Puppy Advice

My first year as a puppy parent

For Tracy and husband Steve, cancelling their holiday to get Labrador puppy Jago was just the start of their lives being turned upside down (for the better). Here’s what Tracy has to say about her first-year as a puppy parent.

Jago black labrador puppy lying down in the sand

I’ve heard it said that you’re never really prepared for the arrival of children, no matter how long you plan for it. Perhaps it’s the same with a puppy?

Not that we entirely ‘planned’ Jago. In fact, when I showed my husband the adorable pictures of the 10 bundles of fur at our local farm, he pointed out that it wasn’t quite the right time as we had a holiday booked.

But…we went, we played, we cuddled, we talked and then…we cancelled our holiday!

Jago came to live with us on a very hot Saturday in early July and England were playing in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. He arrived at lunchtime and by kick off it was 2-0 to the puppy – two poos placed neatly just inside the back door. But I was already in love and any doubts about not coping with the poopy bits were on the substitute bench, I was now a Puppy Parent.

Puppy makes three

Looking back, I’m glad we took a couple of hours for ourselves that sunny July morning, it was a scorcher so we decided to have a quick swim in the Cornish sea before we went to pick Jago up. I must have sensed it was going to be the last time for a while we would have much time for ourselves. 

Jago comes most places with us, in fact we are rarely alone these days! There is a whole world of dog friendliness out there I knew nothing about: restaurants (tip: take something to keep your dog occupied, I once reverted to donating my hairbrush to a restless 5-month old pup just so I could make it past the starter), hotels, even ferry cabins.

…When I returned he was fine and realised that leaving the house was more of a problem for me than him

One of my biggest challenges has been learning to leave him alone. I work from home and am used to popping out for coffee/shopping/ appointments on a frequent basis, so after about three weeks of puppy watch 24-7, I thought it was time to venture out. I settled Jago into his crate and waited for him to doze off before creeping out the door backwards. It was at that point I landed firmly on the snail Jago had left on the doormat earlier. He was awake, I was full of remorse but I’d started so I would finish and I most definitely needed a coffee.  When I returned he was fine and I realised that leaving the house was more of a problem for me than him.

  • Jago the Black Labrador sitting on a surfboard looking at the camera
  • Jago black labrador and being hugged by his owner as she sits on a camping chair
  • Jago black labrador lying in soft bed in the boot of the car

Jago outgrew the crate within a few months, so leaving him alone meant putting away things he could chew, or more likely being a Lab, eat!  He’s now happy being left and we now even have occasional date night without him.

Shopping dilemma

Another challenge was knowing what to buy for Jago. During my first trip to Pets at Home I stood staring at shelves full of things I didn’t recognise.  What do you get for a puppy was the question in my mind, more a case of what don’t you get! Chewy things, squeaky things, tasty things, things to keep him in/out/safe/cool and warm. I bought at least two types of things to pick up puppy poop from arms-length – yeah right!

What Jago loved more than anything in the first few months was an empty cardboard box and some leafy branches we pruned from the hedge. Just one bit of advice though, the chewy phase shouldn’t be underestimated, we finally extracted one of Jago’s puppy teeth – which was deeply embedded in my husband’s thumb – a good few months after he’d finished teething.

Nowadays I get round Pets at Home like an episode of Supermarket Sweep. Jago comes with me most of the time, which is good for his socialisation and better than leaving him in the car. He knows how to work the staff for a treat, sits nicely when being fitted for a new collar, tests out the beds, chooses his own toys and seems to have learnt the difference between their rabbits and the ones in the local fields (thank heavens). In fact it was all going so nicely until we entered the phase between nailing the house-training and the newly discovered sport of scent marking, but that’s a whole other blog I suspect.

No regrets

I’m in my 40s and don’t have kids, so life has been light on caring responsibilities so far. I’ve learnt many things since Jago joined my life, so much about dogs, about me and about caring. Having a dog is a privilege, they don’t really choose you (ok the puppy eyes do something crazy to you), but the reality is we choose to invite a dog into our lives which makes us the responsible party. When he gets me up at 2am or throws up in the motorhome, when I’m paying a hefty vet bill or he runs off with my shoe when I’m late for the train,  I just remind myself that I chose to be a puppy parent and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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