Tales of Teddy

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Teddy’s Tales: Puppy Classes

puppy classes

Teddy loves a newspaper. I like to think we have that in common. And while it can be slightly frustrating to have the Sundays shredded while I am in the kitchen making coffee, I have decided to choose my battles, and leave the newspapers on a taller table.
Training gathers apace. Before we start Puppy Class, Kevin-the-Trainer has listed all the things that a puppy needs to be exposed to sooner rather than later. There is a short window of opportunity (before 16 weeks) when puppies are receptive to all things new, and you have to make the most of it before fear kicks in. So the race is on to introduce Teddy to, among other things, trains, buses, roadworks, loud noises of any description and people – all different types, but particularly squeaky, unpredictable children.
We can’t take Teddy out on foot until his jabs kick-in so we take him out in a bag. Challenge number one: children. I make my way to school with Teddy’s head poking out of an ancient, towel-lined Herve Chapelier nylon tote. Few register Teddy’s head bobbing up and down in his customised carrier, but when my children come out of their classrooms and race towards our dog-in-a-bag, I realize that their talk this week must have been of little else: a swarm of classmates follow and we are swallowed-up by small hands eager to feel some fur. Teddy is remarkably un-phased but we cut his immersion therapy short as frankly it’s all a bit too much for me.
But at least it’s all positive. Going out and about with a new puppy reminds me a little of life with a new baby. Not only do I seem to be spending time lingering in bookshops (too long, clearly: an assistant at our local Waterstones now hails me from across the shop floor, “The Woman with the Dog-in-a-Bag!”) but like a baby, a pup brings out the best in people: they smile, they coo, they stop and pat. Teddy laps it up and I feel all warm and fuzzy.
Until we start Puppy Class and Teddy begins to bark. And bark. It’s a very specific, high-pitched yowl. As every other dog there seems to have tacitly agreed on a strict no-bark policy, Teddy suddenly looks out of control. Despite our best efforts to do as Kevin-the-Trainer tells us and turn Teddy around in order to break eye contact with the dog he’s barking at, Teddy continues. We start to imagine a future continually punctuated by Teddy’s raucous yelps.
A friend comes over with Fudge, her sweet and biddable Cavalier King Charles spaniel. The dogs start off well enough – we keep them on leads, they check each other out, they seem to be okay. Their leads are relaxed and then Teddy goes for the older dog. We start to imagine a future continually restraining a fluffy attack dog.
We visit my in-laws and their elegant, docile old Greyhound, Jess. Teddy enters their sitting room and, like a smudgy lightening bolt, he goes for her.
And then he moves on from barking and starts to go for other dogs at the Puppy Class. What’s happened to our calm little pup? “He’s a bit of a bully boy,” is Kevin-the-Trainer’s opinion. “We’ll have to nip it in the bud,” he says, warning us that he is going to tell-off Teddy the next time he acts up and that his method will sound worse than it is. In fact it’s nothing harsher than Teddy is meting out – all noise and but a small flurry of action which involves sending Teddy towards the other dog before pulling him away. It’s effective. Teddy recovers his jauntiness in seconds but behaves himself for the rest of the class. Kevin-the-Trainer is pleased with the results but I am left with a worrying feeling that we may have to get the hang of this complicated maneuver ourselves.

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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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