Thursday, November 12, 2009

Guard Dog in Training

As hard as it is to imagine now, I’m hoping that Forest will one day become a guard dog. He’s already mastered the barking part of the job, probably more so than needed. When Forest is inside the house, he’ll bark when he hears a car passing by, when he looks out the window and sees any movement whatsoever, when anyone enters the house (even if he knows that it’s just me or Nick) and when he sees his own reflection in a mirror or window. When he’s outside, Forest will bark when anyone walks or rides pass the house, when cars drive by, and when he sees any of our neighbors (even if said people are standing in their own yard a block away). He also barks at the garbage bags people put on the curb for garbage day, they freak him out for some reason. All this makes me very confident that I’ll be notified if someone comes to the house or steps on our property, especially if that someone is wearing a poncho constructed out of a garbage bag.

However, we’ve found one little quirk that needs some more training (or dog therapy, I don’t know).

We had only owned Forest for about week when we brought him to the Iowa cabin for the first time. We slept in a first floor bedroom that had windows facing the front door and yard. Forest made a small ruckus when we put him in his crate the first night, but he was exhausted from the long car ride and the excitement of meeting Nick’s extended family so the puppy soon fell asleep.

When we put Forest in his crate the second night, he made his usual ruckus...and didn’t shut up. He was whining, pawing at the crate door, even a few barks (which he rarely did the first few weeks we had him). At first, we couldn’t fathom why he was freaking out so much, he had been fine the night before, no problems, so what the hell was wrong with this puppy?

Then I had a random thought. We had turned off the front porch light so our bedroom was basically pitch-black, but the night before we had left the front porch light turned on. And I thought no way, there was barely any light coming thru our bedroom window the night before, really? We were getting desperate (most of Nick’s family was trying to sleep in the same house) so I snuck into the hallway, snagged a night-light, and plugged it in the wall in our room. Tada, the puppy was quiet.

My future guard dog is afraid of the dark.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Big Puppy-Sized Tennis Ball

Recently we had one of those moments when we realized that Forest is getting less like a puppy and more like a dog (might compromise and think of him as a big puppy).

When we finally decided to get Forest (which seems like ages ago) I bought a bunch of toys and supplies in preparation of his homecoming. Of course when we brought Forest home for the first time, I discovered that most of the toys I got him didn’t actually fit in his little mouth. So I went back to the store and bought some tiny tennis balls (there are some cute photos of Forest and these balls in my Forest-Sized Tennis Ball post). Forest has tripled in size over the last three months, but he still loves playing with his small tennis balls.

A few days ago we took Forest over to visit the neighbors and the puppy spent most of the time running around their yard. You would think that we could have relaxed a little because the puppy was outside and free to potty anywhere, but he managed to get into all sorts of other trouble. Forest found lots of sidewalk chalk (non-toxic thankfully) and wood chips to chew on. The neighbors had a bonfire going in their fire pit and Forest kept trying to get close to it. On top of all that, Forest was on a leash and was constantly wrapping it around chairs legs and our feet. Luckily he was just adorable during all of this so we didn’t feel like drop-kicking him across the yard (which Nick threatens to do quite often).

At one point the neighbors brought out a regular sized tennis ball for Forest to play with. I told them that it was a sweet gesture but the ball would be too big for Forest. The puppy decided that this was a good time to make me look foolish and immediately picked up the ball in his mouth! The ball was still a little too big so Forest had to stretch his mouth open as wide as it would go to pick up the ball (can dogs get lock-jaw?). Sometimes he wouldn’t get a great angle and the ball would just slip out of his mouth and roll away, which caused Forest to run after it and try to pick it up again (an amusing cycle that kept Forest occupied and out of trouble for awhile). The neighbors were tickled by all this and gave us the tennis ball to bring home.

Forest loves this big tennis ball, but he still plays with the smaller balls as well. We’re probably going to have to take the small balls away at some point, don’t want the big puppy to choke on them.

Forest: Look ma, it fits!

Forest: Crap, it's slipping :(

Forest: I love this ball.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Forest-Sized Puppy

In my Mystery Puppy post, I explained that Nick’s severe pet allergies limited the types of dogs that we could adopt. We discovered that F1B poodle mixes are very hypoallergenic, so we did a lot of research on different types of poodle puppies. Nick declared that we could only get a dog that he wouldn’t be embarrassed walking around with in public, so that eliminated small mixes like Cockapoos. We finally narrowed our options down to Labradoodles and Goldendoodles.

Unfortunately F1B puppies are not as common as their F1 cousins. We came across a few places in other states that had F1B puppies for sale but we felt weird having a puppy “shipped” to us. Finally we found a breeder somewhat close to us in Missouri (seriously, what did we ever do before the internet? Yellow pages were useless).

The breeders were extremely nice and really seemed to care about their dogs, but they had an unusual policy about not letting potential owners meet the puppies before buying them. They explained that there are serious canine diseases that are very easy to spread and can kill entire litters (I’ll talk more about those diseases in a future post), so they didn’t want to chance losing their puppies. They tried to compensate for this policy by posting lots of photos and YouTube videos online so we could see what the puppies looked like and some of their personalities.

Nick and I didn’t like this policy, but we also didn’t really have any other options at that point. Plus we figured that if Forest didn’t work out then we’d have to say goodbye to the possibility of ever finding a dog that wouldn’t kill Nick. So we decided what the hell, we’ll just get a puppy and be done with it (those actually might have been Nick’s exact words, I think he was getting irritated by my constant puppy chatter).

The breeder’s litter at the time just happened to be F1B mini goldendoodles, and they estimated that Forest would grow to be about 20 to 25 pounds. I couldn’t imagine how big Forest would look as an adult, so I talked to our friend Doug, who owned the smallest dog (Bailey) that we knew at the time. Doug guessed that Bailey weighed around 15 pounds, so the “adult-sized Forest” image in my head became a taller version of Bailey. Nick and I thought that was a pretty good size for a dog, though maybe a little smaller than we had hoped for.

When we finally got to bring Forest home with us, he was only 4.7 pounds. He seemed so freaking tiny!

Forest next to Nick’s running shoes.

A few weeks after we adopted him, we left Forest at home (a non-potty trained puppy with no obedience skills is not travel-friendly) and went over to Doug’s house. It’s a tad embarrassing to admit now, but at first I didn’t recognize Bailey, I thought Doug was babysitting a neighbor’s dog or something. She just looked HUGE. I didn’t realize that staring non-stop at our little puppy for a couple weeks (remember this was during the “if I glance away for 30 seconds he’ll poop in the living room” phase) could change my perception of dog sizes so dramatically.

Luckily I didn’t say any of this out loud and after a few minutes figured out that it was indeed Bailey. Duh.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Puppy Nap

Apparently Forest didn’t find the Iowa/Indiana game as exciting as I did (GO HAWKS!).

We went over to a friend’s place to watch the game last Saturday and the hosts were nice enough to let us bring the puppy along. Everyone loved Forest, like “Can we keep him?” love. I think we recruited 5 new eager puppy-sitters that day. Luckily Forest got really worn out playing with everyone, so I didn’t feel as guilty for sticking him in his crate early that night and going to some Halloween parties.
Sleep tight little guy.


The Crate Escape

Yesterday's blog post was getting kinda long, so I decided to post this crate story separately.
Rewind to the first week we owned Forest. Before I discovered the fantastic world of doggy day care, Forest spent 8am to 5pm at home in his crate, which forced Nick and I to rush back to the house a couple times a day to let him out (little puppy = little bladder).

One day I let Forest out in the morning, put him in his crate and sped back to work. A few hours later, I get a call from Nick who asks, “So how sure are you that you closed his crate door?" which is just a smartass question because of course I’m going to say, well hell, I’m pretty sure. Nick proceeds to tell me about how he came home and found the crate door wide open, a couple shoes with canine slobber on them, some nibbled chair legs and a very happy puppy in the kitchen. At the time I was positive that I had closed the crate door, but then I started thinking, well hell, I was in a hurry to get back to work, maybe I thought I closed the door but didn’t secure the latch properly? I spent the next 5 minutes worrying and apologizing while Nick hunted thru the house in search of hidden puppy poop (we’re still surprised Forest didn’t take a dump behind a dresser or in a closet).

The very next day, I left work to let Forest out, walked in the front door and called Nick. “So guess who I just found in the kitchen?” (next to destroyed chew toy and puddle of piss). Yep, the puppy was out again. Thankfully this time Nick was the last person to “close” the crate door so my claim of not being an irresponsible, ditzy dog owner was validated (which I reminded Nick of, oh, just a couple of times).
Our hypothesis is that Forest hates being left alone in his crate so much that he scratches, bites and jumps on the crate door hard enough and long enough to jimmy the latch loose. Then it’s party time for puppy.

So we’ve come up with the following solution:

The bungee cord may not be aesthetically pleasing, but it gets the job done.

This puppy ain’t going nowhere.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Forest’s Crate

In case some of you non-dog people out there don’t know this, a dog crate is basically a cage. But no one refers to it as a cage, no, manufactures, pet stores and dog owners all refer to it as a crate (maybe that makes everyone feel better about locking up a sweet doggy in a cage). Some crates have solid, plastic sides with a wire door so the dog can only see out the front of the crate (thus you’re basically putting your dog in an expensive box). Most of the dog owners I know use a crate made entirely of metal or plastic wires/bars, so that’s what we use too. I think this type of crate makes it easier for us to keep an eye on Forest, plus it lets the puppy see what’s going on around him (the crate’s in our bedroom).

So why would we own a crate you ask? Why not just stick Forest in the yard or a closet while we’re away? Besides keeping the puppy out of trouble and out of our shit, a crate is supposed to make potty training much easier (it’s sometimes referred to as “crate training”). Apparently, dogs try not to potty where they sleep. Some say it’s a natural instinct, and some say dogs learn this as puppies when they soil their sleeping area and see their mom clean up after them by eating the poop (I really hope this second explanation is just a rumor, cause if not, damn, mommy dogs are hard-core). If you set up a divider in the crate so the puppy has just enough room to lie down and turn around, theoretically he won’t be able to potty anywhere without lying in it, so he’ll try harder to hold it.

We've put up a divider so Forest only has access to half of the crate.

According to everyone we’ve talked to and everything we’ve read, dogs are supposed to love their crates and like spending time in there. Well of course, Forest is not a fan of his crate. In fact, for the first two months we owned him, Forest HATED his crate and raised hell every single time we put him in there. He would whine, bark, whimper and moan (yes, dogs can moan, or at least this one can, and it sounds creepily human like) all while chewing on or scratching at the crate’s bars, or trying to stick his head and paws between the bars.

If we stayed in the room with the puppy and he could see both of us at all times, eventually Forest would quiet down and go to sleep. If, heaven forbid, we left the room, that dang puppy wouldn’t shut up for hours. Seriously, we timed him. We’d be in the garage or out in the yard and could still hear Forest yelping.
On top of all that, the puppy would never go into his crate willingly so we always had to gently shove him in there. We tried making his crate more appealing by filling it with treats and toys, but Forest would stand outside the crate door and stretch as much as he could to get to the item without actually entering the crate. We tried feeding him in there once but Forest seemed to prefer not eating over getting in the crate. Every time he put so much as an ear in the crate, Nick and I would give him praise like he just learned to talk or something, but everything seemed to fail.

Luckily, we’ve seen some improvement during the past month. For example, Forest no longer whines when we put him in his crate for the night (he doesn’t sleep in our bed with us). I think he knows its bedtime and we’re going to stay in the room with him, so he doesn’t freak out. Even if one or both of us leaves the room for a few minutes, Forest expects us to come right back so he doesn’t make a scene.

We’re still having a rough time leaving Forest alone for extended periods of time. I know dogs don’t have a great sense of time (they probably can’t tell the difference between 15 minutes and 5 hours) but I swear, if we leave Forest alone for awhile then that dog thinks we’re never ever coming back and he’s stuck in that damn cage forever.

Nick and I try to avoid letting Forest out of his crate when he’s whining or barking, kinda like how parents aren’t supposed to pick up a baby every time it cries. But sometimes that puppy just won’t shut up, so Nick and I have to stand in the hallway waiting for a pause in the madness so we can enter our own bedroom. It almost feels like a game to me (hopefully it doesn’t seem that way to Forest). I’ll stand in front of his crate, Forest will whine, I’ll leave the room, he’ll bark a little, pause, I’ll walk back in, he’ll whimper, out I go again. It’s a sad process, but eventually Forest will remain quiet (for a moment) when I stand in front of his crate so I can let him out. *Whew*, so much work.

I swear we’re coming back Forest!