Puppy Love


28 February 2022
Springtime, sunshine and puppies! What could be nicer? Andre McHugh reports.

As I write this feature, I’m surrounded by chaos, as one dog repeatedly chases another in and out of my office, followed by eight-month-old puppy, Dash. Undeterred, another dog is rummaging in the wastepaper basket, while a fourth destuffs a toy, scattering its foam innards everywhere. It’s madness, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Andrea and Dash on the day she brought him home.

Dash arrived like a tiny whirlwind last August. With three other dogs, I’m often asked why I wanted a puppy. My oldest dog, Coco, is 12 years old, and retired from agility, while his half-sister, Honey, is 10 years old, and although still very fit, is in her last years of competing. My fourth dog is a rescue collie called Sango, who is the smiliest of them all, but sadly his hips are not up to agility, so he has adopted the role of ‘head of security’, which he does with great dedication. The only way I could enjoy more agility and heelwork to music fun was to get a puppy to train.

Coco and Honey are a mixture of Maltese and Chinese Crested Powder Puff and have given me and my daughter years of fun. Although I researched other breeds, I longed for another Maltese-cross because they had proved so perfect for us. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any. Like so many other people searching for puppies, I found a real scarcity. Furthermore, when I did find a litter, I was horrified by the prices. I knew one thing though — the right puppy would find me. 

I heard about Dash’s litter purely by chance. He is three-quarters Maltese, with a dash of Yorkshire Terrier, which ticked all my boxes. I contacted the breeder and arranged to meet her puppies with their mum and dad. I fell in love with all of them, but even at six weeks Dash caught my attention as he was curious, fun, and happy to play tuggy with me. I knew this cute little fluffball would join our family.

A decade had passed since I’d last owned a puppy, and so much had changed in terms of new puppy products and training ideas. Top of my concerns was to safely introduce a tiny puppy into a household of adult dogs. Coco can dislike certain dogs, but is generally OK with anything that looks remotely like him. Dash was a tiny carbon copy, so I hoped all would be well.

Over the following weeks, I received lots of videos and photos from the breeder, and eagerly awaited the day when I could fetch my puppy. I took a small pet carrier with me, and lots of toys to give his mum and dad. I’d also bought a tiny cat collar for Dash to wear in the car. The breeder gave me a blanket from his mum, and he quickly settled, sleeping soundly throughout the journey.

I carefully managed introductions to my other dogs. Honey remained her aloof self, and Sango, while friendly, seemed confused by this tiny bundle of fluff. From the start however, Coco took on the role of big brother and played with his new friend, which melted my heart. As Dash has grown, he’s won everyone over — he’s quite hard to resist!

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I bought a puppy carry bag so Dash could accompany us on walks, as well as a beautiful white puppy pen, comfy bedding, and mountains of new toys. Dash slept in a crate by my bed every night, waking me just once or twice to go outside, and contentedly snoozed for an hour with the other dogs on my bed before we all got up. I was constantly tired, but fatigue is a small price to pay for a lifetime of fun with a happy, house-trained puppy. 

During those early weeks I took Dash out and about as much as possible. I knew how important this time was for socialising a puppy, so we visited cafes, shops, shows, and had a family holiday in Norfolk where he took everything in his stride. 

Dash is the puppy I’d dreamed of for so long. He’s great fun, looks gorgeous, entertains me and the other dogs for hours, and thoroughly enjoys his puppy classes, happily working around other dogs and playing with them at the end of the session. He is quite vocal and has his own little personality. I walk him with smiley Sango whenever possible, so he doesn’t copy Honey’s naughty habit of barking at other dogs!

We recently signed up for beginners’ heelwork to music classes and I’m looking for a puppy agility class, as well as working towards his Bronze Good Citizen test. To my delight, our application to be part of the puppy foundation demo team at Crufts 2022 was accepted, and I can’t wait to experience this with him.

I’ve no regrets about getting Dash; he’s worth every broken night’s sleep, chewed cable, puppy puddle, and extra expense. The light nights are coming, the sun is shining, and we can’t wait for the new adventures that are coming!

Read the rest of the feature in the April 2022 issue. Buy the latest digital edition and read instantly on your computer, mobile or tablet device.

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