OK, I admit it. I’m consumed with puppy envy! My sister just adopted the cutest little puppy and since she doesn’t live close by, I get to follow him via Facebook. I want to snuggle his furry little body and smell puppy breath! I guess it’s hitting me harder than when she adopted a puppy a couple years ago since then I was set with my two dogs and could only think back to the one time I did adopt an 8-week-old pup and how difficult that was! Since then I have always said “been there, done that - never again!” Having a puppy is a lot of work, especially if you are serious about trying to do it right.
First you have to be aware of the two fear imprint stages (8-12 weeks and about 8-10 months). This is a time when a scary event, sudden noise, a too rough dog, friend, etc. could have lasting effects on your dog. Enough to make you want to put the pup into a safety bubble! But on the other hand according to Dr. Ian Dunbar, puppies have a critical socializing period between eight weeks and four months where they need to be exposed to other animals, surfaces, sounds and at least 100 new people each week in order to be a well adjusted, social, friendly, fearless dog as an adult. Uh huh – you read that right! Just like some people go into parenting assuming they will instinctively know what to do, too many people assume that if you provide food and water and a bit of exercise that puppies will grow up to be good dogs automatically.
I guess the down side is I know enough to be frightened of the responsibility! My one and only puppy was a real learning experience for me. It was back when I was just starting in the animal welfare field and, of course, I thought I knew everything! She was allowed to come to work with me so she had a very stimulating environment. It’s amazing how quickly a puppy can do damage though. I left her loose in my bedroom (in a rental house) for less than two minutes while I ran to the bathroom and when I returned she had chewed a hole through the plaster of the wall. Right in the center of the room. I have no idea why. But that cost a pretty penny to have it patched and painted.
The biggest mistake I made raising Shana, was that I wanted a dog as a friend and treated her that way instead of being the parent and setting rules and making sure she followed them. As she matured it became apparent that I was not her leader and that made her both insecure and confused. I didn’t realize that raising a youngster meant saying “no” sometimes and having consistent repercussions for disobedience. That was back in the day when training was a bit more coercive and we used choke chains to get dogs to do our bidding. Training meant putting on the chain and doing 10 minutes of sit, stay, down and come. I didn’t realize that training was really what happened the other 23 hours and 50 minutes of the day! I would do things so differently now.
I guess the reason that this time I am envious, rather than pitying my sister for all the work she has before her, is that I’m down to just one dog at the moment and have begun the search for a second. My current dog can be selective about his dog friends so I have to be careful in my selection. My husband has also requested that since we’ve taken on a few dogs with behavioral issues it would be nice to just have a friendly easy dog (is there really such a thing?). Which makes me think maybe I should just raise one! But my husband is against a puppy and he also has to agree to our next canine. So I just wait for the next cute video of my new pup-nephew and give my two cents of advice when asked. Can’t wait to meet him!
“Get Them Back Home” Campaign – Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. FREE pet ID tag and a back-up microchip are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wed 1-6:30; Thur-Fri-Sat 1-5:30; Sun 1-4:30.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.