Uncle Frank's New Tricks

Today is Frank's six month birthday. Happy birthday puppy!

Teaching Frank a new trick goes as follows;
  1. Get him to do it. This involves a lot of man handling, holding, tutting, scraping, injuries and shouting, but he will calm down.
  2. Obtain treats and bribe him. This step is essential for the future ones. Once he is on board and understands what is at stake (treats), you will have his attention.
  3. Get him to do it again. And again. This is important – keep doing it, treats and all. Just plying him with treats works well, but there’s a key final step.
  4. Get him to do it whilst he’s being fed. The stay command was a difficult one, and one we’d emptied bags of treats into, but once I started to make him stay before he got fed his dinner, and he made the distinction that “If I wait, I’ll get fed”, it clicked. He now stays better than he sits, the silly dog.

There is a zeroth step – when he does it by accident and we give him loads of unexpected praise.

Current roster of tricks as of November 2012
  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Shake a paw (left and right)
  • Lie down
  • Catch a tennis ball thrown to him in his mouth

In the plan:
  • Roll over
  • Shake both paws at the same time
  • Jump on command (and stop jumping at any other time)
  • Place a treat on his nose and he waits
  • Play dead
  • Play chess
  • Drive a vehicle
  • Type

Uncle Frank's First Four Weeks

On the 27th July 2012 Connie and I moved into our new flat in Glasgow and brought home for the first time our new puppy, Uncle Frank. Once you get to know him you can call him Frank. The first four weeks of his life with us have been pretty interesting from the perspective of someone that has never had a pet before. 

There are five things that I will bullet point here that instantly stick out in my mind.

  • I have never enjoyed hard work this much in my life.
  • His antics are forever going to be the source of anecdotes and could, in theory, sustain this blog for as long as he lives.
  • His joy at being allowed to do things and his pride at working things out are things that Connie and I notice on a hourly basis.
  • Dog pee doesn’t smell as bad as you might think, but dog shit is one of the worst smelling things I’ve ever came across.
  • People who have dogs love to talk to other people who have dogs, no matter if they are strangers or not.
 Let’s start from the start then. His first night in the flat was a manic one – it was simultaneously his first time away from his mother and litter-mates, but also the first time in a cage. And, the first time he’d came up against a bunch of our friends who had came over to help out move stuff into the flat and had stayed to drink. It was also the first night of the Olympics. The summer will be defined by the Olympics and the puppy – I mean, who even remembers Euro 2012? He was cute, peed once or twice on the floor, and mostly was cuddled and petted. He was very tired and slept on and off. Considering his removal from his home that he knew he did incredibly well – he slept all the way through the night and I woke in the morning to a peed in crate and a happy sleepy puppy, a sign of things to come. The breeder would later call and remark that “sleeping through the night? That won’t last!”, as she chuckled away to herself – she was wrong.

In the first week we struggled with his house training. Living on the top floor Frank’s propensity for peeing in the hallway, the front room, and that bathroom frustrated more than it angered. He appeared to understand the need to wait, but still didn’t. His progress has been slow, but steady – now he won’t pee in his crate, thankfully, and whines more when he needs to be let out. We are trying to bell train him – this technique involves ringing a bell each time we take him out to pee so that he makes the association. This should’ve taken already, but we think that the walk down stairs probably doesn’t help his link between the two. Slowly we are getting there. Another barrier to this seems to be his laziness. He doesn’t make any effort when he’s tired or just woken up to avoid peeing. We can trust him during the day, as he holds his pee now, but in the mornings or after a lengthy nap he will likely need to carried down stairs. The close stairs are now our new hallway – he is getting closer to outside, but not quite there.  Thankfully, so far, he’s yet to shit in the house.

He has his quirks, and these make it worthwhile having a puppy for sure. He likes to bite, of course, but that’s slowly going away. His teeth are sharp but his jaw is less likely to bite down but just to “mouth” as it’s known. He is teething, like a kid, but instead of crying he bites. It makes for a difficult time though, as it’s very constant. And my sleeves have yet to be free from broken skin since we got him – my right hand has taken most of the punishment.

In the last four weeks though he’s started to respond to his name, sits on command more times than not, and in a brilliant feature has started to ring the bell to go out to pee. In saying that… learning that a bell = go outside might also mean a lot of spurious bell ringing, it is better than the opposite.  In the next few weeks we will work on his stay command, rolling over, shaking the paw and a few other neat tricks. No point telling you them though; I’ll save that for the surprise when I can on command make him do the Archie Gemmel goal for Scotland against the Netherlands.

It has only been in the last week that it has felt like we have a proper dog, however. Because of his age and the city environment we weren’t allowed to walk him until a week after his final shot – his 12th week. And so, to Troon, Loch Lomond, Largs, Pollok and Rouken Glen park he’s been, and he’s loved it – the best part is meeting all the other dogs, him tentaivley going into the water at the beach, and his perceived smile – something my parents don’t believe.

I can only imagine what the next four weeks will bring.


I was once talking to my girlfriends family in Canada, and I mentioned to them that I had never had a pet; or, I'd never had a substantial pet, I don't think my goldfish are worth much salt (sorry Jonathan).  They were fairly surprised to say the least, none more so than my betrothed, who had grown up with a multitude of pets, including dogs and rabbits.

The reason for this lack of feline or canine family relations was simple; I had never really considered ever wanting one.  My parents never wanted one, and my sister and I never felt the need to ask, maybe because the answer would have always been no.  I don't think I ever did ask, but it was clear that my father and mother were never that keen on sacrificing their home for a pet of any description.

This left me with only a few places to meet and greet animals, which later bred a distaste for dogs.  My Gran Muir had a dog and a cat, and I think I remember Ginger, the cat, but I am still not sure if I really do.  The dog, Kay, was with us through my childhood, and was great fun to take for walks and play with, even if it was a small yappy Jack Russell.  My aunt also had a pair of dogs, the infamous Mandy and Brandy, who were locked away in a room anytime anyone else was around their house.  My Uncle also had a cat, who very recently had to be put down - Ziggy was the first pet that I really remember knowing, as I tormented her as a kitten, and she was wary of me until only a few years later. 

Mr Benson in full flow.

Some of my friends had pets, a cat here and a dog there, but I never really had any interest in them.  In contrast to this, Connie has had pets all around her life, and she even has a dog right now, the incredible Mr Benson.  Her two sisters also have dogs, Hurley and Logan.  Her family have dogs too, her Grandma having a cat and a dog.  It appears to be so entrenched in the lifestyle of a Canadian family to have a dog.

I would not really have considered my self a dog person until a year or so ago, which is probably related to my dreadful experience of being "attacked" by a massive 50ft Alsatian on the way to my grans house once fateful day.  Indeed, this experience made me scared to walk along a certain piece of pavement going to her house, and forever made me a little scared of the Alsatian.  It is a terrifying dog when it is bearing down on you, blood glinting in it's eyes, its teeth sharper than diamond.

An artists impression of the dog.

Then I met a good dog, a nice dog.  I met Mr Benson who is massive, 100lbs of steel muscle, in a lovable chocolate Labrador model.  Then I met Hurley, a cross between a poodle and a soft coated wheaten terrier, basically a big teddy bear in a dogs body.  Then, later, I met Logan, the only dog I know that has been trained to not lick your face, so instead of kisses you get a warm breath in the face as he puts his face in yours - he is a black Lab too, like Benson, whom he shares a father with. 

Little puppy dogs.  Hurley at the top, Benson on the bottom. (credit: Connie Draycott)

Water and puppies mix. (credit: Connie Draycott)
Hurley, 2011.  In the basement of the Holden's, reacquainting himself with me.

Mr Benson, on the grass in warm weather.

Hurley, totally done.
 I like dogs now, and I want one.  In fact, I think I feel starved of the attention that pets give me; Hurley and Benson won't leave me alone when I am around, partially because I am knew (and smell like their Auntie Connie) but also because they know that I'll pet them and play with them.  And that they dominate me; I am getting better at being stern with the dogs, and I will get better.