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A frank and honest insight to puppy ownership: 1 year in

Well, we’re at our first milestone: we’ve reached one year of being dog owners! 12 glorious, life-changing months of puppy ownership under our belts. Ironically despite spending all day every day with dogs, the time had never been right for us to get one of our own. I had been waiting patiently (sort of) and last October- it happened. So as a commemorative mark for hitting the one year point, I thought I would write a post about things I’ve learnt along the way. It has been incredible and I have truly gained a best friend.

Gertie the Hungarian Vizsla. She is loyal, affectionate and does something hilarious every day. She is smart, sharp and makes us laugh. She has however also had me tearing my hair out. During the last twelve months, I have at times been at my wits end and have genuinely not known what to do- moments of total despair and wondering whether things will ever get easier! Of course, they do. Things improve and you look back wondering when your little puppy got so big and the bad times become cloudy. But don’t underestimate the amount of work that is involved in reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.

Everyone already knows getting a puppy is massively exciting. A puppy is in my opinion one of the cutest things on the planet! It goes without saying that we absolutely adore Gertie, and I wouldn’t change her for the world! So here are my thoughts on some other aspects of puppy ownership that sometimes get overlooked.


Do your research

This is absolutely vital. Had we not done this, there would have been times where I would have wondered if we had made a mistake. Prior to deciding to get Gertie, we did a LOT of research. We spent a good 6 months learning about the breed and trying to immerse ourselves in the breed as much as possible. We arranged to visit other Vizsla owners, and attended shows where we stopped people walking around with their dogs to chat. Books, Youtube, blogs… we did it all.

Be honest with what you want in a dog and realistic in what you can offer. If you have your heart set on a particular breed but are having some niggling doubts that they sound like a good fit for your situation, do NOT go ahead.

Choosing your breed does not choose your individual

Remember that like us human folk, all dogs are unique. Whilst certain traits will be uniform within certain breeds, you absolutely must be prepared to accept and love your dog for who they are. Just because you’ve chosen a breed that are known for being ‘cuddly’ doesn’t necessarily mean that your individual will be, and it is your responsibility to ensure your dog is accepted for who they are.

Take the first 2 weeks off work if possible

This is my top tip. James works from home so our circumstance is slightly different, but this is something I didn’t do and really wish I had. It may sound excessive but this is such an important time for both you and your puppy. It is a time for bonding, starting routines and trying to keep SANE! I have read many things suggesting that you need to get your puppy straight into the routine that it will have to get used to long term. However, I really feel that spending the first 2 weeks making your puppy feel confident and happy with its new surroundings and family are going to benefit everyone long term. No good can come from throwing your puppy in at the deep end and no harm will come from taking time out from your job to show your new puppy the ropes.

Positive reinforcement 

I strongly believe that positive reinforcement is the way forward with dog training.  Our attendance at training classes with an excellent positive trainer has taught me some invaluable things;

  1. Regardless of breed, all dogs learn in the same way
  2. Work with your dog, not against it. Be patient and calm.
  3. Your dog doesn’t want to do the ‘wrong’ thing. If she isn’t getting it, it’s because I haven’t been clear enough in my instruction or offered a reason for her to do it.
  4. Rewarding the good behaviours is much for effective than telling off for the bad.
  5. Make training as fun as possible and put the effort in. I PROMISE it’s worth it!

Don’t listen to people who say ‘it’s just a dog’

If like me getting a dog is something that you’ve waited a long time for, you’ll want to do things properly. And so you should! I had to listen to people judging my actions with Gertie by saying ‘she’s just a dog’ as though I should make less effort with her than I should with a human. This just simply isn’t true. It was our choice to get Gertie, therefore I see it as our responsibility to ensure she is cared for both physically and mentally. If she is displaying anxiety toward a certain situation I will work with her to help her overcome it, not just ignore it because she is ‘just a dog’. I’m not suggesting you treat your dog as a human- they are DOGS and do not wish to be treated as anything but dogs. I am suggesting that being a dog does not warrant a lack of effort on our part.

Trust your instinct

The internet is full of articles telling you the ‘right’ thing to do and the ‘correct’ way to handle certain situations. For example, we are all told NEVER to go down to a crying puppy at night. It will apparently teach them to cry for attention and open up a catalogue of problems. Looking back at the last year, in certain circumstances I wish I had overruled what I had read by listening to my inner voice more. Despite what you have read and what others tell you to do, if something you are/aren’t doing just doesn’t sit right with you- don’t do it. Remember, everyone has an opinion but you are in charge of your own actions so do what is best for you and your dog.

Socialise- but be in tune with your dogs reactions

In a bid to expose Gertie to as much as possible, we took her with us most of the time. We made a big list of situations and items that we wanted her to come across and tried to cram in as much as possible during the first few months of her life. I also used to take packets of treats into town with me and stand with her on the street, inviting strangers to hand feed her treats.

However, it is so important that you stay in tune with your dogs reactions and do not push them out of their comfort zone. Ensure your dog has space should they want it and don’t ever force them to socialise with people if they are displaying behaviour that suggests they don’t want to. All too often we push our dogs forward to meet people or other dogs when our dog is telling us that they don’t feel comfortable. It is much more important that your dog learns that he can trust you and your actions than it is to force a meet and greet with a stranger.

Don’t beat yourself up if your dog still shows a dislike toward something (for Gertie, it’s bike helmets and walking sticks/crutches). I remember thinking ‘I’ve messed up here, I should have exposed her more to these things’. Remember though that your dog is an individual and you can only do your best! Equally don’t force these things upon your dog as a way of conquering their fear. If someone came at me with thousands of spiders it certainly wouldn’t cure my fear, it would probably make it worse. Talk to a professional behaviourist if you have concerns, they will be able to point you in the right direction.

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Three doesn’t have to be a crowd..

We’ve all heard it: Two is company, three’s a crowd. Unless of course, the members of your group consist of cats and rabbits.

I recently had the pleasure of looking after Ellie, Sophie and Thumper whilst their human companions were on holiday.

I am always excited to see the dynamic between different animals who live together, and I must say I have never before seen such a bond between a cat and a rabbit. From what I saw during my week with them, they actively seek to spend time together!

During my two visits a day, I spent a lot of time outside in the garden with them. Thumper would have a good run around, whilst Sophie and Ellie would usually be pottering around the garden too (if they weren’t inside having their lunch).

Such a gorgeous and unlikely friendship. Thanks for letting me be the fourth member of your group for a week ladies!

Here are some more pictures from my visits:

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Hope you’re all having a great day-

Hayley 🙂



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Spring is here!

Hi everyone,

This week, I have finally felt it. Spring is upon us!

There are beautiful lambs in the fields surrounding Oakham, skipping and playing. Usually if I’m driving past I’ll pull over and get out to see them properly. Here’s a pic from my latest visit:

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It’s also been a hive of activity in my garden, with my bird feeder being occupied to maximum capacity for most of the day. I’ve really been enjoying sitting with a coffee and watching all of the birds; Starlings boisterously attacking the feeder from all angles, whilst pigeons await patiently on the ground ready to hoover up any leftovers. Then there’s the goldfinches who very gently peck at the niger seed, taking their time. Watching my garden birds has become a fairly new simple joy and really is very relaxing.

As we head into the Spring and Summer months we are able to enjoy lighter evenings and stunning sunsets- both of which make for fabulous dog walking conditions! I am also excited to be attending the annual dawn chorus event at Rutland Water in May, which is something I was recommended by Chris Packham to witness given the chance.

Well, that’s all for now! Happy Spring everyone.

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For a few weeks now, I have been walking Josh: a border collie with a lovely, playful temperament.


I am walking him every other day to help him shift a few extra pounds. Our walks usually involve a trip up to Hill Farm in Chesterton (who grow some amazing fruit and veg by the way!), or a trip through Alwalton and towards the meadows.

It’s always so nice when a dog begins to remember who I am and gets excited when I turn up. Josh now immediately knows that I = walkies, and runs to get his ball upon my arrival. Happy days!

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Holiday: a bad time of year?

I never look forward to a holiday quite as much as other people.

Don’t get me wrong, the thought of being on a beach in the sun sipping a cocktail makes me feel very excited and I love packing everything and feeling that holiday buzz- but there is always something that looms over me in the months leading up to setting off.

I have 11 pet rats and I absolutely hate leaving them. I don’t just mean that I feel a little bit sad, I worry for months prior to setting off about leaving them. I worry about every detail; what if something happens to one of them whilst I’m away? What if one of them falls ill prior to leaving? What if someone escapes whilst I’m away and I’m 1000 miles away and can’t help find them and they are gone forever and ever and I didn’t get to say goodbye?!?!!! Ok, the fact is I am so dependant on my pets and the time I spend with them that I really do find it extremely hard to spend any time away from them. I do usually find that, once I’m at the airport or on the move, I calm down slightly and manage to enjoy the moment, although the thought of what my boys are up to never fully leaves my mind.

And honestly, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It is normal to worry about people and things that you hold dear to you, and feel sadness when you have to spend time away from them. The reason I have my pets is because I enjoy giving them as much love and attention as they require and deserve. The only way I have managed to combat my fear of leaving my animals is by leaving them with people that I really trust. And by trust, I don’t just mean trust. I trust quite a lot of people in my life; my closest friends, my family.. But I feel the word ‘trust’ holds extra meaning when we are talking about leaving our pets. I trust the people that I leave my pets with to understand how I am feeling, how upset I am about leaving them. I also trust them to understand my pets and to know the signs of when something might be wrong. Ultimately, I also know that my pets trust that person.

This is all something very important to me, and it is something that I have thought long and hard about during the process of setting up Petscapades. For me, being able to offer a service to people who feel like i do when leaving their pets is what it’s all about. I want my clients to be trusting of me, and to know that I understand how they may be feeling about leaving their pet. I also enjoy keeping in touch with people whilst they are away (should they wish) so that they are constantly assured that their pet is fine and having fun.

Millions of people have pets, but I feel that pet ownership is a very personal thing. No pet is the same, therefore no relationship between owner and pet is ever the same. However- we all want what is best for our pets. Whether you have a dog, cat, rabbit or smaller friend, please get in touch with me if you wish to discuss your holiday plans. Wherever you are going this year, we hope you have a fantastic time.

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EU ban on animal tested cosmetics.. FINALLY!

Today I am so thrilled to see that, after 30 years of campaigning, the European Union has passed a ban on cosmetics tested on animals. The ban also prohibits the selling or marketing of any cosmetics or ingredients that have been tested on animals outside of the EU- meaning it is now only possible to purchase cosmetics in Europe that have not been tested on animals. Full stop.

This is such fantastic news. I remember learning about Animal Laws and Legislations during my degree and being totally horrified to discover that testing cosmetics on animals was only banned within the UK, not Europe. Personally, I find testing beauty products on animals inexcusable, and quite revolting. I don’t understand how anyone could justify the pain and suffering of an animal for a make-up item or face cream (hence my love affair with LUSH)..! I have undertaken a huge amount of research to enable me to try and shop completely cruelty free. This hasn’t been as easy as you would think, and I always seem to get conflicting information regarding companies. Some sources say they do, some say they don’t. It is also difficult to find information that is not bias one way or the other… Basically, if all offending products simply had a stamp on them saying ‘TESTED ON AN ANIMAL’, my life would have been made much easier..! Continue reading EU ban on animal tested cosmetics.. FINALLY!

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Home visits with Linga

I would like to introduce you all to a lady I met over the weekend; Linga!

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Linga is a gorgeous 7-year-old Golden Retriever who I will be seeing several times a week for her ‘wees and teas’ break. I visited her family to have a chat about her and find out what sort of character she has. Upon my arrival, she answered the door (with a bit of human help I assume) with a sock in her mouth; an item I am told she is quite partial to! After the initial excitement at there being a strange person in the house, she chilled out and flopped down on the floor by my feet for a snooze.

She’s such a fabulous girl and has made me feel very excited about Petscapades. I love meeting and getting to know dogs like Linga, and I’m really looking forward to visiting her- and her sock- very soon.