Dog

Puppy update: managing a puppy whilst working

So I realised the other day that I have been putting pictures up on Instagram about Jessie but haven’t done an update on life with her for a while. Jessie is now 14 weeks old and has grown so much since we first got her. She is now allowed outside to interact with other dogs as she’s had her final set of injections (for now, I think she needs a booster at about a year old). J has found a lovely route to walk with her from our house, just up the round and onto a bridleway where she can be let off the lead. So far she is really good at coming back on command and doesn’t stray too far from us. We still put her back on the lead when we pass horses but she has shown a restrained curiosity about them so far. We’ve also taken her up to Westonbirt Arboretum which is great for both children and dogs as they have a huge section where dogs are allowed and have dog bowls and bins at various places as well as a cafe, shop and good toilets and changing facilities for children. We’re planning her first beach visit in a couple of weekends time which I’m sure she will love. 

 

She’s dropped down to two meals a day now, by her own volition really as she wasn’t eating her meals properly when she was on three so we switched her to two and increased the amount at each and now she eats everything up straight away. We made sure to keep offering her a good number of treats in the transition from 3 to 2 so she didn’t end up hungry. And we’re still soaking her last meal of the day for about half an hour before dinner, on advice from the vet, so that she doesn’t need to have water available in the night and it helps keep her fuller for longer (apparently). We’ll probably keep doing this until she is six months old. Though we have had the occasional upset food bowl when she brings a toy out with her to breakfast time! Thankfully she cleaned up after herself. 

The big transition has been after the summer holidays I’m now back at work so she’s had to spend some more time by herself during the day. My father in law very kindly volunteered (was asked to volunteer) to help out with the pup up until October half term during the day. I think he has actually enjoyed it and has often had Jessie over at his for the whole day instead of popping over to ours for a couple of hours in the middle of the day. It’s been really helpful especially when J has to go to work early and his dad has been able to do the morning walk. Long term it isn’t reasonable for us to expect him to look after Jessie everyday and so we’ve looked at some other options. A dog walker would cost up to £10 a day for the four full days that I work, if we presume that I walk her on my halfday. So as I work in a school I work for 39 weeks a year, so in one year we would end up spending £1560! And that’s presuming I can find someone who is willing to only work termtime. That’s a pretty insane cost when you think about it especially as walking the dog is one of the things we wanted to get a dog for. Even getting someone to come in daily for a comfort break would probably be about £5 a day. And both of those options would still mean that she was spending most of her day in a cage. So we’re looking into getting a kennel and run for the garden. So she would be in there whilst we’re at work and will have space to run around and space to do her business and hopefully won’t get bored. It will cost a bit I think, but will be much cheaper than having a dog walker in the long run. What does everyone else do about managing a dog and working? Are there any better options? I mean I can’t be the only one to work and have a dog. 

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Dog

Puppy training, why do it?

There is nothing worse than walking down the street and having a stranger’s dog bark at you, or growl, or bound up towards you and ignore pleas from their owner. Especially if you have young children or are nervous around dogs. We have been lucky that C has encountered some friendly dogs so far but we know friends who have had bad experiences which have made their children very nervous around animals. We think it’s part of being a responsible dog owner to have control of your dog when out in public. Not only that but we want to be confident that our toddler, and others who we spend time with, are safe around our puppy. A dog needs a recognised pack leader and, as J was the driving force behind having a dog, he is going to be in charge. So, therefore, he needs to be the person doing the training. As usual, he did extensive research and asked around to find the best local trainer and we ended up going for one recommended by numerous sources. Last week, when Jessie was just 9 weeks old she went for an assessment/introductory session. For anyone who hasn’t already met her, this is Jessie.


She’s a golden Labrador retriever and has a lovely temperament. Labradors are known for their intelligence and ease to train (one of the reasons why we wanted to get one). The trainer we went to said she would be easy to train and seems very amenable (but she probably says that to everyone). She will do a four week course (the first four Saturdays in September I think, once she has had all her vaccinations) and then after that she should have all the basics grasped. We will of course have to keep up with the training at home, even puppies have homework. The trainer already showed us some stratgies to start at home which I’ll go into more below. We’re also looking at doing gun dog training with her in case J ever wants to shoot with her (it will also mean she is super trained). 

So some of the key suggestions for training:

  • The puppy should not walk ahead of you, she should ideally either be by your side or behind you. Slightly in front is ok if necessary but she shouldn’t be too far ahead.
  • Use the puppies normal food as treats and give them lots of treats to reinforce good behaviour.
  • When she has gone to the toilet in the correct place say ‘be quick’ (goodness only knows why) and offer several treats
  • Praise after, not during, the good behaviour.
  • Start lead training as soon as possible to get them used to it
  • Focus on praise of positive behaviour rather than admonishing the bad

I hope this is useful to someone, once Jessie has started her proper puppy classes, I’ll do a more comprehensive training post.

Dog · Fruit growing · Life in the Countryside · Recipes

House sitting for the Cottage Garden Trio

So this week we have been away on holiday in Ruda (watch out for a future post about my week and recommendations for things to do in North Devon) with some of our extended family and whilst we were away my mum had kindly volunteered to stay at ours and keep an eye on things. I asked her for a midweek update that I could share about what’s been going on at the cottage so far and what she’s found the biggest challenges and successes which I’ve included below. It sounds like she’s been having a good time (I hope) and she’s used to having a dog and doing bits of preserving so she’s well placed to keep an eye on things. 

Ok………so here I am, left in charge of chickens and a ten week old puppy. The chickens are a doddle and have reliably given me six eggs a day. The puppy, lively at times but manageable and great fun (her rash has cleared up nicely but I’m still finishing her course of antibiotics). The problems are actually with the inanimate objects around here…..namely fruit and veg! Apples and plums just keep needing to be harvested and used as I hate waste, but before I did anything major with them ( apart from eat them or give bags of them to J’s Dad ) I thought that I would do an easy job with with some beetroot that Laura harvested before she abandoned me……sorry, went on holiday.


There are many different options out there when it comes to pickling beetroot but sometimes the simplest can be the best. I’ve used some Kilner jars which were pre-washed and sterilised. Simply cook the washed beetroot in salted water for about forty minutes until they are soft when pierced with a knife. Then drain and leave them until they are cool enough to handle. Try and find some plastic gloves so that you can peel them without your hands looking like you have just committed murder (disposable gloves like the kind that dentists and doctors are ideal), then slice them, pack them into warm sterilised jars and cover with pickling or white wine vinegar and seal (a clear coloured vinegar is best to allow the colour of the beetroot to shine through). It needs to mature for about a  month……can’t wait! Next job plum and apple chutney.

Dog

Puppy, end of week 2

So we have now had Jessie as a part of our family for two weeks now and it feels like she’s been here for so much longer. Her confidence in her surroundings is growing and with this she has become more playful and more of a scamp. She’s done really well with housetraining and we’ve had very few, if any, accidents. We still do a bit of a poo watch after she’s eaten but she is taking herself to the backdoor most of the time. We’ve not heard a peep from her during the night which is brilliant and she’s using her puppy pad in the night as required. 

With labradors, mental challenge is as important (if not more important) than physical exercise so we’ve been giving her lots of different types of mental simulation. She’s been chasing an ice cube around the floor on a really hot day. 


Doing some basic training skills; she’s already mastered the ‘sit’ command and has been working on the ‘give me five’ (or paw) which she’s pretty good at. She’s got the hang of ‘fetch’ now but she doesn’t always like to give back the thrown article and instead likes to play tug of war, more practice needed I think. Next step is ‘down’ to get her lying down which she’s quite a way off so far. I’ve got a post about training to come later this week. 

She was due to have another one of her vaccinations on Saturday but had a bit of a rash on her tummy (the vet says it’s an allergic reaction possibly to washing powder or poison ivy and she has antibiotics to remedy it), so couldn’t get them this week. Hopefully she’ll be alright to have them next week instead. As she seems to be a big fan of trying to chew everything we’ve introduced a great tip from some friends of mine. We fill her Kong with cream cheese and then bung it in the freezer (Kong do sell their own product to fill with but it is a bit overpriced). Then when it’s out the freezer it can keep her entertained for ages trying to lick it out and the coldness helps to numb her sore gums (kind of like bonjela for puppies). 

Jessie is getting better at walking on the lead in the field although we are finding that whenever we’re out with C she always insists on holding the lead as well. It’s going to be an interesting time when Jessie starts getting bigger! 

Dog

Jessie, end of week one: what were we thinking?

So today we have had Jessie home for a week. Although we would have considered ourselves prepared (I had a family dog growing up, we’d thought about puppy proofing and had bought all our supplies, we’d even read a book), we weren’t. Well we were as prepared as we could have been but nothing can really prepare you for how much your life will change. Same as having children really. We have been really lucky as Jessie has a lovely nature and has settled really well with being away from her mum and six siblings. We’ve also been lucky that C and her have bonded well and C has embraced having her join our household. J and I have been keen that Jessie has to fit in with our lifestyle and whilst we are willing to make concessions as she settles in, ultimately she will have to muck in with the rest of us. However, for this first week we have spent time working out Jessie’s needs and routine and seeing how it will fit in with our lives. So this is where we’re at with our now nine week old puppy’s routine.

J gets up at 6 and cleans out the cage, as required, and gives Jessie her breakfast. He then takes her for a couple of laps around the field, he’s currently at one with the lead so she learns how to walk well on it and one without with her walking next to him. She also normally manages her morning toileting during this, both varieties. I get up at around 7 and make us both a morning latte. Then it varies depending on what time J needs to leave the house and what time C wakes up (anytime between 7 and 8:30). We are trying to focus on several things at the moment with Jessie as part of her training/learning process. We are trying not to leave her unattended when awake (so we can stop chewing or poor behaviour immediately), if she is asleep on the floor I keep myself nearby (although I do pop to the kitchen/dining room/bathroom as required) in case she wakes up. This has provided some restrictions in what myself and C can get done but we’ve adapted alright so far. When she is awake C and I try to play with her both inside and out (when the weather has been nice enough) and have encouraged her to explore within reason. When C and I are having breakfast, or in fact when any of us are eating, then we are insisting that she is in her crate. For now we are locking the door but we’re hoping as she ages it will become a habit for her to go there when we go to the table. Why are we doing this? Well, both J and I don’t like dogs begging at the table and so want to try and make sure she leaves us alone when we eat. At first she would object when we put her in there but now she is increasingly going in there willingly and is calm and happy there. She now often goes in there herself for naps. Though sometimes just stretching out on the floor is best. 

Co-ordinating lunchtimes has been tricky as both she and C normally eat at 12, so I’ve tended to give Jessie her lunch first and then take her outside for her toilet stop and then give C her lunch afterwards. Speaking of toilet training, I’d really hoped that that particular phase of my life was over now. There seem to be mixed opinions about the best way to house train a dog. As seems to be the case with children, everyone has an opinion on what you should do. Some say use puppy pads, some say don’t; some say go down to them at night, some say never go down; some say let them out every two hours in the night, some say don’t. We’ve gone with what is going to work best for our life at the moment. That is having a puppy pad in her crate which she can use at night or when she’s shut in there. Then we let her outside at several points in the day; as soon as she’s let out of her crate (morning and anytime she’s been in there during the day), straight after meals, when she wakes up and when she’s had a big drink. That sounds like a lot but it isn’t really, she does sleep a lot and she’s getting pretty efficient at going as required. We’re also using a key word (toilet) whenever she does anything so she realises what we want her to do when we say it (in theory). We are having the occasional accident but that’s really only been when C has had to take priority. 


There have been lots of attempts at chewing so we’ve had to be firm with her. We’ve also had some distractions which have proven a godsend. My current favourite is her Kong, which, thanks to a tip from a friend, I have been filling with cream cheese and then freezing. It’s great for when she’s in a mood to chew and her teeth are getting to her. She absolutely loves it.


So although it has been a tough week and very trying at times, Jessie is settling in well and I keep thinking that it will only get better in time as she gets older. At least I hope it will. C has been brilliant with her considering how much her life has been upturned, I’ve been really proud of her. We’ve had to find different ways to play at times to avoid lots of tempting toys on the floor but it has been a rather fun adventure.

Dog · Life in the Countryside

Toilets, a puppy and a toddler

C has been toilet training since February (ish) but does still need prompting, especially if there are lots of distractions. Now I’ve been prepared for a regression for C whilst trying to housetrain Jessie and even a bit more of her wanting to go to the toilet outside. What I was not prepared for was the hilarity of today. I was trying to persuade C to go to the toilet after I realised she hadn’t gone since we had an emergency poo stop this morning whilst fabric shopping (again a phrase I never thought would be in my vocabulary pre-baby). The only way I could persuade her to go was to say she needed to show Jessie what she was doing. Cue the situation with C on the toilet, me on the floor talking to her and Jessie exploring with us. Jessie tried to lick C’s legs which caused hysterical laughing and her trying to pull her legs up, which caused Jessie to get very excitable and try to run behind the toilet. Which caused C to giggle more. And Jessie to try to run round more. And so on. There are many moments in my life when I think what the hell am I doing. If you had told me 10 years ago if I would have been happy sitting on a toilet floor with a dog running round me trying to persuade a toddler to go to the toilet then I would have thought you were crazy. But then I guess time can change what you know as happiness. At the moment there’s nothing which makes me happier than spending time with these two lunatics (and J of course).

Dog

Jessie’s first night

So Jessie went into her crate and went to sleep herself last night whilst J and I were watching TV. We took advantage of that and after J took her outside for a wee, we shut her in and went up to bed. She didn’t cry out and seemed to have settled nicely. Now before we got Jessie, J and I agreed (or more rather I insisted) that any night disturbances were up to him. This was for many reasons; firstly, as J was the one who was so desperate for a dog; secondly, as I sleep with earplugs as I’m a light sleeper; and finally, because I did all the night shifts with C (to be fair to him, that was because she was breastfed and give him his due he did help with middle of the night poos if required). We’d been advised by the breeder not to go down to her in the night. She’s not been attended to in the night for a bit now with the litter and won’t need feeding in the night so she should be fine. Well, she’s understandably going to be a bit lonely in the night as she’s used to having her mum and fellow pups there, but she doesn’t need anything else. 

Now according to J, Jessie woke up at 5:24am and cried for a bit, C also woke up and started to sing back at Jessie. They all dropped back off and when J got up at 7 there was a fair bit of mess in the cage. She had her breakfast and by the time C and I got up at about 7:40, J was still waiting outside for her to do her business. Today has mainly been spent constantly trying to predict when she needs the toilet and rushing outside with her. She was introduced to her first other dog (that is fine at the age as long as you’re sure the other dog has been vaccinated) and she played really nicely, if rather excitedly. 


We’re following Kennel Club guidelines about introducing her to as many different types of people/animals/situations whilst she is still young. 16 weeks is considered by most as the cut off time when her big learning and developmental phase will have passed. This is referred to in most of the literature as socialisation. From our point of view, we want Jessie to be a family dog who is comfortable around people and animals and not only fits in with, but enhances our current lifestyle. This afternoon we have some more friends visiting and I’m hopefully going to get some more of our friends, with their toddlers, round next week as I think early introductions will benefit them all. First up though, J has just taken her to the vet for her vaccinations so C and I are going to take advantage and get the Duplo out.

Dog

Welcome home Jessie

So today was the big day. The day we collected our new puppy Jessie from the breeder. Our last morning dog free started well, the three of us sitting in the lounge watching The Secret Life of Pets (great movie by the way, highly recommend it) and drinking our coffees (well frothy milk for C but she calls it coffee). C was of course wearing the obligatory dress, this morning’s offering was a Belle dress from Beauty and the Beast. In my head tomorrow morning will be identical but with Jessie sitting next to C, in reality I think tomorrow morning will be spent clearing up dog mess and doubting our decision after night of being kept awake from dog whining. We made the decision for J to collect Jessie by himself so that if she was distressed in the car C didn’t have to see it and could have a positive first interaction in her own home. J was due to pick her up at 2pm, although as there was horrendous traffic on the M5 he didn’t end up getting back to us until just after 4pm. 


The plan, which thankfully we managed to execute, was for him to carry her straight from the car to her pee post in the garden for some private time and then lead her into the house through the living room door. There C and I would be waiting to give her cuddles and offer her toys. As soon as C saw her she was ridiculously excited and wanted to hold her lead and give her a walk (she has been ‘walking’ her hobbyhorse for the past couple of weeks with the lead around the living room). Although both were cautious at first C was soon stroking Jessie and Jessie was trying to play with C. We’re trying to crate train Jessie from the start so we are locking her in there when we have our meals, we don’t want a dog who begs at the table. J had watched her whilst I prepped our tea (very lazy tea of fish fingers, potato waffles and sweet corn so I could focus on Jessie too). When I was serving up J put Jessie in her crate and she whined for pretty much the whole of our dinner, which C didn’t like as she kept asking why Jessie was crying. You have to make sure that she stops whining before you go in so she doesn’t think that if she keeps doing it you will come back. 

She was pleased to see us when she was let out, although it has made me anxious for how she will be tonight. Soon it was time for her dinner; she’s currently on three meals a day, 7am, noon and 6pm with each feed of 55g. Thankfully she loves her food. I insisted we took her immediately outside. J stayed outside with her for a bit but she did nothing so he brought her back in. A couple of minutes later she started sniffing around and circling, clearly getting ready. I picked her up and managed to get most of it on the puppy pad. Thankfully J was to hand to clean up. As C has now gone to bed, J and I are watching a film and Jessie is having a snooze in her crate, door open, with J lying next to her. This is the type of evening we’d envisaged having with her. Though i am dreading tonight. I’ll update tomorrow with how it goes.

Dog

To puppy proof or not puppy proof

So when we had C we didn’t really baby proof. It wasn’t that we were bad parents (I promise) it was a conscious decision, but anyway, back to the puppy. One of the great things about getting a puppy now is that we’re going to be ripping this house to bits so it doesn’t really matter too much about damage. Well that isn’t true. We obviously don’t want a puppy to chew our house to bits but the odd accident on the carpet isn’t going to bother us too much. So whilst we are not planning on encouraging or allowing Jessie to destroy things we don’t really want to have to remove everything precious from our house or get child locks on the cupboards. We didn’t have a stair gate for C and thankfully we won’t need one for Jessie either as we have a door at the bottom of our staircase so we just need to remember to shut it (we’ve decided that Jessie is going to be a downstairs only dog). 

The big question for me is how much should I declutter downstairs. We are a family who tend to have a fair amount of clutter, not least because we don’t have enough storage space which isn’t damp. C has a lovely beanbag chair which is going up to her room and I may take a few more of her toys up to her room. My knitting basket which sits by my chair will probably move up on to the window sill for the time being. But what will a puppy really try to eat? Or should that really be what won’t a puppy eat!?! We ran into a dog owner the other day who said that Labrador retriever puppies will eat everything, floors, walls, furniture, anything. And I know that our golden retriever which was a puppy when I was born chewed through the walk right down to the brickwork. So I figure we need to keep an eye on her and as much as possible keep her occupied and away from anything precious. I guess the plus side is that if she chews the walls back to the brickwork then that will actually mean the builders don’t have to do that! 


I guess when she arrives later today we’ll know whether we made the right decision. Hopefully before she does too much damage, I mean how can anything so cute do damage?

Dog

Puppy to buy list

J and I have approached preparing for our new addition to the family (the puppy) in much the same way as we approached preparing for C. This has meant many evenings researching what we needed to buy, finding good quality but cheap options for certain things and acquiring some second hand bits and some indulgent bits too. I don’t know what other people think but the cost of some baby products is ridiculous for the amount of time they actually use them. It seems as though the same can be said for some puppy products. I guess there are just lots of people out there who have more money than sense. Anyway, I digress.

So we’ve worked out what we think is our new puppy wish list and have managed to source most of it for a fairly reasonable cost. It has been very hard to temper J’s enthusiasm and need to buy everything he sees. So far I have come up with a list of the top ten puppy must buys:

  1. A dog crate. We intend to crate train our puppy as we think having somewhere safe for her is important for her and for us. We’ve gone for an extra large one, which will dwarf her when she’s little but should at least last her as long as we need it for once she’s fully grown. 
  2. A bed. We were advised by our breeder not to buy her a big cushion yet until she’s past the stage of chewing and is fully house trained. So instead we have some vets matting which we have cut in two so there is the option to throw it in the wash as needed and not have to rush to get it dry. 
  3. Dog bowls. We have gone for four. One for food, one for water and two spare for when they are in the dishwasher. We’ve just gone for cheap mental bowls now but may upgrade to fancy ceramic ones for a treat when she’s older.
  4. A collar. Chosen entirely by C who is totally pink obsessed at the moment. We’ll obviously need to get a larger one as she grows so have gone for fairly basic for now. 
  5. A short lead. Just a simple training lead for normal walks. C has gone for a navy/deep purple one (I can’t decide on the colour as it looks different in different lights).
  6. An extendable lead. Although labradors are notorious for being strong enough to break these. We really want one for training her. 
  7. Dog food. We are sticking to the same brand as used by the breeders for the minute and will change if required as she gets older.
  8. Poo bag holder. Not exactly the thing anyone wants to think of but I wanted to have a simple holder with built in hand sanitiser as let’s face it poo is pretty unhygienic. 
  9. Dog toys. It has been an important part of our preparation to keep C as involved as possible so she has chosen a couple of toys for Jessie to have straight away and we’ve also picked up a couple to keep to one side for when she is older.
  10. Treats. We have already booked Jessie into a puppy training class and need to make sure she has rewards for good behaviour. We asked our vet for advice as to which to get. 

So that’s it. We have enough for a good start hopefully and everything is all ready and set up for her arrival. We can’t wait for Saturday.


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