It’s a National Puppy Day today. The day that we would normally celebrate with smiles, cuddles with the pups we have and dreams about the ones that may join the family in the future.
Alas, this year is different. Even the sun and gleefully twittering birds can’t take away the gloom of the reality. In the words of my beloved Alexander McQueen “it’s a jungle out there”… made to feel million times worse because the enemy we are against is invisible and can strike anyone, any time.
And this is why I really wanted to share a few thoughts with those thinking about having a puppy or even rushing into having a puppy sooner than planned because the kids are off, the schools are shut and many of us are self-isolating.
Is it wise? I am not sure. So I am going to give you all the pros and cons and leave you to make your own decision.
Visiting a breeder. We are asked to follow the social distancing rule and avoid any contacts that are not essential. It will be virtually impossible to visit a breeder and puppies without coming into close contact with him or her, their family, home and, of course, potentially leaving the virus on the puppy’s coat. Even though it is unlikely to infect a puppy, the virus can be easily passed on to the person who handles the puppy next.
The only way you can protect each other is by keeping all contacts with the breeder to phone conversations, little videos and Skype. You can still see a puppy this way, the breeder can send you updates and photos. However, if you are a first time puppy parent this can put you at risk of dealing with a dishonest breeder or puppy farmer.
Veterinary treatments. Every puppy is health checked by the vet on several occasions from the moment the litter is born to the moment when they are ready to move in with their new families. Many breeders also vaccinate and microchip the pups.
Right now taking puppies to the vets can be incredibly challenging. Many veterinary practices are doing their best to keep going and stay safe, so the wise thing would be to support them by focusing on emergencies only. Not casual appointments that involve personal contacts.
Even if the breeder will not vaccinate to avoid any form of contact with the vet, you will be put into even harder position. We don’t know what it will be like in a few weeks. We really don’t know whether we are going to be locked in at homes. There is no certainty right now. The practices are already putting special measures in place. And the situation is not at its peak yet.
Not vaccinating a puppy will put him in grave danger. Not microchipping your puppy will make you liable by law.
Bringing the puppy home. As I have mentioned before, the coronavirus is sneaky and dangerous. And it takes just one person to leave the virus on a puppy’s coat to pass it onto dozens of people who may then infect several thousands! According to scientist, each person may infect as many as 59000 people in a short period of time.
You cannot disinfect a puppy. Yes, you can wash your hands every time you touch him, but it only takes one molecule of virus for everything to collapse into a nightmare.
Puppy toys and food. Ok, it is true that you can wash the toys and beds and everything you’ve got for your puppy. It is harder with the leads and collars. That is why grooming salons are already following a strict policy of leaving any dog gear outside the salon. But you can deal with these. It’s not rocker science.
On the other hand, the food is in short supply at the moment. People are struggling to get it. Deliveries take as long as two weeks. Your breeder may give you enough food to go for a couple of weeks. However, not every puppy will keep on eating that food. And some puppies may need something different yet may react to it. It can be complicated to find the right food for a pup during normal times. It will be much harder to do it now. Yet the puppy needs to eat a complete and balanced diet otherwise he will not grow into a healthy dog. Feeding home made diet during early days is not something I would recommend to anyone unless they have a degree in canine nutrition and are really tuned-in when it comes to home made diets for all life stages.
House training & physical exercise. If you have a garden, you will be fine. If you live in a flat, you will struggle.
Socialising. Puppies may be absolutely fine to start their life in the garden. You can provide plenty of enrichment and learning for them. However, walks may become complicated (or will have to be avoided if we are in lockdown). Puppy classes are cancelled by most trainers now. Nobody wants to take risks. Essentially, the puppy will be raised in a situation that is as far from ideal as you can only imagine. He may be ok. But many dogs can develop serious behavioural issues including reactivity and anxiety if they are not socialised correctly.
Training is different. The basic training can be successfully done at home. But not the socialising. It cannot be done when we have to socially isolate.
Stress. I agree, this post is not helping with reducing stress levels. I am aware of that. However, the point I am making is that most people are feeling stressed and anxious right now. Having a little puppy, suffering from lack of sleep (because puppies are like babies!), being tired, worrying about him – and what is happening around, will be even more stressful.
Dogs, as science shows, are capable of smelling our stress hormones and changing their own stress hormones to reflect it. Cocker are prone to anxiety issues. If their stress hormones are raised from the early days, the problems are likely to happen now and in the future.
It is essential for a puppy to grow in a quiet, stress-free environment. He also needs to have plenty of calm moments and lots of opportunities to sleep. Can you guarantee that your puppy will have these? Can you also guarantee that your children will be able to be quiet whilst puppy is sleeping and treating him correctly – when he is awake? Please ask yourself all these questions.
Many of us will get ill. You need to find ways to ensure that there will always be somebody to look after the puppy no matter what.
What are the cons, you may ask? Well, if you are prepared in every way, having a puppy is one of the most wonderful heart-warming experiences that can help you forget about the gloom and doom outside. But I am simply not convinced this can outweigh all the cons right now.