In the spirit of honesty, I’m not going to lie: I have found some of this puppy business really challenging. Nobody tells you just how much hard work it is, and for someone with little experience of any type of animal, let alone a dog, it has been a proper rollercoaster. In the first couple of weeks I sometimes felt as though I had lost my freedom completely, I was stuck in the house and worse still, extremely wary of being bitten by Margot. When you look at her sweet face, you must wonder what I am talking about. However, in these last couple of weeks, she and I have bonded properly. She clambers up to sleep on my lap and whines when I go upstairs or if I leave the house to meet P from the bus. (More about leaving her on her own later…)
Was Margot ruling the roost? I didn’t think I was allowing her to do what she wanted when it was just the two of us during the week. According to information I read via the oracle, dogs don’t seek to be dominant, but they do show certain behaviour we might find annoying if there are no boundaries. I’m not sure I had set those boundaries clearly enough in the beginning and I wasn’t sure how to respond when she was grabbing at my clothes with those sharp teeth and turning it into a tugging game. Part of my pre-reading suggested not using the word ‘No’ or ‘Leave’ so I didn’t. So what was the answer? Trading with a treat wasn’t working and I’m sure Margot could ‘smell my fear’ or at least my helplessness at times…
Here’s where my friends with dogs came in to support. My old neighbour popped round one afternoon on his way back from work. (He has had dogs for as long as we have known him – and that’s more than 20 years.) Within moments he had Margot eating out of the palm of his hand. (Actually, not literally – perhaps that’s the wrong expression!) A simple ‘No’ when she jumped up in a low stern voice and her bottom hit the floor. There was no shouting, and it was clear she understood what he wanted her to do.
The following day a second friend phoned to offer me some advice about play biting after reading a previous blog post. Having convinced me that Margot would not bite me, and telling me to speak firmly and to gently push her mouth away from my clothing, it gave me the confidence to be more assertive with her. (After all, I had had no problem being assertive with up to 30 pupils in a classroom in my previous teaching career, so why should training a puppy be any different? Before these two interactions with my dog-owning friends, I had considered teaching the far easier option – so I publicly thank them wholeheartedly here! You know who you are…)
I can honestly say that now I feel so much more confident about dealing with the biting and Margot does ‘leave’ my clothes alone when I command her to.
The range of toys we have for Margot are so much fun. From the homemade old sheet tied in knots at intervals in which we hide treats for her to sniff and seek out, to the squeaky duck she can make ‘sing’ on demand and the bouncy moonball in the garden which she will chase and chew on. (The oversized tennis ball pictured in a previous post is now looking a little worse for wear – her puppy teeth have managed to pierce the inner skin so it has a puncture and she has also managed to tear away some of the outer fluffy covering. I still kick it across the garden for her from time to time and she will grab it between her jaws and shake her head from side to side as if she is wrestling with it. I’m assuming that’s normal playful behaviour…) We swap the toys around periodically so that she doesn’t get bored – I seem to remember the veterinary nurse saying that was a thing. (And I promise you we have many more than the ones pictured!)
Another fleecy mattress has appeared in the kitchen next to the metal plate hung on the wall. At certain times the metal object is really warm. It has become my new favourite place to lie down and sleep during the day. One of the big people sits at the table with some sort of machine so I have some company. They don’t like it when I jump up and put my paws on the table, especially when they are eating. I just want to see what’s up there though – what’s wrong with that?
As you can see from the pictures below, the lead training is a work in progress. In the last few days, we have passed the ten-day threshold of confining Margot to our back garden after her second vaccinations. This means that we can explore out the front of the house and down our road – although long walks are out of the question at the moment. Again, having consulted the oracle, the suggestion is five minutes of walking per month of age starting at eight weeks. So if my maths is correct, that’s currently 15-20 minutes, but different websites state that it could be once or twice a day. To be honest, she has probably been running and sniffing about in the garden for at least that up to this point so the priority at the moment has to be venturing out a bit further than the garden and getting used to being in the harness and on the lead.
The first few times were a disaster. Well, perhaps not a total disaster, as I managed to get the harness over her head and clipped under her tummy. But she kept biting the lead and using it as a tug of war game. (One of the friends I mentioned before told me not to be so hard on myself. ‘Don’t forget to empathise. You have just wrapped her in rope and then attached her lead to a strange feeling position.’ When you put it like that, it sounds obvious that it is going to take time to get used to.)
I struggled with taking the harness off at first too. Margot puts her head through the hole now with ease, taking the treat offered to do so, but getting it back over her head without her biting on it was tricky initially. It is fascinating though, because once we go through the back gate and she can see a whole new world, the lead becomes less interesting as a chew toy and she is sniffing everything on and around the drive. I’m a big fan of the concept of ‘loose lead walking’ so that the shape of the lead resembles a smile and Margot has the freedom to explore. I’m really looking forward to taking her on proper walks. (Remembering to take lots of treats and poo bags with me!)
In the garden she absolutely loves this planter my dad made – sorry about the chewed off corners, Dad! The spring bulbs have been dug up and out (by Margot, and disposed of by me) and the level of earth diminishes slightly each day. Maybe she feels secure sitting inside it as it has definitely become one of her favourite places.
Who can resist pictures of a puppy asleep? I also love the one inside the circle where you can see the white of her eye – that’s optimum chewing time when her teeth must be hurting.
I have started leaving Margot alone in the house for short bursts of time. It allows me to go for a brisk walk around the block, and when you have a doctor’s appointment, it’s a case of needs must. Sometimes it looks as though she is strutting off in a huff back to her crate whilst whining as I’m sure she knows I am popping out when I shut the kitchen door, put my shoes on and pick up my keys. I hope she knows by now that I will always come back too.
Next week… venturing further afield, travelling in the car in the ‘box’ and more photo opps.
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