What decisions to make when you are expecting a puppy!

Puppy on sofa

A friend asked me recently for some advice about what preparations she should make for when her new puppy arrives. As I began writing I realised this is probably something I should share with those in the wider community expecting new additions to their families.

Important puppy stuff

You need to be ready for when your puppy arrives. You may have bought lots of toys and shiny leads but there are some very important decisions to make and decide on before puppy even comes home.

vet

  1. Vets – we use our local one. It’s easier and convenient and if I did have to make an emergency dash, it’s not far. Don’t get me wrong vets do their job professionally and we need them, but I find the same issues with them wherever I go. I would love a vets where you see the same vet each time and felt they knew and really did care for your pet but that’s not happened so far! It might just be me.
  2. Vaccinations – obviously very important. You must vaccinate your puppy, especially for the main diseases, Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Parainfluenza. But again I find all vets vary. My breeder said I only had to have the Lepto 2 (this is for Leptospirosis – a disease from rat and foxes urine with 2 strains) but the vets said I should have Lepto 4 (4 strains). I asked lots of questions about the differences etc but they didn’t really convince me one way or the other. It is a bit of a minefield, I’m afraid, and areas around the country will vary according to the latest research/information.
  3. Insurance – if you are getting a dog then you need to understand that you will be paying out a lot of money if they are ill or injure someone else.  Some people recommend not insuring for the first year (as insurance tends to be cheaper once they know your dog doesn’t have any known illnesses) and to self-insure (save some money each month). Again this choice is yours but it’s risky. We live in a fast, moving world, heavily congested with traffic, where you can be sued for accidents caused by your dog.

We went with the Kennel Club in the end (after many conversations with all the main insurance companies) and to be honest as they were doing a 4 months half price it worked out cheaper but with the same benefits all the other companies offered. I spoke to two dog owners recently (didn’t know them) and they were discussing treatment they had and had not been allowed. Same dog complaint but the insurance company paid out for one owner and not the other. Both were with Pet Plan! Again this is a personal choice and hard one.

What else must you consider when expecting a puppy?

My friend also asked me what we thought we had got right with our new puppy and what we would do differently if we could.

What we did right?

puppies playing with toy together

  • Starting training the first day puppy came home.
  • Went/still going to puppy classes.
  • Used a crate (she had 2 nights in our bedroom and then straight downstairs to where she has stayed ever since).
  • Socialized!! You can’t do enough of this. Get them meeting all sorts of dogs and ages in different environments.
  • Strict about mealtimes and what they eat.

puppy eating food outside

What we did wrong?

puppy getting on sofa

  • We (husband and children) weren’t all consistent! I said no to the sofa and my husband said yes. So Coco now sleeps on the sofa (but not at bedtime).
  • We (husband and children) weren’t all consistent! We began taking her to certain spot to go to the toilet but everyone got bored so there are lots of wee spots in the garden.
  • We (husband and children) weren’t all consistent! Training gets boring after a while and everyone (husband and children) stopped following the rules and commands.

So as you can see the number one rule IMO is BE CONSISTENT with whatever you decide to do. Remember that they become adolescents at 6 months so the more training you do now, the easier that will be. Although I haven’t got to that stage yet and that may well be a different story or blog!

How do you know what dog food to feed your dog?

Dog eating bone

As a new dog parent I need to know what dog food to feed my puppy. I have been asking other dog owners how they choose. There were a tremendous range of answers and one gentlemen delighted in telling me he fed his dog two weetabix with warm milk.

It seems deciding what dog food to give your new puppy is just as difficult as deciding on what to feed a new baby.

There has been a demographic shift over the last few years. More people live alone, retired people are living longer and the millennials are waiting longer to get married and have children. Therefore more people are treating their dogs as if they were children with the time, money and emotional space to devote to them. This is being termed ‘pet humanisation’ and it is helping develop pet products. That’s great news for the pet food industry.

Why is there is so much choice in dog food?

Pet food is big business.

Twenty years ago I started my puppy off on Pedigree Chum. A lovely can of meat in jelly and some dried dog biscuits. With the growth of the pet industry has come a diverse range of different foods for our dogs and it’s a minefield!

Different dog food

The range of wet and dried dog food is staggering. There is puppy food, small breed dog food, working dog food, large dog breed food, senior dog food (over the age of 8), obese dogs, dog food for dogs with allergies or easily upset stomachs, oral care and joint care. The list goes on.

Different dog food

And now to add to the confusion is a new wave of raw dog food. Basically mince (chicken, duck, beef, lamb, tripe and fish) mixed with offal and vegetables.

In 2016 the UK pet food industry was examined by the Pet Industry Federation (PIF). It found that pet owners spent £675 million on dog food with more natural dog food overtaking standard dry food. Although a report by the Mirror said that dog owners spent on average £393 a year on dog food. If there are 8.5 million dog owners in the UK, that equates to £3.4 billion.

How is dog food different to years ago?

Different dog food

Pet humanisation (treating our pets like humans) influences new product development in pet food. Food products for dogs are now more like human food. They are designed to attract human taste buds and are often marketed as the healthier option e.g. non GMO, organic, grain free, raw. Dog owners want the best for their dogs and their health comes at a cost. Just as people spend more on their own food with superfoods, premium products and convenience meals, they now do the same for their dogs.

And it doesn’t stop at the health benefits. For some it’s also a lifestyle choice. In the US Pet Brands like Young Again Pet food promises anti-aging benefits and Natural Balance offers a vegetarian option.

Internet retailing is also changing dog food choice. We now have the convenience of online purchases delivered to our door and regular ordering so our dog is never left without food.

So how do you know what to feed your dog?

Dog owners are very interested in the list of ingredients in their pet’s food. We look at what’s included in our food on the packaging and we do the same for our dogs. Unfortunately it can be very confusing with the terms meat and animal derivatives, analytical constituents etc.  The Pet Food Manufacturing Association (PFMA) who aims to be “the credible voice of a responsible pet food industry” has developed its website to offer information to all us pet owners with some very informative factsheets and video (see below).

Pet Food Manufacturing Association – worksheets

Who manufactures dog food?

Did you know that 90% of the pet food sold in the UK are from just 4 companies.

Guess which ones?

  1. Mars – Pedigree, Cesar, Pal, Chapi, Royal Canin, James Well Beloved
  2. Nestle – Bakers, Bonio, Winalot, Proplan, Purina
  3. Colgate-Palmolive – Hills Science Plan
  4. Proctor and Gamble – Eukenuba, Iams

Different dog food

These companies have the lions share of the pet food market and this will continue due to their large marketing budgets.They can afford the large, lucrative advertising campaigns and supermarket deals. This doesn’t mean they offer the best dog food in terms of dietary and health benefits although they may be the cheapest. Bakers and Pedigree are still the biggest brands.

So who supplies the best dog food?

When you are deciding on dog food, you may decide to just go to the supermarket and see what’s on offer. You may have a recommendation from a friend or colleague or dog breeders. Or you may believe that the best food is the one recommend by your vet.

9 out of 10 vets now recommend foods from one of the big 4. Have a look next time you are at the vets! What I have since discovered is that food sold through the vets often means monitory incentives for the vet and the big companies ‘sponsor’ nutritional modules at veterinary schools.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to go into the small independent pet shops. They often have great advice on products that you might not see in the supermarket and they also allow dogs into the shop!

Ultimately the choice of what to feed is yours. The dog’s happiness and health is our priority and if that means Weetabix for breakfast, so be it!

 

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?

What is the Irish Dancing World Championships?

 

Decision time at Irish Dancing World Championships

If you have a child who does Irish dancing, you will know that the Worlds are just around the corner. For those of you who don’t, let me explain (and read my book The Reel).

The Irish Dancing World Championships (often known simply as the Worlds) are held annually during the Easter Week. It is the biggest Irish Dancing competition in the World and the main goal of all Irish dancers. Until 1999, the Championships were held permanently in Ireland. Since 2000, however, they have been held in a number of countries including Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, the United States and Canada.

The World Championships have happened every year since 1970 except for 2001 which had to be cancelled due to a Foot-and-mouth outbreak in Ireland.

Images of Irish dancing

Continue reading What is the Irish Dancing World Championships?