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!

 

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?