Puppy Diaries - Caring for and training a puppy

1 CommentWednesday, 3 October 2007  |  D for Dog

D for Dog Forum Administrator, Caroline, had loved and cared for her beloved dog Cleo since she rescued her aged 1 year from Wood Green Animal Shelter.


Cleo died at the grand age of 16 years. She left a huge hole in Caroline's life and so she embarked on a new journey - to find, train and care for a puppy.

Caroline's hopes are to raise a happy, well socialised dog who can bring joy to others as well as her own family, maybe through the Pets As Therapy scheme or something similar.

Read Caroline's puppy diaries here.

Puppy Diary - Instalment 1

Hello everyone, my name is Caroline (aka ‘Chapstaff’ on the D for Dog forum). I have been an Administrator on the D for Dog forum for many years now. I am married to Ken and we have two grown up sons and two grandchildren.

Caroline and Cleo

We owned a Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Cleo, who we rescued from Wood Green Animal Shelter when she was one year old. She was about to be put to sleep so we took her sight unseen. I can honestly say we never regretted it for a moment as she turned out to be a loyal and loving member of our family.

Cleo recently passed away peacefully at the grand old age of 16. After Cleo's death, the house was so empty that we felt the need for someone else to love, so we decided to get a Stafford puppy. This was to be our first puppy and as we are now both in our 50's we felt it was the right time for a puppy as we could grow old and slow down together.

Mindful of the importance of finding a good and reputable breeder, we got in touch with the secretary of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier society and asked her to keep an eye open for a planned mating by breeders who do all the relevant health tests and raise the pups carefully in the home. We were prepared to wait for as long as it took for the right litter, but she got back to us within just a few days to tell us about a suitable litter of 2 week old puppies.

We phoned the breeder to ask lots of questions and, as is the way with any reputable breeder, we got asked lots back.... which is good. The next step was then to arrange a visit so that we could meet the breeder and view the pups and their mum in the home environment.

Choosing a puppy from a litter

There were four dogs and four bitches in total, which is quite a large litter for a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. We had decided already that we wanted a bitch and there were two left available from this litter, but they were too young for us to make a decision. So we viewed again at five weeks to make our choice. There was really nothing to choose between the puppies; they were all well grown and plump, in a squirming heap of bodies, chewing at each other and their mum.

The breeder took them out of the whelping box and we watched them all play and interact for a while (a couple of hours actually), then decided on the quieter of the two pups available. We felt she might be more suitable for our lifestyle. We have two baby grandchildren in the family and Staffordshire Bull Terriers are well known for being brilliant with children.

We collected our pup, who we named "Tala", at seven weeks of age. We wanted her as early as possible so we could start socialising her.

Tala is now home with us, so the fun (and the hard work) will really begin. From an early age we will be looking at crate training, toilet training and of course she will need her vaccinations. Check back soon to find out how we get on.

Caroline and Tala

Puppy Diary - Instalment 2

Tala's puppy diaries

We brought Tala home at the age of seven weeks in a box in the footwell along with a smelly old towel we had put in the whelping box on our last visit. The idea is that it smells of mum and littermates, so is familiar to her. She travelled well on the 90 minute journey with no problems. When we arrived home we took Tala straight into the garden for a wee and I remembered to say the chosen word and praise her.

Tala didn't want anything much to eat, everything being strange and new, so we just gave her a drink of water and showed her round the house and garden. We introduced her to her crate in the kitchen, which is a busy room with lots of comings and goings. She loved it immediately and went straight in, so much for all my strategies for enticing her in and getting her used to it. I left it open and she went in of her own accord for a nap.

We covered her crate on 3 sides with a blanket to make it like a dark cosy den and made it nice and comfy for her with a thick piece of fleece bedding, and put a couple of chew toys in there for her. One was an edible nylabone and she absolutely loved it, spending quite some time gnawing at it.

That night she settled fairly well. I slept downstairs in a sleeping bag so I could reassure her when she whined and also take her outside for toileting. I only did that for that first night as she seems to be quite confident. Since then I have been sleeping in my own bed and setting my alarm for 4.30am and taking her outside for a wee. I am not suggesting that everyone does this, just telling you what works for me. She always goes to the toilet and then scuttles back into her bed and straight back to sleep. I have since been able to gradually make it later and later and now I get up at 6.30am and she is always clean in her bed.

puppy in crate

Incidentally, I did try the recommended way after lots of people told me how silly I was getting up at that hour. I left the crate open and put paper on the floor at the far end of the kitchen. Next morning she had done wees and poos on the paper.... good..... but later that morning she went to the same spot to wee, although the back door was open, so I went back to my original idea.

As Tala had already been vet checked by the breeder's vet (we had the report as well as the paperwork showing that the hereditary health tests had been done and were clear) we left it a few days before taking her to our own vet for her first vaccination. She was weighed and checked all over and wormed. The worming has to be done every 2 weeks until 12 weeks old, then at 6 months and 3 monthly thereafter. She was also booked in for a course of puppy classes at the vets, which are available for all puppies after their first vaccination.

When we collected Tala the breeder gave us a weight chart showing her weekly weight gain, a sample of her food, her health certificates, six weeks free insurance and a folder containing loads of useful information. We also got a receipt for the purchase of our puppy, and signed a document saying that if ever we could no longer keep our puppy she had to go back to the breeder. We also signed to say that we couldn't register any offspring with the Kennel Club if we bred from her, unless she had a clear health certificate from the vet saying she was clear of hereditary eye disease, which can only be tested for when she is older. We happily signed this. Hereditary diseases could be wiped out altogether if only all dogs had these tests before being bred from.

We should have also brought the registration papers away with us, but the Kennel Club had a bit of a backlog. We weren't concerned about this as the breeders came well recommended by the secretary of the Stafford society, and we had got to know them very well. Normally it is recommended that you never buy a pedigree puppy without bringing the KC registration papers away with you.

Tala's Kennel Club registration arrived this week. Her registered name is "Hubbulls With Every Wish". The Hubbulls bit is the breeder's affix (Lisa and Lee Hubble) and we chose the other part of her name.


I have been feeding Tala on all the foods the breeder had been giving her, to get her used to a variety of foods: rice pudding, scrambled egg with cheese, tuna, chicken, Beta puppy mashed, but she was only tasting each food, and was eating next to nothing. They say a puppy won't starve itself and to just put down food and take it away if not eaten after 10 minutes, only offering again at the next meal time, which is 4 times a day while they are very young. But Tala hadn't read the books. She was the exception to the rule. She began to look very thin and wasn't going to the toilet because she had nothing in her stomach; so I started to hand feed her raw mince, which she loved and she gradually progressed to eating it on her own. Then I began to slowly introduce other foods and she is now eating a lot better.

This week I started carrying Tala out and about to socialise her to lots of different sights and sounds. I can't put her down on the ground until one week after her twelve week vaccination. There is a very slight risk of airborne disease, but it is worth that tiny risk to get her properly socialised as early as possible before she reaches that fearful stage at about 14 weeks or so.

I have taken her to lots of different places, by car, and on foot, and she has seen and heard cars, trains, planes, motorbikes, prams, skateboards, shopping trollies, other dogs, children and babies, also men with beards and wearing uniforms, including the postman. The window cleaner called too and gave her some fuss. She has encountered women of different nationalities, wearing hats, and glasses. She has been in shops too. I have taken her to the vets three times now just for a vet nurse to weigh her and touch her all over. She is also given a titbit.

So far she has not reacted fearfully to anything apart from the dustman's lorry. Ken carried her up the drive to see it and it was too much for her and she struggled to escape. Ken put her down in the drive and let her watch from behind the drive gates.. He knew not to make a fuss of her in case she thought she was being given attention for being afraid.

You need a degree in psychology for this puppy training lark!

This week I have taught her to "come" by crouching down to her level and calling "Tala....come" in a high excited voice. She learned that really quickly as she was rewarded first with a titbit, then with fuss. I then progressed to teaching "Sit", again with a tasty titbit. I used cold hot dog sausage which is really smelly as well as yummy. I held the titbit just above her nose and slowly moved it back and as she looked up at it she naturally dropped her bum to the ground and I said the word "Sit" every time. She learned that one within days, and she will sit every time now on command. I am teaching the "Down" by sitting her and putting the titbit between her legs. I had to help her get the hang of that one with a gentle hand on her shoulders encouraging her to lie flat. She has almost mastered it now.

On the subject of training: Tala has been a nuisance with biting, not just nibbling but really biting and drawing blood. I asked for help on the D for Dog forum and the members were very helpful with their suggestions and telling me what worked for them. I shall tell you more about that in the next instalment.

Caroline and Tala

Tala at 10 weeks old

Puppy Diary - Instalment 3

I had no idea that raising a new puppy could be so tiring. I took ten days off work to settle Tala in, and thank goodness I did - it's exhausting! I made a point of going out and leaving her for a while every day in preparation for me going back to work. I only work part time and Ken is at home some of the time so Tala will have to get used to being left alone for a few hours a day. We've been popping out occasionally in the evening too just for an hour or two so Tala gets used to that.

I've been putting Tala's soft puppy collar on her for a few minutes each day, building up to her keeping it on all day, apart from when she's unsupervised in her crate as I don't want her possibly catching it on the bars and choking. She scratches at it a lot but is getting used to it.

She has her identity disc on there with our address and phone number (which is a legal requirement) and her microchip tag. It only cost us a few pounds to get Tala chipped and it was well worth it. If she did happen to go missing through getting out of the garden she could be reunited with us very quickly, and if she was lost or involved in a road accident for example the police or dog warden or indeed vet could trace us. It is also indisputable proof of ownership if she should be stolen.

I want Tala to grow up to be friendly and sociable with other dogs so I invited the little Cocker Spaniel, Millie, from round the corner to come and play. They got on very well, although Millie wouldn't keep still long enough to make friends properly, she just raced around the garden with Tala in hot pursuit.

puppy socialisation

Then next door's Springer, Brychan, came round a few times. He was another one who just raced madly around my large garden. Once he had got rid of some surplus energy he and Tala got on really well together, although he was a bit too gentle with her. He let her scramble all over him and nip at his ears and mouth. I was hoping he would "tell her off". I made sure both dogs were up to date with their vaccinations before letting them in as Tala hasn't had her final jab yet.

Tala has been to her first puppy socialisation class at the vet's. The room used is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected as some of the puppies have only had their first vaccination (like Tala) and aren't fully covered for infectious diseases.

There were 6 puppies in the group, aged between 8 weeks and 14 weeks, and most of them enjoyed a good old sniff at each other's rear ends - as they do, then got a little bolder, or in Tala's case - a lot bolder, and started jumping all over one another. It was interesting to see how they interacted. Tala was pinning most of them down on the floor and biting at their ears (the little monster) but then one or two of the others did that to her, which is just what was needed to put her in her place, she's just a little too bold and I don't want her to grow into a bully.

One of the puppies, a Dogue de Bordeaux X Mastiff was very shy and stayed mainly under the chair, but by the end of the hour's class she was joining in more. There was also a large St. Bernard puppy, a Basset Griffon Vendeen and a Border Collie. Tala and a Boxer pup were the ‘Phil and Grant’ of the puppy world, going round beating up the other pups, I hope that will change during the next two classes.

The vet and vet nurse in charge of the class gave us a lot of useful information about inoculations and worming, complete with test tubes of different types of worm being passed around… tapeworms, roundworms, threadworms… yuk! Also they advised us on flea treatments and generally how to keep our puppies healthy. Anyone who wanted to could have their puppies weighed too. I was pleased to see Tala had put a fair amount of weight on.

As I mentioned in the previous instalment, Tala has been a real nuisance with biting. I don't just mean the hanging off our trousers kind of biting which all puppies do, or all terriers anyway. I mean real biting. I know all puppies bite and have needle sharp teeth, but Tala has been barking at us, then snapping in a defiant way. It's like her way of saying "no I don't want to".

I had heard of "scruffing and pinning" puppies on their backs on the ground to show them who is boss and tried that with Tala.

I wouldn't have done it if she had been a timid sort of dog, but I felt she needed putting in her place.Disaster - she quickly became very wary of my hands. Whereas previously she would run willingly to me when called she now became very hand shy and started avoiding me. I asked on the D for Dog forum for help with this problem before it became serious, and lots of members gave me some very helpful advice. I stopped the confrontational tactics immediately and started using a time-out box.

When Tala started being defiant and biting at me I instantly picked her up and put her in the "naughty box" and ignored her. She would whine for a short time and try to scrabble over the top but then would give in and wait. I only removed her from the box when she was quiet, which took just a few minutes. I then lifted her out without a word. And it's working. She has only been put in there a half dozen times so far and already there is a marked improvement.

When she chews at something she shouldn't I tell her "No" and offer her an alternative chew toy and play with her with it, but sometimes she won't take no for an answer, just like a naughty child. Then I've found the water sprayer usually works. I've got it set on squirt rather than spray and when necessary I'll give her a quick squirt, then hide it and look away so she doesn't know it came from me. She's very quick though and seems to know where it is (behind my back) but at least it interrupts the behaviour and gives me a chance to occupy her with something else. Hopefully I'll learn other tips too when she starts proper puppy training classes.

I went to check out a local dog training school tonight and stayed to watch the puppy class and the next class. I like what I've seen. They train with kindness (and clickers and lots of treats). It seems well run with plenty of trainers to the 8 to 10 puppies in the class. Tala will be able to start one week after her 2nd vaccination, when she will be fully protected from infectious diseases, so I've signed up for the course of 12 weekly lessons, not sure if it will be me or Tala getting the training, but hopefully we'll both learn plenty.

I'll let you know how we get on in the next instalment, as well as how the lead training goes.

Caroline and Tala

Puppy Diary - Instalment 4

Tala at 17 weeks

Tala is now 17 weeks old and has grown into a big dog already and still has a lot of growing to do yet. She won't be fully grown until about 12 months of age, and will still be filling out for a few months after that. She is eating very well and is now settled on Naturediet puppy food, which is as close as you can get to feeding natural food without all the preparation. It has absolutely no artificial additives, preservatives or colourings. It is also low in protein which is ideal for Staffordshire Bull Terriers as they can become hyperactive when fed a diet high in protein and colourings.

I brush Tala's teeth a couple of times a week with special meaty flavoured doggie toothpaste. It's especially important to do this when you feed wet food. I started with a rubber finger brush, then progressed to the proper bristle brush. She also has an occasional Nylabone chew or even a raw knuckle bone from the butcher (note never give dogs cooked bones as they can splinter).

When it comes to grooming, being short coated, I only need to give her a quick going over twice a week with a bristle brush, finishing off with a chamois cloth to add shine.

In the last instalment I mentioned the free puppy socialisation classes held at my local vet's surgery. Well we've attended our last 2 classes. Nothing much changed with Tala's behaviour to be honest. She continued to try bossing the other puppies, but I did notice they generally became less forgiving of her and she didn't get her way all the time. She got pinned on her back on the floor by one or two of the shyer puppies which gave her a bit of a shock hahaha, and there was a bit more growling going on throughout as all six puppies started to gain in confidence.

We were given various leaflets about dealing with any behavioural issues before they became serious, and had the chance to discuss any health concerns or general behaviour problems with the vet nurses. Toilet training was discussed, as was chewing the furniture. The vet nurses gave some sound advice and we generally helped each other out with our own suggestions.

I would definitely recommend these classes for all new puppy owners. In fact it would be very useful to have free classes like these for all new dog owners, whatever age the dog might be. It could mean fewer dogs growing up with behaviour problems and ending up in rescue centres (or worse).

I took out dog insurance for Tala when her six weeks free insurance from the breeder expired. I chose 'lifetime cover', as, if she should develop an ongoing illness like diabetes or epilepsy or arthritis, I would be covered to claim for treatment and medication for the whole of her life. You have to read the terms and conditions very carefully, as some policies may seem a good buy but will exclude certain conditions the next year once you've claimed for them. You do pay more for 'lifetime cover' but at least nothing is excluded after claiming. Also a lot of insurance companies won't pay out for hereditary illness like heart conditions in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for example, so you do need to do your homework.

Tala had her second vaccination at twelve weeks, and was then able to start going out for walks a week later. I'm not getting on as well as I had hoped with walking her. She pulls on the lead like a train. I've tried stopping every time the lead goes taut but it makes no difference. The dog training club I've joined recommends changing direction each time the lead tightens, which isn't easy on the pavement, then clicking and treating when she gets it right. We are very slowly improving, although it can and does take us 20 minutes (seriously) to reach the end of my road which is only 100 metres away. My neighbours already think I'm a bit crazy so this just confirms it.

At the dog training school we're on week 4 of the 12 week training course, which has about 6 dogs, and we have been training with a clicker. The pups have been learning to sit and to lie down, also to 'leave' a treat offered in a closed hand, they then get clicked and treated for leaving it. They then progress to 'leaving' it when it's put on the floor in front of them. Tala is actually very good at all these things.

Puppy learning to walk to heal

The walking to heel is taking a bit longer, as is the holding back to let me through doors first, probably because I'm not practising that one at home. Although I want respect and manners from my dog I also want her to be a puppy, not a puppet who obeys every time I pull the strings. She is very spirited and I like that in her and don't want to break her spirit, just harness it slightly.

I've been walking Tala on a 'normal' lead, then once we get to our destination I change her over to the extending lead to give her a bit of freedom (I won't let her loose until I know I have a reliable recall) and tell her to 'go play'. She has met and played with lots of dogs, and is absolutely loving her walks. I call her to me now and again, and click and treat her for 'coming'. I also practise 'sit' and 'down', to which she responds very quickly.

I took her along the brook the other day and she went in for a paddle. She looked so funny as for once she was hesitant with the fast flowing water, and kept patting it with her paw and then gave a little jump to get in. Within a short while she was running around, snapping at leaves in the water and having a great time. She'll have to wait until next year when it's a bit warmer before she can try swimming.

In the last instalment I mentioned how Tala had been a nuisance with biting at our hands, and defiantly snapping at us when reprimanded. As advised on the 'training and behaviour' section on the D for Dog forum I started using a time out box. I told you how effective it seemed to be after just a few times of using it - well - I haven't had to use it at all since then, the biting has all but stopped. She will still snap at our hands when excited, but a short, sharp NO stops her in her tracks, then I can divert her attention to a toy.

The same thing works when she is chewing something she shouldn't. I no longer need to use the water sprayer. I just get her attention with a clap of the hands and tell her "No" and it stops the behaviour.

I can't say the same thing for shoes though! What is it with dogs and shoes? As soon as one of us takes a shoe off Tala pounces. She just appears from nowhere, grabs the shoe and disappears down the garden at top speed. She generally goes to her special place under the big Laurel bush where she can lie and chew her prize in peace. Still - at least she will always give the shoe up when told to ‘drop it’. I must admit I do find it funny; after all she is just a puppy and it is fun, although I don't always feel like that when she has disappeared with my shoe when I'm rushing to go to work and I have to find another shoe to put on to go and fetch the stolen one.

We had a scare the other week when we couldn't find Tala. It transpired she had wriggled through a tiny gap in the bottom of the fence, under her favourite Laurel bush, and got through into next door's garden. Thank goodness they were in and were able to bring her back. We couldn't believe how tiny the gap was, but she had wriggled through it. We then checked the bottom of the fence all the way round the garden and secured any areas with gaps under the fence where she might dig her way through. I felt real panic for a few minutes.

puppy diary

I can't quite believe how well Tala has fitted into our lives. Cleo, our late Stafford, was always going to be a hard act to follow, but Tala is certainly well on the way.

In summary, I've got myself a very happy, healthy, fun loving puppy, who is confident, strong willed and spirited, who loves cuddles and playing games with us, but who is equally content playing on her own. She loves going in her crate, and looks upon it as her own space. She loves her food, going for walks and playing with other dogs. She loves people and wants to play with every child she sees. I haven't found anything she dislikes as yet. In short - she is well on the way to being a great ambassador for the breed.

Thanks must go to breeders Kevin and Tina Hubble (Hubbulls), who did a great job of raising Tala for the first 7 weeks of her life.

Caroline and Tala

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Thursday, 8 April 2021  |  16:23

What a brilliant series of articles

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