Our columnist and new puppy parent, Nick Roberts shares week-one of life with his adorable miniature Dachshund puppy, Otto.
The puppy has landed. Our life with a new dog began with a morning drive to the breeders and an hour and a half getting to know you time. Not only for us to get to know the dog, but for the breeder to get to know us. A final chance for her to make sure she made the right choice.
We met with her on three occasions and were impressed by her reluctance to tell us what we wanted to hear. She did not try to sell us any puppies. She vetted us as much as we vetted her. She was never rude or obtuse and gave us opportunity to see Otto in the weeks before we were allowed to collect him. She was always incredibly helpful. However, you felt as though she was doing this for the right reasons and that made us feel as though we had got Otto from the best home we could find.
He was in an inquisitive and playful mood throughout our conversations with the breeder. Soon it came time to go. We scooped him up, collected the blankets and toys that will remind him of his family, and with that, he left the only house he had known since the day he was born. Today was the day that the rest of his life would start, following a 45 minute car journey.
The first car journey can be a disorienting and terrifying experience for puppies leaving their first homes. Fortunately, Otto suffered no discomfort whatsoever. He was tired but seemed content. He arrived at our flat and settled in relatively easily. We put down some of the food he had been used to (tripe) and a bowl of water (that turned out to be too big for him so we needed to use a saucer instead) and got him used to what the rest of his life will be like.
His first afternoon and evening were subdued. He slept a lot, explored a little and ate or drank relatively nothing. When it came to bed time, the fun started. We placed him in his bed, situated in the kitchen, and sat in the front room. We wanted for him to get himself comfortable while we were still awake and hoped he would be fast asleep by the time we went to bed. He joined us within about five minutes.
We got a child gate from some relatives. A stroke of genius, we thought, that would get him used to our small kitchen as a place he could call his own. The gate lasted as long as it took Otto to realise he could squeeze through the bars. The decision not to get a crate was on my mind as we went to bed, leaving him in his basket in the kitchen.
It wasn’t long before the whimpering started, then the howling. It was an hour until he was in bed with us. We live in a first floor flat so it was not fair on our neighbours for a young puppy to be so loud late at night. Emma and I are also a pair of softies, which probably had more to do with Otto’s sleeping arrangements than anything else.
Otto settled in quickly. He woke early the next morning and was quick to commence play. We don’t have carpet so I went to Ikea to buy a cheap rug for the floor. It quickly turned into a chew toy for Otto. It became apparent that Otto’s favourite game is chewing stuff. He chews anything he can get his teeth into. His more conventional favourite chew toys are ‘Luther’, a dachshund-esque toy with a long body made of loofah, and ‘Reek’ which is a small fluffy dog toy that Otto basically treats like his bitch.
Otto slowly found his appetite. Puppy milk was the first alternative food we put him on. He developed a taste for it quickly. Soon he was happy to eat a few biscuits in his puppy milk and eventually was on to puppy food. At the other end, he quickly got used to using his puppy matt too. He was settling in very well, but was still sleeping in our bed.
Some advice from a friend was for the puppy to sleep in his basket next to your bed. If he becomes restless, speak to the puppy in a soothing manner to let them know you are there. We made it to 4am on the first evening before it got too much for him and us. The second evening, he stayed in his basket the whole evening. Another battle felt won.
His first week and a bit of life with his new family ended with a trip to the vets for his second injection. He was putting on weight steadily and progressing well. We had the conversation of worming. Our last dog was on a variety of tablets and antibiotics due to skin issues. We felt this contributed to the AIHA that killed him at seven years old. This has made us wary of over medicating Otto. There must be other ways for dogs to get well, rather than injections and pills. Our vet advised us of recent incidences she had seen as her practice with dogs suffering from Lungworm that early inoculation was worth it.
So far, so good. Otto is settling in well and within a week we will be able to take him out walking and interacting with other dogs. This is when the fun will really begin.
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