One Month On!
Updated: Sep 5, 2021
Wow! What a month! It has flown by, and for the right reasons too..
Keeva has been an absolute superstar. She sleeps like a dream, has done EVERY wee outside, isn't too bitey and is pretty much the Perfect Puppy!
'Lucky you' I hear people say, but is it luck, or maybe something else?
I did have the odds very much stacked in my favour. Keeva came from a breeder who I know well and trust, from a lovely, steady mum and a homely environment. Puppies born to stressed mothers are primed to be more anxious and worried in utero. Yes, before they are born. This is designed to make them more likely to survive in a challenging and dangerous world, such as that of feral dogs. I am not after a puppy who will run and hide they hear a loud noise, I want an optimistic pup that can settle in as a family dog, and flourish as a companion to humans.
She was also brought up in a family home with all of the noises, and interactions that brings, so when I brought her into our home at 8 weeks she was pretty much unfazed by the change of surroundings. Kennelled puppies can find this a difficult transition. Not only had Keeva lived in a home, but her breeder had already taken steps to begin the house training process. No puppy pads were used, and the puppies had access to a safe outside area for toileting purposes and playtime.
So how did we do things?
I actually went a bit nerdy and started to write down Keeva's natural sleep and awake routine on a white board:). Totally not like me! It worked a treat though. It meant that family members could all take part in her care and that things ran as smoothly as they possibly could in a house with five adult dogs and a puppy!
At 8-10 weeks Keeva followed schedule made up of approximately four meals (she had some food used in other activities too), 45 minute awake periods and lots and lots of toilet trips and sleep! In fact looking back at the board, she slept approximately 18-19 hours out of every 24 hour period. A lot of sleep! We got into the habit of popping her in her crate at nap times and if she found it hard to settle, covering it with a blanket. It worked a treat, much like covering a budgie!
When she was awake she was supervised the whole time, so she never got the chance to have a toileting accident, we made sure that she went outside every 20 minutes max so she built up a preference for going outside. I still wouldn't say that she is house trained, we are just managing things so she is successful (in our eyes!)
The added benefit of getting plenty of sleep has also meant that we have a much less bitey puppy, things are a lot calmer and I have no rips in my clothes or scratches on my arms. It really is amazing how sleep plays such an important role. Ok, we are quite puppy savvy in our house and we take care not to encourage nipping by getting her over-excited, but I was surprised by just how important rest and calm are if you want to keep your skin intact!
So, I am a trainer..What have we been teaching her?
Well, not the usual stuff like Sit, Down and Stay. More life skills, confidence and an optimistic state of mind..
Think walking over different obstacles, playing in cardboard boxes, scrambling over fallen trees, paddling in a paddling pool, sniffing out dinner from around odd looking things..
We have spent some quality time teaching her that a mat/vetbed is a cool place to settle. A place of safety that smells familiar and mysteriously seems to grow dinner when she isn't looking!
She has learned that a harness and lead are pretty boring, so she doesn't get excited when we put either on her and stays nice and calm
She has travelled A LOT in the car. Not always getting out at the destination, so again nice and calm
She came along to a train the trainer course with me and encountered many new people and puppies in a safe environment
She has watched the world go by from the security of her blanket on our drive. Slowly venturing out to sniff the local area. Lots of dinner, lots of space, no hurrying, just calm pottering. I really don't like seeing puppies pull on their leads, by slowing things right down and not going for 'a Walk' we can go a long way towards preventing this from ever becoming a thing.
THEN.. We took her on holiday to Exmoor!
Well that was a baptism of fire!
We took her crate and familiar bedding, so once covered over she went straight to sleep.
We climbed Dunkery Beacon (ok she was carried quite a lot of the time!), walked along a coastal path, visited the sea, went on the Lynton 'railway', walked through busy seaside towns, paddled in rivers, paddled in the sea, played in sand and saw many, many new things. She encountered motorised wheelchairs, pushchairs, surfers, kites, kids the lot! Well not quite everything perhaps, but A Lot of new things.
Last weekend we took her to Oxford!
That was exciting, but not for the reasons I thought it would be! I had expected buses and bikes might be a little daunting, but no, she took them in her stride. All was going swimmingly until we went round the corner and came across some Morris Men dancing around with their bells! That was clearly not something she was prepared for - we retreated to a safe distance and watched for a little while.
We walked through the Westgate Shopping Centre, carried her down and escalator and then round children's dodgem cars and a giant baby bouncer, bungee machine filled with young children. Very weird for a pup you might think, but no, they were fine - the Morris Men won the prize!
As I write this I see that we are due Morris Men at our local pub next week....
The message of this, if there is one, is take your puppy out. Go and see things. Go to boring places and exciting places, you never know what your puppy will notice and be wary of.
Yesterday I took my son into Ayesbury for his second Covid jab, and as is often the case, we were pushed for time so I scooped up Keeva too fast and managed to put my back into a spasm. Thankfully I was still able to drive, but by the time I had parked I was in a lot of pain so I couldn't walk down the stairs in the multi storey carpark.. This resulted in a first experience of lift travel for the little one, plus automatic doors - not a problem for her it seems. We spent ten minutes watching the canal boats and saying 'Hi' to a skater boy while Rory was sat waiting to be released post jab. The only thing that worried Keeva was a man with a big rucksack.. She has seen rucksacks before, but every one is different, different people, different location, smell and movement. It is impossible to show our pups everything. All we can do is to paint as positive picture of the world to them as possible. There is no need for them to meet everyone and sniff every dog, it is enough to watch and notice and then move on. Of course there was some chopped turkey pate too to help make it an even nicer trip for her!
The prime time for our pups to accept all that our human world throws at them is in their first 3-4 months, so don't delay, get out there and show it to them!