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XX Notes: Lockdown Legacy Puppies Need Dogged Effort

Published on: 13 Sep, 2020
Updated on: 16 Sep, 2020

Maria Rayner

Maria Rayner‘s observational, fortnightly column from a woman’s perspective…

How many lockdown hangovers do you have?

This isn’t a rehash of a HuffPost article from back in April or a confession about an illegal rave I went to last night. No, more of an audit, before we enter what could be winter lockdown season, of what is left from those crazy April days.

While I am no longer spraying the bananas with antibac or keeping the post in a three-day quarantine zone, there are the obvious safety measures: hand sanitiser, never leaving the house without a mask and keeping as much distance as possible between me and the next person. But these are behavioural. This weekend’s diary is about the physical legacies of lockdown.

Every time I open the fridge I am reminded of the Facebook sourdough tutorial that resulted in fresh bread about five times a week back in May. We now have a crusty bowl of white gloop, topped off with an even crustier piece of cling film and an elastic band.

A crusty bowl of white gloop – yum!

I “feed” this gunk about once every 10 days, or whenever I come across it, usually while looking for a half-jar of pesto. The resulting sourdough loaf is delicious, but I hold it partially responsible for the expanded lockdown waistline.

Other legacies are harder to ignore. The lockdown puppy, for example. Young Ernie wakes us up bright and early at 6.30 every morning, wagging his short, cute tail and ready to chew his way through another chair-leg, or cushion. He’s really not that fussy.

“Ernie” – seemed a good idea at the time.

Ernie seemed a good idea at the time. We were stuck in the house and figured we had plenty of time to housetrain a dog before the prolonged “working from home” phase ended. And anyway, this was the dawn of a new digital era where work-life balance had been redressed, there’d be no daily commute to London for my husband, and he loved being at home so would go into semi-retirement…

Fast forward a few months and the novelty has worn off. Boris’s call-to-arms for City workers has worked its magic and a new fulltime job awaits mu husband in January. After that puppy care falls back to yours truly. Fortunately, little Ernie’s a great character and easy-going, although I don’t think Sydney, our 11-year-old lab, feels quite that way.

Ernie can relax in the knowledge that he’s joined a family used to caring for a dog. Anecdotally, vet friends are concerned about the numbers of new puppies they are being asked to vaccinate.

Many of the fashionable breeds, such as cockapoos, are often the owner’s first dog. Apprehension ranges from the state of the puppies at their first check (poor condition due to being reared in a puppy farm) to worries that the pup will be treated as a child and consequently not trained.

The Dogs Trust say one of the most common reasons given for a dog being handed to their care is because it has one or more behaviours that owners find difficult to live with, and behaviour problems are the most common reason for dogs aged under two to be put to sleep by vets.

Ernie and Sydney whose feelings about the new interloper are uncertain.

Battersea Dogs Home is braced for an influx of young dogs in a few months as the cuddly bundles of joy turn into barking hooligans.

We waited until lockdown eased and we could visit our puppy with his mum and litter-mates, so we were certain he came from a good breeder. And I’ve learnt the hard way, with an adopted dog called Holly, about what happens if you treat your dog like a child.

She starts by sleeping on your bed because it’s cute and, if you don’t take her to the Christmas panto, ends up by weeing on it, requiring a new mattress.

Sydney, our second dog, is incredibly well-behaved. OK, he does like to steal breakfast cereal, and we don’t trust him around the Stilton at Christmas, but he comes when he’s called, lies under the table at the pub and doesn’t bark at the postman.

That all takes time and effort. If a puppy is your lockdown legacy, please put the training time in now, and you’ll reap the rewards for years.

There is no shortage of great dog trainers in the Guildford area. Sydney’s teacher is no longer around, but the Kennel Club runs a Good Citizen scheme, there is Bad Dogs based in Send, and Mandy at Field and Fido have all been recommended to me.

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