The Puppy Diaries – The Second Month
This is the second instalment of our puppy diary, featuring Murdock the lurcher puppy, with candid insights and practical tips on welcoming a dog into your home.
Puppies develop their first set of 28 tiny, razor-sharp teeth when they are about 2 weeks old. At around 3 to 4 months of age these tiny teeth begin to fall out and are replaced with 42 adult teeth. I can see that Murdock has already lost a few baby teeth at the front and for the next couple of months he will be keener than usual to bite down on things as he tests out his new gnashers. It is important not to take it personally when a puppy nips you or chews up your favourite shoes or important paperwork. Puppies this age use their tongue and teeth to explore different shapes and textures – just like human babies do. As Murdock is starting to lose his baby teeth, this chewing is a sign that he is ‘teething’ and he should grow out of this behaviour within the next few months. During this time, it is essential to have some good quality rubber chew toys to hand, such as a Kong, rope or squeaky toys so that if he begins to gnaw on the children or the TV remote I can swap them out with something that he is allowed to chew on. I am also careful not to leave him unattended with things that he might nibble on too. He particularly likes biting on wood - so this includes chair and table legs and the wooden knobs on the kitchen drawers that he loves to chomp on as soon as my back is turned.
Look at all those lovely teeth!
I’ve been learning a lot about puppy behaviour from our weekly puppy training sessions which we started at the end of July:
29th July – Puppy Training Class
I signed up for this six-week class in order to help Murdock socialise with other pups and learn some basic training moves. Whilst it is possible to learn from books or YouTube videos, I prefer to learn in a structured environment like this - and the dog trainer, Emma has taught us lots of interesting things that we might not have considered if we had been training on our own.
Due to the current situation with Coronavirus, the classes are taking place outside with limited places so that they can be socially distanced. The 4 spots on the course were filled by Murdock and his brothers and sisters and it has been really fun to see how different they are and how they are all developing and learning at different paces. A couple of weeks ago their mum, Pie came to watch the lessons too and it has been really good for Murdock to spend time with his siblings and see his mother again, they seemed to remember each other.
Over the past few weeks Murdock has learned how to walk on a loose lead, sit, lie down, recall (coming when he is called) and worked on his self-control – for example not taking food from my hand or a bowl without permission or reacting to the click of his lead being unclipped.
We have been using a clicker to train Murdock. This enables me to click the moment that Murdock does the correct thing – e.g. sit – and then treat him so that he associates the reward with the click. This is important as it helps Murdock to understand what he has done at the exact moment he does it – rather than after I have fumbled in my pocket for a treat - by which time he may have come out of his sit or whatever it is that I am teaching him to do. Using a clicker means that I can react and make that positive association the moment it happens.
4th August – Trip to the beach
On 4th August Murdock took his first trip to the beach. We live pretty close to the coast and he really enjoyed running around and exploring and digging holes in the sand. For Murdock’s first few walks I used a harness and retractable lead but he is now walking in his collar and a regular lead and I am working up to being able to let him off the lead as soon as I am confident that he will return to me every time.
Murdock makes his first sand castle
11th August – Socialisation
On 11th August we met up for a walk with Murdock’s brother Tigger. Murdock was quite wary to start with as he hasn’t met many other dogs whereas Tigger has been well socialised and is quite assertive. We kept them on the lead for the walk and then brought them back to Tigger’s garden where we let them off the lead and they played really well together.
Murdock (left) is unsure at first...
This has given Murdock more confidence in meeting other dogs and he has now started to interact more with other dogs that we meet on our walks, rather than running away.
But soon remembers how to play
It is really important to socialise your dogs as much as possible (with supervision) when they are young as they are forming their world view and positive experiences now will mean they are confident and happy in most situations when they are older - and they will know how to react with different types of dog.
Sharing a drink
Although it’s not as easy to meet people as it was before Covid-19 puppy classes and dog socialisation classes like ours are still going on, so if you bought a puppy in lockdown you should be doing as much as you can now to make sure that they grow into happy and confident dogs. We have our last dog training session tomorrow but I will continue to meet up with other dogs and perhaps take a socialisation class too, in order to ensure that Murdock gets the best start in life.
My next goal for him is to train him to settle and be left at home without getting separation anxiety. This is going to be a big issue for puppies that were bought in lockdown as many have not been left alone - as more people work from home, etc. However, if it is not tackled early you can set yourself up for some real problems in later life, so this is what I will be focusing on over the next month.
Got any puppy training or socialisation tips? Let us know in the comments section below. We always love to hear from our blog readers.