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What I’ve learnt in 12 months of Summer (our dog)

Happy Gotchya Day Summer!

It’s twelve months to the day since our little gorgeous golden girl Summer arrived.

She joined our family as a fur-sibling for Keiko and buddy for our frequently visiting Rosie.

Having experienced puppyhood and several incredible years with Keiko & Rosie, I thought we were reasonably knowledgeable when it comes to dogs.

And while we were better prepared and more aware of what a new puppy needed, there was still so much I’ve learnt in the 12 months we’ve had with Summer.

The First 12 months with our Puppy Summer

Some of the things I’ve learn are probably really obvious, some not so much. Some may be worth considering if you are thinking of a puppy or a second dog. Some are just observations from our experiences.

Love at first sight happens with puppies!

It’s definitely not hard to love puppies, but there is something different and incredible when it’s your own puppy that you are welcoming to the family.

From the moment I saw her photo with the rescue group I thought this little gold & fluffy puppy was gorgeous. I just had that feeling that this puppy was supposed to be with us.

That said, I didn’t allow myself to fall – as there is the adoption process, border collie puppies are very popular and sometimes it doesn’t work out as you would have liked.

I was so incredibly super excited when we heard the news that she would be joining our family. But that DAY we picked her up from the airport it was LOVE! She was just divine and the moment we met we knew both the right name of those we’d tossed around and that she was absolutely the puppy we were supposed to have. That’s twice it’s happened for us!

The first year can be tough

Of course it’s an incredibly tough year! Even though we’d had Keiko as a puppy several years earlier, I’d forgotten how much time is required to be a good pet parent and raise a puppy.

I knew and was prepared for the first weeks. Those days of toilet training, socialisation and accustoming Keiko to his new housemate I’d planned on being busy and had prepared – I even took ‘pup-ternity’ for this initial period.

What I had glossed over a bit was the beyond the first weeks requirement – and particularly from 6 to 12 months when the basics have been covered, but the puppy is growing in confidence and requires even more dedication as well as more individual time and training.

Welcoming a puppy in the summertime was a wise decision!

Good weather, longer daylight hours and it being warm in the middle of the night make the time during toilet training so much better. I’m so grateful to have avoided getting up in 2am in the middle of winter to stand around outside in my PJ’s waiting for puppy Summer to go to the bathroom.

Puppy School and Socialisation from an early age sets you up

We started Puppy School and socialisation with Summer as early as we could – and at an earlier age than with Keiko. With Keiko we followed the vet’s advice and waited until he had his third vaccination before looking to start Puppy School and take him out in public – unfortunately, the timing of the next puppy school classes in our area resulted in him being to old to attend and that meant we missed a valuable training and socialisation experience for him.

There is a risk with taking your dog out in public before they’ve had their full course of vaccinations. The decision whether to or not to take your puppy out before their vaccinations, is individual – I’m not advocating one course of action over another – we were nervous that Summer was at risk but decided that the risk was worth it for the sure benefits that puppy school and as much socialisation as possible would bring. We were careful in where we took her and the dogs we socialised with and it all worked out incredibly well for us.

Every dog is different and will have different needs

Keiko and Summer have very different personalities. Even Rosie and Summer have differences, even though they are quite similar dogs much of the time. These differences though mean that each dog will need a different approach, different response or different things from us.

Every dog is different and will have different needs

Very different personalities in dogs can be wonderfully complementary

Summer is more than happy to meet and be petted by strangers. Keiko has never enjoyed the attentions of strangers so he is more than happy to hang back and let Summer be the social butterfly.

But they can sometimes make things more difficult

There have certainly been occasions where one dog is keenly pulling to get to something they find exciting and the other is going backwards to get away. That can certainly make continuing on the walk a difficult feat at the time. Also different natures means that they won’t always get along and will benefit from individual time with us.

You don’t stop learning

Keiko taught me so much but Summer has taught me as much. I had to learn what life was like being a pet parent and responsible trainer for a confident, highly excitable and exuberant dog – what she responds to, what motivates her and what helps with instilling in her the obedience she needs. To be honest, this is still a work in progress!

A second dog is quicker to learn

They learn from you and from the older dog! Much of what they will learn is great – toilet training, to wait for their dinner, to share but if your dog has some naughty behaviours they may also learn these!

You can always learn from others

I am fortunate to spend my days around dogs, with other dog lovers, in reading, writing and learning about dogs. I know some stuff, but there is always more that can be learnt. Sometimes a different idea or approach when you are frustrated or disappointed with progress is exactly what you need. 

Routines are good

It doesn’t matter if you’re tired or the weather is not pleasant, you need to consistently make time for a dog. And that is especially true of a working breed like Summer. Keiko can miss a days walk and not get crazy. Summer on the other hand needs more stimulation and activity so that she is calm when indoors.

For me, starting the day with a dog walk is perfect. We’re all fresh from the previous night’s sleep. For the dogs, it’s great to exert that energy early on – they are then calmer for the rest of the day. I love starting the day with them – in their company and using the time to collect my thoughts for the day ahead. Starting in the morning, also means that if the weather is not suitable for going for a walk, that I will then take any opportunity that arises during the day. When I walk in the afternoons, sometimes I simply missed the chance – something would come up or if the weather wasn’t suitable there’s no ‘later in the day’.

Firsts for any dog are still awesome!

It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen with other dogs, each dog’s ‘firsts’ are still worthy of celebration. The first time they sit, toilet on command or shake your hand through to their first birthday – all fabulous little victories in raising a puppy!

Things I've learnt after twelve months with our puppy Summer

Travel with two dogs is more difficult but it is twice as much of a fabulous thing!

Some accommodation will only take one dog & there’s twice the food, gear and supplies to pack (we now take more on a road trip for the dogs than we do ourselves). But it’s still definitely worth the effort – they each respond to something new differently, we love spending this quality time with both and they will have extra fun because they are together.

I’m even more grateful I work from home and get to spend time with them everyday

I know how many people would love to have this. I love that I get to take ‘huggle breaks’ (as I call them) throughout the day – they definitely keep me happier.

Trick training does not replace obedience training

Trick training is FUN! Summer is so quick to learn and the results are FUN. Basic obedience can be harder – especially as it’s teaching them manners in all situations. For Summer meeting new dogs is the stuff of great excitement but it’s hard to deal with and hard to train better manners and behaviour when it’s against her instincts. I soon learnt that more training was required on the basic obedience and that there would be more time for tricks later on. That said, using tricks has at times been great for diverting or regaining her attention when the basic obedience isn’t quite there in a particular situation.

Two dogs in the one house may not be ‘best friends’ but they will be great buddies

Summer’s best friend is our family dog Rosie girl. They’re similarly natured and exuberant so it’s really not surprising the relationship they have. But that doesn’t mean Summer and Keiko aren’t great mates – they spend much of the day in one another’s company – checking things out together, playing chase (poor Keiko never wins at this!) and chilling. And Keiko…. his best mate is me, his nature is different and that makes him happy.

Dogs and cats can be great buddies too!

Summer and our kitty Mr Magoo are the best of interspecies buddies! They will often be in the same space snoozing together, groom one another or are just happy sitting in one another’s company. There are occasions when Summer can be a little bit too exuberant for Mr Magoo but he’s so incredibly tolerant with her and with training Summer is getting better and better. There friendship though always makes me smile!

Dogs and cats can be great buddies

There will be comparisons

Fair? Probably not but you just can’t help but compare the stage or learning one dog has to the other at that age (or presently). I do also think though that those comparisons can help with understanding, accepting and embracing the individuality and special quirks of each dog. I love that they are both different and wouldn’t want them to be the same!

There will be guilt, doubt and frustration

Am I doing the best I can for my dog? Could I be doing something different? Do I need to do something more? Why are we getting this right?

I am still having these thoughts with a second dog. I think now, it’s just part of being incredible invested and wanting the best for your dog and wanting them to be the best that they can be in different situations.

I might take Keiko’s side!

Okay, I definitely take Keiko’s side more often than not! Keiko is my soul dog – he was our first, I’ve learnt so much from him and our connection is incredible. After five years, it only continues to grow. So when a new puppy is annoying or upsetting him, instinctively I would act to resolve it for Keiko. I do try to be balanced but there is a default response when it comes to the first dog.

There is room in your heart for more than one dog

I worried that a second dog might be to the detriment of the first. And that I may not have the same love and time for the second dog. From conversations with other sole dog parents, I wasn’t alone in this!

It takes some adjustment and I’m still not always 100% of the time the perfect pet parent, but I now completely understand the saying ‘dogs are like potato chips, you can’t have just one!’. We are a 2 (and frequently 3 dog family when Rosie comes to stay) and I wouldn’t change that for anything!

I still get scared

Scared that something will happen to them that will shorten their already too short lives. And especially scared for that day when I am without them. I had thought that getting a second dog might make the passing of the first somehow easier – that they would be a presence through that time, aren’t a ‘replacement’ or living in the shadow of the previous dog. But as I write this today, I’m not so sure about that. There are times when I hug Keiko so close because I’ve heard of the passing of a friend or clients dog – the fear I have for that day hasn’t changed with having Summer. In fact, I am now scared for two incredible furry kids.

Time with your dog goes way too quickly

Summer’s time as a teeny puppy was way too short. And it seemed crazy that we recently celebrated her first birthday and now a year that she’s been with us. A dog’s life is way too short and the time flies, so….

Make the most of every opportunity

Not something any of us dog lovers have to be reminded of! I love spending time with Keiko, Summer and Rosie. I’m always looking for activities that we can do together or places to visit where they can be with us. And the benefit is that our experience is heightened because they are there with us.

I can’t imagine life without our puppy Summer

Dogs are awesome!

Okay I didn’t learn this from Summer, but she’s certainly strengthened my point!

I can’t imagine life without Summer

Summer is my angel dog – it’s to do with her incredible sweetness and those gorgeous gold eyelashes! Spending time with her makes my day, every day!


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Kerry is 'Top Dog' here at Puppy Tales. With her own adored dogs, she completely gets that your four legged furry buddy is absolutely part of the family. That they sleep on the bed, that you want to take them everywhere, that you plan holidays so they’re included & that their presence makes your life incredible.

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Twelve Months of Life with our puppy Summer

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Dog Mum Kerry Martin is the editor and photographer at Puppy Tales.

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