The plan was simple. We would go look at the puppies, go home, discuss all that was needed to provide a dog-friendly home, puppy-proof the home and only then get pets. I was assigned the role of bad cop. It was my job to put up a steelyfront and flat-out refuse puppy-dog eyes. Needless to say, spending two minutes with the puppies was enough to dissolve my bad-cop persona and a short while later I found myself running through a local supermarket grabbing supplies for the two new arrivals.
Two months later and our home would not be the same without our two Jack Russel/Miniature Pinscher/Spaniels-mixed breed dogs. Though I have not slept well in eight weeks I cannot imagine our house without them. I do have some advice to offer for prospective dog owners.
Everything is a toy. Shampoo bottles, wine bottles in the rack, bathmats, brooms, cables, cell phones are all fair game. Anything you don’t want chewed needs to be packed away.
Puppies are part kangaroo, part piranha. Our bunch are now able to jump higher and we regularly find our ears being chewed once they jump up onto the bed at 4am. Short walls or gates, shelves, wine racks and TV stands are well within the reach of puppy that is full of energy (and probably in need or Ritalin).
Say goodbye to your garden. Luckily, neither my girlfriend nor I are particularly precious about our plants but our vet told us of a client whose young dog used a prize rose garden as a chew toy. If there are plants in your garden that you have an emotional attachment to, close them off with picket fences or knock stakes into the ground and put up a mesh fence. There are electric systems available that deliver “a quick correction” when your pet strays close to out of bound area. Basically, your dog gets a shock. I’m sure these systems work but I can’t bring myself to electrocute a puppy. I’m weird like that.
The web has many resources for puppy parents. Too many in fact. Whether you need advice on training or pet health, the web has thousands of sites, blogs and forums. The downside is that you have no idea if the person who administers those sites is qualified vet or a crackpot who believes their pet daschund is Elvis reincarnated. For example, many sites advocate crate training which, according to satirist David Thorne, is a psychologically comfortable way of keeping your dog in a cage. There are resources on the web both promoting and criticising this method and I would advise speaking to your vet before making a decision. We chose not to use a crate and have had no major hassles housetraining our puppies.
Animals have a voice too. They squeak, might whimper if they are cold and bark if they are excited. We have two dogs that keep each other busy and have had no complaints from neighbours about barking dogs. We have also given them plenty of toys and they have chosen some of their own, like the socks they stole from my cupboard. I found a website which sells “barking control mechanisms” that deliver a shock when your pet barks. I don’t doubt the efficacy but again, I’m not sure it’s fair to punish an animal that wants to communicate. I do, however, wish I could fit a few of these collars on some work colleagues. Meetings would be shorter, I wouldn’t have to hear boring stories about their child’s brilliance on the soccer field or be subject to endless stories about how they could have played professional rugby if only their old high school coach had given them a chance.
Point 5 illustrates why I sometimes prefer pets over people.