So Zippy (from the puppy diares) is now six months old and seems to have doubled in size during the past four weeks. His appetite is huge yet he still remains a Skinny Minnie even at 16kg. That might be down to the two hours of walking / sniffing / saying-hello-to-everyone-he-meets that he does every day.
I had previously read about the five minutes per month rule when it comes to puppy walks. The idea being that at one-month-old they can walk for five minutes twice a day, at two-months-ols 10 minutes twice a day, and so on. Using that rudimentary calculation Zippy should only need 30 minutes exercise twice a day at the moment.
But during the past month I began to question this as Zippy seemed to have more energy to burn and was bored at home. I spoke to a dog behaviourist and her response was this: “That rule is somewhat of a generalisation and not really based on any science. That said too many excessively long walks aren’t a great idea either. Brain work really gets rid of energy and that combined with a sensible amount of exercise is the best way to raise a pup.”
She advised that Zippy do longer walks than 30 minutes at a time and occasionally much longer, as long as it was “sniffy and fun, off the lead at his own pace.” It is also important to incorporate games to tire out his brain, particularly since hounds are scent dogs.
This strategy has been working well and we tend to do a long walk in the morning after school drop off and then a shorter one or two in the afternoon / evening. I take him to different nearby fields so he can sniff around and sometimes I incorporate some off road running for myself. As he mooches around at a casual pace I puff away doing hill reps.
With these longer walks we are getting into a good routine and once we are home after 60 to 90 minutes out in the morning (including school drop off) he is ready for a long nap. This is perfect for me as I can crack on with work undisturbed until lunchtime.
As soon as we get home from a walk Zippy snuggles into his bed. He adores his Fat Face slumber bed which is super soft and warm. In fact it has really helped with the sleeping problems Zippy was having. Last month I wrote about his lack of sleep and the fact he kept waking in the night.
Well we have made a lot of progress since then. Zippy is now downstairs in his crate in the living room, rather than in the spare room with me sleeping next to the crate. It turns out he was cold. This was something that had never crossed my mind and not one single person had thought of it. I had asked friends, vets, dog trainers, you name it and it wasn’t until I spoke to the aforementioned dog behaviourist that she mentioned that he could be cold. Hounds have very thin coats and once the house cools down in the middle of the night they can wake up cold. Especially if they are not sleeping with other dogs, because they are a pack animal after all.
Once this was pointed out to us we ordered the snugly bed and bought a fleecy blanket. That night he slept eight hours straight without making a single sound. Not long after that we moved him downstairs.
At bedtime we simply say “bed” and if he is not already in the crate he trots in and settles down letting us lock the door and cover it with a blanket (which makes it extra cosy and also helps keep out drafts). We have also bought him a woollen body warmer and always put an extra log on the fire when we go to bed. He has been sleeping SO MUCH BETTER and most nights sleeps through to 5.30am or 6am.
Believe me this is a vast improvement. Sometimes he still wakes at around 4am but I bought a cheap baby monitor which we installed the reverse way around so he can hear us. If he starts whining in the night I just tell him to shush (via the baby monitor) and he settles down. And at the weekend we can sometimes get away with a lie in until 7.30am with a few shushes over the monitor.
The bed and blanket have also helped with his general anxiety and he is getting much better at staying downstairs in his bed with the crate door open during the day rather than trying to vault the stair gate if I pop upstairs. I have also managed to go out for a couple of hours and leave him locked in the crate with a pig ear to chew and most of the time he remains calm. I have to keep reminding myself that this is the same dog that two months ago was howling the house down and literally escaping from his crate.
I feel like we are getting there and have faith that he will eventually stay content in his cage overnight for 10 hours rather than the current seven or eight. Having a puppy is definitely still hard work but I can see now that each month it is getting just that little bit easier. We also sell the Fat Face Delux Slumber Bed with Marching dogs on the side.