We're getting used to the idea of vaccinations and quarantine periods, but for dog owners its already a familiar concept. Alexandra Fraser talks pre-vaccination entertainment, and how to make sure both you and your pup come out of those four weeks sane.
What’s four weeks? Less than a month, four Sundays, four recycling bin trips, one rent/mortgage payment. Goes by in a flash, and before you know it you’re saying ‘how is it November already?!’
Unless, of course, you have a ten-week-old spaniel puppy in desperate need of walkies and his second round of vaccinations.
Wilf had his first vaccinations at 8 weeks, the day before we picked him up, and his next were due in another four. Taking an unvaccinated (or partially vaccinated) dog outside is a bad idea for a number of reasons, but primarily because there are viruses and diseases that they can catch from other unvaccinated dogs.
It’s not enough to walk them and simply pick them up when other pooches come near — they catch things from the ground, especially in farming areas and areas that other dogs have frequented in the past. In general, walking before vaccination is a big no-no.
There’s no such thing as ‘pupternity’ leave, which made the task a little more difficult. I could play with Wilf on tea breaks and take him into the garden at lunch, but other than that I was confined to my sofa office for most of the day, along with him in our mercifully-floorboarded kitchen / living room.
Wilf and I tackled the time together as best we could. Of course, there was the odd row (puppy teeth are little razors hell-bent on breaking skin) but for the most part, he napped, I typed and we were both fairly relieved when his co-parent came home.
“The general rule is five minutes of exercise per month of age, so in between this we practiced our ‘sit’ inside and played no-Wilf-that’s-my-sock-please-stop”
For me, our saving grace was the garden – a small but well-loved, enclosed space where I could give him all the exercise that his five siblings would’ve given him, without risking parvovirus or kennel cough. Every few hours I’d put the kettle on and we’d have a run around.
The general rule is five minutes of exercise per month of age, so in between this we practiced our ‘sit’ inside and play no-Wilf-that’s-my-sock-please-stop. I found this a really good time to get the essentials of training in, also teaching him ‘here’, and it’s proved invaluable now that he’s free to go walking.
The other thing that helped us both keep our sanity was an array of toys – some more carefully chosen than others. I went into puppy parenthood with a stoic, sensible mindset – he would have a chew toy, a tennis ball, a soft toy and some training aids.
Anything else was excessive. That went out the window when our second Pets at Home trip topped £30, with not a single essential purchase made.
This is not to say that Wilf didn’t see the outside world before he was fully protected. He went to his first regatta soon after we got him, watching from the safety of the sling tucked under my coat. He explored Winchester at a safe distance from the ground in short bursts, but he’s an independent pup and didn’t like being carried for long. A week after his final shots (you have to wait a week to be sure they’ve taken effect) we took him straight to the New Forest and let him explore.
The best toys to keep your puppy entertained
A Kong. This one has come into play more since we’ve been taking Wilf to the pub with us – a filled Kong will keep him going through starters and main courses, while the attention of several waitresses gets him through dessert. It worked just as well at home, giving him the chance to puzzle solve with an instant reward. We pack with low-value treats and cheese – he won’t have it with normal kibble.
A puzzle ball. This type of toy is perfect – your pup can roll it around the floor and be rewarded when treats fall out. My advice is to make sure that you get a rubber one that doesn’t clatter – Wilf’s does, and within a couple of minutes his barks accompany it to create a beautiful backing track to my morning meetings.
Chews. Our favourites are either dental sticks or Nylabones – but if you’re going for a Nylabone, I’d stick with a single brown puppy-sized bone, rather than a multi pack. They’re great to throw as they don’t clatter, but the blue multi-pack bones can splinter for harder biters and the white one is noisy.
Toys to avoid
Squeaky toys. They’re not just annoying, they’re a potential choking hazard if your dog gets too rambunctious with them.
Tug of war toys. Do you really want to teach your pet that it’s fun to try to pull something out of your hands? Wilf has one, but we bought it because the rope is good for him to chew — we don’t try to compete with him for it. They can also hurt doggy teeth when pulled too harshly.
Anything that’s made of hard plastic. We’re trying to be as sustainable as possible with Wilf’s toys so we avoid plastic in general, but it’s also worth bearing in mind that no matter how cute it looks in the store, if it makes a loud noise on your floors you’re not going to enjoy it.
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