Tales of Teddy

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Teddy’s Tales: Puppy Comes Home – Puppy Training Begins

puppy training

I was pulled up short the other day when I heard the children matter-of-factly discussing how old they’ll be when Teddy kicks the bucket (a typical Miniature Schnauzer lifespan is fourteen years). It didn’t take me long, though, to follow their lead. The excitement of getting a new puppy is underscored with the faintly daunting understanding that this dog will be for life: all of his, hopefully, and a large chunk of ours. Whatever happens in our family in the next hopefully-fourteen years, Teddy will be a part of it.
My husband and I head off to pick up our new family member with many towels, some chew toys, a cardboard box lined with newspaper and in my stomach, a fair few butterflies.
When we arrive there’s paperwork to be done, routines, diets and pedigree dog charts to be discussed. We find out Teddy’s kennel name is, rather charmingly, Sunshine. We make a payment (ouch). And then Teddy is brought to the front room. After silently admiring him tussling with a stuffed toy, we leave with Teddy in my arms, the breeder’s wife discreetly sniffing into a tissue, and the promise of email updates to come.
On the journey home, Teddy conks out, folded onto my lap in a lurid old pink beach towel. I should have thought about that – like a child’s attachment blanket, I suspect this towel is going to be with us for life.
Once we get home Teddy wobbles about a bit and we try to go by the book (Dr Ian Dunbar’s Before You Get Your Puppy). We put his pink towel and a treat in his dog crate in the kitchen and he totters in after it, settling down but keeping his dark marble eyes open. Thereafter we begin the ‘watching like a hawk’ part of the process, alert for any circling, nose to ground, upon which moment we take him straight outside for a loo break. The first time he goes outside – with no end result – he sweetly saunters into the kitchen and pees by the cooker. Turns out I should have done as the book said and popped him back in his crate/pen straight away. This happens a couple of times before I learn my lesson.
The children are delivered home by school-friends who clamour to come in and say hello. Teddy takes four enthusiastic youngsters in his stride, happy to be shuttled from lap to lap. And then conks out. The children are thrilled with Teddy who looks remarkably like a stiff little brush-furred Steiff toy – and are doubly delighted when they are put on loo watch for the next pee/poo accident.
Having heard that the first few nights can be fraught with crying and homesickness I prepare for hours of sleeplessness and, as I station myself next to the crate with a book and a cushion, I feel as though I’ve regressed to new-motherhood. I take him out regularly until about 11.30pm then, when he’s dropped-off, I slowly creep next door to sleep on the sofa, within earshot of any cry that might mean he needs the loo and/or reassurance. I figure it’s worth investing the time now: the sooner he’s housetrained, the better. And honestly? I was never any good at letting my children cry themselves to sleep, so I won’t kid myself that I can do it any better with a motherless doe-eyed puppy.
I wake up at 5am with the sound of Teddy rustling about in his crate. I let him out for a pee. He does his duty. Result!
I sleep on the sofa the following night and my husband takes his turn the one after that – all good. No reassurance needed, and no wet crate. Perhaps that’s something to do with getting a pup at 10 weeks, but more probably everything to do with our lovely breeder, who did assure me not to worry, Teddy would soon settle in.

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Teddy’s Tales: Puppy Prep and Dog Accessories

dog accessories

With only a month to go, it feels time for some proper puppy prep.
While the boys are up a tree on Hampstead Heath, I see a few dogs walking with an older Mini Schnauzer and ask his friendly-looking owner about her dog’s temperament: “Wonderful,” comes the reply. It gets better: it just so happens that she looks after other people’s dogs and is something of an expert. She recommends Dr Ian Dunbar’s book, Before You Get Your Puppy, as required reading.
I start on it that evening and it’s the most sensible dog book that I’ve read so far. It gives a clear idea of things to buy, and there’s a great section on crate-training. I blend the information with other bits I’ve read and come up with a shopping list that reads something like this:

Dog crate: The Vari-Kennel is not beautiful (none of them are) but it’s tried and tested. You buy it to fit the size your dog will become. A few strategically taped-down Amazon delivery boxes make it the right size for a puppy.
Crate liner: To make it cosy, first use old (washable) towels in case of accidents. Buy a Vet Bed fleece (washable and anti-dust mite) for when he can go through the night.
Puppy playpen/gates to help section off rooms while house training.
Water Bowl, Food Bowl
Chewtoys x 6 (Kongs, Biscuit Balls, Squirrel Dudes, Big Kahunas etc.)
Freeze dried liver to use as training rewards.
Collar and lead
Plastic dust-sheets and newspapers
Poo bags

We visit a huge, soulless pet mart that smells pet-food-awful and take home 80% of our list.
We take a trip to the local builder’s yard to buy artificial turf for our decked back yard (apparently it’s good for a pup to get used to using all different surfaces for their lav).
We make a vet appointment.
We make a trainer appointment.
We order a dog tag.
And then we head to Highgate for the nice bit – a trip to Hair of the Dog, a stylish pet shop that you might find yourself in even if you didn’t have a dog arriving in less than a month. We find some minimalist matt black food and water bowls that will look suitably low-key in the kitchen. We buy rather a prettily honed reindeer antler because I had once spoken to a woman cradling a new puppy who raved about them as the ultimate chew-toy. And I note for future reference that this smart shop sells Harry Barker, the American brand that is the bright, preppy dog accessory equivalent of New York fashion label Kate Spade. All set…

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Teddy’s Tales: Buy a Puppy – Preview

buy a puppy

Apparently, when people buy a puppy, there are those who like to visit their pup pre-pick-up, and those who don’t. Something about the breeder having picked out the pup for us makes us even more intrigued by the pup we are going to get. We couldn’t not go and check him out on his 6-week birthday.
When we get there, we spend a long time with the breeder and his wife observing many fuzzy pups roaming about and/or falling into sleeping piles of paws and noses, under the watchful eyes of their gruff-looking (those eyebrows, those beards) older male cousins, uncles and fathers.
The suspense is nearly killing me. I ask which one is for us. The breeder’s wife picks up one little grey bundle and introduces us to Teddy: “A lovely little boy,” she says, handing him over. “Good coat, good temperament, good bone,” says the breeder, confidently. “I would really like to hang onto him, but we can’t keep them all and his ears don’t fall properly.” With Teddy sturdily ensconced in my arms, I tear myself away from admiring the coat around his plastic button nose that appears to have had the perfect blow dry, and try to work out exactly what is sub-standard about his ears. Unfamiliar with the exacting criteria of the show ring, we happily remain oblivious and instead, fall under the spell of one calm, and terribly thoughtful-looking little dog. Am I imagining the recognition in those slate grey eyes?
We have to wait until Teddy is 10-weeks-old before our breeder will let him go. So after getting in some decent cuddles and watching him fall asleep with his family, we journey back to London, IPhones stuffed with images supposedly for the children.

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