Last Monday, the 3rd of October, we brought home what might be the world’s tiniest puppy, who was born on the 8th of August and who we have named Ludo. A Jack Russell and Chihuahua cross, he’s a bundle of joy, laughter, terror and destruction, and we already love him as a part of our family. We chose him for his sweet temperament and gentle affectionate nature, and we have not been disappointed with our choice. He is simply beautiful, inside and out. I did a huge amount of research and reading before we brought him into our family – however, there are still a few things I didn’t quite realise, so here is a list of five things I’ve learned about puppies within the first week of owning being owned by one.
1. Puppies spend a lot of time sleeping.
I should have realised this, as I have an eleven-year-old human son who was, naturally, a baby at one point, and baby humans sleep an awful lot, too. Trying to keep Ludo awake before bedtime so that he is actually tired when the time comes is very, very difficult. He is currently on the carpet nuzzled against my slipper (in which resides my foot!) snoozing away because I wouldn’t let him up on my lap (because I knew he would just fall asleep). This, of course, means that at about 1-2am he wakes up raring to go, which isn’t ideal for the human grown-ups who sleep in the same room as he does! Like with a human baby, I should have realised not to expect unbroken sleep for some time.
2. Housetraining a puppy is a long and tedious process.
Yes, the books I read should have prepared me for this, but I just pooh-poohed (hah!) the idea that it would take a long time. My puppy wasn’t stupid, and would catch on faster than usual. My puppy would learn almost immediately not to go on the carpets. My puppy… you get the idea. Alas, my puppy is, indeed, much like pretty much every puppy ever born. He has no idea that he’s meant to go outside. The ‘training pads’ you put on the floor for the puppy to toilet on were about as much use as a chocolate teapot – he thought of them as chew toys – so we’ve resorted to the age-old “grab the puppy when he starts to toilet and run with him at arm’s length until you get outside” school of housetraining, and taking him out every hour just in case. It isn’t going well for us, but we’ll get there. But if you’re sitting there still thinking, “But my puppy won’t be like that” then I’m afraid you’re an idiot!
3. Puppies don’t instinctively know what a lead is for.
Don’t worry, we’re not taking Ludo for walks just yet! He hasn’t had his second lot of initial vaccinations yet, so it’ll be a while until he can scamper around beside me as we go about our day. But when I take him out hourly for a hopeful toilet visit (see above) I’ve been putting the lead on him to stop him scarpering. The first time, I thought he would just follow me out to the garden if I gave the lead a gentle tug. I was wrong. He sat steadfastly still, looking at me like I’d gone even madder than he already believed me to be. When I tugged, he tugged back. Eventually I carried him, lead trailing behind us, and then when I put him down outside I just held the lead to stop him running off, before carrying him inside again. I know, he is spoiled. He also gets carried around outdoors in a bag, so I can’t deny that. Eventually I’ll train him to use it, but I think it’s going to take a while, (see: housetraining).
4. Puppies will want to play with the household cats. The household cats will not have any of it.
Ludo believes Eevee, our eighteen-month-old ‘kittencat’ to be his friend. He shows her his best “Wanna play?” stance, and pounces at her, only to be swatted about the head with her paw. He chases her, and she leaps over the puppy gate to get away from him, at which point he stands growling and barking (or rather, attempting, but not achieving, rather pathetic growls and barks) at the gate. Whenever he approaches Steve, our skinny nine-year-old, he simply gets hissed and spat at, and occasionally batted away, before Steve stalks off in a huff. Sheridan, our fat five-year-old, is terrified of him and just won’t go near him. Ludo managed to get to about a metre away from Sheridan, took one more tiny step and Sheridan ran away like I’ve never seen him run before. He’s spent the whole week sleeping on the stairs out of Ludo’s reach. Ludo seems to genuinely want to make friends with the three of them, but I suspect it’s going to take a lot longer than seven days for them to warm up to him.
5. In the beginning at least, puppies will consume your every waking minute.
From the moment they wake you at six in the morning whining, piddle on your bedsheets while you hurriedly dress, and watch you take your morning piss, to the time at which you take them outside for yet another failed toilet visit and then try to sing them to sleep while they cry at you because you won’t let them sleep in your bed with you, puppies are bloody hard work, and not for the faint of heart. They require constant supervision and attention, whether that is to stop them getting into trouble, prevent the chewing of things they shouldn’t be gnawing on (I had to remove my Lightning cable from Ludo’s mouth today, and got sulked at for quite some time), watch out for sudden elimination which will trigger the mad dash for the back door, or simply because they are doing something super adorable and you just can’t help but stare at them for half-an-hour like they are some kind of deity – this puppy is a helpless infant creature who requires your attention and care at all times.
So there you have it – the five most important lessons I have learned during my first week of puppy ownership. None of these things makes me love Ludo any less – in fact, learning them has taught me a lot of things, not least the virtue of patience and positive reinforcement with regards to behavioural training – I suppose both of these things were values I had to learn when my son was born, and now I’m just brushing up on my skills, but I feel like this is different. Perhaps because, unlike my son, Ludo is never going to fully understand what it is I am trying to communicate with him, at least not the nuance which other humans understand, and he will never be able to fully communicate with me what it is he needs. So I am learning as much as I can, how to read his behaviour to find out what he wants, and to keep mine consistent so he knows what it is I want. It’s a steep learning curve, but I’m loving every minute of it – even the ones that involve piddle on my bedsheets!