On Being a Puppy Mummy| Bosun's First Birthday

On Monday 18th July, our Labrador Bosun turned one year old. I'm astounded he made it this far, with the amount of times he's fallen down the stairs, fallen off the sofa and tripped over his own feet chasing a ball. But he's made it. It's been hard work. Never having raised a puppy before, this experience has been a real eye opener.

The journey started when we went to go and visit a breeder on 29th August 2015 to pick our puppy. We'd done so much research ahead of time, reading countless books and asking so many people how they chose their puppies...and everyone's advice was conflicting. We went in there thinking that we want a dog with a sort of...medium energy. We didn't want the puppy that came rushing over to us immediately, and we didn't want the puppy that hid at the back. Well, with all this in mind, we were met by a huge bundle of fluffy, puppy love going in all directions and basically all our thoughts went out the window. How I didn't just take them all home on that day...I don't know. We knew that we wanted a yellow boy and there were three of those to choose from. Quite honestly...Bosun chose us. We were sitting down in the pen playing with these three puppies trying to figure out which one we had the best bond with, when Bosun just crawled onto my lap and decided to go to sleep right there on my legs. I looked at Rick and was like..."this is him, this is our boy". So we paid our deposit, left a toy for him to play with so that he could bring it home when we picked him up, gave him some final snuggles before we left and went home to buy every thing a puppy could possibly need.

Normally puppies get brought home at eight weeks, but we had to wait until eleven weeks because that's when I finished work for the season and had lots of spare time for him. I don't think it's fair to bring home a brand new pup when you don't have time for them. Rick drove home, and I sat on the back seat with Bosun on my lap sleeping the whole way. It was a three hour journey and I had loads of towels prepared because we'd heard horror stories of how pups throw up on their first car journey. I was worried over nothing, he was a perfect passenger and only stood up once to turn around. I will just also say that this is THE one and only time we've allowed him to travel on the back seat and that's only because it was his first ever car journey. After that, he was in the boot.

We got home and I put him on the ground in the garden so that he could have a wee and it was just the cutest thing. He didn't really know what to do because he'd never been outside of his breeder's garden before so really was just following me around. I was secretly really pleased that he'd already latched on to me as a sort of parent figure. So I took him onto the grass to explore and he went for his first little weewee in his new home. I started his toilet training right there and then and gave him the biggest fuss in the world for weeing outside. (I'll write a post on toilet training at a later date)

We went into the house and introduced him one room at a time. He was a typical puppy and just exploring everything which we were pleased about, we wanted him to feel like this was his home. He had fun playing with some of his new toys, rolling on his new bed and just generally getting to know his surroundings. After an hour of exploring, he was tired (puppies get tired very easily) and he laid down on Rick's lap for a nap. I remember Rick was watching a Rugby match on the television and kept waking up this poor puppy by shouting at Referee's decisions.

That first night was one of the most difficult nights of my life. All the books say start as you mean to go on with regards to sleeping arrangements, don't be tempted to let him sleep in your bed on the first night because you feel sorry for him. We had always intended to crate train our dog, and for those of you that are gasping and shouting "how can you put your dog in a cage?", it's not a cage, it's a crate. It's positive in lots of ways if used correctly, he gets his own space, helps with toilet training and also helps if you ever have to leave him at the vets. (I'll write a post on crate training at a later date too). All the books said that your puppy will cry like a banshee when you leave him for the night, be strong and don't be tempted to comfort him. If you go and comfort him when he cries, all you teach him is that he can get his own way by crying. So we let him out for a late night wee at 11pm, put him in his crate, gave him a treat, and went to bed. We'd set an alarm for 2am to let him out for a wee at night (you can't expect a young pup to hold his bladder all night). But, we basically didn't sleep for like an hour, he cried like the devil. We live in a really remote place and I was really concerned that a few of our neighbours would hear him (they assured me they didn't). Nothing could have prepared me for how bad I felt. His first night in a strange place, being left in the dark by himself...but we were strong. We let him out for a wee at 2am, 5am and then got up at 7.30am. No weewees in his crate, and he survived.  The nights got easier, after 3 or 4 nights he didn't cry any more because he got used to the place and knew that we'd always come back, he wasn't completely by himself.

Deciding what to feed him was another big decision. When he arrived, he was already being fed Iams puppy by the breeder so we decided to keep him on the same food for the time being. We bought a bag which lasted something like a month? I can't remember, but then we needed to decide what to put him on next. I really liked the idea of the raw diet, lots of working dogs get fed raw and there are so many benefits to it. You can see my blog post on raw feeding here. It explains everything. Turns out, Iams is actually packed with sugar so a lot of the bouncing off the walls crazy behaviour that I thought was just puppy-hood disappeared when we switched to raw. We started him off on mince-chicken as it is easy to digest and then experimented with lots of different things and do you know what? He has not refused a single thing. Venison, pigeon, rabbit, fish, beef, lamb, pork, eggs...basically anything.

Although he didn't start formal gundog training until approx. 6 months old, we started basic manners from the moment he arrived home...and training a labrador is easy...just use food. We taught him sit the day after we got him. He will do anything for a treat. We taught him to be steady for his dinner, which means that he sits and doesn't move a muscle towards his bowl until I say "get on". We started recall training (which started off really well, had a rocky period and is getting back on track now). Teaching him to be steady to his dinner also taught him stay. So we had some basics nailed within the first few months which was fantastic. We're not after having a rock-steady field trial champion, we want a dog that comes back when he's called and brings back a pigeon without eating it.

He's made loads of friends in the village. We knew it was important to socialise him as soon as we could. So as soon as he'd had his second round of jabs, we introduced him to some of the neighbours dogs. He hasn't acted aggressive towards any other dogs which is a good sign and is more than happy to play chase, He used to do this really cute little thing where he'd wave his paws in the air like a ninja. (he doesn't do that any more, booo!) His absolute best friend is one of the farm collies called Roly. When the farm dogs go by in the morning doing their work, Bo sits at the gate waiting so that he can say hello to Roly. It's adorable.

One day when we were out walking, Bosun chased some sheep. This was something that I was adamant I never wanted my dog to do. In my eyes this is the absolute epitome of bad dog owner-ship and completely unacceptable. I wrote a blog post on walking with your dog in the countryside, you can read that here. I didn't know what to do, I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and told him in no-uncertain terms that I was unhappy with his behaviour but it was too late, he'd already had his fun and I knew he would do it again if I didn't do something about it. I talked to the shepherdess (Roly's mummy) about what she would do. She has been absolutely fantastic. I'm very lucky to know the person responsible for the sheep around here, I wouldn't recommend you try this without permission from the land/stock owner. We introduced him to a flock of twenty rams. Now rams don't run away from little labradors so this was a fantastic step forward. They didn't hurt him or anything like that, they just stared at him. This unnerved him and he came back to me. We then started exposing him to different situations with sheep and he slowly lost his excitement for sheep chasing. The shepherdess assures me that he is not a sheep worrier and that it's just puppy excitement at this stage. Cool!

We have had so many ups and downs with this dog. Like when he first started going shooting with Rick and learned to be quiet and steady so as not to scare off the animals. And then he promptly chewed some of the skirting boards. Then he learned to swim! Then he destroyed the front door mat. He chews stones, he chases flies, he makes us laugh and he makes us shout and wave our arms in despair. But we wouldn't change him for anything.

Now that he's a year old, we're going to start perfecting his retrieve training and hopefully training out the last of the bad manners that are left!
I hope you've enjoyed reading about our first year together.

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  1. He's a really handsome dog and I have enjoyed reading this post. I share a lot of your principles on how to train a puppy - unfortunately my family and I don't always agree so easily! Before we got our dog, I had experience with horses - and if you don't train a horse to have manners and respect you, you're in trouble! However they only had experience with human children and that's probably why our little dog is a lot like a toddler. I adore her - but she's far too spoilt and it takes a lot of hard work to get her doing what I want!
    I also think you have a brilliant shepherdess for letting you do that with her rams but it sounds like such a fab idea.
    Jennifer x
    Ginevrella | Lifestyle Blog

    1. Thankyou, I am so glad you've enjoyed reading it! Training is definitely an on-going task!

  2. Such a cute dog! I love being a puppy Mommy myself to my little corgi girl.


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