Nearly a year ago I was “bullied” into getting a puppy. The wife had wanted a dog since we’d moved into our house, but I’d always been resistant. A bit like USA goalkeeper, Tim Howard, stubbornly keeping out all opposition shots until he eventually succumbed to the inevitable.
So we got a puppy and named him Dax. An eight-week old black and tan, long-haired dachshund. I’ve never really been a dog fan, but there’s something quite cool about a sausage dog with the long body, short legs and floppy ears. That actually sounds like my ideal woman too…
We soon learned that having a puppy was hard work. We didn’t expect it to be a breeze by any stretch of the imagination, but we didn’t expect it to be as much effort as it turned out to be (and continues to be).
I’m not speaking from experience (just yet), but it feels like having a puppy is a lot like having a baby. It’s certainly felt this way – disturbed sleeping, cleaning up mess, teaching and telling off, to name a few!
Here are some of the lessons I’ve picked up from having a puppy, which I’m hoping will help when we have a little human:
1) Cherish the quiet times: If they’re not eating, cuddling, exploring, whining, misbehaving or expelling bodily products, puppies will tend to be asleep. This is the only time that you get to sit down, relax and contemplate what the hell you’ve signed up for. Remember not to move though as you might wake the puppy, which is a mistake as you won’t know when you’ll next get to sit down. Silence really is golden.
2) Set boundaries and stick to them: A puppy will not miraculously understand what is acceptable and what is not. They have only recently come into the world prior to being ripped away from their mum and siblings. They need rules and boundaries which cannot change, no matter how much they bark or whine. If the puppy is going to be a “downstairs dog”, then they shouldn’t be allowed upstairs, no matter how cute or funny it is to see them tackle the momentous vertical challenge. Stick to your guns and don’t cave in when the boundaries are challenged.
3) Enjoy your time together as a family: What’s the point of having a puppy or dog if you’re not going to spend time playing and going out for walks? Too many people have a dog but keep the furry beast trapped inside the house because “they aren’t good in the car”, “they don’t like other dogs” or “it is too much hassle to take him with us”. Bringing a puppy into your household means they are part of your family. Enjoy the time you have as a family and do what you can together as a unit. Hay and I enjoy the time we have together when we take the dog for a walk as it gives us the chance to properly talk without distraction. This routine won’t be changing when the baby comes along, if anything it’ll be enhanced.
4) Spend time training and teaching: As per point 2, a puppy doesn’t know what is right or wrong. They will also never know unless time is spent training so that they can understand basic commands and what behaviour is appropriate. I always considered dogs as “wild animals”, but having spent time training Dax, it is obvious that he wants to learn and wants to please. If you start training when they’re young, stay committed and patient throughout the process, and ignore bad behaviour but praise good, then you will reap the benefits in the medium-to-long term.
5) Be prepared (or as prepared as possible): There is only so much you can learn beforehand, as being thrown into a particular situation is often the best way to learn. However, the time prior to having a puppy is key to ensuring that you are prepared. Not just in terms of stuff you need to buy, but also to get yourself in the right frame of mind and to have figured out how you’re going to approach the situation, e.g. in terms of training. Doing your research, reading around and leaning on those who have been through the experience already will make the whole thing a more enjoyable process.
Having read through the above points again, I’m pretty confident that if you substitute the word “puppy” for “baby”, each lesson would still make sense and be appropriate for a new mum and dad. Spooky! Maybe puppies and babies are more alike than we thought.