Apart from Shep being a total surprise and Henry and I being totally unprepared for his arrival, one year on we have made it! Ok, maybe a few of our socks didn’t make it (Shep loves chewing them to pieces) and many of his toys might not have survived, but the 3 of us have made it through the first year of puppyhood. And actually, the perfect golden illusion I had in mind that our small bundle of fluff would fit into our lifestyle was surprisingly realistic.
Now, 1 year on, I feel our little family has got into a good rhythm and I want to share with you everything we have learnt over the last 12 months from how we raised Shep, adjusting our lifestyle, to training him.
You will spend far more money than you thought
I always knew owning a dog would be expensive, there is so much you need to buy before they arrive and then there are multiple ongoing costs as they grow up. Plus you see so many other bits and bobs when you are out shopping and for some reason you feel the need to buy all those cute toys, treats and blankets and you end up spoiling your dog rotten! Well I do anyway.
The right amount of exercise is tricky
Exercise is essential for all dogs. It keeps them healthy and in shape, it stimulates mental exercise and it’s fun and exciting for them. All dogs love to sniff and explore, so making sure they have enough exercise each day is vital. Knowing how much exercise to give your dog depends a lot on their breed, age, health and personality, saying that every dog is different and it will even differ from other dogs of the same breed.
I would say your dog should most certainly have a good walk morning and night. But then again don’t limit their exercise to just walks on a lead. Ever since Shep was a tiny pup we liked to vary his exercise every day. As he is a border collie he requires lots of exercise and enjoys being mentally and physically active all the time. He will get a variation of long lead walks, runs on the beach or in fields, playtime with toys, training exercises, mountain biking with Henry or go road running with us.
But despite your puppy being full of energy and wanting your attention to play all the time do let them nap during the daytime. Don’t think that they won’t sleep at night, because they will.
Prioritise socialising and handling
As I have never owned a puppy or been brought up around one I was very wary of other dogs and people being around Shep was he was so tiny. I guess as I didn’t know how other dogs would react or how Shep would react it was something that always put me on edge. I soon realised though that in order for Shep to be confident and understand different situations and environments he needed to be socialised and handled from a young age.
Within the first week of having Shep we noticed traits in him that weren’t friendly or kind. He would growl and bark at us whenever we got close to him whilst he was eating and he would snap if we tried to take something off him that he shouldn’t have. However with a lot of patience, training, handling and socialising his behaviour quickly changed and the trust and love he has for us continues to grow to the day. 12 months on, he is now the neediest and most loving pup and I’m so glad we prioritised socialised him from such a young age.
Socialising with people
I didn’t realise how important socialising a puppy was. Shep was 10 weeks old when he came to us and for the first 8 weeks he spent every weekend away at motocross events. The interaction and socialisation he encountered within those first few weeks was a vital part of his training.
Meeting people of different ages, especially young children, is really important. To begin with Shep was very unsure of little children, I think mainly because their mannerisms and behave are very different to adults and it got very overwhelming for him which made him quite wary of their presence. However, now he acts much calmer and friendlier when they are around. As your puppy plays and meets more people they will become more comfortable, more confident and more sociable.
Socialising with other dogs
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes so it is important to introduce your puppy to a good mix so that they are not frightened when they are older. Since Shep was 10 weeks old he has grown up alongside the family labrador, Flo. She is 13 years old and has a very calm, mellow nature. I think raising Shep alongside Flo not only taught him many good traits and skills, but also helped him learn how to interact appropriately around new dogs.
Wherever you may be you should also monitor your puppies behaviour. Make sure he/she isn’t being too exuberant and boisterous around other dogs, but also make sure they aren’t being bullied or frightened by other dogs. A little tip from me, crouch down so you are at the height of both dogs when they are introduced and stroke each dog gently.
Handling isn’t always picking up your pup and giving them plenty of hugs and love. It should also include picking up their paws to check their pads, opening their mouth to check their teeth and gums, checking their ears, eyes and tails. Handling your puppy in this manner benefits greatly when they have to go to the vets for checkups.
We started off training Shep by simply watching Youtube videos and I bought a few books. Whilst they worked and they were a good starter kit not only was some of the training a bit outdated, some of the advice just wasn’t effective and we were having difficulty getting Shep to listen to certain commands, mainly ‘drop‘!
We took Shep to his first puppy class when he was 20 weeks old (5 months) and I think this was one of the best decisions we made during those early months. Here’s my reasons why you should go:
- You learn what is normal behaviour at different stages and ages, which is great to understand where your puppy should be at and what you need to work on
- It is encouraging hearing the trainer praise the dog and your work which reassures you about your dogs behaviour
- Most trainers provide 1-1 advice and tips in order to master certain commands
- It is reassuring to hear about other peoples difficulties especially when you feel like you are struggling or not making progress
- It offers your puppy and you as owners the chance to experience and train him/her in different situations
- The training classes were reward based, which any dog loves!
Whilst we may not go to puppy classes anymore I am so glad we took Shep when we did as it provided him with a different type of socialisation alongside learning amongst all the distractions. But remember to continue your training throughout the week. Take what you have learnt in the class and implement it into your dogs daily routine.
Now everything I mentioned above shouldn’t scare you, it is simply to give you an insight into what to expect. As a new dog owner the past year has been the biggest learning curve for Shep, myself, and Henry and I as a couple.