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Becoming a dog owner

I will not lie - I have never desired a puppy. My family were never dog owners and I think if you haven't grown up with a dog - you don't feel the need to have one.

My husband, on the other hand did grow up with many dogs, he's always wanted one and in the 15 years that we have lived together he has been asking for a dog.

I have come up with every excuse under the sun on why we shouldn't have one, but this year I caved in. I do love all animals, including dogs, we already have four cats (three of them are in their teens) but I imagined getting a dog once we had a bigger house, preferably with a garden.

This year the conversation came up again - I did the usual "not enough space, no garden" argument but the entire family were all so excited about it that I agreed as long as we got the dog just before the school holidays so we could try and train him in our time off. There are plenty of things to consider before getting a dog.

After trawling various websites Lee found a local lady who had two sprollie puppies for sale. A sprollie is a mix of a springer spaniel and a border collie - little did I realise two of the most energetic and intelligent breeds out there.

We named him Loki, after the mischievous trickster in Norse mythology, and we brought him home at 12 weeks of age, he was already fairly large for a puppy.

Now, I have no clue on how to train dogs - this past month has been a huge learning curve. Loki had lived in a bungalow with another puppy. He had not been out, except in a garden, he'd not climbed stairs, he'd never been on a lead and he wasn't house trained.

The first two weeks included mopping up wee and picking up poo from the floor regularly, he chewed through two leads, ripped a sofa cushion, ate a pair of knickers and had a munch on the table leg. We discovered that he seemed to not like men very much - he would bark if one came near him. Oh, and the cats were scared of him and all four retreated to the safety of upstairs.

As he hadn't been vaccinated we had to limit him to going outside just to go to the toilet until he'd been fully vaccinated after 2 weeks. I'm not going to lie - those first 2 weeks were hard work. I literally felt like I was in the film Marley and Me.

Since he's been allowed out we've been on many adventures already, he's been to the woods, he's ran through fields, he's splashed in a stream and been to the beach. Being the mix of breeds he does need a lot of stimulation and exercise. We do go out on long hikes and now Loki joins us.

Still there were things that we needed to work on - he's possessive over his food, or any food that he finds and he still barks at certain people and sometimes at other dogs.

Cue the mother-in-law aka animal whisperer. Over the almost 20 years I've known her, my mother-in-law has had many animals - we went down to visit her last week and Loki was introduced to her two German shepherds and an old husky cross as well as a parrot. I have learnt a few tricks now and feel much more confident. We can now leave food on the floor and he will leave it until we tell him we can have it. He listens to commands such as "stay" and "fetch" and he will now stop doing mischievous things with a sharp "no."

Loki is now 4 months old and he seems to be a very bright puppy - he will be coming camping with us at the end of the month and in that time I'm hoping we can train him even more.

To anybody thinking of getting a dog - be warned, it is very hard work, kind of like looking after an unruly toddler but if you are prepared to put the hard work in - it is very rewarding indeed.

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