Having a family dog is a wonderful thing, but we learned the hard way that raising a puppy is not easy. From eating my son's birthday cake to getting a horse to charge at me, here are the most important things we have learned in the past two years of raising our Labrador puppy Mikey.
Drum roll please...
10. Don't leave ANYTHING edible within his reach
Not one but two advent calendars were infiltrated and emptied this year, along with all of the chocolates from the Christmas tree which was also destroyed. The pirate cake I made my son for his 5th birthday was snaffled along with a whole block of butter and several balloons. The bright side? We never need to sweep under the dining table after meal times.
9. Keep treasured possessions in safe places.
Imagine that after a decade of searching you find the holy grail of work shoes. They are just fabulous. They match all of your clothes, they lengthen your legs, they are stylish and imbued with some sort of magic that makes them both high heeled and comfortable. They are your best friends. Now imagine them punctuated with puppy teeth marks, and one heel missing. Sigh.
8. Give puppies their own toys
Or he will play with your son's teenage mutant ninja turtles and chew on splinter. He might also have a go on one or two of his power rangers. As he gets older male puppies may start humping some of the soft toys. We called this dancing. "Daaaaaad, Mikey is dancing with Iggle Piggle again"
7. Get a dog guard for the back of the car
You may not expect the puppy to leap from the back of the car, over the kids, and into the street but if you don't have a dog guard then the chances are that he will. Like the time Mikey did this on the school run and refused to come back. I didn't know whether to chase the dog and leave the kids in the car or leave the dog and take the kids to school first. Then the eldest child got out and started to chase Mikey who then darted out into the road in front of some poor woman's car. He then ran into several gardens, dashing through flower beds and barking. Eventually a builder caught him and I had to drag him away as he still refused to come with me. The whole thing still makes me feel a bit sick. I'm not sure if this is shame over the public mayhem, fear of what might have happened or guilt for the small evil part of me that for a second wished the car had hit him so that I could relinquish the significant responsibility of being a puppy owner.
6. Secure your garden
We thought that ours was secure, until he found a spot where a mound of earth lifted the ground level high enough for him to jump the fence and visit the neighbours. And then on the other side he found a gap large enough for him to contort himself through. There was also the time that he threw caution to the wind and jumped over two 4ft fences at the back so that he could visit the cows on the other side. Leaping the second fence saw him drag his belly over barbed wire leaving a nasty cut. And then a cow kicked him. Yet still he would not come home - despite me rattling his food bowl and showing him his ball and shouting fetch. In the end the cows got bored of him and ignored him and he wandered back where he stood by our fence wimpering. He was too heavy and awkward for me to lift over so I put his lead on and tied him up with some water knowing that the husband would be back shortly. My son still refers to it as "The day you tied the dog to the fence because he was naughty."
5. Don't let dogs off the lead around grazing animals
One day the dog made a run for it while walking through the fields behind our house. I couldn't see where he had gone but after about 10 minutes I started to hear him barking. I climbed over fence after fence feeling like Bear Grylls on a tracking expedition, until I eventually found him terrorising 30 sheep in the corner of a field. As I went in to grab him the sheep began scraping their hooves. Do sheep have hooves? Was I about to be crushed by a herd of Hampshire Downs? I yelled at them. I yelled at him and dragged him away. This time I had to force myself through a hedge. I had more cuts than the dog.
(To any farmers reading this I now know that sheep worrying is very serious and I am very sorry. It won't happen again - he is staying on his bloody lead forever)
4. Don't slip over and drop the lead while walking past horses
Or the puppy might relish his sudden freedom and start chasing them. Until they get pissed off and turn on him. He is then likely to come running back to Mummy WITH A MASSIVE HORSE CHASING HIM. I backed into the hedge and closed my eyes praying that the horse would do the sensible thing and turn at the last minute. It did. I think I cried a bit afterwards. Husband laughed hysterically.
3. Worm the puppy regularly, but be prepared because it is VILE
When my husband emotionally blackmailed me into getting a puppy I did not picture collecting his worm infested pooh in a bag whilst heaving. I also did not realise that my husband has a Machiavellian streak that saw him give the dog the first lot of worming tablets a few hours before he left the country. Sneaky bastard.
2. Know that the dog will decide who is the boss and ignore everyone else
There is nothing more frustrating than the fact that the dog does every single thing that my husband "Norman the dog conqueror" says and nothing that I tell him. This is despite the fact that I took him to training classes, I took up running to give him better exercise, I feed him and I have treats in my pocket permanently. Norman only has to turn his gaze on Mikey and he will do a cartwheel before lying submissively at his feet. It drives me mad.
1. Keep in mind that no matter what he loves you more than anything in the world
In the first year there were definitely more cons than pros to having a puppy. But now that he is two and he has stopped eating furniture and running away the pros have taken over. He is our protector (sleeping on the stairs when my husband is away). He is my son's best friend and my daughter's slave. She has nearly as much control over the dog as her Dad. At two she was telling him to "dit" which he obeyed, and she regularly uses him as a pillow for watching TV. We are all healthier thanks to the walks and runs and he is a lesson to all of us in unconditional love. No matter how often we ignore him he is always waiting and grateful for our attention. But for anyone thinking of getting a puppy be prepared because they will need A LOT of it.
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