What to expect when you're expecting...an eight-week-old puppy
Our little PuppyFace was ten weeks old yesterday and we've had her at home with us for exactly two weeks. This last fortnight has been exhausting, hard work, frustrating but also wonderful, hilarious and filled with love for an animal so small my son can hold her with one hand.
Although we'd been looking for a puppy to keep DogFace (our five year old yellow labrador) company and to stop her being so spoiled and Princess-like(!) we hadn't anticipated it would all happen so quickly. Some months ago we'd tried to breed with DogFace but she wasn't keen on the male dogs coming near her (bless her) so we thought we'd get another girl puppy instead.
My husband emailed a chap who had used DogFace's fox red half-brother as the stud. He'd had a successful litter and there was one girl left available for collection right now. I saw her photograph. She was sat on a deck chair outside the breeder's house and I looked at her on my laptop. She's mine, I thought. She looks sad because she isn't with us yet.
The next day I drove a five hour round trip to pick her up. Despite being the last of the litter the breeder said she had the nicest face of the lot. He was a bit puzzled as to why she was the last to go. But I knew. She was meant for us.
As I type this she is lying in her small grey basket underneath the kitchen table by my feet. So, I'm taking this moment of calm to write about our experiences and explain exactly what it can be like having a puppy in those early weeks. Because I think it's so important that anyone thinking about adding a four-legged friend to their household is aware of the fact that it is hard work in the beginning. It's not quite like having a newborn baby. But it's close.
Take time off work to settle the puppy in
We were fortunate in that it was the summer holidays so the children were around and I had taken time off work to be with them. I work from home anyway, as does my husband a lot of the time, so there was four of us around to settle her in.
You cannot just leave her. She's just been taken from her mother and siblings and is suddenly in this strange environment. If your intention is to have a house dog you need to spend time with her she gets used to you and her new surroundings.
It helped for us that we already have a dog. The house obviously smelled 'right' to the puppy and she took to her Aunty DogFace straightaway. In fact, I think she saw her more as a mother and kept trying to feed from her teats! The dog wasn't overjoyed about this and would pull away from her a lot. However, DogFace would also sniff her and, when PuppyFace was having a loud dream, she got out of her basket and nudged her gently. I think they're going to get on just fine.
This is the hard bit. Because whenever they're awake you are watching them all the time like a hawk (we haven't gone down the crate or puppy training pads route during the day) so that when you think they're about to go to the toilet you can react and quickly take them outside.
Instead we have holed ourselves up in the kitchen to limit the toilet mess to one room. We're lucky in that our kitchen also has space for a settee and table so we are eating, watching TV off my laptop and working in this one room.
I removed my better rugs from the floor and invested in lots of kitchen towel and Dettol (we also love this rhubarb scented anti-bac by Method). But the key for us was taking her outside every thirty minutes or so and praising her whenever she went to the toilet out there. If she did one inside we didn't shout or yell (or, God forbid, rub her nose in it!) but instead picked her up and took her outside.
We also take her outside after she's woken up and after she's eaten. We've had some (mainly wees) on the floor during the day but we're persevering. I've noticed she's done less in the last forty-eight hours inside.
She is now, after two weeks of religiously doing this, whining at the back door when she wants to use the toilet. And it's now not every thirty minutes either because she's matured and her bladder is becoming stronger every day.
Once she is toilet trained we will allow her to roam about in the rest of the downstairs and I can go back to my office and watch TV on a bigger screen in the lounge!
When we first got her she appeared to be starving hungry. I knew I'd have to feed her little and often but it was non-stop. So I looked at the food and decided she could have the same as DogFace but in the puppy version. She's now on Harringtons dry puppy food and as soon as I changed it she immediately slept better and was more contented.
I had heard that you shouldn't change food completely in one go with puppies so I added increased bits of the Harringtons to her current food until she was fully on it. I also add a bit of wet food (currently Lily's Kitchen puppy food) because that's how DogFace has hers. DogFace cannot stomach purely dry food (it hurts when it comes out if you get my meaning) and when I opened one of her meaty sachets PuppyFace was delirious with excitement. She could smell it and wanted it. So they now have the same sort of meal. A bit of wet mixed in with the dry. Which also means PuppyFace isn't trying to eat out of DogFace's bowl.
Night time is, for me, the hardest time because it took me back to the days of anxiety when my children were babies and they would cry - a lot. Because puppies cry too at night. And it can sound incredibly distressing.
Some people put their puppy in a crate but we put ours in the utility room. We kept the door open so she could see DogFace but had a barrier (like a stairgate) to stop her coming into the kitchen. This was because a) we wanted the older dog to sleep well without the puppy climbing all over her b) we didn't want the dog to attack the puppy - unlikely but possible and c) we wanted to contain the toilet mess.
So she has two puppy mats on the floor (we only use them at night but she doesn't always go on them) a bowl of water, a small bowl of dry food, her basket and a chair (for her to go underneath - I'd removed this on the fourth night and she howled -once I put it back she was happy!)
Having a routine
I always had a routine with my children so have continued this with the animals and I think everyone likes it. I know I do!
I get up about 6am and come down to the kitchen. DogFace is excited to see me, wagging her tail and sneezing, and I can hear PuppyFace behind her gate getting excited. Out she comes - tiny tail wagging and jumping up my legs - and I investigate the mess in the utility. If I'm lucky it's on the puppy mats and I can just throw it away. However, most of the time I have to spend some time cleaning up the mess - then we go outside and walk around the field. Ducks and chickens are let out and fed and we come inside.
Both dogs get their breakfast. Then DogFace goes out the room. She needs some quiet time away from the puppy. And I sit on the sofa for puppy snuggles.
When she falls asleep I can have my breakfast in peace and open my laptop.
After our next (mini) walk we come back inside for a drink and a treat. There's a bit of a play and more cuddles then she sleeps again.
She has another meal at lunchtime, soon she'll be on just three meals a day but she's not quite there yet, and it continues in a similar vein throughout the day.
As the days go by it gets easier. I don't feel so chained to the kitchen any more and I can leave her for short periods of time. She does like to have a mad half hour every evening though which can be trying but using the word 'no' firmly is starting to take effect.
The key is, for us, routine and consistency. Lots of fresh air, lots of play time and, as DogFace's breeder said to us five years ago: let sleeping dogs lie. When they're tired let them sleep.