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Donkin's World: Hot Dogs

"Ten days in to life with our new Jack Russell puppy, Pippa, a pattern is developing of sorts. The battle of wills continues and she is trying her damnedest to assert herself on the pack, picking off the weakest – poor old Dougie, our 12-year-old Westie – first,'' writes Richard Donkin.

He’s a real gentleman and she is, not to put too fine a point on it, a grade A bitch, constantly demanding and never satisfied. If he gets in a basket she will squeeze him out. If he puts his snout in his food bowl she is in there for a piece of the action. Further to that picture above, I should point out that Dougie is genuinely camera shy and always looks away when he sees one.

We’re doing our best to protect the old guy, circling the wagons around him as Pippa runs round, probing for gaps in our defences. She's been getting through too often, reporting successes on all fronts, including the great patriotic chew offensive.

We'd thought the kitchen was dog proof, until Pippa made a meal of a rather nice set of Chinese apothecaries' drawers. I bought them a few years ago in Singapore and imported them on the understanding they were a Chinese antique. They'd probably just been knocked up a few days earlier in a workshop down the road but they looked the part; now more so, since they've been stressed along their bottom edge by lots of needle-sharp teeth marks.

I've coated them with Tabasco sauce which worked well when I applied it to another prime chew target, the end of the table. My fear is that most of our furniture is going to be coated with Tabasco before this dog war is over.

Yes, it's time for a switch in strategy so this weekend we have introduced our new secret weapon – the crate. I’ve been reading up on crates ever since a reader of this blog suggested they could be the solution for a small dog that bites first and asks questions later.

It didn’t seem very big when we got it home. After a particularly tiring morning I would have welcomed the opportunity to shut myself in a cage. But the instructions on the box made it clear this was to be the dog’s territory, not a sanctuary for the owner.

We were warned she might be suspicious of the crate at first and this proved true but we’ve been luring her in, Hansel and Gretel style with a trail of kibbles, and she’s just beginning to feel at home, but still with the door open.

It's been a pretty exhausting 10 days and we needed a break on Sunday so went for a walk in the countryside on the one day, after weeks of blue skies, that the heavens opened and it poured down. When we returned, soaked through, she looked at us both and I think for the first time the dog was thankful for her crate.

Gill seems to be making most headway with gentle coaxing and exchanging treats for obeyed commands. But the dog mustn’t think she’s going to get a treat every time she comes running to sit when asked.

Poor Dougie – she’s worked out that he’s almost blind and takes advantage of it, plaguing him until he snaps at her. She knows his range too. I’m worried she’ll be the death of the old guy. At the same time she thinks he’s wonderful and can’t understand why he doesn’t want to play, ever.

Dougie can still get away by joining me in the office during the day, while Pippa stalks the kitchen and the garden. Nights are working out reasonably well. We still leave the dogs in the kitchen and I go through the bedtime routine, turning out the lights.

But last night, about 2.30 am, Dougie began barking – very unusual. I went down stairs to find that the kitchen was stifling. I had mistaken an underfloor heating switch for a light switch. At 3 am I was still there with all the doors open, cooker fan at full blast and the dogs stumbling around the garden in the darkness. Today we put some tape over the heating switch.

House training is two steps forward and one step back. The step back is usually in to something wet or squidgy. But that’s to be expected. Just now, as I write, all is quiet. Dougie is in his basket and Pippa is snuggled up in her crate, but it won’t last. The evening and the wild time beckons. Why didn't we buy a lap dog, a Pug or something? I love Pugs.


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