Thursday, October 15, 2015

Puppy Love

I mentioned, briefly, that we got a puppy August 1st. Prince Caspian. The Labradoodle. I haven’t mentioned him again, have I? If you judged my life by my blog (which is dangerously misleading in many areas), you’d have to assume that when Caspian joined our family, life carried on as it always had.

You would be woefully mistaken.
Photo credit: April Olivia Roskos
The first half of August was similar to what I imagine hell to be like. That may sound extreme to some, but you are the ones who made it even worse for me! I kept asking myself what was wrong with me. Why is this so hard? So many people have dogs! This is not a big deal! But for me it was a little bit like having a newborn without all the warm and fuzzy feelings and the cuddly nursing sessions. Yeah, just the nightmare part. It was a lot like having four kids, except that the fourth kid was a toddler devil—chewing everything he could reach and biting the other kids. Trust me. None of my descriptions do it justice. Unless you’ve been the responsible party caring for a mischievous puppy, you will never know.

In mid-August, I thought I was just going to have to live in hell for two years until Caspian matured. Then, some advice from friends and family changed our lives for the better.

Several people told me to keep his world small. We carried this out in a few different ways.

First of all, we were crate training but I felt guilty leaving him in the crate. Someone with experience told me to stop it—puppies should spend a lot of time in the crate the first year.

Big sigh of relief!

I stopped feeling guilty about leaving him in the crate. In fact, the same person told me that the puppy’s schedule should be designed to fit ours. I realized that I had been giving the puppy a higher rank than he ought to have. I began seeing him less as the fourth child and more as the pet (duh). He is supposed to be beneficial, not detrimental, to our family.
Absconding with the kids' toys! It's all in a day's work.
Second, another friend suggested we gate off a designated area of the house so he stays there. Previously, we had not let Caspian upstairs. (I was patting myself on the back for that.) But if I let him out of the crate, he had free run of the downstairs. He could easily go into another room and wreak havoc while I was making breakfast. It should have been obvious, but it wasn’t to me. Baby gates to the rescue!

Third, we got a kennel. Todd’s idea. This has given me freedom to head out for a long day of errands without worrying about getting home in four hours to let Caspian out to go potty. I have to say, I kind of felt like he was my ball and chain before. Much less so now. The kennel may not be his favorite hangout, but at least while I’m gone I know he has food, water, shelter, and he’s confined. For now, anyway. He’s started several holes under the fence, so we’ll see how long this lasts before reinforcements are needed.

Fourth, and we just started doing this, I cover his crate so he can’t see us while we’re eating. I usually start our meal first and see how he does, but if he sits by Eva’s high chair and begs, or jumps up on it with his front legs, he goes right into the crate. (By the way, he only harasses her because she willingly shares her food with him!) Previously, I would be reluctant to put him into the crate while we eat because he would bark and howl at us, which made me crazy. (You can see who’s training whom!) But my niece was here the other day and said it really helped their dog calm down if she couldn’t see them. So I threw a blanket over the front of the crate and voila! It may take him a minute, but he gets over it and settles down.

Ain't he handsome, though?
I really don’t want to share only the negative aspects of bringing Caspian home. He is a sweet boy and loves us all so, so much! We love him, too! We have had some nightmarish times, though. I walked into this rather blindly and optimistically, having no experience whatsoever. I’m still learning—and I still have days when I think having a dog makes me a bear! But overall, our pup is much more manageable now. And I’m sure with some extra training in the next year, he’ll be simply delightful . . . eventually . . .

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