On the 31st of May 2019, myself and my husband made the journey to go and collect our little bundle of joy, Sora; kicking off the most exciting year but also a very educational one too. It’s hard to believe that Sora has been part of our lives for a year now and we certainly can’t imagine life without him.
It has been reported in the press recently, that there is a concern due to the lockdown, many people have sought out puppies to give them companionship and a distraction from the difficult times we are facing. It may seem perfect, we are all spending a lot more time at home so are able to give a new puppy the attention they need, but as the saying goes, ‘A puppy is for life not just for Christmas’ has evolved into ‘A puppy is for life not just for Lockdown.’
We brought Sora home a year ago now and he has been the perfect addition to our family, but it has not been without its challenges. Welcoming a puppy into your home is honestly like having a newborn baby, not that I have personal experience of that, but I have a feeling it is pretty close. Be prepared for a lack of sleep, your house to be turned upside down and just when you feel like you have made a step forward, to take 10 back. After getting bitten by the blog bug due to writing my first for Tigga Towers a few weeks ago, I thought I would share a brief overview into my first year with Sora, to hopefully give some insight to any people potentially looking to get a puppy.
The journey home with Sora was surprisingly easy, we were lucky that even though for a rare breed in the UK (for those of you who don’t know, Sora is a Kooikerhondje) we found a reputable breeder close to where we live, so not the most daunting journey lay ahead of us. I am one who likes to prepare. To ensure for a stress-free journey I had my ‘puppy pick up kit’ which included toys, chews, water, a blanket and some baby wipes in case of any accidents. My husband sat in the back seat with Sora which was a valuable bit of advice from our breeder, sit with your pup on the back seat, don’t just pop them in the boot and hope they will be ok. They need reassurance from you. After some initial excitement of looking out the window, he slept most of the way home.
The first night was the hardest. We tried to leave Sora downstairs when we went to bed, but he was extremely unhappy and living in a semi-detached house I was conscious of our neighbours. In the end we brought Sora upstairs in his crate to our bedroom, I know this isn’t for everyone, however Sora settled as soon as we did this and had a good night. I never used to like the idea of crates, but I am now a convert. Used correctly, I now feel this is invaluable for training your puppy. The key things for me are - never use a crate for punishment, see it as your dogs’ bed and when they are in there it’s their escape, a chance to chill, you don’t always have to have the door shut. The crate was also a great help for toilet training. Dogs tend to not like to do their business where they sleep, so in the night, whilst Sora was gaining control of his faculties he would ask to go to the bathroom. We would take him out with the minimal amount of fuss, let him do his thing then bring him straight back up to bed. That way he didn’t learn that crying in the night would gain him attention and a chance to sneak up on to the bed with us.
Kooikers are an intelligent breed but even the most intelligent get things wrong, as all puppies will. We had times where he would go all night and we would think we’ve cracked it. Followed by a string of nights where we were up a couple of times with him. It was hard not to get disheartened or upset with Sora, but this is the 1 step forward 10 steps back feeling I described earlier, not only with toilet training but every aspect of his training and development. We kept positive and stuck with it and things did get better - a lot quicker than I thought they would
The next stage was socialisation. We are all told puppies need to socialise and experience the world as soon as possible. However, all dog owners will know there is that awkward time between you bringing your pup home and their 2nd round of vaccines, to be able for them to go out safely. There was definitely a sense of ‘cabin fever’ setting in during this time, but what we did to help both us and Sora were things such as taking him out in our arms to expose him to the sights and smells of the world. Starting his basic obedience training in the home not only helped us create a bond, but helped tire him out and trust me when I say during this period, ‘a good puppy is a tired puppy’. At the age of 11 weeks Sora could sit, lie down, and give paw as well as being used to being on a lead. Not waiting until we were able to go out meant popping a lead on wasn’t an alien concept to him. He wasn’t walking perfectly to heel but going out for the first time on the ground is a sensory overload, so making a couple of aspects familiar to him, such as being on a lead, meant we didn’t have that to contend with that as well.
We were really lucky that we found a training organisation that would allow puppies, as long as they had had their first round of vaccinations to attend puppy socialisation and basic training classes, so do your research, see if there is someone in your area that offers this. The sooner you start the better, it sounds strange, but make things into a game for your puppy’s. Short and sweet sessions are better than intensive sessions. Sora would easily lose interest if asked to do the same task over and over, where in the end he just wouldn’t do it. Sora has since completed his basic and bronze award puppy training. Due to lockdown we weren’t able to start agility training, which was next on our list but have been able to work on the basic principles he will need for this once we are able to get out to a class. We did, however, manage to get in a show ring training session before the restrictions were put in place. I did not get Sora with the intention of him being a show dog. First and foremost he is our pet, but I was told he had potential and thought we would give it a go and he actually loved it. I can’t say I’m surprised though as he is a bit of a showoff. As you can see our training didn’t stop after his puppy classes. We have developed this into other aspects and don’t think that because your puppy has done these classes that you are finished, this has to continue and develop, especially as in the outside world there are more distractions and things that to them can be more appealing than you. I still class both Sora and I as, ‘work in progress.’
Establishing a routine with Sora and making him happy was key to his training (he’s the best alarm clock I’ve ever had). At 14 months old he is going through a stage of pushing boundaries and we are having to look at different training techniques to help him and ensure he continues to be a well-rounded happy dog. I think he is going through a teenager stage, which is likely true and quite typical of his breed, so I think the best question we can ask ourselves in difficult times with our dog’s is, ‘What can I do to help them?’. We spent a lot of time researching the types of dog we were interested in and getting to know the characteristics of the breed, I think this Is a good idea for anyone considering a dog. This can also apply to cross breeds - look at what dogs are in the mix - know all the facts, both good and bad, to ensure you end up with the dog that is right for you and you are right for them.
A year on, Sora is a firm member of our family. He continues to bring happiness as well as some mischief to our lives everyday, but honestly, I wouldn’t have him any other way. The first year has been a roller-coaster but the highs outweigh the lows. Lockdown has meant some of our plans have been put on hold such as his debut into the show ring, however I can’t wait to see what the next year brings for us and him.
By Carly Davies