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.

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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

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

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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