Puppy rearing in 2017 verses puppy rearing in the 1980s

Attitudes and expectations have changed in the thirty plus years since we rescued our, little Sophie.

Sophie, a white miniature poodle, was rescued from a home nearby. We had been on the look out for a dog, but the furtherest breed on my radar would have been a poodle. Never-the-less, what’s one to do when you hear about a dog needing a new home….. And then when you go and take a look, and are greeted with a dirty, matted, flea infested bundle of something, chained up in an outside laundry with a chain heavy enough to secure a Rottweiler. Clearly, she was a dog in need of a new home.

The motley crew in 1980 – Sophie the new addition, had been bathed, but not yet clipped.

Sophie cleaned up beautifully and went on to provide great companionship for the family for around 13 years. Along with the companionship, we developed an appreciation for what owning a poodle means.

September 1982, with Paul’s mum, and Scruff (who fathered Sophie’s only litter)

Despite the 80’s upbringing of Sophie, she thrived. Being a poodle, she required regular grooming, mainly in the form of hair cuts. The tight, curly wool of a poodle isn’t easy to brush, but fortunately, cutting is usually sufficient to keep them clean and tidy. She didn’t lose any hair, didn’t get any of the odour usually associated with dogs, and the poodle intelligence meant training was a breeze.

Sophie opening her Christmas Pressie (1986)

When it came to getting another dog, the choice of breed was a no-brainer. It had to be part poodle so as to get the non-shedding coat, and to get the intelligence that would mean easier training. But it had to be a cross breed too, so as to get something a little less haughty than Sophie tended to be.

And so we chose our little Labadoodle. The choice of dog out of the way, then comes the rearing of the dog.

Sophie was feed a diet of canned dog food, a bit of kibble (but that wasn’t really the thing in the 1980s), table scraps, and left over bones from any cooked legs of lamb. We knew cooked chicken bones could be dangerous for her, but never-the-less she managed to survive many a bin raid devouring the remaining carcass of any roast chicken dinners. She was a brat for managing to open the kitchen bin, especially if she could smell chicken.

Not only did she survive eating cooked chicken, she ate her fair share of chocolate too. She survived scoldings when she did something wrong, (even if we discovered her misdemeanour many hours after the event). And she only went to the vet a few times throughout her entire life. We did our best to keep her flea and worm free with over the counter products. Her vet visits consisted of being sterilised, a couple of necessary operations to remove grass seeds from her ears, and I think there may have been a couple of vaccination shots administered over the years. We certainly never considered a yearly check up was necessary, and as far as I remember, no-one considered such a thing for their pets.

My, how things have changed.

And thanks to the wealth of information now available at our fingertips, things are no longer simple. Kibble is definitely in….. Canned food is a maybe, as is raw food. Table scraps are a definite no. Cooked bones of any sort can now cause cracked teeth or impactions that may require surgery (I wonder why that wasn’t a concern in the 1980s, and how Sophie survived all her cooked lamb bones unscathed).

Raw bones, particularly chicken necks are something to consider – depending on which vet you talk to, or which internet site you look at. Some vets say absolutely not, some seem okay with it. However, without bones, dogs teeth deteriorate at a very young age. The choices for cleaning (if raw bones aren’t fed) seems to be manufactured dental chews, and/or brushing your dogs teeth…..

One thing that has, without a doubt, changed for the better is the flea and worm treatments now available. These are now given periodically orally, and seem to do a great job. The rest of the changes though are soooo confusing!

Vet visits – Our first chosen vet was adamantly in the Kibble only diet camp. Absolutely nothing else. As we’d already done enough research to have decided raw chicken necks and wings were the way to go for dental health, we didn’t stick with her to find out how Tilly’s teeth cleaning was to be managed.

So, onto vet number two. Now, I need to digress back to our breed and breeder selection here. Once we’d decided on a Labradoodle, we needed to select our breeder. We chose a small, accredited breeder, Eungai, in Perth’s hills. Mandi, from Eungai chooses her breeding dogs carefully, given due regard to temperament, and very importantly, to hip dysplasia scores. Labrador’s, and subsequently, Labradoodles are extremely prone to hip dysplasia which can result in painful arthritis from an early age. Breeding from dogs that have good hips helps minimise the chances of this happening. So, after lots of internet research, we chose Eungai for our breeder – more on how happy we’ve been with that choice at a later stage – this post is already so lengthy that it’s almost a book!

So, vet number two – stretches Tilly’s legs out checking for signs of hip dysplasia. One leg stretches out easily, the other not so easily. The vet, being almost positive that Tilly is already showing problematic signs of hip dysplasia, advises x-rays under aesthetic. $680 later the results are back, the Penn hip scores are in. Tilly has near perfect hips…… So, thank you Mandi for the care taken in choosing your breeding dogs. The tightness in the offending leg was then put down to a sore muscle, and, wait for it – a dog physio was recommended. Hell! his muscle can’t have been that sore, he wasn’t even limping….. Anyway, we declined to go there.

We’re sticking with this vet for now – I don’t know why, but we are. Mr Tilly’s on monthly check ups until he reaches six months of age, with his next check-up next week to check his teeth are coming through correctly. What will be recommended if they’re not, I have no idea. But if, and when anything unexpected is advised, we’ll decide at the time if we’ll continue on with this path, seemingly down the road to ensure we have a perfect labradoodle specimen. A few less than perfect traits I think could sit okay with us……

I think there was dog training 30 years ago, but it wasn’t the norm. Now in 2017 not only is dog training recommended, but also puppy school, and pre-puppy school. The odd clout on the bum or snout is definitely out, even stern growling (unless its at the exact moment a mis-demeanor is discovered) is also out. All training now is to be done only with treats. Kibble diets, which seem to be the main diet recommended, need to be weighed and dogs should never be fed more than the recommended amount so as to prevent obesity.

Exercise needs to be supervised, just enough – and not to rigorous for fear skeletal damage could result. Goodness, how negligent we were with Sophie – in comparison to the dog-rearing guidelines now it seems we weren’t far ahead of the people we rescued her from.

So, with everything about as clear as mud, and totally confused, we’re going with what feels right to us.

We took Tilly to pre-puppy classes, and for now have decided to consolidate the things we’re aware he needs to learn from those lessons. We’ll probably pick up on some further dog training next year, but we decided not to continue on immediately with further formal training. Most of his training is done with treats, but he is still sometimes the recipient of some stern words, and sometimes (rarely though) even long after he’s committed a misdemeanour. Goodness, we’re only human after all, and sometimes frustration comes into play over and above common sense, and the 2017 dog rearing rules. He’ll just have to deal with his imperfect owners the best he can! Honestly,  though, he’s such a good dog, and needs little in the form of any reprimands.

The vet visits – well the juries out on where we’ll go with that in the future. Definitely, Tilly will be having his yearly vaccination boosters, and we will be administering his flea and worm medication as required. More than that I think will be on the needs of the dog, rather than the whims of the vet.

Exercise – well we walk him every day. Sometimes we let him run off the lead on the beach, but his re-call is still hit and miss, so we’re cautious with that. If, when he’s off the lead, he runs to fast, well we’re going to let him – negligent dog owners that we are!!

A cooling swim after some ‘rigourous’ beach running

Drying off after his swim – I wonder when his legs will stop growing…..

And his diet – well we’ve chosen what seems to sit right with us, and yes a good quality kibble forms the bulk of his diet. It’s such an easy way to go. We’ve opted to forbid any table scraps – mainly so as to prevent him begging for our food. The only people food we share with him is a few slices of raw apple. We feed him a few raw eggs a week, a few spoonfuls of natural yogurt over the week, and some raw meat. We mainly keep the raw meat for training treats, but most days he gets at least some. Today I’ve frozen some pieces of sheep hearts in small blocks of iced water, and I plan on using these as hot day treats that he can lick at, with meat rewards in the centre for when I’m grooming him. And every few days we give him either a raw chicken neck or a raw wing. He takes his time, chewing them thoroughly, and I know we run a risk of impactions (and resulting surgery) from the bones. We figure though that the bones are a better way to go for good dental health. Brushing a dogs teeth just seems wrong, and we’re not going there.

So, for better or for worse – that’s how we’re rearing our little Mr Tilly in 2017. It’s vastly different than the way we reared Sophie – but hey! I think Sophie did okay, and I think Till’s could have done a lot worse than to be living in our care, near the shores of  beautiful Geographe Bay.  I think come winter, when we head up to sunny Broome and beyond, he’ll be thinking he’s in ‘doggie heaven’. I can’t wait. He doesn’t know how good life can be yet –  But he will…

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House living

Mmmmm, it’s been sometime since I last posted anything, and I’m realising we’re allowing ourselves to settle into mundane ‘house living’. I’ve just been through our recent photos, and the offerings are sparse indeed.

It’s not that we’ve been doing nothing. In fact, life continues to be very busy. So – why are there so few photos? Well, there’s really no excuse, just a few contributing factors. The main culprit has been the new job. What was supposed to be a two hour a day job, which we could comfortably do early in the morning, turned out to be a three hour job, which could only realistically be completed in the afternoons. We realised two weeks ago that the afternoon work was interfering too much with our ‘leisure time’, so we negotiated shorter hours. We’re now back to the two hours we wanted, 5.30am – 7.30am, then the day is our own. So far though, we still haven’t been managing to do much with it.

Next thing that’s added to this recent hump has also been related to our job. Cleaning the pre-school means working in a toddler, germ ridden environment (as anyone who has worked in a pre-school will attest). We’ve both picked up a bit of a cold virus, nothing to bad, just the sort of cold that seems to come on in the early evening so as to disturb our sleep overnight, then disappears upon rising, only to return again the next evening. We’re both tired.

We have still been managing to fit a beach walk in everyday with Mr Tilly. He’s proving to be a terrific little companion, and providing we fit a beach walk in with him sometime before mid-day he’s a well behaved little puppy for the remainder of the day. On the warmer days he’ll venture into the water, and I don’t think it’ll be long before the water will be his main focus.

Safe on the higher ground of a sand bar

He’s finished his initial puppy training, and has been quick to learn the first things a puppy should learn. So far, he sits, and lies down on command. He walks reasonably well on a loose lead, and when off the lead at the beach he comes back to us when called (most of the time). He stays reasonably near us when off the lead on the beach, and doesn’t object if we snap his lead back on when we see a need (a bigger dog approaching, or a child that we don’t want him to jump on). Generally, he’s easy to control even off the lead, but we still have a way to go before we’ll feel completely comfortable. He’s not five months old yet, so is still easily distracted.

We’ve just about finished knocking the garden into shape. The roses and annuals are all starting to flower, and soon I imagine they’ll putting on a show pretty enough to inspire Paul to get his camera out. Today while I weeded the front garden, Paul divided and repotted some of our hanging baskets.

Re-potted baskets

I love my garden, and I love having a dog. I don’t mind our little job, and I don’t mind living in a house in Busselton in the summer months. However, I do mind that we seem to have let it all descend into a bit of rut. Now that I’ve realised that’s what’s happened though, I will do something about it. So, watch this space – starting tomorrow I think we’d better get ourselves out of comfort zone and start looking for somewhere close by to explore. There’s so much in this area to see, and to do, and we’ve hardly scratched the surface.

Mr Tilly’s first big day out

Yippee, Tilly’s now fully vaccinated, and we can take him further afield without fear of him contacting the deadly Parvo Virus.

He started puppy training last week, and the comment was that we have a very intelligent dog on our hands. The comment came with a bit of an implied warning – beware, if you’re not firm he’ll run rings around you both! And don’t we just know it….. But so far we’re very happy with his progress, and his training.

We’re aware he needs lots of stimulation, so with spare time on a fine day last week it seemed the perfect opportunity to take him out and about. We started by attaching his lead, which usually means a walk to our beach – and didn’t he just let us know we weren’t living up to his expectations when instead of heading in the direction of the beach, we attached him to his tether on the back seat of the car. We ignored his complaints, and within a minute or two he had settled back to enjoy the ride.

First stop, Gracetown. Gracetown’s a gorgeous little surfing town near to Margaret River. The township’s small, with virtually no commercial facilities, but with some very expensive real estate. The surrounding location is gorgeous.

The 135 km Cape to Cape walking track has a section that follows the shore-line on the edge of the town. Most of the Cape to Cape walk meanders through National Parks, but the section on the edge of Gracetown is Dog Friendly.
We had only followed the track a short distance when we came across steps (lots of steps) leading down to an interesting rock beach. Tilly wasn’t sure at first how to tackle the steps, but one flight down and he had found his rhythm and would have made short work of the remainder had he not been on his lead. As it’s the first of the warm weather we have to be very snake aware as they start moving about, finding warm spots to sun bake in. So, even if he had fully learned ‘recall’ yet, he still wouldn’t be walking freely at this time of the year in bush areas.

Returning to the car, the next stop was directly above the surfers. The surf was good, but not fearsome by their standards. Believe me, it can get fearsome in that area. You’ll notice in some of the photos the surfers wear helmets for protection. The rides they get are good and long – but if dumped, the power of the water above, and the reef beneath can have dire consequences.

Note the crash helmet

The power of the waves as they crash into a rock

One more beach stop at Prevelly Point, Margaret River’s world famous competition surfing spot. There’s been a lot of work done on the foreshore since I was last there. What an awesome spot to sit and watch awesome waves, and the awesome folk who are brave enough to surf them.

Brave people

By this stage Mr Tilly was getting a bit tired, and we were getting a bit hungry. We headed inland to a place where Paul had been promising himself a sample of their ale – Cowaramup Brewing company. They have a lawned area where dogs are welcome, so Tilly and I settled down under the shade of umbrella while Paul headed inside to fetch some beers. A pint of IPA for Paul, and 1/2 pint for myself, and they provided us with a large bowl of water for Tilly. We ordered one serve of beer battered fish, chips and salad which we shared. It was easily enough for the two of us. The batter was crisp and delicious, but the fish was a bit tasteless and let it down a bit. The chips were perfect, and the salad small, but adequate. There were lots of choices on the menu, and we had trouble deciding on what would have. So, with the fish letting this meal down a bit, but everything else being absolutely perfect for a day out with our fur ball – we’ll definitely be making a return trip to sample one of their other menu delights.

Lunch over with we wandered around the grounds with Tilly’s leash extended so as he could romp around a bit. We don’t have any lawn, so the grassed area was something he hasn’t seen since he left his birth home.  He clearly loved it, jumping around happy as a pig as mud – or should I say, a pup in grass……

‘Are you looking at me’!

Grass – happy as a pig in mud

or ‘a pup in the grass’

He slept all the way home. He’s such a little treasure, a real pleasure!

Of toys and bikes

He loves his toys. He puts them in his bed, then takes them outside, then immediately brings them back in again and puts them back to bed.  His night bed (inside his crate) is a bit bigger than this one, so more room for both him and his toys. I can see a bigger day bed is going to be needed soon.

As long as there’s room for the toys…

Sometimes he piles in on top of them, and other times he naps with just his head on the bed keeping a watchful eye out.

Sleeping with one eye open as he watches over ‘his babies’

A beautiful sunny day today, so after his run along the beach, it seemed like a good opportunity to try him out on the bike.

Ya can go further on a bike!

He seems to be interested in most new experiences – the bike didn’t prove to be an exception.

Bit of fidget bum yet though!

Paul’s using my bike that already has a basket on the front to get him used to it. Once he’s used to it, we’re going to fit some sort of box or basket to the back of Paul’s bike. I’ll be leaving that to Paul though, I can barely balance myself on a bike, so no wriggle worms are coming with me on my bike rides.

Yep – he’ll get used to this fast I think.

I can see the two of them whizzing along the bike path at break neck speed before too long. Walks on the beach, swims in the ocean, and rides up and down the bike path – he’s going to be one very lucky little puppy……

Mr Tilly (AKA Rastas) – 11 weeks old

We’ve survived the first three weeks and of puppy training. Rastas is now 11 weeks old, and has been with us for three weeks. What a roller coaster of a three weeks that’s been.

He’s had his second lot of vaccinations. His third lot are due in around ten days time. It’ll take about a week after the third vaccination for him to fully protected against the deadly Parvo virus. Some web sites say he’s reasonably safe two weeks after the second vaccination, and some say definitely not until after the third one. The vet says after the third one, but we’re figuring vets have to advise on the side of extreme caution.

Speaking to other dog owners, the general consensus is that life is very difficult with a puppy kept in the confinement of their own home.  Apparently this age is the most important time for puppies to be learning socialisation skills, and if puppies aren’t exposed to other dogs, and a variety of people at this vital stage of their life, they are likely to develop social problems. So, a bit of a dilemma!

We will enrol him in the next lot of puppy school, but that’s not for another couple of weeks yet. In the meantime we’ve decided on a pathway of exposure to the big wide world somewhere between almost total confinement, and a moderated introduction to the great outdoors.

We walk him down to our local beach, but keep him in the middle of the road on the way there. The road gets very little traffic, so cars aren’t difficult to deal with, and by sticking to the middle of the road we keep him away from the vegetated curbsides where other dogs have left their marks. It means he doesn’t get to enjoy all the sniffing around that he’d otherwise be able to enjoy, but at least he’s getting out and about, and he’s loving it.

We pick him up and carry him down the narrower pathway that leads to the beach. He doesn’t get put down again until he’s almost at the water line, where hopefully the tides have done a good job of washing the shoreline clean. We avoid most dogs, but let him greet, or by greeted by any people who look interested in making his acquaintance. He’d lick them all to bits if he had a chance – he’s a very social little puppy. He’s meeting people of all ages, and he’s loving it. He’s a different puppy since he’s started getting out and about. And I must admit, Paul and I are happier too. I think I was getting  ‘post puppy blues’!

There are quite a few dogs on the beach, but all are far more interested in their own beach walks than checking out a puppy who isn’t presenting a bottom to sniff, or isn’t interested in sniffing theirs (as seems to be the way of one canine greeting another). Whenever a dog comes near, we pick Rastas up – no bottom sniffing allowed yet.

A couple of days ago though we did stop and talk to another Labradoodle owner. After quickly establishing, Jimmy, was fully vaccinated we stopped to discuss our dogs, and to let them check each other out. We had thought we were stopping to talk to the owner of a fully grown Labradoodle. We were shocked to find out Jimmy is still a puppy, and in fact, is only two weeks older than Mr Tilly. Wow, he must be at least four times bigger….. Jimmy’s owner was equally as shocked to note the size difference.

Rastas with his first ‘beach friend’

Jimmy is a standard Labradoodle. Mr Tilly is a medium sized Labradoodle. As well as that, Jimmy, like Mr Tilly came from a litter of seven, but Jimmy was the biggest of his litter, Tilly was the runt. We each took out our phones and snapped photos, as we exchanged stories on the delights (or not) of puppy rearing.

Jimmy and Mr Tilly (two weeks different in age)

Jimmy’s owners had been contemplating adding to their human family, but instead opted for a puppy. Apparently, the realisation that a puppy isnt easy has hit. In her words, she thinks the puppy is actually harder than their human counterpart, and had she known how hard it was going to be, perhaps a human baby may have been the easiest option after all.

Now though with the first three weeks behind us, and now that Mr Tilly is getting a lot of outside stimulation, he’s showing signs of becoming a terrific little dog. The house training seems to be well on track. It’s been a few days now since he left any puddles inside the house, and about a week since he did any of his other business inside the house. I imagine there could still be an accident or two yet, but as the weather warms up, I should think these will be less and less.

He sits as a ‘yes please’ for his meals, or for any treats on offer, and he sits (although not very calmly) when we’re putting his lead on him for a walk. He walks on a reasonably loose lead, more so for me though than Paul I think with that one. That’s because I insist on it, and if he pulls I stand still. Once he realises he’s not actually getting to walk anywhere unless he stays at my side with a loose lead he obliges quickly.

He loves playing tug, and he’s starting to chase a ball and bring it back.

He settles well into his crate at night, which we put at the entrance to our bedroom. As soon as we start getting ready for bed he heads into his crate. He goes out the pet door to do his business through the night, and stays quiet until around 5.30am. Then he seems to think it’s time for us to wake up – we’re usually awake then anyway, and I think he’s only reminding us he’s been on his own long enough. We make a cuppa and take it back to bed, and he’s then allowed up on the big bed. He seems to appreciate that’s a bit of privilege, and snuggles down between us and goes promptly back to sleep while we enjoy our cup of tea.

So far, so good as far as any unwanted destruction. Not having children makes that easier. Paul and I are aware that anything left around is fair game for him to cut his teeth on, so we keep everything out of his way that he’s not allowed, and we make sure he has plenty of allowable chew toys within his reach. As well as chew toys, we give him a raw chicken neck every second day. He loves them, and I’m sure they’re doing wonders for his sharp little puppy teeth.

If you’d asked me a week ago what I thought of having a puppy, I’d have said it was awful. Now though that we’re taking him out and he’s getting the stimulation he obviously needs, he’s not even hard work anymore. He’s shaping up very well, an absolute pleasure!

 

Living the dream

Or not! The roads we travel aren’t always straight forward, and don’t always take us down our chosen path.

I read a post today from Ingrid at, Live, Laugh, RV. Ingrid travels America in an RV living the life we had planned to live. Today’s post by Ingrid was tiltled, ‘Trouble with the Dream.’ In it, Ingrid outlined some of the pitfalls encountered along the way, the less desirable side of, ‘Living the Dream’.

Currently suffering a bit of post road trip blues, compounded by the life restrictions (self imposed) of training a new puppy, Ingrid’s post brought tears of self pity to my eyes.  It caused me to I reflect on how far away from the dream life we had planned for ourselves only a few short years ago we’ve come.

The roads we choose to travel sometimes have forks in them that take us in a different direction to our planned destination. Today, I’m hankering for, Living the Dream’ again, and all the trouble as outlined in Ingrid’s post that goes along with it.

The dream

Currently, Mr Tilly is hard work. He sleeps a lot through the day but awakes to follow (and mither us) if we start to try and go about any household or gardening tasks.

A line on the floor at the entrance to the kitchen which Mr Tilly is learning not to cross

His training is going very well but toilet training’s a bit hit and miss. He loves his training sessions. He’s  responding well (with the help of treats) to soft lead walking, coming when called, and we’re getting him started on grooming. Trouble is, if we’re not giving him a play, or training session,  if he’s having a nap, we can only do something seated nearby . If we wake him up trying to get on with anything that’s not a quiet, seated activity, and that activity doesn’t involve him, he occupies himself as puppies do – by getting into mischief.

Mithering the spin mop

I’m sure that once his vaccinations, have been completed and we can then take him to the beach and tire him out, things will improve remarkably. We’ve taken him on a few walks to the beach carrying him safely in arms till we get there, or walking him down the centre of the road away from the verges where other dogs will have left their marks (possibly Parvo virus contaminated).Then we’ve been keeping him almost at the water line where hopefully the water has washed away the possibility of any dangerous virus contamination. He loves it, but the restrictions of being unvaccinated mean it’s a very contained activity.

Being safely transported to the beach

A restricted romp at the water’s edge

Only a few more weeks, and we’ll be able to take him out to picnic spots, and will try and fit in a couple of short trips away in the RV to introduce him to that part of our life. The weather will be warming up. The big tidy up of the garden after five months away will be well under way, and we’ll be settling back into our summer house. Life – currently in unvaccinated puppy training limbo, will become good again. We’ll  be out and about enjoying the wonderful South West of WA, and Mr Tilly will be out and about enjoying it with us.

And won’t  that be just, ‘a pleasure’!

Puppy shell shock!

One week on with Mr Tilly (AKA Rastas), and I’m feeling just a little ‘puppy shell shocked’. When people say having a puppy in the house is like having a baby in the house – they really mean exactly what they say. Having a puppy in the house is definitely like having a baby in the house.  It’s not an exageration.

There are a few difference, mainly in that puppies don’t wear nappies, and don’t create a washing machine full of clothes each day. And you can go out and leave them home alone without being in breach of the law. Do the latter though at your peril – you’ll be risking all sorts of mischief that you weren’t aware existed. So, that gives you an idea how our first week with Mr Tilly has progressed.

It’s been hard work, and time consuming. A pair of eyes in the back of my head wouldn’t go astray. Puppies chew everything!

Half a foot for a size comparison

Fortunately, they do grow up quicker than their human counterparts though. He’s already 2.9kgs. I tried to take a photograph with him alongside my foot to show his size, (have you ever tried to photograph your full foot from a standing position – not easy).

Okay, now I’ve got the grumbling out of the way, let’s get down to his first weeks progress.

Firstly, house training Continue reading