Saturday, 25 June 2011


This is Dexter.  He is a nine-week-old Golden Retriever and has been part of the family for two weeks.  He is the reason I am up at 5.30 on a Saturday morning.

Although my parents have had dogs for about the last 25 years, and I have had cats for almost as long, this is my first dog.  The GLW recently took early retirement from her busy and stressful job in that London.  Now she is at home all day and I am able to work from home two days a week, so for the first time we have the time to devote to puppy wrangling.  Here are a few things I have learned in my first week of dog ownership.
  1. Puppies are an expensive and time-consuming commitment.  The GLW and I have the baggy eyed look of tired new parents and find ourselves having the same type of conversations:  “Has he been good?” “Did he eat all his dinner?” “Has he had a poo?”
  2. During house training there is a limited amount of time that puppies can be left alone during the day, which limits your social activities.  However this is offset by the increased frequency of visits from friends and relatives, which is nice.
  3. Theories on puppy training seem to be quite different these days.  It’s a lot more focussed on dog psychology and less on you physically dominating the animal, which appeals to the liberal lefty in me.  I’m thinking particularly of how Barbara Woodhouse used to advocate the use of choke chains to control dogs, whereas most current advice seems to be based on positive reinforcement and understanding of a dog’s pack animal mentality.  Rewarding good behaviour and ignoring rather than punishing the bad.
  4. And the big one: nothing lifts the heart like being greeted by a dog that is pleased to see you.  Dogs are good for the soul.