Raising a puppy takes a
thoughtful
village

8 week old pup

Meeting Nika

Frances McCormack

From joy and delight to doubt and uncertainty. 

Podcasts link

Nika Podcast: A whole series of Kay & Frances chatting about all the important questions to help you both survive the first year.

8 week old pup

Introducing Nika

The first couple of weeks

The enormity of the responsibility, the desire to serve her well, and the knowledge that I will make mistakes along the way are part of the pure delight that getting to know this marvellous being entails.

Pup jumping up to person

Nika and the Humans

Nika’s not just a friendly dog. Nika’s a dog who is extremely stimulated by novel humans.

Pup chewing a broccoli stem

Nika and the Great Big Yip

I didn’t even notice the magical power of her Great Big Yip as a summoning charm until I found myself half out of my chair … 

pup open mouth greeting other dog

Nika and Hello!

Greetings have been becoming increasingly less pleasant for all humans concerned.

Pup chewing a broccoli stem

Nika and the World

I want Nika to learn that there are things that happen “out there” or “over there,” to which she doesn’t need to attend.

cartoon dog on roller skates

Nika on Wheels

Familiarisation to car travel is a valuable investment of your time and effort and can avoid much stress for your pup.

cartoon dog on roller skates

Nika and The Hands

In her attentiveness to hands we work out a language with them: invitation, an offer, a conversation. 

cartoon dog on roller skates

Nika Starts School

Learning that is for her benefit and our future together rooted in who she is and who she chooses to be. 

cartoon dog on roller skates

Nika and the Garden

We have come to understand how much inadvertent, self-propelled learning has occurred in the garden, and how much a den of iniquity that place is for a young dog.

1. Are you ready for this?

Are the other people in the house or family ready, and clear about their role and responsibilities?

What changes will you need to make to your lifestyle?

Are the other dog(s) going to lose their routine, role, place of affection, quality time? Which of these can be sacrificed, and how will you provide for and support the others?

2. Is the house ready for this?

What preparation have you put in place for safety, barriers, and limited access?

Where will the puppy spend their time during the day, at night, and while eating?

What will their feeding patterns be, and how will this be integrated with the feeding patterns for other dogs?

3. Is this the right time of year?

~ Winter born, Summer Teenager is often ideal but a
~ Summer born, Winter Teenager can become a pup from hell.

4. Have you done your shopping?

Have you selected a variety of food for a gradual change over?

Have you planned food rewards?

Have you acquired appropriate chews?

Have you selected “toys” from among your recycling?

5. What is their first learning?

What is going to be most important for her in her time ahead?

What skills will she need to most comfortably move through the world she’s now living in?

What do you not want her to learn? 

6. Safe to Greet Strangers?

A puppy who would be friendly with everyone grows up into the adult that is a nuisance, and you become the owner shouting “She’s friendly” across the park. 
A neutral dog does not mean they are aggressive or fearful of strangers, just that they see very little benefit or pleasure in the opportunity. 
Strangers are like street furniture – not for peeing on, just for pasing by. 

7. Are you listening?

When a puppy is not being heard they will try grabbing, yowling, scratching and jumping up in an effort to get you to listen. 

Ignoring this is a route to frustration and all these “conversation openers” will be graduating from annoying towards serious trouble.  

Make sure you have your ears switch to “on”. Be a listener, attend to their needs, have a conversation, make the time. 

8. Setting the Future Routines

Our first few months are building the routines for the future. We need to be clear what we want them to learn and experience.

Where they sleep in the future may not be where they sleep when they first come home. The important element is not the location, but the isolation.

If you want to sleep in your bed, then make accommodation for the pup near your bed.

If you don’t want the pup upstairs, then makes yourself a bed near the pup downstairs.

The key to a good nights sleep for everyone and a future with no fear of isolation is for them to be sure you are nearby.

This can gradually change as they get more confident about the routines of the house.

9. Key development: FAMILIARISATION

Most of us wish to take our dog out-and-about with us; from the countryside walk to brunch at the local café or pub. We will plan to go on holiday, stay in hotels or visit friends, perhaps go to classes, a dog show or the local garden fête.

To ensure these outings are as pleasant an experience for your dog as they are for you we need to begin to familiarise the youngster with these anticipated but unnatural environments.

A familiarisation protocol should ensure that a puppy has the time to assess, observe, and become familiar with, the weird and wonderful life that will be their future. If you rush this and the pup becomes fearful of people at the cafe, then this shared outing may never be on your dream list.

Do not rely on putting it right or fixing this associated anxiety at a later date. “Become familiar with” should never involve anxiety, it should always be gradual, never extreme and the pup should always have the right to say “no thanks”.

Building A Generous Future

Building A Generous Future

Maybe it feels like a doddle because my life with her wasn’t one of competing against who she is, trying to mould her into something else, or even just worrying about the potential fallout of every decision I made.

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Courses that will get you off to the best start and maybe answer some of the key questions and doubts:

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Surviving Year One

Recommended reading for the help you may need when life with this new family member seems overwhelming.

The Pleasures of Puppyhood

A complete package of such cuteness that your insides turn to warm caramel. A huggable, wriggly, kissing snuggler. 

But remember that cute fades, and that taking on any young animal is a long-term responsibility which will demand more time than you imagine, more expense that you could consider, and a serious change in your lifestyle. Be very sure your life is ready for this – you will need the whole village. 

Running off?

Pulling like a train?

Anyone who’s ever lived with an adolescent dog will know that it can be a major adjustment to see your sweet puppy transformed into a teenage tearaway before your eyes.

Jumping up?

But for them, it’s a major adjustment too: surges of hormones that they haven’t felt before that drive them strongly (and with unbridled haste) to find opportunities to mate; an almost insatiable hunger as they seek to nourish their rapidly-growing bodies; a brain that’s not only reorganising itself but that’s preoccupied with S.E.X. while it’s doing so. 

Most human teenagers go through a “no one understands me” phase; “no one understands me” is likely the case when you’re an adolescent dog living among another species without a shared language.

Eating everything that’s left unattended?

But they will come through it, and all the better with your support. And one day you will love them again. 

Meanwhile, the following essays might provide you with the support that you need if you feel like you’re living with a teenage tearaway. 

Forgetting their name?

Building A Generous Future

Building A Generous Future

Maybe it feels like a doddle because my life with her wasn’t one of competing against who she is, trying to mould her into something else, or even just worrying about the potential fallout of every decision I made.

A Road to Nowhere

A Road to Nowhere

When familiarity is stripped away we seek recognisable signposts that will take us back to comfort and security. This is survival instinct. It is worth listening to as it keeps us alive.

Teenage Tearaway

Teenage Tearaway

Running off. Pulling like a train. Jumping up. Eating everything that’s left unattended. Forgetting their name. Anyone who’s ever lived with an adolescent dog will know that it can be a major adjustment to see your sweet puppy transformed into a teenage tearaway...

The Power of Passive Learning

The Power of Passive Learning

Active learning: the learner takes active choice of what to do, how to respond, is attentive and making conscious effort
Passive learning: little conscious effort, reward is delivered for minimum effort.

The Experienced Dog

The Experienced Dog

Knowing your dog has receive sufficient preparation does not mean every eventuality, but a range of different conditions so that when the unexpected happens they will draw on their skills and solve the issue.

A Day of Learning

A Day of Learning

A no-training day does not mean he gets a lazy day lying idly in the sun. Learning is still happening and this is significant and important for his development.

Obnoxious Puppy

Obnoxious Puppy

The delight of your new puppy is probably going to last a few weeks, maybe four if you are lucky. When 12 weeks old hits, and you will feel a slam, the Delight is going to demonstrate ungrateful, obnoxious traits.

Shaping by rewards

Shaping by rewards

When I see a dog showing a behaviour that is heading towards potential conflict, my first question is “what rewards are available?”

Fast does not mean better

Fast does not mean better

We are becoming surrounded by a culture of fast. We are being sold that immediate gratification is the only solution.

One day you will love him again

One day you will love him again

The puppy that you adored, could do no wrong, is now a living horror story. We want to use positive reinforcement, and our mind focuses on the success of what is not happening. But reinforcement attaches itself to something happening, not an absence and cannot select for a multitude of different things that are being reinforced.

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