As you all know I recently became a proud Puppy-Mama to little Grace Everton. She is now 14 weeks old.
Having Gracie home for nearly two months has brought to my attention my scary potential to become an overbearing and overprotective mother to my future human babies. Gracie is a dirt-loving and adventure-seeking sports animal with endless amounts of energy. We have learnt pretty quickly that the ‘kelpie’ is strong in this one and as a result she at times talks back, nips at our heels to herd us and definitely has selective hearing; choosing only to respond to her name when it suits her. Gracie is also the most loving, cuddly, intelligent and eager to please pup that I have ever known and we couldn’t be more in love with her or proud to show off our girl.
However, the combination of my adoration and her adventurous personality has me on edge. I want to protect her from everything bad in the world but in doing so I risk passing my anxieties on to her (if you’re not a dog person or are yet to own an anxious pooch, then you might think this is ridiculous but it is a very real thing. Especially ‘separation anxiety’).
Gracie had her first paralysis tick over the weekend and this morning as we left for work she hit her head (somewhere outside while sniffing around for a good spot to dig) and cut herself pretty badly. She was unfazed by both accounts… CB and I on the other hand? We were pretty stressed. After a half hour of struggling to get Gracie to hold still, we managed to remove the tick ourselves but that didn’t stop us from worrying and monitoring her constantly.
Maybe it’s normal to worry this much. In fact, I’m certain that it is but I don’t ever want to stop Gracie from having fun or from being the independent dog we first fell in love with. Moving forward, we plan to socialise her with other dogs in puppy pre-school and take advice from dog owners there, hopefully helping to remind us just how resilient these gorgeous animals are. There is plenty of help out there as well online, in bookstores or even through friendly pet store assistants who have provided us with a wealth of knowledge they’ve learned over the years. We do a lot of reading and asking around and have been pleasantly surprised that any naughty behaviour is simply a sign of her adolescence and have found most of what we’re doing so far has created a positive environment for Gracie to grow up in. The important thing is that she is shown love and affection and that we treat her with plenty of time to play and activities to occupy her incredible brain.
So my advice to those with new pups that find themselves constantly worrying if they’re doing the right thing or keeping them safe enough (read: advice to myself) is simply to stop and breathe. Let them stumble and fall and yelp and play with other dogs and in doing so they will learn the right way to act and the safest way to play. Some little tips and tricks we would have been lost without include:
- Don’t allow your puppy the opportunity to make mistakes. We keep her out of the rooms she’s not allowed in by closing doors or using a baby gate. If she is chewing something she shouldn’t, we replace the ‘forbidden object’ with a toy she is allowed to chew.
- Keep your puppy entertained. We knew our girl would be smart, but we didn’t realise how easily this could lend to being destructive when bored. We rotate her toys to keep things different and interesting and recently invested in a Kong Genius toy which makes it hard for her to get to her treats. It has also provided plenty of entertainment for us as we watch her try new ways to figure the Kong out.
- Puppies under two months can’t have any tick protection and even after that it can only be in the form of a tick prevention collar. Be scrupulous in checking them over for any ticks and make sure that if you remove them yourself, you get the entire tick out.
- Socialise your pup from an early age with all types of humans and other dogs. It will help them to learn bite inhibition, manners and to stay calm in strange environments.
- Allow them to have ‘me’ time. Puppies will become anxious when separated from you if they’re used to having you there all the time. If you aren’t actively playing with your pup then place them somewhere safe (we crate trained Gracie and provided her with a playpen) with plenty of toys to keep them entertained and they will learn that being alone is okay.
- Stick to it! If you feel like a training technique isn’t having any effect then the best thing you can do is stick to it anyway. Changing tact will only confuse your puppy as sometimes it just takes them a while to adjust.
If you have a new pup and want to ask any questions or talk to a fellow paranoid puppy parent, then please don’t hesitate to ask me anything! I’m getting a tiny bit better every day in learning to stand back and have her learn her own lessons in time. I contemplated permanently wrapping her in cotton wool to keep her out of trouble… but when she did this to her bed yesterday I realised she was sending me a pretty strong message of how she felt about my plans to make her a cotton wool baby.