28 May 2011

Raising a Puppy - Week 4

Quite a week it has been. So many ups and downs, but by the end of the week, more up than down.
      Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, Gemmie seemed to escalate from "puppy play-biting" up to aggressive, hard biting. I stopped letting passersby pet him, and worried that with Gem I'd bit off more than I could chew.
      I don't bruise easily, so the two big bruises Gem left on my arm on Monday illustrate what to me was an unheard-of power for such a little pup. On Tuesday, I was to the point of sending him back to the breeder for (1) a weekend off and (2) remedial training/socialization with his sister and mother and the other goldens there.
      But sending him away didn't feel right, so my husband, Bear, and I decided to redouble our efforts. We'd tried the "yipping" and "growling" suggested by books, Websites, and by the vet, but that did not cause Gem to stop or to loosen his grip. So, we moved to a stronger method, one used by Cesar Millan on his show, The Dog Whisperer. As soon as Gem started to bite one of us, we would yell "no" and then push him down to the ground, holding him on his side until he stopped struggling and let out a breath of relaxation.
      It's hard, and I bet it looks scary and mean. But the puppy is not being hurt and, more importantly, neither is the human. I say more important, because in the long run, a puppy's well-being is measured by how well he interacts with others — especially other dogs and humans. An aggressive, undisciplined dog is an unhappy dog. Such behavior would not be tolerated in a pack, and fitting into the pack (family, neighborhood) is of great importance for a well-balanced dog.
      And it works! Gem has not bitten me since Wednesday morning — that is, he has not bitten me for long! He is seemingly 10 times more gentle now than he was a week ago. I can caress his face and not fear being bitten. In fact, he seems to be enjoying the softer attention much more now.
      As anyone raising a puppy knows, this fight isn't over. It will require consistent, calm discipline. But it's empowering to both human and dog to know it is something that can be handled and overcome.
      Speaking of empowering to the human — last night I learned something about myself and about Gem that my sleep-deprived over-worrying was not letting me see. Gem is a good dog. I am a good trainer. We work well together.
      We went to our first puppy socialization class at the local humane society. Gem was the biggest pup there and I was worried he'd be overbearing and aggressive. Not so. He was gentle and calm and he was the first pup to display the classic play bow. It was interesting to note that other folks in the class did not know what that meant. 
      What made me most proud of Gem, though, was when the trainer asked to use him to help the more shy pups. The class was made up of two very small corgis (wow are they cute; they look like little long-eared guinea pigs!) and two under-socialized humane society adoptees. First, the trainer separated the larger adoptees from the very shy corgis, then had Gem lie down and stay while the corgis came up to him. They were praised whenever they came near, and they were able to learn that this big dog with the strange waiving appendage (when had they seen a tail before?) was not a threat and that they were safe. A great confidence builder. 
      After a while, Gem was moved to the other side of the room with the larger pups. He initiated play and they had a good time. One of the pups, Lucy, was having a harder time, because she was afraid of humans as well. So, while Gem played, I enticed Lucy to me with treats until she turned and allowed me to pet her bottom. Soon, she'll be more relaxed around everyone.
      Gem is promoted to the 12- to 18-week-old puppy group next week, and so is Lucy and the other bigger pup. I'm looking forward to seeing them get to know each other more and having Gem help work out their "issues" (hah! and mine!). Also, it will be nice to have Gem be around a larger bunch of pups to see how it is for him to be the small one.
      Another cool thing: They had a little tunnel in the training room, and I got Gem to go through it on the first try! I'm thinking for sure this guy and I will really enjoy agility training when the time comes.
      And one last benefit — nothing's better after a long day than a tired puppy...

21 May 2011

Repost - Poem to A Friend

Life doesn't need to come all at once.
There is no disappointment in not achieving things
Exactly as planned
As you think it is supposed to be.
Sometimes life's problems come from our own striving
Our own imagining of how it should go
Rather than stepping back
Being quiet
Accepting what IS at this moment
What is good in this moment
Even if it is but the smallest detail.
It's hard when the rush of life comes at you like a stormy sea
To stop and see it all as continuity
Each drop linked to each drop
Even to the quiet and stillness of the deep.

I originally posted this on 26 December 2010, in prep for the New Year. Having just read it again, I thought it was pretty good, and something to focus on each day, so I'm posting it again. The picture was taken far up the Skagway River in Alaska.

Raising a Puppy - Week 3

Week three, but it seems like months. I love this little pup, but oh the work! Last night I was up at midnight and 4 a.m. to take him out; my husband was stuck with the 5:30 cries. The vet (Nancy Bureau at Alpine Hospital for Animals — Buddy's vet all his life) says that until Gem is 12 weeks old, he will need to go out at least twice per night. From 12 to 16 weeks, he'll only have to go out once per night. And I'm sure he will sleep; last night I had to carry a sleep-drugged puppy out into the dark. Then he went right back to sleep after peeing.
    In case I didn't mention it before, we are crate-training (Gem's is a Pet Gear collapsible crate). It's the best way to ensure that a dog is safe during the night and that he does not pee or poop inside the house. Dogs, even little puppies, will not soil their own little territories, unless left with no other choice after hours of neglect. Gem also has a "play pen," which I highly recommend. This is where he goes to wind down after a walk or after play — he tends to get bite-y when he's tired, and the playpen helps to keep me safe from some very painful nipping. It also helps him settle before I put him in his crate and head off to work.
    Speaking of nipping — all puppies "play bite," but for some, this can get out of control, especially when the pup is tired or hungry, and I have the bruises and tiny cuts to prove it (I don't think on a younger person the puppy would actually break the skin, but skin that grows more delicate as we age runs in my family). I asked the vet how to make Gem stop. Her advice: (1) put him down to sleep before he gets tired enough to bite; (2) make sure he has eaten his breakfast/lunch/dinner; and (3) correct him with loud yips and growls when he is biting, just like a big dog would. Sounds easy. But then she notes that a puppy his age will need to be corrected a hundred times or more before he gets it. It feels like I've already done that... but the idea is consistency — I can't let it pass even once. Glad I have nice neighbors who understand puppy training! This site has even more great information, with videos, of how to stop the puppy from biting.
    What else did I learn while at the vet? 
    To help the puppy want to be in his crate and/or playpen, give all treats there (unless you are training) and give no affection while and right after you remove him from the crate or playpen. 
    Food: Puppies can have two or three mini-carrots if they like them. Gem chomps them down — this meets his desire to chew (and a cool carrot can be soothing to a teething pup) and is healthy in moderation. Gem also likes frozen green beans; encouraging this will help later in life because most golden retrievers have a tendency to be very food oriented and to gain weight if not managed carefully.
    I also learned that I should feed Gem three times per day, as much as he will eat. Puppies tend to graze — they grab a few pieces of kibble, then go off to play, then come back, repeat, until they are full, or until five minutes have passed. Once five minutes have passed, the food bowl can be removed. I always throw a handful of kibble into his playpen or crate when he's going to spend some time there.
    Unfortunately, Gem is a hardcore dirt eater. Nothing better than soil, as far as he is concerned. Dr. Bureau recommends having something even tastier with me to "bribe" him with (cooked, cubed chicken works; I freeze it to make it a little harder to eat up) so that he lets go of the dirt and takes that instead. She does caution, however, that this will take up to 100 corrections before he stops the behavior.
    About places to go and ways to play: Dr. Bureau recommends no dog parks or places where dogs congregate outdoors until Gem is at least four months old. He can go to the pet store or the local hardware store — places that have been cleaned up after pet visits. And when we're out, Gem is allowed to play with big dogs, but no puppies I don't know, in case they have not been vaccinated yet. The exception is when he goes to socialization/play class at the local humane society, because they require health records before a puppy can join in.
    Finally, even though he is a golden retriever, born for swimming, he cannot yet go swimming. Dr. Bureau explained that puppies have a very short attention span and can drown. I could just picture Gem out in the water, paddling about, and then, distracted or sleepy, forgetting what he was doing and sinking like a rock. She says that really can happen.

    I got Gem a little swimming pool, but for now we're playing in it dry. The vet advises that just like a small child, Gem should not be left unsupervised in even two inches of water. But Gem seems to be having a great time in the empty pool, as you can see from his wild-eyed friskiness.
    Gem was born on 7 March 2011; he's now 11 weeks old. One more week, and I should be able to sleep for more than 3-4 hours at a time. Please, please, please let it be true!

15 May 2011

Raising a Puppy - Week 2.1

Some hours of the day, this is all I hope for... Gem to fall asleep. But I have learned something: Gem doesn't need to play so hard in order to fall asleep (case in point: too many toys in this picture). In fact, playing too hard makes it harder for him to wind down. When he gets fussy and toothy (boy, it hurts when he nips!), it means he's tired, but too tired to just lie down and rest. He needs my help - so now I have taken to giving him "time outs." It seems to be working.

I also just switched his food. Either the probiotic meds are taking effect (he had giardia) and his tummy feels better or the new food is somehow making him calmer. Tonight was the first night I could just sit with him without having to tug on a toy or hide my hands so he wouldn't bite them. 

I'll let you know, after I give it further consideration, and it seems like that really is what made the difference, what I changed his food from & to. It could be, too, that he is starting to settle in more. 

In any case, I am very much looking forward to our first "puppy socialization class" at the humane society on Friday.  And even though I trained Buddy up well and know a fair amount about dogs and training in general, I'm looking forward to getting in some puppy kindergarten classes. There's nothing like being with a group of folks who can bounce ideas off each other, create a positive learning environment for both pups and humans, and get advice they didn't even know they needed.

Until then... sweet dreams.

11 May 2011

Raising a Puppy - Week 2

It does get better. It does get better. It does get better... Slowly, over the course of the second week, the puppy stops smelling like spoiled milk and more like soft, sweet, fuzziness. And then he bites you...

Gem is one active guy - and no signs of fear! He meets other dogs head on (well, with the appropriate deference, more like side to the head on [What, don't you watch The Dog Whisperer? You'd understand what I mean if you did.]). He's very observant and is not troubled by new situations. In fact, my nickname for him is "Intrepid One." 

I've been taking lots of pictures and getting very little sleep. In fact, I should be sleeping now rather than writing this post. I can hardly wait until Gem sleeps through the night... Right now his little bladder is just too small to wait 8 hours, or even 6, or 5... oooppppppppssssssssss I just fell asleep......

Here are a few shots of the little monster, I mean, darling - depending on time of day - the earlier in the day, the sweeter he is; by bedtime, he's like a toddler, fighting sleep with every ounce of energy. He bites and fights but when I put him down in his crate, he whines for a bit and then is sound asleep.

This series of photos is titled "this guy never stops." Until he hits the wall, he doesn't. He has places to go, things to dig up, and balls to kill. Oh, and the occasional pot to stick his head in.

05 May 2011

Raising a Puppy - Week 1

Gem! I adopted Gem (or Farm Fresh Buns in the Oven's Gem Lake [formal name; mom's name is Buns]) from Beckett Ranch in Lyons, Colorado, on 1 May 2011. He was born on 7 March 2011, so that makes him a little over 8 weeks old. This puppy caught my eye because he makes eye contact and seems to like to "pose" for pictures.

Like any puppy, he's quite a handful. Or many hands full... For the first three days, I was so sleep deprived I even fell asleep just inside the front door after taking him out for a potty break in the middle of the night. Today is the first day I've felt awake enough to write.

This is really hard. I do not recommend that you get a puppy unless you are prepared for it to be much harder than you think. Separation anxiety is the most difficult thing to battle here, and Blue Aroo, our 13-year-old husky mix, is finding the puppy's crying & barking very trying. He sees it as a distress call, which it is, and he panics and/or comes to us to fix the problem. I'm hoping we can work this out by treating Blue the same as usual, except doing things like feeding him turkey while puppy is nearby and puppy gets nothing, etc., to reinforce that he is alpha and all is OK.

The easiest thing so far has been potty training, with just two accidents in the house that were my fault because I wasn't paying attention. Gem has figured out how to ask at the door to go out. Next (when he stops trying to eat it), I will hang a bell on the doorknob for him to ring when he needs out.

Like Buddy before him, Gem seems to prefer sleeping spread out on the tile floor or with his head up on something. He also moves around a lot, waking up for a couple of seconds, turning around, and going back to sleep. I just wish he would be OK with sleeping peacefully in his crate or in his playpen.

I should probably be sleeping now to catch up on rest I'm missing in the middle of the night. Twice up and outside. This is when I really miss having a yard, but, on the other hand, I wouldn't leave him out in the yard unsupervised, and we have a park-like lawn right outside our deck's fence. Gem is doing well; I have to just remember to breathe and sleep when I can.

I took this week off; I'm not sure how going back into the office next week will work. I'll keep you updated!