Musings of a Puppy Parent
The reality of bringing home a new bundle of fluff
Column by Alice Clark RVN
That’s it, it’s finally happened, I’m officially a crazy dog lady. The canine members of our household now outnumber the human ones with the addition of another set of little paws. A couple of weeks ago, we welcomed ‘Figgy’, the Springer Spaniel into our little family and what a couple of weeks it’s been. I first met Figgy at three days old; one of seven squirmy, squeaking, chunky puppies, bred by some wonderful clients who work and breed fantastic working dogs.
Etty and Flo have both coped very well with a puppy in the house, considering much pestering, toy stealing, bed sharing and the ultimate insult that Figgy gets an extra meal a day. So whilst the other dogs have adapted amazingly well, it’s the humans who have had a shock to the system. As we all know, my top tip with anything is to always be prepared. Well, I don’t think you can ever quite be prepared for the ups, downs and sheer hard work of a puppy – no matter how many you’ve raised. I speak to, advise and support new puppy owners on a daily basis at work, so it is going to be a real test to see if I can practice what I preach this time around.
Before Figgy even arrived, much to their amusement, I drilled the family on the house rules and major puppy dos and dont’s. They soon realised I was being serious when a list of these rules appeared on the fridge, though even I have to admit that once you’re a sleep deprived human yoyo, requiring eyes in the back of your head, it takes great patience and will power to stick to those rules. The truth is that puppies learn best with consistency, so I maintain that if you cannot stick to my rules, you can’t play with my puppy. Although I’m the strict puppy parent killjoy, I’m happy in the knowledge that Figgy hopefully won’t pick up any unwanted habits.
Over the first week I was convinced Figgy was already toilet trained, with only two accidents inside. A few weeks on, now that fatigue is setting in, it turns out that I was probably just so paranoid about taking her outside after a nap, meal, play session or noticing her sniffing, I got her outside in time for her to do her business. Those first weeks were also dedicated to Figgy, getting to know her and building up our bond. Once life started getting back to normal, I couldn’t keep an eye on her all the time, especially with cooking, cleaning and work getting in the way. Initially I took any toileting accidents badly, never cross with Figgy, but always cross and disappointed in myself or Jack for not watching her closely enough or getting her outside in time and ultimately letting Figgy down. It has taken a little while for me to realise that there will always be little mistakes, especially while she’s so young.
Our home has taken quite a hit too. Since Figgy’s arrival, our house has morphed into what I can only describe as Fort Knox. Very unattractive though highly practical, the use of gates, pens and even an ironing board now contain the little whirlwind to a more manageable area, rather than spending our time following Figgy around, repeatedly saying ‘no’, or constantly removing objects from her mouth (not to be done with future gundogs).
I’m also surprised that so far, there have been no serious injuries caused by the multiple toys posing as trip hazards. As I write, the floor is littered with various toy bones, balls and a particularly bedraggled pheasant (not real thankfully) and whilst I could go around and pick them all up, I know that once Figgy wakes up from her afternoon snooze they will all return to their original position. Similarly, the floor seems to rapidly collect a shocking amount of organic material brought in from the garden, so every time I work up the energy to clean, my efforts seem futile.
Then there are all of the other small things you manage to forget about when you first set eyes on that adorable little face. The complete lack of lie-ins, even when a lie-in to us is only until seven-thirty with two dogs on the bed. No leaving anything on the floor, unless you don’t mind it being chewed. No relaxing or falling asleep on the sofa in the evening, that puppy needs to be kept awake and entertained if you have any chance of a quiet night. No popping out to the cinema. Not for now anyway.
Despite all of these hardships, I know Figgy is worth it, even if it’s difficult to remember that all the time. Through the tears, arguments, laughs and mistakes, she is worth it. Whilst I have 12 months of very hard work ahead of me, I’m so looking forward bonding with and training my own crazy little gundog.