Thinking of getting a puppy... here's what you really need to know first

Eimear Hutchinson and her family got a puppy a few months ago. Here's what she hoped she knew first...
Thinking of getting a puppy... here's what you really need to know first

The latest addition to Eimear Hutchinson's family.

WE got a puppy a few months ago, it is something I always knew was going to happen ever since I met my husband. He grew up with dogs and made it clear from the beginning he wanted one at some stage.

Me, on the other hand, I wouldn’t have called myself a dog lover. When I was younger, a neighbour’s very large dog used to run out and chase us or jump on us and I have held onto a little bit of a nervousness around dogs ever since.

Anyway, over the last nine years we got on with baby-making and child-rearing but my husband now works from home, the girls are a little older, and with the months of better weather stretching out ahead of us, we felt it was the right time to get a dog.

So we got a gorgeous Red Setter and he is wonderful, but I feel like this is the article I would have liked to read before we got him — not to put me off but to make me more aware of the realities of owning a puppy.

I think both myself and the girls were slightly naïve going into it despite all my husband’s advice. 

We underestimated how jumpy a puppy is, how much they like to chew things like slippers and hands, and just how much work is actually involved day to day.

Before I go any further though, it is worth pointing out that the single most important thing to do when you are buying a puppy is to please make sure you get it from a reputable place — if getting a rescue dog isn’t a suitable option, please ensure that you aren’t meeting someone in a car park to collect the puppy. You need to make sure you see where the puppy was born, you need to see the parents and you need to go with your gut on it. 

Dogs are big business over the last year with many over-breeding dogs or even stealing dogs to sell on, so make sure you do your research.

The first thing we did once we got our puppy was contact the experts — a vet and a dog trainer. The vet for obvious reasons, and the dog trainer was a really valuable resource too. She gave us great advice in terms of training, the words to use, the way to use them, the amount of time to devote to training each day, and what to do to manage behaviours like jumping, biting (teething biting, not vicious biting!) and toilet training.

Be prepared for a settling in period, says Eimear. Picture: Stock
Be prepared for a settling in period, says Eimear. Picture: Stock

Once the puppy arrives, there is a settling in period. Our little man whinged and barked for a few nights until he settled in but this can vary in how long it lasts.

They also take some time to toilet train, our puppy was pretty good but did lots of wees inside until we got to know the rhythm of him and the signs a bit better. That said, accidents still happen so be prepared to get accustomed with your mop.

I think the bit I underestimated was the amount of head space a puppy can take up — if I am not thinking about the needs of one of the girls, I am thinking about the puppy. 

My needs have moved further down the list again, such is the life of a mother!

Does he need a walk, and if so when will we factor it in, especially on a wet day? Does he need to go out for the toilet? Does he need to be fed or trained or just simply given attention? When I bring him on the school run with me, do I have poo bags and treats? If we are leaving the house, how long can we go if we aren’t bringing him? When we are outside playing, I need to go around first and make sure the garden is clean. 

I know these all sound really obvious things, but they all add up in the competition for your head space, time and attention.

For the children, too, it was a learning curve — they were the ones who hounded us for years for a dog but there were a lot of tears in the first few weeks when he would get over-excited and jump on them, put holes in their clothes, or nibble their hands and they couldn’t get him to stop. To be fair, they have put in the time, they help to train him, but at times they have to be dragged out to help too. It has given them a new voice though in that they are learning to speak with authority and it has made them all much more comfortable and confident around other dogs.

Look, we are not experts, just a normal family adjusting to life with a well loved puppy, he is an absolutely amazing addition to the family but it takes time, work and commitment.

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