Saturday 6 May 2017

Life with a puppy

Two months ago, we welcomed a cute little bundle of joy into our lives - Moose the chocolate labrador. What started out as a timid, scared, shy little creature, soon turned into the most mischievous puppy. I thought I'd write a post summarising these first two months, for anyone that might be looking to bring a puppy into their family into the future (or for anyone who just wants to see some cute puppy pics).

The first week

The first few days and nights were definitely quite hard in terms of settling Moosey in, and getting him used to his new home. As we drove out of the breeder's home, Moose quickly realised that he was being separated from his siblings and whimpered (then howled) his little head off all the way home, looking out the back as his old home became a distant memory (it was quite heartbreaking!). Quite uncharacteristic of a labrador, he didn't eat much for his first couple of days (we even left a bowl of food out for him which he nibbled at but didn't eat all at once - how things have changed now).

His first few nights involved a fair amount of whimpering and we set our alarms at about 1 am and 4 am to let him out for toilet (he slept in a playpen inside for his first couple of weeks, but now sleeps out the back in a kennel). After a few days of getting used to the new smells and sights, his confidence started growing and he definitely settled in to his new home pretty quickly after that.

Puppy school

One of the things that a lot of people recommended that we do was book Moose in to puppy school. A local school in Ulverstone, Flying Paws, came highly recommended, so we booked him in for the next available beginners class, which happened to start the week after we brought him home. It is a 6 week course, and he has just one class to go now. This has been really beneficial in teaching him the basic commands (sit, lie down, drop, stay, etc), but also in getting him socialised with other puppies that are of a similar age. The crucial socialisation period for a puppy is 8 - 16 weeks, however unfortunately this is also the time that puppies are not fully vaccinated from parvo virus (which, if caught, can kill a puppy), so being able to bring Moose to a safe environment with other puppies that were also in the process of getting vaccinated meant that he could get used to other dogs at an early age.

Crate training

Something else that came highly recommended, both from the breeder and from reading online, was the usefulness of crate training. Not only is owning a crate a good idea if you ever want to fly with a puppy (as this is a safe place that they are used to), but it is also a good place for a puppy to have some time out if they are getting a bit over-excited, or if, in Moose's case, they keep jumping on the couch when not allowed, giving him somewhere to nap while we watch some TV. It is a safe, quiet spot that Moose can rest, while still being able to see outside the crate that we are nearby. It also means you can have a shower or duck out of the house for a bit without worrying that your entire shoe collection will be destroyed when you get home.

Puppy chewing/biting

While having a puppy is such a fun experience, there are definitely negatives that come along with it, the main one at the moment being the playful chewing/biting stage. Dave and I both (pretty consistently at the moment) have scratches on our hands and arms from Moose sinking those little puppy teeth into us, and we are definitely looking forward to investing in some new pyjamas and dressing gowns when he outgrows this stage, given the number of rips that Moose has so kindly bestowed on them. That being said, his cuteness so often outweighs the mischievous bites, and with puppy school and constant training (and the loss of his puppy teeth), I'm sure (or hoping...) that this stage will come to an end soon.

Getting to meet people

Having a puppy also brings the opportunity to meet more people, whether that be through puppy school, at the dog park, or spending more time with friends who have dogs. A few of the friends that we have made in Burnie also have puppies or older dogs, and this has been a great bonding point, allowing us to get together for puppy play dates, either over a coffee or for a walk along the beach. It's also amazing to see just how many people love coming up to us in the street to give Moose a pat, or those who are driving past that slow down with a big smile as they look at Moose's little puppy face exploring the world. Puppies really do bring so much joy.

The love and companionship

Despite all the chewing, biting and frustrations that come with raising a new puppy, this definitely pales in comparison to the amazing companionship that Moose has brought to our lives. As someone who works from home, it is so lovely being able to have a gorgeous bundle of warmth sleeping at my feet as I type away, or having the excuse to get out of the house everyday to take him for a walk around the block, along the beach, or through some of the gorgeous parks we have nearby. Puppies definitely become part of the family from day one, and we couldn't imagine life without this bundle of joy in our home.

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