I’ve never had a pet before. Growing up, I always wanted a cat, but my mum was severely allergic, and it turned out I was too, which generally put paid to attempts to foster a furry friend of any kind.
So when my boyfriend started talking about us getting a dog – over two years ago, prior to the pandemic – I have to say I was a little hesitant. Over the years I had grown to love dogs, having initially been a little fearful as a child – and for the most part they have seemed to like me too – but the idea of committing to one of my own, and being responsible for them every day, was a little daunting.
Yet the more we talked about it, and imagined having him as part of our daily routine every day, the more I warmed to the idea. Every time we went for a walk we acted almost as if he were there with us already, and when we sat on the sofa at night we pretended he was there snuggled up with us. And every now and then, we joked about the pitter patter of his tiny feet on the floorboards, as if he were really just in the other room and running in to see us. In the end, it was inevitable that he would come into our lives.
Luis grew up with dogs, so for him the process came far more naturally. We knew we wanted a miniature dachshund; a boy whose name we had already picked out and who felt like he was a part of our family already. All we had to do was find him.
There’s a huge ethical debate about whether you should buy a puppy or adopt a dog already in need of a home, and it’s one I gave a huge amount of thought to when we first started discussing getting a dog.
Luis has pretty much wanted a miniature dachshund of his own his whole life, so was adamant from the start that we get a puppy, while my initial thought was that we should be providing a forever home to a dog in need. We spoke about it at length and, in the end, getting the puppy Luis had always dreamed of won out, for a number of reasons, the most significant being that as our first pet together – and my first pet ever – the opportunity to bond with a younger puppy, to nurture and train them ourselves, was just too strong a desire.
We’re not planning on having children (which I’ll perhaps cover in another blog post soon), so being able to experience the joy (and terror!) of puppy parenthood while we are both still (relatively!) young was something we both felt strongly about. Then, in time, we will most likely be looking to expand our doggy family and will have much more confidence, and experience, to deal with any potential behavioural concerns that are often associated with adopting an older dog or rescue puppy.
When we first brought Paco home and introduced him over on Instagram, I had a lot of people asking a) how we had found him, and b) how we were able to have a puppy in a rented home?
Finding the right breeder was incredibly important to us since we knew exactly what type of puppy we wanted (a male miniature dachshund) and were keenly aware of the issues associated with the breed. Dachshunds are prone to intervertebral disc disease, an abnormality of the discs that provide cushioning between the vertebrae, as well as heart disease and progressive retinal atrophy, so we made sure to only look at Kennel Club Assured Breeders who promote responsible dog breeding practices and receive regular assessment visits to ensure their standards.
We were lucky that once we started seriously looking (when we came from from Guatemala in January) we quickly found a local breeder with a pedigree dachshund litter that included four boys and one girl. It was very important to us that we visit the breeder prior to purchasing a puppy, so finding a local litter (around a 30-minute drive away) was crucial and in this instance it seems, timing was everything! We visited the breeder when the puppies were not even four weeks old, having been born in early January. We saw all five puppies together in the breeder’s home, and were able to interact with them all and choose our baby. Or rather, he chose us – it was, of course, love at first sight!
During the visit we were able to ask the breeder questions about the parents and their medical history, and also had the chance to meet the mother and see just how lovely she was – and how protective she was of her puppies! It’s definitely something I would recommend to anyone looking to purchase a puppy; being able to see the environment in which they are being brought up and check on the health of the mother and siblings helps ensure your puppy has had the best possible start in life. Then, once we had chosen our baby, we received regular video updates from the breeder to the next four weeks, prior to being able to bring him home at eight weeks old. Even now we’re still in touch, and send them regular photos showing just how much he has grown.
The first few weeks he was home were certainly a whirlwind! Our house is a three floor (rented) townhouse and to begin with Paco was confined to the ground floor or, more specifically, the kitchen. This is another reason why we decided on a puppy and not a rescue dog; the need to keep our home in as good a condition as possible. That might sound strange, since puppies are known to make a mess and chew everything in sight, but the way our home is laid out all of the carpeting and soft furnishings are upstairs, while the downstairs rooms (kitchen, hallway, Luis’ office) have tiles or floorboards (yes, our lounge is on the second floor).
Which brings me back to that second question; how can we have a dog when we rent? Renting a home with a pet in the UK is notoriously difficult. While plans are currently in motion to make having pets in rentals something landlords have to have a very good reason to deny, at present the default tends to be no pets when you rent. We’re lucky that, while we rent through an agency, our landlord is pretty hands on with our property and has seen how well we have looked after our home to date. We were able to ask him in person last summer if he would be happy for us to have a dog in the house and, having received an affirmative response, followed up earlier this year to ensure we had permission in writing too.
For a landlord the most important concern is any potential damage a dog could do to the property, so we’ve been very strict on setting boundaries in our home from day one – which is much easier to enforce with a young puppy you are training from the start, versus an older dog already set in their ways.
So we started in the kitchen; a fairly spacious room which is the hub of our home since we both cook and eat in there (and I could easily work from the kitchen table during the day too). The floor is tiled and therefore easy to clean, and we brought our large outdoor rug from the deck indoors to create a cosier surface underfoot for Paco that could easily cope with any accidents, and be hosed down outdoors regularly to keep clean. Paco pretty much spent the first week at home in the kitchen, nosing his way around the room and exploring, growing in confidence day-by-day. We set up his crate by the radiator, with a cosy bed inside, and luckily for us he warmed to it almost instantly. We’d been told that crate training can be difficult as puppies often have to be coaxed inside with treats, but Paco saw his crate as a safe space to retreat to whenever he wanted, which is exactly what we had hoped for. From day one he has slept downstairs in his crate, with a blanket draped over the top to keep it dark and cosy – and a Ring security camera overhead so we can keep an eye on him at all times!
The first week he woke up in the night several times, crying out for us, and one of us had to go down each time to settle him. Mostly it was because he had needed to pee or poo and had done so in his crate, so all we needed to do was clean up the mess by removing the toilet training pad that lined the crate and replacing it with a new one. Of course, each time he saw us he wanted to play, so we had to gently remind him it was still night time and therefore time to sleep, so there were plenty of sleepy cuddles and gentle head strokes as we settled him back down. In the first week he tended to wake up twice in the night – having been put to bed around 10pm and woken in the morning at 7am. Then in the second and third weeks he tended to only wake once, around 2.30-3am. By the time he was three months old (and had been home for four weeks) he was sleeping through the night.
In those first four weeks at home he needed to be confined to the house as he awaited his second round of vaccinations, which are required before puppies can go for daily walks outdoors and be around other dogs. Luckily though we have a reasonable sized garden (almost jungle-sized for a small puppy like Paco) so we were able to introduce him to the outside world safely and begin his outdoor toilet training fairly early. Dachshunds typically hate the cold and do not enjoy going out in the rain, so the first few weeks (in early March) were tough, but thankfully later in the month the weather was getting warmer and drier, and he had grown in confidence exploring both our home and the outside world. It was so cute to watch him tentatively put his paw over the threshold of our kitchen into the hallway, and to see him be scared to venture out there in the dark at night… but it only took a few days for him to be bold enough to rush out there chasing a toy during a game of fetch – and now he doesn’t think anything of it. The whole of the downstairs is his domain.
As we’ve slowly introduced him to other areas of our home we’ve been sure to enforce boundaries and rules to ensure he doesn’t end up somewhere he shouldn’t be and having an accident. He’s learnt that he’s not allowed to climb the stairs to the second floor but instead to wait patiently at the bottom, waiting to be carried up. In the upstairs lounge he has his own private space – a pen in front of the window with another washable rug underneath, and plenty of pen-specific toys for him to play with. When we bring him to the sofa with us he knows that this time is for snuggles and sleeping; whenever he gets too rowdy or playful on the sofa we return him to his pen so he understands the rules of each different space.
Of course, things will change over time and he will likely have the full run of our home within a year – minus the stairs because they are pretty steep and dachshunds often injure their backs with too much stair climbing. It’s certainly a big learning curve for all three of us, as we adapt to one another’s schedules and demands, but we’re just a few months in and I just cannot imagine our lives without him!
Well done to anyone who’s read this far – as opposed to just looking at all the adorable pictures! I’ll share more updates and more photos over the coming months for sure, but in the meantime if anyone has any other specific questions about finding a puppy, raising a puppy, talking to your landlord etc. etc. just let me know in the comments below..