Preparing for an Alaskan Malamute Puppy

On a day trip visiting the ruins of an ancient Scottish castle, I had a chance encounter with the two most beautiful and impressive dogs I had ever beheld.  Living in central Edinburgh at that time, I had never before seen such dogs.  Huge, silver and white, dignified and striking, with sweetly smiling faces and their softly wagging plumed tails arced over their backs, as their soulful soft brown eyes gazed into mine, something about these dogs touched my soul.  And so began my love affair with the Alaskan Malamute.

As a child I had often read Jack London’s classics, White Fang and Call of the Wild.  I dreamt of a life of adventure in Alaska.  A land completely alien to me, as a child who had only known life up until then as it was in the sticky heat of equatorial Borneo.  But the older I got, the less I dreamt of such things.  Until that day.

The very moment my eyes met the gaze of those two Malamutes, those long-forgotten dreams all came rushing back to me: a life of adventure, snow, freedom.  That day changed my life.

That night, I dreamt of owning an Alaskan Malamute of my own.  Of sharing a life of adventure and fun with this beautiful creature of the Arctic.  I awoke with a thirst for knowledge, to read every book I could find about the breed, to meet every owner and Malamute I could.  My thirst for knowledge was unquenchable.  I knew in my heart it was meant to be.

Eventually, we gave up our life in the city for a quiet country home by the coast, and finally, after years of research and preparation, my dreams came true!

In the years leading up to adopting our first Alaskan Malamute puppy, I read lots and lots of books about puppy training, dog psychology and the history of the breed.   I visited dozens of breed specific forums and websites (including rescue sites to see what sort of reasons had been cited by people giving up their Malamutes, so I could learn about potential behavioural or health issues common in the breed), and I put up ads asking to meet local Malamute owners and asked them LOTS of questions.

I spent a lot of time researching breeders and familiarising myself with the Kennel Club’s breed standards and the prevalent bloodlines.  I had no intention of showing my puppy, but wanted a well bred dog produced by health-tested parents with fantastic temperaments.  For me, finding a breeder who produced dogs with great temperaments was of the utmost importance.

As I learned more and more about the breed and different puppy training techniques, I began to plan and visualise how we would raise our puppy and how this would work in practical terms.  I set to work compiling a list of all the items we would need.

I am a big believer in saving up for the best you can afford; that doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive version of a product – just the best.  I decided to ‘invest’ in good quality items for my puppy that would last her into adulthood wherever possible, and had everything she needed ready and waiting for her well in advance of her arrival!  This gave us time to play around with different layouts in each room that our puppy would have access to, in order to make sure we had it just right.

We had decided to crate train our puppy from day one, and we were well aware of how quickly Malamute puppies grow, so we purchased a two door galvanized steel crate with a metal tray floor in size XXL (48″) and set it up in a large empty space in our kitchen.  Then we added a large adjustable size steel puppy playpen to one side of the crate so that its side door opened directly into the playpen, giving our pup the option to have lots of extra room to play in safely when we could not directly supervise her, (for example, whilst cooking).  The total area taken up by the crate and playpen was around 10ft by 5ft.

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We rearranged our living room furniture to make sure there was lots of clear floor space, removed all but one side table, and picked out where to place an adult sized dog bed.  Needless to say, when you plan on sharing your life and home with a large breed dog, space becomes a very important consideration!

As our home already included three beautiful cats, and we were aware that many Malamutes have a high prey drive, we installed a babygate at the bottom of the stairs, at just the right height so that the cats could easily pass underneath.  We agreed that the pup would not be allowed upstairs at all.  This was not only for the cats’ benefit, but also for the pup’s health and wellbeing because Malamutes, like all large dog breeds, are prone to joint problems and conditions such as hip dysplasia.

At the bottom of the page is what I can remember of my puppy shopping list.  The most important item on this list, in my opinion, is pet insurance.

Our breeders provided us with four weeks’ free pet insurance (Pet Plan) when we adopted our puppy, as part of her puppy pack. (This also included her Kennel Club papers and five generation pedigree, her microchip information, some puppy information and advice, a bag of puppy food, toys, and a blanket that smelled of her mother).  We organised ‘for life’ pet insurance to be in place from the moment the free insurance expired.

All of our animals are insured on the best plans we can afford.  We lost Loki, our much beloved cat, after a heriocally fought battle against pancreatic cancer (he was just seven years old).  We were unable to save our beautiful boy, and miss him more than I can say, but it is of some comfort that we know we did everything we could, and that he received the best specialist treatment, and had the best possible quality of life right up until the very end.

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The fees for Loki’s medical treatment amounted to £12,000, racked up in a period of just a few months.  And our pet insurance paid it all.  Loki had never been sick a day in his life until he became ill with the cancer shortly before his seventh birthday.  It just goes to show, you never know what’s around the corner… and that’s why insurance is so important.

By the time the big day arrived to collect our beautiful bundle of fluff, we were well and truly organised and as prepared as it was humanly possible to be!

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Our wee pup is now six years old.  Other than the puppy items which she outgrew, we still have and use most of the items we purchased in preparation of her joining our family as an eight week old pup.

You can follow our twin Alaskan Malamutes, Lila and Rumo, on Instagram 🙂

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PUPPY SHOPPING LIST

  • XXL galvanised steel crate with steel floor (made puppy size by filling up excess space with blankets and boxes, and gradually removed as our puppy grew)
  • Large Puppy playpen (adjustable)
  • Vet bed x 2
  • XXL Dog bed
  • Pet blankets
  • Heavy XL ceramic food and water bowls
  • Drinkwell Large Dog Drinking Fountain
  • Leads
  • Collars (semi-slip training collars and fixed buckle collars)
  • Tags (all of our contact info and stating ‘Microchipped’ but NOT our dog’s name)
  • Pet insurance
  • Fit for Life plan with vets (monthly checkup and routine worm, flea and tick prevention treatments – also discounted products and free annual vaccination boosters)
  • Puppy training and socialisation classes
  • Poo bags
  • Simple Solution cleaning detergent (for general cleaning and potty training accidents)
  • Puppy shampoo and wipes
  • Nail clippers
  • Rake
  • Bristle brush
  • Slicker brush
  • Puppy toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Puppy teething gel
  • Nina Ottosson brain training games
  • Plush toys
  • Puppy Kongs
  • Kong puppy chew toys
  • Kong squeaker tennis balls
  • Kong frisbee
  • Squeaky rubber chicken toy
  • Clicker
  • Clicker training treats
  • Puppy food
  • Dog training books
  • Doggy paddling pool
  • DAP diffuser
  • Babygates
  • Electrical outlet covers
  • Child safety locks for low cupboards
  • Pet first aid kit and book
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Honey, Apple and Carrot Dog Treats

Do you have a pet that is a super fussy eater?  We sure do!  In fact, we have TWO… Lila and Rumo are our beautiful Alaskan Malamute twins… and they can be ridiculously picky about what they will eat, especially when it comes to dog treats.

One of our dogs’ favourite New Thing A Day challenges I did back in 2015 was learning how to make them some homebaked dog biscuits.  I have tried a number of different recipes since then but this one remains their absolute favourite.

We had received a very thoughtful Christmas gift from our family: an adorable set of dog biscuit recipes together with the cutest cookie cutters.

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So, on Day 3 of keeping my 2015 New Year’s resolution to try a new thing a day, I was keen to try my hand at baking some dog biscuits for the very first time. I selected an apple and honey biscuit recipe because our dogs definitely like sweet treats, plus we already had all of the necessary ingredients.  I decided to add carrots to the ingredients because our dogs are especially fond of carrots.

From the moment I started grating the apples and carrots, the pupsters knew I was up to something interesting and shadowed my every move as I mixed and rolled out the dough, cut out the shapes and placed them onto baking sheets.

Once the biscuits had been baked to perfection, I took out the freshly baked biscuits from the oven, and even to me they smelled gooooood!  Lila and Rumo frantically went through a whole repertoire of tricks in an attempt to persuade us they deserved a cookie: offering paws, high fives, sitting, lying down, wooing…you name it!

When the treats had sufficiently cooled down, and Lila and Rumo had calmly sat down and waited politely, they were each rewarded with a biscuit.

THEY LOVED THEM!!! 

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So much so, that in fact, a little later on, when we had left the kitchen, Lila snuck back in and decided to do a little countersurfing, helping herself from the cooling rack – very, very naughty behaviour indeed!  But from a fluffy princess who turns up her nose at almost every dog treat in existence, it just goes to show what a big hit these were!

The recipe states that these treats will keep for 3 weeks in an airtight container but I cannot say for certain because our dogs make sure they never last that long 🙂

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HONEY, APPLE AND CARROT DOG TREATS RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 1 (Sweet) apple – grated
  • 1 Large carrot – grated
  • 250g Seed and grain wholemeal flour
  • 1 Tbsp Honey
  • 2 Tsp Sunflower oil
  • 1 Egg

Method:

Line baking sheets with greaseproof paper and preheat oven to 180 C (350 F / Gas Mark 4).

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and mix until it becomes a smooth dough.

Place dough onto a well floured surface and roll out to 5mm thickness.  Cut into shapes using cookie cutters and place on baking sheets.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until lightly golden brown on top.  (30 minutes for a softer, chewier biscuit or 40 minutes for a crunchier texture)

Allow to cool completely on cooling rack before transferring to airtight container.

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You can follow our dogs’ adventures on Instagram 🙂

Learning to Paint with Watercolour Pencils

As one of the very first of my New Thing A Day challenges in 2015, I decided to try out a set of 24 of the Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer artists’ watercolour pencils which I had bought on a whim from Amazon. As a schoolgirl I had always preferred drawing and sketching to painting, so the idea of using pencils to paint really appealed to me, but I didn’t know how to use them or what to expect.

When I was younger, I had loved art: I was the Art Coordinator for my school house, I did Art & Design A Level, and by the age of sixteen I was lucky enough to secure an unconditional offer to study Fine Art at Art School.  But here’s the thing: once I finished school at eighteen, I chose to pursue an academic degree over Art School and I never again so much as picked up a pencil or paintbrush.

By 2015 it had been many, many years since I had done any painting or drawing.  I was nervous.

I sketched out a very simple drawing inspired by a photo I found on Google, lightly shading with a few different colours, and then went over it all with a clean wet paintbrush… all in all I think I only spent about five minutes on it but I was already hooked – these watercolour pencils were lots of fun to play with!

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So while this painting was drying I decided to do a quick sketch from a photo I had recently taken of Lila, one of our gorgeous Alaskan Malamutes… and watched my little sketch come to life as the colours spread and blended, becoming increasingly vibrant, as I went over the pencil strokes with a wet brush…

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At the time, I had no idea of the significance of this little personal challenge of mine.  I had not sketched or painted for so long, but when I picked up those watercolour pencils and finally put pencil to paper, that creativity that I had forgotten existed somewhere deep inside me was suddenly reignited, and my long dormant passion for arts and crafts reawakened.

That was 02 January 2015.  Two years later, my love and desire to express my creativity has not wavered or diminished since that day.  Watercolour pencils remain one of my favourite mediums to work in, and now I have upgraded to the full set of 120 shades.

So back to the day in question – I snapped photos on my phone of my two watercolour pencil paintings and posted them to my Facebook page right after I had done them.  The number of likes and comments I received from my friends and family was totally unexpected, but so encouraging…

Within hours I was approached by a dog charity I was involved with at the time, asking to use my painting of Lila as a design on products they were selling to raise funds to help dogs.  They asked if I could do more paintings for them.  Later, I was approached by a local card shop asking if I could produce a series of cards for them to sell.  Friends started messaging me, requesting paintings of their dogs!

At first I didn’t take any of it seriously, and then I got nervous and scared, and I wanted to say no to everything; but my husband told me to stop being so silly and to say yes – after all, wasn’t my New Year’s resolution to try out new things?  So I did.  I said yes to everything.  And it was amazing.

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More recently, I have been lucky enough to have the support and encouragement of some wonderful people on Instagram who have allowed me to paint their dogs to use as card designs. In the not too distant future, I would love to put together some designs for print on demand sites and perhaps even an Etsy store.

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This particular “something new” challenge actually helped me rediscover something I didn’t even realise I had lost…