straight away. I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know if I ever would be. I’ve never been particularly maternal or broody but would coo over a puppy.

So why do I want a puppy now?

I have to blame the children. My life has definitely been easier without a dog. No worrying about house mess, leaving the dog for long periods and going on holiday at short notice. But my children have wanted a dog for the last few years. Even though Bella was a part of our family, they were too young to remember her. I grew up with dogs and I didn’t want my kids to miss out on that experience. And most importantly, I am ready for another puppy.

It seems I am not alone in thinking this. There are around 8.5 million dog owners in the UK according to the PMF association who carried out research in 2016. This equates to 24% of the pet owning population. The only pet more popular is the fish. This research also highlights the areas of the UK where you are more likely to have dog owners compared to other pets. In Northern Ireland it is a huge 44% whereas in London it is 9%. In 1980 the number of dog owners was around 4.8 million.  Globally, dogs are the most popular pet owned by nearly 33% of the pet owning population according to Petfood Industry.

Owning a dog has become more popular over the years but why?

Puppy was once a wolf

Dogs have a long history with humans. One popular theory is that wolves hung around our campsites, and over thousands of years those who were tamest got closer to us. After dogs entered human society, we started actively manipulating them, selecting them to be better hunters and guardians and companions.

Once dogs became domesticated, there were highs and lows. Romans buried their dogs in human cemeteries and talked about them like children. But in the Middle Ages, when the plague started going around, dogs become scapegoats. They were viewed as filthy animals.  Today, we are very much like the Romans again and talk about our canine friends as though they are family members.

So what are animals to us and what’s the appropriate relationship to them?

The answer to that depends on your history with dogs. Those who have been brought up on a farm or in the country will have seen their dogs used in a working capacity. Those in towns will have seen dogs being carried around in handbags, the ultimate accessory. I believe most dog owners today are somewhere in the middle. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Although I am adamant that my new puppy will stay on the floor when the family are sitting on the sofa, I have a sneaky feeling that this rule will change as she lies there looking at me with her big, brown eyes. After all, she will be a part of our family.

Puppy looking up with big brown eyes
A very cute puppy… but not ours.

So what happens next with the arrival of our puppy?

I am on a countdown to the arrival of our new family member and am amazed at how similar it is to becoming a parent again. You are overloaded with information about the best ways to get through the early nights, toilet training, the correct balanced diet and all the equipment you need in order to survive the first few months. This to me was exactly how I felt before having my twins. I remember feeling overwhelmed and worried that I hadn’t got a divider to put into my twins cot when I brought them back from the hospital! Oh no! What would I do? They would crash into each other and hurt each other, wake each other up or more importantly not be able to sleep!

On the first night, I realised that this was not an essential piece of equipment and my kids were just fine in the cot together. So I am going to treat puppyhood just like motherhood and remember the important things. Care and attention, food and love. What more could a puppy or a baby ask for?

Am I having a midlife crisis or is the whole of the UK?

Planet exploding having midlife crisis

Am I having a midlife crisis? As I approach the big 50 I find myself thinking more and more about my life. My body is different, I’m going through peri-menapause ( what is that all about!), my children are growing up and there is a lack of direction in my life. But I was also wondering about the UK. We are now no longer a part of Europe, have a general election coming up and have just endured another terrorist attack by a British born bomber. Is the UK in the middle of a midlife crisis too?

What does midlife crisis mean?

Midlife means the middle of one’s life. Crisis means ‘a decisive time’ or ‘time of difficulty or danger’. Midlife (according wikipedia) is the time from years 45–64, where a person is often evaluating his or her own life. This makes sense. Day-to-day stresses add up but it’s not really a crisis ( as in the second meaning) but more reflecting on what has gone before and what is to come. Although the modern idea of a particular kind of middle-age malaise goes back to Freud and Jung, the term “midlife crisis” was first used by Elliot Jaques in 1965, a Canadian psychoanalyst, who described how people entering middle age are confronted with the limitations of their life and their own mortality. Continue reading Am I having a midlife crisis or is the whole of the UK?

How has body image changed over the years?

How body image has changed over time

In my last post I talked about a positive body image and what we parents can do to help our children (and ourselves.) While researching this topic I was surprised to see how the way we view the perfect body shape has changed over the years.

If you lived during the 1950’s then you might have come across an advert like this.

 1950's advert for body image too skinny
1950’s advert

Or this

1950's advert shows different body image of today
How to put on weight!

Being thin was not considered a good body shape and there were people (men in white coats!) who could show you how to change it using pills. How different to today when you are more likely to see adverts and programmes about weight loss not weight gain. Continue reading How has body image changed over the years?

What is a positive body image and how important is it for our children today?

Positive body image used in Notting Hill
Notting Hill

What does body image mean?

I think I have quite a healthy body image. I’m not saying I would do a ‘Rhys Ifans’ (ie. posture in my pants for the cameras as he did in Notting Hill) but I do find myself saying ‘Not bad, not bad’ when catching a glimpse of my reflection.

Body image has nothing to do with how you look, but how you feel about the way you look and how you embrace and accept your own body.

Continue reading What is a positive body image and how important is it for our children today?

Riverdance and its effect on Irish Dancing and the World Championships

World championships irish dancing 2017
World Irish Dance figure Champions 2017

IMPORTANT UPDATE : Griffin Lynch dance school won the World Championship Figure Dance competition. Here is the video. You might recognise the music too! Congratulations girls, parents and teachers. Well deserved!

In my last post I talked about how Irish dancing grows as a sport due to a number of factors including the effect of Riverdance. Although Irish dancing was considered a form of dancing, it had become tired and old fashioned. The discipline of holding ones arms against ones body seemed restrictive and not sensual like other dances. When Riverdance was aired, it made Irish dancing look exciting and sexy and something different. The dancers used more of their body but still concentrated on the magnificent footwork needed to create that rhythm.

Continue reading Riverdance and its effect on Irish Dancing and the World Championships