If you follow me on social media, it won’t have escaped your attention that Bosun the boxer recently celebrated his first birthday! (Ok, I celebrated his birthday, he enjoyed extra attention and treats!) We marked the occasion with a peanut butter & banana doggy celebration cake, a new squeaky ball, pigs ears and a jaunty new birthday dog bandana! He also had a very special dinner of freshly cooked chicken, sweet potato and green beans, followed by a nice long walk in one of our favourite locations – the perfect day!
Now 12 months old, my puppy is growing up into a handsome dog. As a large boxer he’s not quite there yet (large dogs take longer to mature) but his personality, likes and dislikes are obvious!
Likes: Peanut butter, cheese, squeaky balls, tug of war, football, splashing in rivers and running in long grass.
Dislikes: Having nails clipped, sweeping brush, rubbish trucks, cows.
In honour of this milestone I thought I’d share our top 5 takeaways and tips we’ve learned for you!
1. Puppy training. This is a HUGE subject which can’t be covered in one blog post and I m not a dog trainer or behaviour expert but I will say this – Be CONSISTENT and PERSISTENT. There are many different training methods so decide which one you are going to follow and stick wth it. Our understanding of dog behaviour has evolved enormously in the past 10-20 yrs so if you’ve had a puppy before but it was some time ago it’s worth researching modern, force-free training techniques and practices. Puppy classes are a worthy investment in the early weeks and months; most are booked as a 6 week course, so book in advance to avoid missing out and having to wait for the next course to start! Bear in mind most will require puppies to be fully vaccinated in order to socialise with the group. I took Bosun to the Dogs Trust training school, where much of the focus was given to understanding your dogs behaviour and reading their body language. Check locally for classes in your area.
2. Puppy training (again). Don’t be COMPLACENT! Keep on reinforcing those good behaviours. Your puppy is growing every day and will challenge you as he/she gains confidence. Once you think you have something nailed, they will be ready to prove (to your embarrassment) that they are their own dog and don’t need you to tell them what to do, as you chase after them across a field shouting “it’s ok, he’s friendly!” I thought Bosun’s recall was great until he got to 6 months, then as soon as other dogs were around he would be off. I could do cartwheels whilst juggling cheese and sausages and still would not be interesting enough to warrant his attention. So I invested in a harness and long line (never attach a long line to a collar) and went back to basics.
3. Equipment. There are must haves and nice to haves. Make sure the must haves are ready before bringing puppy home. PLEASE don’t carry your 8 week old puppy around the big pet store whilst you shop for their essentials. I’ve see it happen many times and I get it, your puppies cute-ness is off the scale and you’ve been told repeatedly that socialisation is super-important. But give it a couple of weeks and instead of cowering in your arms they’ll be excited to go on a sniffari around the pet shop with you!
So what ARE the must haves?
- Food. Check what your puppy is being fed by the breeder and buy this to begin with. Your puppy may be stressed by the upheaval of leaving home so offer food they are familiar with. Once your puppy has settled, you can gradually change to the food of your choice. I recommend a heavy bowl for water which won’t get tipped over!
- Bed. Your puppy will want somewhere safe and warm to retreat to for a rest. This could be a in a crate or a cosy corner of a room with a pillow and blanket.
- Puppy pads or newspaper. You can buy puppy training pads for toilet training which are more absorbent than newspaper and supposedly scented to encourage use, however good old fashioned newspaper is more environmentally friendly and certaily cheaper – ask friends and family to save their newspapers for you so you have a stockpile ready. Pick up the free newsapers whilst you’re out too.
- Toys and chews. It will take a while to work out what your puppy likes to play with, but do provide something that’s theirs to chew. Chewing is normal helps relieve anxiety and boredom as well as bringing comfort from teething.
- Collar & lead. It is a legal requirement for dogs to wear ID, not just microchip so get your puppy used to wearing a collar and tag as soon as possible. Although you can’t take walks outside until fully vaccinated, you can practice walking with a loose lead around the house and garden.
- Grooming products. Some breeds will require daily grooming and so it is important that they get used to a brush early. Grooming is a good way to bond and allows you to inspect your dog for any lumps and bumps (and ticks!) so even if your dog doesn’t require daily grooming getting them used to this kind of handling is going to benefit you both.
4. Venturing outdoors! Going for walks is one of the great pleasures of dog ownership. Bring treats, poo bags and water. The water is not just for drinking – your pups tummy may still be unsettled from all the excitement and any changes of diet so take some water to help wash away any poo’s you can’t pick up cleanly from the pavement!!
5. Group walks. A great way to socialise, make new friends and explore new places is to join a group walk. Search on Facebook for local, like minded groups in your area. I still use the long line with Bosun unless we are familiar with the dogs on the field and know they are happy to run and play. (The line gives him some freedom whilst providing me with some security in case his recall fails.) Meeting in an organised group gives him an opportunity to learn how to behave around other dogs in a planned way.
The next 12 months…
Bosun will be joining the family on his first camping trip and there will be a blog on this to follow! We will have to make a decision around castration and I would like for him to learn to swim. He loves splashing in rivers and streams but hasn’t yet been in a body of water deep enough to swim. I’ll have to let you know how we get on!
Until next time, woof!
Where shall we go next?