First Day as Pet Parents
Maui arrived at our home, despite being almost 6 months, still has the charms of a puppy. As expected, the poor dog was scared but apparently, Maui was also the poor victim of bullying. They have another dog, a much smaller Shih Tzu that harassed him whenever he would wander into this dog's territory. My friend tells me how he constantly had to carry Maui away, back into his mother's space because he had no idea where to go when the snarling little dog starts their aggressive display.My 5-year-honed instincts as a father started kicking in. As Maui's new Pet-Parent, I must dispel his fears and make him feel comfortable in the place where he'll spend the rest of his life.
Me and my wife decided to keep him in the home office first, so we can watch over him on his first day. I set the baby gate up to block the only entrance and prepared his cardboard box and blanket close to our desks. The crate will still take days before it arrives, so for now the cardboard box and blanket should be a good start for crate training.
Here I encountered my first challenge. Maui was scared. He seemed to be okay with us, but he would back away when we tried to approach. We must give him some time to relieve his own anxiety. I can only imagine what kind of stress he experienced on the long ride here, only to find out that he was to be taken away from his mother and his trusted ex-pet-parent. His separation anxiety must be through the roof.
Despite my daughter's plea, I had to keep Maui from direct contact with her and our three cats. My goal, for now, is to let Maui get used to the smells, the sights, and the sounds. I also should start getting him used to training. This means I have to give him lots of praise and plenty of positive reinforcement.
However, putting it in mind is only half the process, I have to create a routine for him, a system. Like us humans, dogs find plenty of comfort in routine. In the wild, knowing where you can drink water, where you can sleep, where you can find food, and when to do all of that, certainly improves your survival rate. I know it would do mine.
First things first, we have to show him where he can eat. As I've read, dogs are fine eating once a day, and younger pups feed twice a day to keep their sugar levels. Since it was early morning and he hasn't been fed yet, I decided to take him to his feeding spot. I wanted to start transitioning him to dry food, so I combined about 80-ish percent wet food and the rest is dry food. Thankfully, Maui was happy to eat on his new food bowl, perhaps even grateful since he wagged his furry tail. It was here that I noticed another challenge. He growled when my daughter passed by, who wanted to see Maui up close. It may be a sign of food anxiety, and I suspect there was an aggressive competition during his previous feeding time, or perhaps this was the work of that Shih Tzu. Either way, the solution, for now, is to let him eat and drink on his water bowl in peace, and hopefully, keep his feeding time consistent.
I've heard about "ad libitum" or free feeding when I did my crammed homework about dog care. Some owners just leave the food for the day or two on their bowl, and it's up to the dog if they want to graze on it bit by bit. It would be very convenient to do so, but it goes against the feeding schedule I wanted to establish. Another reason why this won't work is that Maui ate everything I placed in one go, in a joyous and quite messy frenzy. If I left all the food he needed for two days, I believe we would find him unable to walk, half suffering and half in bliss from his gluttony.
After feeding time, It's time for the next part of the routine: determining his potty break time and his potty spot. Doing his business out the yard is ideal, but our three cats who lord over the yard may cause some unexpected stress or worse, conflict. Right now, one of our storage rooms should suffice. It's clear from traffic and lined with linoleum. Time to break out the old newspapers.
In reality, newspapers are far from ideal. Wee-Wee pads exist and they also have selections of indoor potty kits. The only reason I'm using newspaper is that the potty training pads could be pricey, and I intend to let him do his business outdoors eventually. My friend told me Maui did his business outside before, so this should not be a problem in the future.
The main ideas behind the newspaper training are to let the dog have positive associations with the newspaper, and limit them in that paper until they do what they need to do. By cleverly moving some of the storage crates, I created a boxed space where I will keep him inside with the baby gate. A few minutes after feeding, I let Maui approach the newspapers and praised him for doing so. I closed the gate on him and waited.
Sure enough, I saw the somewhat subtle signs. He sniffed the newspaper and walked around in a circle. Then after maybe two minutes, finally peed. He ended up peeing on the side of the boxes though, but it was still within the laid newspaper. Good enough, so he gets verbal praise and I made him taste his first treat. Was this the start of a smooth and successful potty training? I think so. I hope so.
The rest of the morning was comprised of him staying in the office and getting familiar with his toys. It was a great experience to work in the same room, and spare a minute or two playing with him. My wife and I provide constant supervision, and perhaps some mental stimulation when we try and call him by his new name and toss the toys around, hoping to let him fetch them. He does grab them, but he ends up taking it away and chewing it heartily as if he relished in denying us the toy.
All that joy dialed back though when one of my three cats reminded me that Maui isn't the only one who needs to be fed. The noisiest of the trio, a large, white, spoiled cat named Saturn, loudly proclaimed his hunger through the office window. Maui apparently found the sound quite scary and barked, or rather, yapped at the white figure by the window. He's probably traumatized because of a certain small animal with a loud disposition.
Thankfully, after they were fed, things calmed down. Maui chose to nap inside the large cardboard box and slept for a good while inside.
As night approached, we had to review our plan. Should Maui sleep inside the master bedroom or should he stay inside the office? For sure, he won't be sleeping on the bed, but as new puppy parents, it would be prudent to let him sleep in the master bedroom with the box, so we can at least keep an eye on him. He's already scared of one of the cats and when they start prowling in the night, Maui could get noisy. I've already done my fair share of getting up in the middle of the night to cater to my daughter's needs. I don't think I'm ready for another round of that yet, but we'll see.
Day One was almost done. So far, I've established the start of his house training. He has an idea where to eat, where to go for potty time, and where he can take shelter. Once we get the crate, I hope placing the blanket inside will help him feel comfortable enough. Right now, it's all praise and positive reinforcement. Hopefully, I can avoid punishment altogether, so for now, I hope Maui had a great day. There will be more challenges ahead for me and him, but it's what makes pet ownership great.