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!
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!
‘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.
‘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.
‘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!
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.
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.