I lie, it’s not really a year, not just yet, but today is Nerys’ first birthday! In light of this, I thought I’d take some time to impart some wisdom we’ve learned over the last 9 months that we’ve been sharing our home with a furry little terror, and recommend you the products we’ve found basically essential.
Note that Nerys is a border terrier so some of the products may not be suitable for bigger pups, but usually there are sized-up equivalents.
Zac George is your new best friend
Before you bring home any dog, I strongly recommend you go watch a bunch of Zac George videos. Zac is a charming American dog trainer who is relentlessly enthusiastic and looks unsettlingly like one of my exes, but his explanations and insight into dog thinking and how to train them in line with that are top notch. We started out training Nerys with Zac’s instruction from day one which put us in good stead as we weren’t able to take her to a puppy class until she was 11 months due to a split first season. He uses positive reinforcement only — keep clear of anyone who doesn’t, looking at you Caesar Millan, because negative reinforcement only teaches your pup to be afraid of you, while positive reinforcement builds a better bond between you.
Speaking of puppy school, if you are local to a centre then I strongly recommend Dog School at The Dog’s Trust. They have classes for puppies and adult dogs, both rescue and rehomed, and I have really enjoyed their tuition style. They are fairly affordable and the money goes back into the centres themselves, helping other dogs that need looking after. They also have a bunch of videos here that will help you teach your pup some tricks.
Crate training is a great way to go
Back in the beginning, we were quite skeptical about crate training as sticking a pup in a box seemed pretty mean. However, reading up a lot convinced us otherwise — Zac’s video helped a lot too! The extra upside is that on the first few nights your pup comes home, you can keep them in their crate in the bedroom so they don’t feel alone, and over the next few nights move it sequentially further out your bedroom into the place you want them to sleep. The only time we had puppy cries was the night she finally made it into the living room, and then it wasn’t for very long because her crate already smelled like her and us.
We got Nerys’ crate from Pets at Home, filled with cut-to-size Vet Bed from a roll we got online and also stuck it inside a Ellie-Bo Easy Up Pen, so she had her only little play space away from anything potentially chewable (we also stuck one of these in the garden to help with wee-time training!) The crate is basically fine, but now she’s older and less crushable she just sleeps in the bed with us, but will go have little naps in her crate in the day time and is useful for when we go stay somewhere new. Just a note — if you can get one that is adjustable in size, I would pick that as to start with a big crate can feel scary for such a little pupper. The one we got wasn’t adjustable in size, so we put a plastic box inside filled with blankets to make it appear smaller — weird but worked!
A few helpful teething tricks
Teething is miserable for them, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. However, one product made a world of difference — Vet IQ Teething gel. Essentially, bonjela for puppers. While the ice cubes, frozen towels, and Nylabone Teething toys got us so far, the gel made the experience much less painful for us. Once she’d stopped teething though, she did keep asking for it as it smelled pretty good so we had to take it away.
The greatest gift is amazon packaging
Or to be honest, any cardboard. Stockpile it if you don’t get regular supplies of boxes. It makes a mess but it will happily keep them occupied for a long time and will keep them away from your slippers/wires/belongings. Her particular favourite so far has been the Illumicrate book box cardboard, as its particularly sturdy stuff.
Kong is the name to look for
First of all, investing in two or three puppy kongs are an extremely good idea. You can fill them with all sort of treats (and a quick google will find you lots of inspiration), and they can be frozen. We got three so we could have one in the freezer, one with the dog and one soaking in the sink at all times.
Secondly, their toys are brilliant and hardwearing. I particularly recommend the Wildknots bears — Nerys has a medium gray one for tug of war and a little tiny XS brown one she carries around in her gob. They have rope on the inside and a tiny squeaker over their heart.
Their wobble kongs are also a great idea for making kibble a bit more exciting, and we got Nerys the large one so she’d have to box it quite hard to get food out. It’s a bit like a big tasty punching bag.
Nerys is now a year old, so we’ve decided to change up where we get her food. Puppies always need to move their diet to adult food by the time they hit 12 months old, but we decided we’d give Tails.com a whizz as our friend Vanessa likes it so much. Tails.com designs your dog’s menu based on their age, breed, weight, activity levels. Our first bags are arriving this week, so I’ll follow up with how we’re finding it. If you want to try it out yourself, you can sign up here and get a month’s free trial.
Good luck new puppy parents, and send me all the pictures!