The Puppy Diaries – The Fourth Year

Dog behaviour, dogs, puppy, puppy diaries -

The Puppy Diaries – The Fourth Year

Welcome to the Puppy Diaries! This is our annual update on the progress of Murdock, a whippety lurcher and subject of our popular puppy diaries series that we started in 2020. Murdock turned four earlier this week and this is how he’s been doing.

In our last update we talked about some of Murdock’s issues, how he was coping and what we were doing to try and improve his behaviour. So it’s really great to be able to look back and see how far he has come since then. I think when a dog reaches the age of three you automatically assume that they are fully mature and they are probably not going to change much more. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” as the saying goes - but, as it turns out - that really isn’t true! During his fourth year Murdock has started to become much more confident, less anxious and is achieving things that we thought he probably never would. As our pups progress through the different stages of their lives, we assume that they are going to stay that way forever but progress is always possible – with a little perseverance! It also helps to keep a diary like this and see how things have improved, otherwise the change can sometimes be so gradual that you might not really notice it. I remember with both of my dogs it felt like the stage where they chew everything or don’t come back when they are called will last forever but, this too shall pass! I hope by writing about it all like this I can give hope to other people who may be experiencing some of the more difficult stages of puppy rearing – just hang in there!

Fear of strangers and other dogs

Murdock was born in April 2020, making him a fully-fledged lockdown puppy. Although we did attend some socially distanced puppy training classes with him at the time, he never really got to experience the socialisation with people and other dogs that most puppies do and as a result of this he could be a little bit nervous around some people and larger dogs. He’s also more than 50% whippet and they are not exactly a bold or brazen breed! Last year I did not really imagine that this would ever change and that I would just have to develop strategies to help him cope with his nervous disposition, but one year later, I am happy to report that things have changed and Murdock has made tremendous progress.

For the last year or so the kids and I have been spending our Saturdays helping out at a local riding stables. At first we decided to leave Murdock at home because he was chasing horses and chickens and he was very rude to the resident stable dog, Griffin – a large, very friendly Collie x Greyhound. Griffin is a little younger than Murdock and at first they were great friends, until Griffin grew much bigger! Murdock became very afraid of him and would bark in his face – something that Griffin didn’t like at all as he is a very sensitive, non-confrontational type of dog.

We tend to spend all day at the stables and it was a long time to leave Murdock at home alone. We often came home to a poop on the kitchen floor and one of my neighbours told me that he was barking and howling the whole time we were out. So, we decided to give him another go and try taking him with us again. At the same time I think something must have clicked inside Murdock’s head and he realised he would have to try harder if he wanted to come with us. As we came home smelling of horses (and Griffin) on the days when he was home alone perhaps he realised that if he came along with us and behaved himself, he wouldn’t be left behind. Just like that, he completely stopped chasing the chickens and horses and over time he has built up a lovely friendship with Griffin too. There are two dog-friendly holiday cottages at the stables so he has met lots of other doggy visitors and all of the people that come along to ride. He has overcome his nerves and now loves to greet any visitors and give them a warm welcome. It has been such a turn around and perhaps something that could only come with him becoming more mature and building his confidence over time. I am so glad that we tried again and persevered.

Separation Anxiety

As mentioned above, I was quite horrified to hear from a neighbour that Murdock had been barking and howling the whole time we were out, but this was almost a year ago now and I think this has also settled down too. Last year I was taking him to work in my office, but I decided to move operations back to my house and set up a new office at home. I do think he feels more settled here and he has a bed right next to my desk where he tends to sleep for most of the day. He seems to understand that he can’t always come with us. He used to come barging out through the door and would sometimes jump in the car and refuse to get out. Now if I explain to him that he can’t come but we will be back soon, he picks up on the tone of my voice and goes and sits back down and doesn’t try to come with us. He appears to understand our routine better and knows that we will always take him with us if we can and if not, that we will always come back. Twice a week I do Tae Kwon Do and if he sees me putting my outfit on for that then he immediately knows he’s staying at home and will go upstairs and sit on the bed.

Murdock used to be quite anxious when left in the car, but this has also improved as he has become more confident and mature. Earlier this year I blogged about a horrible experience that I had in Lidl car park when I came out with my shopping to find an angry woman complaining that his howling in the car had made her very distressed. Unfortunately the only way for Murdock to learn that it’s OK to be left in the car for a few minutes is…by leaving him in the car for a few minutes. When I’m in Lidl I always try to park so he can see us walking around in the shop and, with age he has come to learn that we are coming back, it’s nothing personal and nothing bad will happen to him. He has now stopped howling altogether. All I can say to someone going through the same experience is…keep going and these things take time!

Another thing that has really improved over the last year is Murdock’s recall. As a sighthound, he used to be pretty good unless he saw something irresistible that he wanted to chase, like a deer or a squirrel, but he is becoming more sensible and listening to me much more than he was. That said, he hasn’t become boring, he is still a very playful pup and loves to do zoomies on open ground and fling his squeaky toy around in front of us when we’re watching TV.

What else has Murdock been up this year? We haven’t had our usual puppy meet up with his siblings but we are hoping to all get together at a dog show early in the summer and we still like to share updates with each other in the group chat. We went to a few fun dog shows last year where he won ‘best cross breed’ and my son won a few rosettes in the child dog handling classes. The secret to his dog handling success is a pocket full of cocktail sausages, to help Murdock to maintain his focus! We also tried our hand at agility but he isn’t keen on going through those collapsible tunnels. Something to work on for next year perhaps?

Want to read more about Murdock and his progress? You can find all of our puppy diaries here. Do you own a lockdown puppy? Let us know how you are getting on in the comments section below. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published