Because we simply did not have enough going on in our lives, we decided a few weeks ago to begin our search for another dog to add to the family pack. I know, I know. How on earth did you get your husband to agree to that? you're thinking. I can't remember the specifics, but what I do remember was hearing the phrase, "...but you'd better find one quick, before I change my mind."
8 days ago, we became the proud, albeit nervous, new owners of an 8-week-old Australian Cattle Dog who we've named "Lola." With two boys and a half-acre of land, she pretty much gives us a great reason to go outside all day long.
It's been 25 years since I last owned a puppy and that was "Tippy," a puppy born at our house to our dog, "Cindy" (named after Cindy of The Brady Bunch. It's true, you caught me.). Back in the day, even Bob Barker hadn't started his whole "spay and neuter" speech, and even if he had, single parents couldn't afford that type of stuff, so we never had a spayed pet. Ever.
Having a puppy is one word: Teeth. Little tiny needles of teeth that always want to explore that which you treasure most, like wedding rings and engagement diamonds. Cords that keep your electronics electrified. The tiny sausage fingers of a 21-month-old child.
We started Lola on a pretty tight schedule that goes something like this:
6:30am - Wake up. Go potty. Eat breakfast. Play. Go potty. Walk to the bus stop. Come home and get a drink. Play. Rest in the playpen.
(Note: "Playpen" is different than "crate." In the playpen, it is acceptable to run around, do somersaults, chew bones, rock out. The playpen is set up half-in, half-out of my office. She can see all the action, but when I can't hover over her like a hawk and no one is actively playing with her, she's in the playpen.)
Noon: Go potty. Lunchtime! Have a few drinks, play like a lunatic. Play some more. Out for potty. Play.
3:30pm: Time to take a walk! Off to the bus stop. Play, grab a drink or two, potty, you name it.
4:30pm: Dinner! Potty! Play play play! Again, with the playpen. IF YOU AREN'T ACTIVELY PLAYING WITH OR WATCHING THE PUPPY, SHE IS IN THE PLAYPEN. Not only does this prevent accidents, chewing, and general bad behavior, it teaches the puppy that it's okay to self-entertain. It's okay to be alone sometimes. It's okay to lay quietly and chew a bone or toy.
9:00pm: Settle down time. A few more potties and some soft play, snuggle, watch some tv.
11:00pm: Out one more time, then bedtime in the crate.
Listen. You want your puppy to love you. You want your dog to be happy when you come home. What you do not want to raise is a puppy who cannot function if he or she can't see you. It's not fair to the puppy, it's not fair to the family, and it's not fair to any other pets you may own. It creates separation anxiety, which is probably the number one reason animals end up in the shelter.
Just like you have to teach a child to be independent, you also must teach your puppy that it's okay to be without you. We've had Lola for nine days now, and you know how many nights she's cried in her crate and kept us up? ZERO. None. Zilch. The transition from one puppy to two has been incredibly easy, which brings me to my next thought:
Make sure you give your puppies time apart! No one wants to introduce their family pets like this: "This is our dog, Bella, and this is Bella's dog, Lola." No. Do not let your young dog raise your new puppy. Yes, you want them to be friends. Yes, you want them to play together. What you do not want to do is to create a situation where each dog/puppy loses their individual identity within the family. You have two dogs. Act like it. When you had baby number two, you didn't give baby number one the responsibility of his or her care: don't do it to your pets.
(Off the puppy primer soapbox.)
So far, so good, and it will only get better from here. For now, I'm out. I'm sure someone, somewhere, needs to go to the bathroom around here.