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!