Integration with Household Pets and Other Animals
For those of you with feline friends, you should know that puppies are ridiculously uncoordinated and wiggly, but still manage to make cats believe they can and will murder them. We have three (very bad) cats, as I have mentioned before. Gus loves them and he looks forward to one day curling up with them to sleep and cuddle and talk about the best places to sit to block our view of the television when we are trying to watch who just got kicked off Dancing with the Stars. The cats, on the other hand, look forward to the day we return him to the store for small wiggly things that terrorize poor, unsuspecting cats.
IF YOU HAVE BAD CATS THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO UNTIL THEY DIE. Then and only then will there be peace and quiet and no further mauling.
We don’t have another dog, but my sister has two, one rather spry jack russel/yorkie mix named Finley and an aging, sweet lab mix named Morgan. Finley likes his toys, squirrels and to be chased while Morgan likes her toys, squirrels and snacks. Neither of them are particularly fond of other dogs and Finley certainly doesn’t care for any other animal stealing his toys you asshole. Morgan is full up on ailments in her old age and she can outdo your grandfather on the aches and pains she suffers every day. She has the dia-bee-tus, cushing’s, near-blindness, a tumor on her toe, has had another large tumor removed from her nipple/teet/whatever, and terrible, terrible dog breath. Almost as soon as we got Gus, we brought him over for his first visit in the hope that he could make some great dog friends to help him on his way through life because the cats certainly weren’t going to do anything other than scratch his eyes out.
The first sign of trouble was as they sniffed one another through the hallway door before any visual contact was ever made. There was some a lot of growling. We picked Gus up and let the two dogs out and tried to coax them into sniffing him and enjoying his good cheer. Gus was immediately enthralled because puppies are always in love with anything you put in front of them. You should capitalize on that early because it is much harder to get them to like being hitched to that decorative wagon later on (note: does not apply to dog food). It took several meetings before Finley and Gus were able to play somewhat unattended. Finley likes to be chased and Gus likes to chase so it was a good match until Finley got tired of being chased and then started growling and snapping which Gus thought meant Chase me more! but really meant I am going to murder you. Morgan never really got comfortable around Gus enough for us to consider letting them co-mingle. Since Morgan’s eyesight is so terrible, all Gus looks like to her is a squirrel she was lucky enough to coax into entering her home where she would like to invite it to enjoy some snacks and water before she tears it apart like her other stuffed babies. The lesson here is that you can’t always trust the reactions of other dogs around your pet, so constant and vigilant monitoring is the key. Also, wrap your puppy in bubble wrap and carry a tazer. Some other dogs are vicious, but no, certainly not yours.
Getting your puppy to behave appropriately around other animals and people is called socialization and is one of the most important things about owning a dog. Our cats are poorly socialized and that is why whenever we go out of town and my sister feeds them for us, Carson tries to claw her face off for no apparent reason. This is also why Carson is up for sale! Free! Comes with her own bottle of peanut butter flavored liquid Prozac! The key to early socialization is engaging your pet with other animals and people at every possible opportunity. Gus was constantly at the park or out on walks where we came across many dogs more than willing to sniff his ass and many people more than willing to try to steal him and this helped him to feel secure around even the biggest dogs in the park, including that great dane with the head bigger than Gus’ entire body. The point here is to socialize young and often.
Teething and Biting
A Facebook friend of mine recently asked what to do about her new puppy’s propensity for biting with those razor sharp teeth. Sadly, my best advice was that she just wait until they finally fall out one day. Puppy teeth are like a cosmic joke – let’s give sharp needles to the most irresponsible creature alive. I am sorry to say I have no tips other than to wrap wool socks over your hands and arms, but mostly that’s to muffle the crying.
We were very lucky that Augustus came to us already knowing how to use the wee wee pads. What he didn’t come to us knowing was that he was welcome to use them EVERY TIME he went pee, not just at his discretion. So while he’d often use it like a good baby puppy, sometimes he’d just pee on the carpet, or the bed or that one time on the kitchen counter just before he fell in the sink (don’t ask). He also didn’t seem to get the memo that you want to avoid the pee puddle after you deposit it, so we suffered many weeks with tiny pee paw prints all over the house.
If you’re like us, you have a pretty smart little puppy on your hands and eventually he’ll put two and two together and realize: that place out there, where you put him when he starts to sprinkle on the bedroom floor? That is actually where those sprinkles are supposed to go and that marvelous place is called OUTSIDE. So you just keep saying, potty outside? every hour and you take him out and he’ll go and then eventually he’ll realize, oh my god, I get to come out here whenever I want so I’m going to sit at the patio door and cry all the time, especially during the Biggest Loser weigh in where I will cry the loudest even though they let me out during the commercial two minutes ago.
One helpful transition from pee pads to outside was that once a dog is used to always using the pad, you start putting them on the pad outside. Never leave a used pad inside – outside only – because they need to associate those poops and pees with the grass or the dirt or I guess that new herbaceous border you just put in this summer even though the pee burns off all the leaves and the only thing left is a shriveled brown clump of sticks. Okay, sure. Eventually your puppy will learn that outside is the place for pees and poops and that’s where he’ll prefer to go, unless he doesn’t feel good and then he’ll just spray diarrhea all over your clean white bedsheets.
Our first couple of weeks with Augustus were tumultuous. We bandied about the word divorce like it was candy – good candy, the kind that’s so delicious you swallow it before you even had a chance to taste it because seriously, so delicious! We verbally divorced something like 248 times between the hours of 5pm and 8am and only stopped to go to work where we stewed in our sleepless divorcee haze of regret and despair. All this because a two-pound alarm sounded off any time he was not allowed to fall sleep curled up on Janie’s neck, or woke up in his crate where we had, minutes before, sneakily and gently placed him when he dozed off. I wanted to sleep and Janie wanted to teach Gus to sleep locked in his crate. One night, while we were three hours into the surprisingly loud crying, I got up to go to the bathroom and Janie screamed at me, “DO NOT TAKE HIM OUT OF HIS CRATE” so viciously that I screamed back, “I AM GOING TO THE BATHROOM! DO NOT YELL AT ME YOU WHORE!” Afterward, I scoured the Internet for ideas on how to save our marriage and it was revealed to us that maybe he was just too small to be crate trained just then. He spent many of the following nights in the bed and then in the crate on the bed, then on the floor in the bedroom in his crate and eventually he slept in the crate in the living room and started making us coffee in the morning before we woke up, in between his pilates and watching the first half of the Today show. When he outgrew his second crate and we found ourselves too cheap to buy yet another one, I built one out of wood and chicken wire and total badassery and he now sleeps in that crate during the day and while we are sleeping, except now at 5am he wakes up and cries until we get him and bring him into the bed so he is able to spend a few hours huddled under the covers and licking my hands raw.
Our dog does not eat dog food unless it is 9pm and he is on the bed watching The Police Women of Broward County. At all other times he prefers whatever you are eating right now, please and thank you, or whatever the cats are eating in their dishes even if it’s a trick and it is the same thing in his dish you stupid dog. Also, cat shit.
Dogs love people food more than anything in the world except for vegetables which they only pretend to love until the get it on to the carpet and then roll all over it and grind it in really well after you just steam cleaned it.
When Augustus was just a few weeks old, we were feeding him Science Diet Small Bites because that’s what the breeder fed him. We assumed it meant he liked to eat it, but as soon as we got him home he decided it wasn’t an appropriate food for him. Instead, he’d like that grilled cheese sandwich and a swig of that diet Dr. Pepper and a lick of that beer bottle. We would water down the food to make it chewy and it didn’t matter, he didn’t want it. We’d jam a piece in his mouth, concerned that he hadn’t eaten in over 12 hours and we’d come back, minutes later, and it would be sticking out of his pouty lip like a tiny, crunchy middle finger. Wet food was not good enough. Other dry foods were not good enough. We finally had to bribe him with parmesan cheese and it worked until we started visiting my parents every Wednesday evening and my dad fed him a small plate of chicken and string cheese and suddenly Gus thinks this is appropriate for every conceivable meal. Well, he is wrong.
Finally, after months and months, we have realized that he’s pretty small and doesn’t need to eat all that much. We feed him some natural canned food that looks and smells like diarrhea. He likes it only after we have microwaved it to an acceptable temperature. At night he sits on the bed and eats some crunchy food called Precise and the only real precise thing about it is my ability to predict that he’s not going to eat it until just about two seconds from when I fall asleep.
Hide your shoes. Hide your socks and underwear. Hide your teddy bears and prized stuffed animals. Most importantly, keep your yarn animals close because it only takes a few seconds for a bad dog to unravel that penguin. It would appear that in all situations, dogs are basically deaf unless you have a treat and even if you have a treat it is no guarantee that they will regain the ability to hear you. Only if your treat to delicious forbidden item ratio is in proper proportions will their brains process those screeching sounds coming from your mouth. Proper treat to sock and underwear ratio is 1:1. Proper stuffed animal ratio is 2:1. Proper shoe ratio is 5:1. Proper yarn animal ratio is incalculable. You will never get that penguin back in one piece.
It’s all worth it, even when your dog sticks his tiny face in yours and, as you laugh because his whiskers are tickling your nose, he slips you the tongue and steals your Jolly Rancher.