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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: 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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Teddy’s Tales: Why Get a Dog?


I cannot remember the crux of the matter – nor can he – but our son was upset. When I tried to talk it through, he muttered, rather hopelessly, “If I had a dog, he would understand.” And the seed was planted.
Several months later and the distress has disappeared – as it does when you’re 8-years-old – but the dog remains firmly on the agenda – as, of course, it would. Just 5 weeks, in fact, until one carefully picked pup arrives under our roof.
Only now, it appears I am more excited about it than anyone else in our house. (Perhaps I should mention that I have really, really wanted a dog ever since I can remember.)
I have always been more enthusiastic than my husband, who grew up with dogs, and has recently been inclined to offer comments such as, “We don’t have a proper garden,” and, “It’ll need to be walked, even in weather like this”.
Yesterday, our 6-year-old breezily informed us that really, he would much prefer a fluffy marmalade cat. And having heard about a puppy who bulldozed, then chewed over a friend’s highly prized Lego Star Wars fleet, even his big brother is now a little less gung-ho.
I admit to the odd doubt-filled moment, but only because I have high hopes of our new family member. I don’t want the puppy that my dog-owning friends delight in warning me about. The dog that cries all night, poos everywhere, chews everything, soils sofas, nips ankles, steals shoes (or just vomits into them), whines incessantly, makes the children vie for attention and inevitably turns me into a crashing dog-bore does not appeal.
It will take some effort – and as I work from home, largely by me – but our puppy will keep off sofas, stay downstairs (people say it’ll end up in our bed – they cannot know my aversion to dog’s bum on pillow), walk obediently off-leash, manage not to terrorise children, ours included, and most importantly, learn to bark and poo on command. (You think I’m joking? Apparently it’s possible and I am so signing up for that.)
Now I’ve just got to make it happen. And I will. Our puppy will be a positive addition to the family. The idea of it provided light relief for my son, and for me at the same time, when my father was ill. Shortly my children will have a faithful friend who listens without prejudice (and hopefully the youngest will learn why dogs rather than cats that are considered man’s best friend); my husband will get to train a dog the way he feels that his parents never did with their sweet but lunatic Beagles; I will finally have the dog I’ve always wanted and my dad, he would have been tickled that we are going to name our puppy in his honour.

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