They Call It Puppy Love
Samantha Martin talks about the things to consider before getting a puppy
Before I start this, I must confess that I, Samantha Martin, sometimes (often), prefer the company of dogs to humans.
I saw Roy Keane in a recent interview make the comment that if you want loyalty then to get a dog. He’s not wrong. Any dog owner will tell you that the love and loyalty from your dog is way more than that of any human. But don’t be fooled by all the love, fluff and cuddles of a puppy. They are 24/7 and require a lot of care and attention.
Getting a puppy is not a decision to be taken lightly or on a whim.
A few weeks ago we brought home our latest dog, Derek, a beautiful Cavapoo, aged 11 weeks. I’ve had several dogs in the past so I’m experienced enough in taking care of a dog. I’ve been wanting to get one for a while, since my last Labrador died at the ripe old age of 13. But this time I wanted my daughter to be able to help take care of the dog more, so we needed something smaller and less active. I did quite a lot of research into different breeds and their temperament and went to view several puppies. The moment we set eyes on Derek we were in love.
If you’ve made the decision to get a puppy, and it’s your first one, you may want to have a second think before making the commitment. Because it’s a massive commitment. Puppies are like babies, just allowed in a lot less places. They are tying, cost a lot to keep, and take up a lot of your time until they are fully trained, or at least house trained. It’s also important to know the breed you are getting. If you want long country walks, then you’d be more suited to something like a Labrador. But if you want a cuddle machine that doesn’t shed its hair, then a breed like my Derek is ideal. It’s important to think about other family members too. If you have chidren, especially young children they might think a puppy is like a toy, then make sure you choose a dog that is ok with children. Likewise, think about visitors to your home, or being able to socialise when out and about.
The timing of us getting Derek was also carefully thought through. I knew that to get him settled and trained quickly and easily, I would have to spend most of my time with him for the first few days and be at home with him for a few weeks. Please do not think that you can collect a puppy on a Friday and start to leave it on its own when you go to work on Monday. That is just asking for problems.
To a puppy, everything is a new experience and often frightening. You have to be on hand to give them lots of reassurance and love to help them settle in to their new home. They will cry and it’s important to not ignore this or let them get anxious. Even at night, just a quick reassurance and a little rub will help to calm them. This does however mean that you are going to have to sleep with the dog close by for the first few days, and your sleep will be disturbed.
A puppy also doesn’t know right from wrong, so you must use positive rewards and praise to help them learn the basic rules of the house. Obviously, toilet training is the big one here and this does take time. Your dog will soon learn that they need to go outside to go to the toilet if this is reinforced with treats and praise. Your dog wants to please you. They want to make you happy. But everything is new to them so basic training just takes a little while to master. In the beginning, if you are using puppy pads, then be sure to praise the dog for using them. But give them even more praise for going outside.
We’ve been very lucky with Derek as his breed is naturally very intelligent. He mastered using the puppy pads by day two and was already learning his signals for wanting to go outside. When he learnt there was a treat involved this soon became wanting to go out every five minutes so we had to reinforce the message that although he was a good boy for going out, he only got a treat if he actually did something.
Sleeping at night can be like having a newborn baby. For the first two weeks Derek would wake in the night wanting to go out. But I’d quickly let him out and then straight back to bed, settled and back to sleep. By his third week with us, he was sleeping right through the night, with a roaring snore that sounded like a little piggy.
I will reiterate that we have been very lucky with Derek and he’s been very good and settled very quickly. But we knew from the start we had to make ourselves available to help him settle. This wasn’t going to be a part time hobby.
It is true that dogs are man’s best friend. I am delighted that we now have another dog and I am sure that he will bring us lots of love over the years. But if you are thinking of getting a dog then please think very carefully and be prepared for it.