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!

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?