I've been meaning to do this post for a long time, as people ask me a lot about how I manage having Lopez around work and living in London. So, when Argos approached me (or rather, Lopez) about doing a post it made more than sense to do so. I'd wanted a dog for so long, but having been brought up with cats I had absolutely no experience with them so when it came to getting one I really was going into the idea "cold."
Lopester and I have been a team for nearly 3 years. I first met him when he was 3 weeks old and fitted neatly into my hand (as above). I knew from the moment he peed all over me that we were meant to be together. I've popped some basic tips if you're thinking of getting a dog below, but in essence it's quite simple: If you have the time, the patience and the available resources, dog ownership is one of the most rewarding things you can ever take on.
On a day to day basis I use sites like PetsPyjamas and StyleTails to keep tabs on where is dog friendly in London. As a general rule all London transport systems are dog friendly. Drivers can say no to a dog if there is already one on board and/or your dog is making a noise/growling etc. Friends like Rose, Angie and Rosie have dogs too, so we often share tips on where to go thats dog friendly in town (or sneak the dogs in carefully). As a rule the bigger the chain of restaurants/hotels/venues you are going to, the more likely they are anti-dog. If it's privately owned then it's more likely they'll say yes. Some positively embrace dogs, examples of those are here.
My vet told me to start as I meant to go on, so he's very confident about getting on the tube and isn't really scared of anything (except when buses rush past him, he hates that). The same with being left alone; I knew he was going to be on his own for at least a few hours every day. So as much as it killed me to leave something the size of a rubber duck in my flat alone, I did it from the word "go." As a result, I have one very chilled, laid back dog.
Some important things to consider:
- Insurance - Do it. Don't even think about it. At first when they're really little you think "why do I pay this money every month" - but once they mature it will save you £100s. I've already saved over double what I've spent on Lopez' in one visit to the vet. Trust me, when they get ill (which happens, and it's horrible) you don't want to be in a position that you can't pay for what they need. Try Argos for good pet insurance deals.
- Landlord permission - Make sure you have it. I was lucky enough to have a fabulous landlord at the time who was more than willing for me to have Lopez - my flat had outside space, so on the understanding that Lopez would be housetrained immediately he had no problem with it. However I know of people who have had to give up their dogs, or got in trouble for not notifying landlords - it is probably against your contract not to do so. As a tip, if you rent through an estate agent try and speak to the owner directly - agents often say 'no' immediately without actually asking. I wrote a letter to mine explaining the breed, how often he'd be left alone etc... So there were no surprises.
- Housetraining - Be strong, dogs will only do something if they understand they have to. It's terribly hard to tell off something so cute, but if you want nice carpets and shoes for the next 15 or so years you really need to be firm with this one. A friend, Barry has an excellent dog fitness/training/general discipline company called The Dog Jogger if ever you need someone.
- Friends / Family - You really do need a network. I'm lucky in that I have close friends and family in London I can call on. However, you do need to have a Plan B and thats definitely something I fell short on until recently. I'd recommend sites like Borrow My Doggy to help you find regular, trustworthy sitters. It's really important to me that Lopez feels as relaxed as possible when he's away from home, or I'm away so I try to use the same group of people to help when I'm on holiday or away with work.
- Work - Not all companies are dogs friendly, and I'm lucky enough to have worked for a couple. In truth, if they're not then it does make it very difficult for you - I'd find it near on impossible. You just can't leave them all day, and a dog walker for an hour just doesn't provide enough company for any dog (in my opinion). If you're desperate for one, then try asking neighbours who stay at home if the dog could spend mornings/afternoons with them - otherwise, for me it's a no-go. If you can take them to the office, make sure they're house trained too and there is a degree of routine too. Lopez knew what time "walkies" was, where he could play and who wanted a cuddle from him. Be strict.
- Breed - I'm completely biased but the Maltese breed is a total winner for me. Incredibly loyal, calm and fun to be around. They also like time to themselves so leaving Lopez on his own for half a day isn't a problem - I start to notice he wonders off to a quiet part of the flat on to get some "alone time" if we're together all day. Him being a smaller breed is very handy too, I can literally pick him up and take him on the tube/bus/train. I'd absolutely recommend something this size for London living - friends who have taken more energetic dogs (Lopez needs 20 mins walking a day) have struggled.
- Other dogs - I think it's really important to have other dogs around as much as possible. The few friends I do have in London with dogs think the same, so we schedule playdates as much as we can. I can really see Lopez's mood change after a solid afternoon's play, and it's lovely to watch!
As always, if you are thinking about owning a dog and want any tips then feel free to email Lopez and ask his humble opinion. He will do anything for a biscuit. I hope this information helps you in some way. Getting Lopez was the best decision I ever made; the love you get from a dog makes any bad day into a good one! You can follow Lopez' London adventures via his very own hashtag on Instagram: #theLopezdiaries, enjoy! Goodbye from us!
Photos (where professional and not my phone), Nancy Gibbs. This post was sponsored by Argos Pet Insurance.