It’s Just Too Important

It’s so important to expose young puppies (safely) to the types of situations you expect them to encounter as adults.

Socialization is critical for puppies. There is such a small window of time in which they can easily learn about the world around them. Up until around 16 weeks, they are little sponges soaking up everything they can about what life is like. It’s so important that we not only allow them multiple opportunities to learn about the world they’re going to be experiencing for the rest of their lives, but to make sure the experiences are happy and empowering. We want our puppies to see things in the world and go “Hey, that’s normal” as they grow towards adulthood. I like taking my dogs lots of places so I made sure to take Kyber to busy places, quiet places, the park, the woods, a dog show, stores, etc. while he was young. It was challenging given that he came home when it was winter AND there’s still a global pandemic. But it was way too important to skimp on.

Then, at 16 weeks of age, he broke his leg. I had to keep him contained and rested. He was only allowed very short, on leash walks. While I knew I had done a good job getting him out into the world, I also knew that essentially hiding him from the world for the next 2 months was a very bad idea. It is vitally important that he still get out and about. Doing so given his restrictions was going to be a challenge. I didn’t want him rushing up to dogs (or having dogs attempt to play with him). I don’t need people getting him all excited. He isn’t allowed to walk on slippery surfaces. He is allowed to walk but not for very long. What to do?

I borrowed a friend’s dog stroller. He’s almost too big for it already but it works. I can get him out into the world so he can still see things without concern of him overdoing it and reinjuring himself. While my preference is to give my puppy (and dogs) freedom to move towards or away from things as they feel comfortable, it’s not really an option with the stroller. Fortunately, Kyber is a pretty confident guy so I don’t have to worry much about accidentally having him too close to something that scares him. As a bonus, he doesn’t have the opportunity to try and greet all the people and dogs he sees (though he’d like to!) which helps him learn the skills I want him to have as an adult. I am happy he likes people and dogs but I don’t want him to think he gets to say “Hi” to everyone out there. The stroller facilitates that.

Most of his walk is in the stroller but I still give him some time to walk around at a safe space so he can still experience the world at his level and with some latitude.

Making sure a puppy gets the right life experiences in the proper timeframe is a challenge. Sometimes we have to get creative and think outside the box. Sometimes we have to endure puzzled looks from people as we cart our 26 lb puppy around in a stroller. Or refuse to let our young dog say “Hi” to their rambunctious dog who’s straining at their leash. It’s all worth it, though. Life with a dog who hasn’t had the opportunity to learn that the world is a safe place is incredibly taxing. I went through it with Risa. I do my best to make sure my puppies are set up for success so that they can happily navigate whatever life may throw at them.

Posted in Pandemic Puppy, Puppy, Socialization, Thoughts, Training | Leave a comment

The Mark of the Best

My baby boy is seal.

I didn’t expect to get this puppy.

Sure, I was looking. I knew what I wanted and had contacted a few people about litters or available pups in 2020. I found out about Kyber’s litter through a friend, reached out to the breeder, and started watching the puppies grow. But I didn’t actually expect to get one. Even though I had sort of already picked mine out based on early photos alone.

I picked out Kyu the exact same way. I saw his pictures and decided that was the one I secretly wanted. Except I KNEW I was getting a puppy from his litter. I was following this one with a “this is a really nice litter and I’d love to have one but yeah right” attitude.

I never expected one of those seven border whippet pups would actually be mine. I mean, who am I? So much of getting a dog is based on who you know. Your connections in the dog world. I knew Kyu’s breeder through lure coursing. Kyber’s breeder was located across the country. My self-doubt reared its head: “What makes you deserving of this puppy!?”

Somehow, things worked out. I had been watching another litter at the same time. One a lot closer to home. But I was drawn to “Ringo.” Even when he was just a few weeks old, he was my favorite of the litter. He remained so as he grew older and it came time for the breeder to match puppies to their people. He was the one I secretly wanted. I never said so to the breeder but he’s the one she decided would be my best match.

Awesome Dogs are seal.

I believe the stars align and the right dog comes to you when it is time. Risa and I were soulmates; we were meant to be together. Kyu was a great match for Risa’s needs and mine. Though he wasn’t on my expected timeline, Kyber is here.

And it’s starting to feel like he was supposed to come here. Though solid black as a young puppy, he’s starting to turn seal. Risa was seal. Did she share her awesome molecules with him? Did she have a paw in sending him my way? Is he destined for awesome like his predecessors? Only time will tell. But he is where he’s meant to be.

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Not the Dog I Wanted

My boys.

This is a hard thing to admit. That your dreams for this dog don’t align with the reality of the dog in front of you.

I’ve been through it twice now. Risa was supposed to be my sports superstar and my do anything, go anywhere dog. She wasn’t. Kyu was supposed to be the same. He had so much potential in sports and the confidence to back it up. Too bad training is a huge challenge with his GI problems and I’m not sure his current body condition is suitable for the activities I had hoped to do.

It’s frustrating. Especially when there is no where to place blame. It wasn’t Risa’s fault she was so afraid. It’s not Kyu’s fault he is chronically ill. Though I have made mistakes along the way, it’s not my fault either. (Though I typically do blame myself when there is no tangible target. It’s unhelpful.)

I know the idea is to rearrange your goals. Find new things to do together. I’m 100% behind this. Agility never panned out for Risa so we found freestyle instead. When training became more frustration than fun, Kyu and I started hiking. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m frustrated about how things worked out. How my plans were foiled by factors I had no control over.

I still love my dogs even if they weren’t what I’d hoped they’d be. In some aspects, they became more because of who they were. I was able to find a different side of them to appreciate that I might not have otherwise. It’s a hard lesson, though. Plus it’s still not easy. Sometimes, you just want to enjoy your dogs. Sometimes, life doesn’t give you that easy option. It’s hard to enjoy your dogs and your relationship together when you’re both struggling. It puts that bond on the line. Will the bond break because the struggle is too much? Or will it be forged stronger? It’s hard to say; we all have different journeys.

It’s okay to admit it’s hard. It’s okay to admit it isn’t what you expected. It’s okay to be disappointed. It’s okay to be frustrated. Just don’t take it out on yourself, your dogs, or those around you. Reach out for support if you need it. Find someone to vent to if you just need to clear the air.

Posted in GI Issues, Hiking, Puppy, Thoughts, Training | Leave a comment

The Worst Luck

Adventure puppy!

I feel cursed.

On Tuesday, Kyber was playing in the yard with Kyu. He bumped into Kyu as they were running in a straight line towards me, lifted slightly, and landed screaming on three legs. We tried for x-rays that day but were unsuccessful. He went home with pain meds and instructions to rest him. If things didn’t improve, I was to bring him back for more x-rays with sedation.

Things did not improve. He still refused to put any weight on that leg. We went back for x-rays Friday morning and my worst fears were confirmed. He’d broken the growth plate in his right knee and needed surgery.

I’ve wanted to do dog sports with my dogs for a long time. I fell in love with agility in college and enjoyed attending events after I graduated. I wanted to do agility! Once I was finally able to get a dog of my own, I sought one who would be interested in sports.

We all know how that went. I adopted Risa, a fearful mixed breed who had all the aptitude for training and none of the proper temperament. I spent 4 years working on modifying her behavior and helping her feel safe and comfortable in this world before I even considered competing with her. We did it, though. It was always a ton of extra work. Management at every event. Constantly working on training her to realize she is safe in addition to the required behaviors for trialing. Then she blew out her back and I worked my ass off on her physical therapy to get her back to a relatively sound condition. I was less concerned with her return to sports but she did. She competed for another 1.5 years before she retired. I got to do sports with her but it was a long, difficult journey to get there.

Then I got Kyu! He had so much potential. None of the environmental concerns Risa had; he was a confident little shit! He also showed amazing aptitude for training. Until Risa died. Shortly after we had to say good bye to the Awesome Dog, Kyu started having severe gastrointestinal problems. He’d always had them. I’d simply been ignoring them in the hopes that I was just being paranoid after a decade of handling Risa’s GI troubles. Now they were so bad they couldn’t be ignored. A multitude of tests. Several diagnoses. Finally IBD suspected in July 2019. Treatments began and everything yo-yo’d. Two years trying to get him to stabilize with no luck. Finally a confirmed diagnosis of IBD via endoscopy in January 2021. Throughout it all, he struggled to enjoy training. He felt yucky so he didn’t want to participate. I can’t blame him even though it took me a long time to realize it. Risa had simply never been so obviously affected by her GI issues. Kyu very clearly was.

In March of 2020, Kyu strained his iliospoas muscle (again–I believe he initially injured it as a young puppy and we just missed it). I spent 9 months rehabbing the injury and again had to put most training on hold. The injury is healed and his gut is stable enough we can train successfully again. However, he is underweight and I’m struggling to get him back to a version of normal that is safe for heavy activity. His future in dog sports is in jeopardy.

I was determined to get an easy dog this time. One with all the potential and the ability to capitalize on it almost immediately. Not a dog who I had to prepare for 4+ years before even stepping foot in the ring. Not one plagued with behavioral or health issues. A nice, solid, healthy puppy with his potential easy to tap into.

Growth plate fracture. Everything is on hold again.

Enter Kyber. I could almost feel it. This time. This time it was all going to be okay. He was going to be healthy, dammit. He was going to be sound. He was going to be amazing. I was finally going to catch a break. And then I did. Literally. He broke. Complete freak accident.

I’m sure he’ll be fine. He’s scheduled for surgery on Monday and I have a great physical therapy team to help me with his rehab. They’ve helped me with each of my previous dogs. Risa coming back from her serious back injury and Kyu successfully rehabbing that challenging iliospoas strain. I have a lot of the knowledge needed as well having gone through rehab with his predecessors. It’s just frustrating, though. I am still pretty numb about it. I had hoped, for once, it was going to be easy. To just have to deal with the training struggles involved with figuring out a new dog and what he needs in training to be successful. I hadn’t planned on another roadblock on our journey.

Posted in Agility, Back Problems, Dog Sports, GI Issues, IBD, IVDD, Laser Treatment, Orthopedic, Physical Therapy, Puppy, Thoughts, Veterinarian | Leave a comment

Smart Setups

Keeping him busy and out of the way.

Having a puppy is a lot of work. I forgot how much work it is. LOL I like my adult dogs. The ones that already “get life” so I don’t have to monitor them all the time, worry about their bathroom needs, or deal with their frustration when they don’t get what they want RIGHT NOW. Also I hate puppy teeth–OUCH. However, it’s nice that I have not forgotten my dog trainer hat and have been able to recognize times when I can set us both up for success and build behaviors I want in my adult dog.

For example, sometimes I need to do dishes or cut up training treats in the kitchen. Kyber already spends a lot of time in his x-pen during the day and, eventually, he will get a chance to have more freedom in the house. I don’t want him “locked up” all the time! Sometimes I can’t watch him and do what I need to do but I don’t want him to cause mayhem in the kitchen either. When I need to focus on a task and keep a partial eye on my puppy, I give him something to do. Sometimes it’s a chewy or a food-stuffed toy. Something he will actively enjoy and focus on so I can split my focus and still keep him out of trouble. In addition, this teaches him to relax while I’m doing things in the kitchen AND keeps him out of my space and less interested in what I am doing. Win win.

But that’s not enough. Eventually, he is going to need to learn that he does not have access to things on the counter in the kitchen. This is hard for a puppy especially when I’m cutting up treats or preparing a meal. Right now, he cannot physically reach anything on the counter (but that will change!). Therefore, I’m starting now. If he is occupied with his chew or toy, I will toss him a treat. Double bonus for him. If he comes over and scrabbles on the counter interested in what I’m doing, I simply ignore him. He can’t get at it and I don’t want to reinforce the behavior in any way. If he gets down (or stays down in the first place), I will toss him a treat. When I treat him for having four on the floor in the kitchen, I toss the food away from where I am. I don’t want to encourage him to hover. I want him elsewhere. Eventually, I will reward him for laying on one of the kitchen rugs.

It’s amazing how well this works, too. I did a similar protocol with Kyu when he was a baby. Now, if I’m cutting up treats or food in the kitchen, I look over and find him laying on one of the rugs waiting for a goodie to be tossed his way.

Posted in Dog Toys, Puppy, Thoughts, Training | Leave a comment