Bowie & Friends

Warmest Welcome to the Chan Family

It is true raising a puppy is like (or harder than) raising a toddler. The ‘cute’ phase probably only lasts for a couple of weeks than the hard yards begin. And when you think you’re finally on top of it then the ‘teen’ phase hits and you’re back to square one.

Here’s Akiko and Vincent sharing their experience as first-time parents raising a pup (Juno) and a kitten (Pepper).

What’s Juno’s breed?

Welsh Springer Spaniel

How old is Juno?

She is 11 months old

What made you get a dog and that particular breed?

Almost a year had passed since our last dog, Gracie, and we missed having a companion. We wanted a medium sized dog that would encourage us to get out of the house and be more active. We liked the Welsh Springer Spaniel’s description of being loyal, affectionate and very trainable. We’ve had Juno for a little over 8 months now though it feels much longer!! We got Pepper, a Tonkinese kitty a few months before we got Juno. They’re both our first pets as a couple and from young. Our previous dog, Gracie, was Vincent’s family dog and we lived with her after she was 9 years of age so it’s a completely different experience altogether from raising a puppy.

What’s your daily routine with Juno and Pepper?

We usually get up about 6am (from the pets rustling around), After all of us have breakfast, Vin or I will take Juno for a morning walk and she’ll sleep generally between 9 and noon. We try to get some work done or run some errands. We then do some training and set up some games indoors until 5 or 6pm when we take Juno for her second walk, often a longer walk along Merri Creek or run around in the dog park with some of her doggy friends. She has dinner around the same time as us. Evenings are often the most hectic in our household, with Pepper getting the ‘zoomies’ and Juno chasing her around the house. Sometimes we separate them so we can have a peaceful couple of hours before going to bed around 10–11pm.

How do you bond with Juno?

Juno loves riding in the car! From a young age she didn’t want to be apart from us so we just drove around with her everywhere – she has a mat and ‘go bag’ we take to cafés! Nowadays we take her to different parks, creeks and beaches. Otherwise Juno loves ‘having a job’ like playing ‘find-it’ or sniffing out treats in a snuffle mat.

How do you describe Juno’s personality in 3 words?

Enthusiastic. Curious. Goofy.

Is Juno trained?

We continue to work on Juno’s training – her excitement can go through the roof sometimes and we’re still working on curbing that. She can also ‘touch’ and ‘hug’ pretty well which is cute and we’re starting to teach her the names of her toys.

What’s Juno’s favourite thing to do?

I would have to say, chasing a scent! Once she’s on a scent, it’s hard to get her attention. She also loves a good game of tug with her rope toys and is fortunately starting to take more to her chew toys.

Any quirky habits Juno has that annoy/amuse/baffle you?

Welshies are nicknamed ‘velcro dogs’ so Juno wants to be in the same room as us all the time!! She’s also very excitable and sometimes physically can’t sit for visitors because her tail is wagging too much. One thing she’s recently started doing is being a ‘Pepper Police’, when Pepper’s doing something wrong she jumps ups and reacts!

Who’s the master in the house?

I would say that our days are dictated by what Juno needs most of the time but the real master of the house is probably our little Princess Pepper!

How’s your life after having a puppy?

What life?! Just kidding. When Juno was a puppy, we crate-trained her and then set up a room for her to be in that’s fully puppy-proofed. The idea was if we left her alone in the house she could stay there – but she hated it and barked and barked whenever we put her in there. If one of us was sitting in there with her, she’s fine and the room was a happy place with lots of toys. One day we asked our housemate to pretend she wasn’t there and check how long Juno barked for while we left for the shops. She barked for 45 minutes straight, only settling when we pulled back into the driveway! Knowing that her breed is quite prone to separation anxiety, we were worried that she was developing a mild form of anxiety. Fearing that it would get worse, we never left her. She was great in the car so she would wait in the car while we went to do our weekly shops. We even took her to a drive-in cinema so we could see a movie!

As time went on we decided to test different things, like leaving her in the lounge room instead of the middle room that had no window and no vantage of the doorways. We realised she wasn’t anxious about being separated from us – she just didn’t like that she couldn’t see what’s going on. Whenever we left her with a minder or doggy friend for a playdate, she wasn’t worried about us leaving, which gave us an inkling. Now we call it ‘FOMO’ – she just always wants to be where the action is!

We left her for small periods at a time and set up a camera on our laptop. I would work at a nearby café for a few hours at a time each day, sticking to a strict routine as the trainer suggested. Eventually it became clear that she’s quite content waiting for us on the couch where she can check out the doorway and look outside to the garden. She even gets along better with Pepper when we aren’t there.

Now Juno is almost one and we have left her for 5–6 hours at a time without any issues (touch wood). With dog training and puppies sometimes it can be hard to see what the actual problem is. We described Juno’s behaviour and had her trainers visit us at home and their concerns were around separation anxiety as well. So the moral of the story is to pick up on little signs, test different things and try to figure out exactly what’s going on.

One milestone in the past few months was being able to get away to a nice dog-friendly airBnB which felt like we could have our lives back again! I must say that despite the challenges, it’s really rewarding when you have managed to teach your dog something and see the rewards of training!

Can you share any advice for first-time parents out there?

I think it’s hard to give advice since every dog is so different and experiences are so varied too. I can say that after going through what I think was a bit of a tricky puppy phase, I can’t judge or criticise anyone! Here are some thoughts from our particular experience.

You’ll never know what you’re going to get or what’s coming – so be prepared, be adaptable and also be kind to yourself. It’s so easy to get alarmed by what you hear, what you read and there’ll probably be times when your puppy finds something they shouldn’t or eat something that you could have put away! Learn from mistakes but don’t beat yourself up over it. There’s no rest and your dog’s waiting for her next walk!

Also – your dog (especially a puppy) is always changing, week to week. So don’t settle in too much if things are going well and equally don’t panic if something is going awry – it may not be forever! Not to say that you shouldn’t take steps to correct or improve things but don’t despair as puppies go through many phases.

Don’t be afraid to make decisions for yourself, your lifestyle and your dog. You know your dog best and what works for him or her and back yourself. Sometimes the more you read, the more confused you can get! It helps to find the professionals that you feel comfortable with to help you on your journey – a vet, a trainer and we also rely on minders and friends to take Juno for daycare or overnight stays. I do believe it takes a good village to raise our puppy and we’re so grateful for ours.