Blue's People - Hello

Well, Blue was asked to write a blog so I thought I could help him out, especially as he is only interested in smelling and chewing things, and escaping through doors, which you might find a bit repetitive after a while! So here it is from the ‘other side’.

We’d been thinking about a new dog for a while. Our 2 dogs are aged 6 and 11 years old and so now was a good time to bring in a new pup. That’s just something we have always done – bring in a youngster whilst we still have a mature dog to help show them the ropes! It works for us, though it wouldn’t be for everyone. Having always had Labradors it was difficult to think outside the box to another breed, but a friend who has a smallholding was breeding a litter to keep one to train herself, so we knew the mum and the family well, knew how much care would be taken with the pups upbringing, and thought we’d break ourselves out of our Labrador rut.

 Blue is a confident pup, and we know he is going to need lots of mental and physical stimulation because of his breed, so we have made sure the whole family is willing and able to join in with his training. His confidence comes as a result of the great socialisation he had when still on the smallholding. From 4 weeks old visitors were encouraged to meet the litter and play with them so they got used to a great variety of voices, sizes and types of folk. We have to remember that even by the age of 16 weeks old, puppies’ abilities to adapt to new situations will start to reduce, so they must get as many positive experiences in these first few months if we want to avoid them becoming fearful and anxious dogs.

 This must be tied in with vaccinations too, so that risks aren’t taken to the puppies’ health and exposure to disease. Advice to new puppy owners is to always ALWAYS be satisfied that your pup has had good social experiences before you take them on. If they have not had much human handling, they may be scared of people. If they have not encountered other animals, they may be scared of them. If they have been kept in a barn or a shed, how are they expected to feel secure when they come into a house with all its noises, structures and ‘rules’?

So our main challenges in these first weeks are: keeping Blue safe (day and night), protecting against disease (vaccinations, worming and flea prevention), toilet training and other basic training.

We have decided to use a crate in the house in these early stages, as we have done with our last few dogs. Whilst we are around, Blue has free run of our kitchen and utility room. If we have to go out, then he goes into his crate, but only for an hour or two at a time to start. He also goes in his crate at night – the first night e heard some crying at various times but we knew he was safe so didn’t have to go and make a fuss of him, the 2nd night he cried for a few minutes then we didn’t hear him till morning, and so its got better and better. He didn’t like it much at first but after only a couple of days he is seeing it as his ‘safe haven’. It has some indestructible toys, his favourite blanket, a towel which he brought (full of smells) from his breeder, and some food and water in it. As he is quite a ‘chewy’ pup (with a particular fondness for electrical cables!) the crate is invaluable in keeping him safe too. It also allows our 3 cats some freedom to move round the house without a collie’s snout poking them where it shouldn’t! When he is in the crate, he never uses it to toilet, which is brilliant (not all pups get this straight away!). I have a smaller crate for the car so he is not a danger to himself or others on the journey.

House / toilet training means having your wits about you! For the first few days he had no idea where to go (he’d been quite good at his breeders, but our house was a whole new set of smells and doors and rules). The teenager faffing about on instagram often misses the early signs, and finds herself with a puddle to clear up. I prefer the prevention technique! Watch them like a hawk, and the second you see them sniffing insistently at the ground, or looking anxious, get them outside with a consistent word – we’re just using ‘out’ at the moment – Blue already runs to the back door when he hears it. We’re all getting much better at spotting the signs now. There is no quick and easy way with this – you just have to put in the hard yards right from the beginning.
Sitting is Blue’s greatest trick. He was great at it when we first collected him, so every time he comes in or we talk to him, he immediately sits down and expects a treat! We’re now working on his recall and his ‘down’. If he is on the ball he does them well, but if he is distracted (eg by a passing cat, or chicken), then it goes a bit out of the window. Consistency is the key and we will persist! Because collies are a herding breed we will enlist the help of some friends who have trained these breeds before, and it is important that all members of our family are involved in his training.  We have to make sure he is mentally stimulated enough, and look forward to doing some activity, such as agility, in the future.

And playing. Of course there must always be playing.  We’re lucky to have some fields and woods by us which are not much used by other dogs, so it is safe for Blue to go out in them for a run.  In most cases pups shouldn’t go to places where other dogs exercise until they are 3 weeks past their first vaccination (with the vaccine we use at The Oak – other vaccines vary).  We’re finding that our other two dogs enjoy having Blue round far more when they are out on a walk, than in the confines of the house.  Our 6 year old Lab cross has been quite grumpy with him, but we supervise and just allow them all to interact and get to know each other in their own space and time, whilst stepping in if the playing gets a bit rough, or too serious.  Blue will not be allowed into the rest of the house until he is toilet trained, which gives the older dogs a bit of a break from the intense playing.  However he is remarkably fast escaping out through doors – the children have described him as being ‘like frogspawn’ in his ability to slip through your hands as he races for the open door!

And so the fun begins!  I know we’ll enjoy our journey with Blue, but are fully aware of the ups and downs, the fun and frustration, of owning a bright and inquisitive pup. 

We’ll be checking in again in a few weeks.

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