Dog Blog #8 – The Build up to the Festive Season (with a puppy)

This week we have been decorating the house in preparation for the festive season, but with puppy proofing in mind as it would be a shame not to put a tree up in our living room this year. We have also met with a professional dog trainer to give us some tips and to advise us as to what we are doing wrong so far – she was very kind, as well as being an outstanding listener, for it turns out that we still have a great deal to learn (although you probably knew that already if you have been following this blog since its inception)…

Christmas decorations

J put up the outside lights as usual. (No issues there as he needed to climb a ladder so nothing for Margot to interfere with at her level. We kept her occupied while he perched carefully at a great height!)

Inside our house we usually put up a Christmas tree in the lounge as well as having lights around the door and freestanding festive lit-up animals. However, this year we wondered just how it would work with a puppy in tow… As the only carpeted room on the ground floor, Margot is only allowed in during the evening when she is sleepy, cuddly and curled up on the mat we have brought in from her room. However, a tree and fairy lights would surely be an invitation for the wrong sort of puppy play, wouldn’t it?

First of all, J had the idea to raise the tree up onto a pedestal and create a barrier around it. You can see from the photo above that the sofa acts as a natural defence mechanism and we also brought down the wooden ottoman from P’s room to complete the look. (This took a bit of persuasion, but we promised it would only be temporary.) Our lighted reindeer adds to the Christmas theme although the matching polar bear has been promoted to the first floor. So far our pup has shown no interest in the tree, its hanging decorations or the flashing lights – let’s face it, she would probably be able to climb over the box if she really put her mind to it! (I actually think that the room looks cosier with the sofa further forward so I expect it will stay like this in the new year – minus the ottoman, of course.)

Asking a professional for advice

Many people we have met when walking and stopped to talk to have asked us about puppy classes. Some dog owners are very positive and say how important the socialisation is, whereas others have said it’s more about educating the owners. The first set of puppy classes we were interested in started its six-week course just before Margot’s second set of vaccinations. The sessions would take place inside, which was certainly advantageous with the wet weather. But they were also in the evening during the week, at around about the same time as what I describe as the ‘witching hour’ when Margot goes a bit mad. We investigated classes with a different trainer. These took place on a Sunday, but outside in the New Forest and that weather I mentioned before kept pushing back the start date. It seemed that neither was a good fit for us.

Instead, we made the decision to go back to our first choice of dog professional recommended to us by the veterinary nurse, but rather than wait until the next set of puppy classes in January, we booked some one-to-one sessions with Fleur’s Happy Hounds. Dog guru? Dog whisperer? Whatever name or title we could give her, she was calmness personified, completely professional and she offered us over an hour’s worth of advice on her first visit. Initially, she completely ignored Margot when she jumped up at the table and waited for our pup to make the choice to put her bottom on the floor.

Having checked out Margot’s crate, she told us that we must take her collar off at night or when we left her alone because it could become caught on the metal. (Apparently, leaving her is really important, which I was very relieved to hear as it meant that I had been doing something right – even if it was because I needed 30 minutes’ fresh air or had to pick up P from the school bus…)

So, it turns out that we have probably been walking her for too long each day and not encouraging Margot to have enough sleep during our waking hours. Although to be honest, when I take her out of the house during the week, she does an awful lot of sniffing about and I don’t think we actually walk that far. Still, according to the pdsa: ‘Puppies that are exercised too much, or do too much high impact exercise, are at risk of joint and bone damage, which can lead to conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia. However, limiting your puppy’s exercise too much could cause boredom, frustration and lead to behavioural problems.’ That happy medium is so important though isn’t it? Fleur re-iterated the ‘five minutes per month of her life’ so that’s still only 20 minutes a day.

She also talked to us about walking Margot on a two-point leash, attaching the lead to the front and back of the harness. This is to prevent pulling. We had already bought a training lead with a clip on each end so we were able to try this the following day – as you can see in the photo above. It does give much more control over her walking. We stop when she starts pulling or trying to forge ahead. It also means that there is less tangling of the lead too. I do hope we are doing it right. In the next session with Fleur she is going to go through some practical exercises, so again we shall see. I will keep you posted.

Mental stimulation

Rather than trying to tire her out with too much physical exercise, Fleur suggested we make Margot work for some of her food by playing games with her. This would encourage mental stimulation instead. Much of this involved hiding bits of her kibble in various objects: an egg box, kitchen towel holders, her latex sausage dog, Amazon envelopes, inside the broken ear of her toy duck and the empty supplement pot you can see in the middle picture above. (We only used this once as although I thought it was an ingenious home-made puzzle toy, she broke off a bit of plastic from the lid so we deemed it too unsafe in the end.)

In the pictures above, P is training Margot to sit and wait before she can find the treat hidden inside the pink ball at the bottom of the tower. It seems to be working very well. Margot can show the same level of patience and good manners with her food too.

Margot says…

The big people have started walking me on a much shorter lead. It means that I can’t run off ahead with as much freedom as before but I still enjoy going out with them. A strange lady came round the other day and sat at the table in the kitchen for ages. I really tried to get her attention, but she wouldn’t budge. After her visit, the big people changed the way they try to handle me. I haven’t decided yet if I like this new way or not. There have been lots of different visitors to the house this week, which has been great fun. One of them gave me a chew toy with some antlers sticking out of the top.

In our backyard

The watering can has been in the garden for as long as Margot has been with us. I can’t explain why this week it was a toy…

I love this photo – I managed to catch Margot standing with one of her paws raised. It looks so sweet when she does this.

Margot asleep…

Now that we have been advised to encourage our pup to have more sleep time, there will be lots of photo opportunities to prove we are doing our bit!

The puppy bed is still a firm favourite, but now looking very sorry for itself… it’s easy to see why from the picture above on the right!

Merry Christmas, one and all!

Next week… how we manage to cope with all our guests and hosting Christmas with a puppy, kibble calamity, plus an update on the walking training with a two-point harness.

Please feel free to comment, share and spread the word…

One response to “Dog Blog #8 – The Build up to the Festive Season (with a puppy)”

  1. Thanks for the blog, Kirst. Training is hard and requires lots of patience. I think we are getting there but sometimes…


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