There are moments when an adage you’ve heard for years suddenly becomes true through experience, instead of merely true because people say it is true, and I’ve had a weekend full of such moments. On Saturday I drove to Suffolk to collect our new puppy, new because he’s 7 weeks old, not because he’s a replacement for an old puppy. If he were the latter I might not be feeling right now like a candidate for postnatal depression. Everyone told me that having a new puppy would be like having a new baby again. And it’s true. The sudden jolt of being responsible for a baby 24 hours a day has come back to me with a vengeance and for my dear 15 year old daughter, who is taking on the bulk of the responsibility when she’ s not at school, it’s a first time experience. Already this morning she was showing the strain of 48 hours being totally responsible for another living creature; she set off to school looking short of sleep, distracted, and muttering about how worried she was that we were doing housetraining “all wrong”.
Meanwhile I found myself in tears the night before I went to collect him, mourning my carefree life when I could make an appointment to teach or see a client without having to arrange puppy-sitting. At least with a new baby, I said to myself self-pityingly, it is not usual to have to hand over a wad of notes as well. At least, not initially.
I’m feeling a bond with my clients as never before. After all, it’s over 15 years since I had a new baby and Merlin the cockapoo is doing his job already in giving me a real-time reminder of the stress new parents go through adjusting to their “new normal”.
When you get a new puppy the mass of contradictory advice on tap is astonishing. Put him in a crate – no, don’t put him in a crate until later, or never. Put the crate in the kitchen – no, put it by your bed. Wake up once a night to take him out to do a wee – no, wake up every 2 hours…every 3 hours…whenever he cries. Use puppy pads – don’t use puppy pads. Use paper – don’t use paper. Take him outside to do his business – no, don’t bother to take him outside until he’s older. Get him used to the lead from day 1 – no, he’s far too young for a lead until he’s 12 weeks old. Later on there comes the great feeding debates: kibble or not? Stick with ordinary dog food or succumb to the raw feeding advocates – as determined, logical and uncompromising a lot as many breastfeeding advocates I’ve met – and go BARF?
At least all the experts seem united in preferring positive training – praising for things done as desired, as opposed to punishing things done wrong – which is heartening. And just as with a baby, all the anxiety just melts away when I watch his little tail wagging as he scoffs down his puppy food or, as he is right now, when he is innocently fast asleep in his crate. Welcome to the world, Merlin the cockapoo.