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Tips and Tricks After You’ve Succumbed to Their Cuteness

Don’t hate me but I don’t like puppies. There, I said it, puppies just aren’t my thing.  Now before you fire off hate e-mail to me, let me explain. See, after fifteen years of professional pet sitting, I’ve puppy-sat my share of puppies. Now, when I see a puppy, I automatically smell crap. It doesn’t matter if the puppy has pooped; it’s just my natural reaction after having taken care of so many of them.  I’ve cleaned up enough puppy poop to earn some type of medal. Cleaned up poop that a certain puppy who shall remain nameless managed to get on the ceiling.  The ceiling!  Nope, no puppies for me, give me a mature dog or even senior dog any day of the week.  Sure, puppies are cute and all, their pictures make you say “Aww” and your puppy, well, your puppy is super, duper adorable but really I don’t want one.

Well, what’s the problem Laura, you ask? What kind of pet sitter and dog walker doesn’t like puppies?  Well, I tell you, one that likes a clean house for starters.

A clean house, see, that’s my thing, well one of my things anyway.  At times my OCD kicks in and I have to vacuum and scrub and dust and a puppy, well a puppy puts that all into overdrive. Walking in my front door and smelling clean, well cleanish anyway, I do board dogs after all, that is my thing. There, I admit it, and I love it when my house is clean. Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first) but I can’t get anything done if my house isn’t clean.  In fact it took me eight years to write my book because I kept hopping up to change the laundry over, sort, fold and put away and then, oh my, look at those dust bunnies, and down the rabbit hole I went.

You know what another one of my things is is my thing? Sleep, yes, sleep is a thing of mine and as I get older I realize I need more of it well, it seems I do. And, sleeping, that isn’t a thing for puppies.  Puppies are not known for their sleeping.  

Peace and quiet, there that’s a third thing, well two things.  I need peace and quiet.

And no person ever got any peace and quiet while raising a puppy.  All this came back to me recently when I decided, yes decided, I would board a puppy at my house for one week.  Now boarding dogs is not something new to me. I board up to six dogs at a time in my home. Usually small ones only (under 40 pounds) but not puppies. Must be two or older, all shots and good temperament too. All the usual stuff.  I have a pack of regular clients and everyone knows everyone and we all get along. Everyone knows, when it’s time to walk and time to eat, time to play and time to sleep.  There is no barking, crying, pooping in the house or fighting allowed. Those are the rules.  Of course, they all makes mistakes from time to time, but if they can make them during daytime hours all will be forgiven.

Puppies, now there’s a major rule breaker.  It’s not the puppy’s fault, don’t get me wrong. Puppies don’t even know the rules yet so they can’t be entirely blamed.

That being said, I bend, well, break my no puppy rule all the time. If you’re a professional pet sitter like I am then you have one (or two) clients that you can’t say no to. You know the one, they pay top dollar, never haggle over pricing, trust your good judgment and take your sage advice about puppy training.  So, when a great client of mine called me the day after my wedding to say he had adopted a new puppy, I could not say no. Oh, I wanted to say no, no NO! But like all too often, if I say no, someone else is going to say yes and that could mean goodbye client, so reluctantly I agreed to pick up Hannah and board her for a week at my house.

“She’s adorable, wait until you meet her.” He said.

“Can’t wait.” I said but what I meant was, can’t wait ‘til she goes back home.

Hannah’s a rescue and she is a black Labrador and something else mix. Since black labs are my all time favorite breed, I knew she would be adorable and hard to hate… But not impossible.

Did I immediately fall in love when I saw her in her crate with her oversized Yoda bears? No, I did not because I was too busy trying to figure out what to do with her while I cleaned up the smelly mess she made in her crate. Did I fall for her cuteness in my car on the ride home?  No, I did not, all I could think of was the sounds of her dry heaving in my back seat. Actually, my husband just reminded me it wasn’t dry. Did I think my senior dog; Dexter would meet her with open arms and open paws? No, he did not, he gave her a short snarl then ran into the bedroom when he saw her while she immediately pee’d on my rug.  

I put Hannah outside so I could clean up her new mess but now she was scratching at my patio screen and of course, being ancient, it ripped and she managed to get back in the house looking all proud of herself.  I needed to board a puppy like I needed a hole in my head (as my mother used to say). This is going to be a long week.

I went to the garage and dragged out a crate and put Hannah inside. She let out a bark, but not just a bark, the loudest bark ever. Shhhh, I said to her making eye contact.  More barking, even louder than before. Oh dear god, what have I done? How many days is this going to be? I look at my calendar. One full week! It’s not quite 5pm yet but I pour a glass of wine. A big one.

I mix up Hannah and Dexter’s dinner. Hannah gobbles hers down at the speed of light while Dexter daintily nibbles at his. I let Hannah out of her crate so she can go outside and she lunges at Dexter’s bowl trying to polish off what he has left. She manages to spill his food bowl all over the place, gobble it down and run away from me at the speed of light.  I try and grab her and miss, and she is running around the house jumping on my dining room table still covered in wedding gifts.

Those were new champagne flutes.

I finally manage to grab Hannah so I can clean up the glass and put the items on the dining room table away.  It takes maybe all of 5 minutes but, imagine that, Hannah has crapped in her crate. The dog has been here less than an hour and I’ve cleaned her crate out twice already. I need to find Wee-Wee pads so if she continues this, of course she is going to continue this, then I won’t have to hose the crate off every time. One thing you should know by now, puppies are a big time-suck!

The first rule of puppy club: Tire the puppy out as much a possible so they will fall asleep so you might get some, too.  So I spend the rest of the day trying to tire Hannah out.  I put her on the leash to teach her leash walking, or at least try to, but she just jumps on me and bites at my hand.  I let her run around the yard but she digs up holes everywhere.  Dexter is clearly giving me the evil eye. “Don’t say it!” I tell him.

Finally I give up and put her back in the crate.  She is like a jumping bean in there but I am exhausted.  I put her near the kitchen where she can see me hoping she won’t bark, but she barks, LOUD.  I stick her outside again but she tries to crawl her way back in.  I finally decide on in the crate.  If you’ve got a puppy or are thinking about getting a puppy then believe me a crate is your new best friend.

Anyone whoever told you they raised a puppy without a crate either a. Lives on a farm or B. has a serious poop fetish. Puppies need crate training or they will never figure out that they should be pooping outside. In the yard, on the walk or wherever, but not in the house. Do not let your puppy get used to pooping on you nice soft carpeting unless you are comfortable with poop stains and an unforgettable smell.

Crate training is not cruel; in fact, most dogs love their crates.  They see it as their private lair, which is a safe and secure place for them.  When my kids were younger, Dexter would go in his crate and actually pull his crate door shut himself!  In the wild, dogs find or build small burrows, which are usually dark and hidden.  Ideally, they can only be seen or see out of one side making them feel more secure from predators. Cover your puppy’s crate when you want them to go to sleep. Blocking out light and sound will help and when all else fails, drag their crate into the garage because in the garage no one can hear you scream, I mean bark.

Reward good behavior! I cannot emphasis this enough. Puppies typically only are given negative attention so don’t do this.  Give your puppy tiny puppy training treats anytime they are doing something right.  You come home and they are not barking in their crate?  Great job!  Give a treat.  Didn’t crap in there? Another great job, more treats!  Use your best Disney princess voice so they know they did something special.  It should not be your OHMYGOD what did you do? voice.

Make eye contact with your puppy and learn some basic training and commands.

“For the love of god will you please stop whimpering, crying and barking!” are not commands. Come, heel, sit, stay and lay down are all proper commands.  So is “leave it” and “off.”  You will use “off” a lot, especially if you succumb to the cuteness of a puppy and just have to get one. If you do get a puppy be ready to commit at least two years of a smelly house and little sleeping.  Be sure to get your puppy out on walks as soon as possible. Remember, a tired puppy is a good puppy.

After your puppy is trained to a crate it is time to move him to a slightly bigger area but still one where he is confined.  I suggest going from the crate to a small bathroom or a kitchen area where they can be gated.  Again, the gate is to keep the puppy secure but let him explore a little more. Keep graduating your puppy to larger and larger areas until he is accident free or mostly so.

Maybe these survival rules will help you, I hope so! Here’s another one that is particularly useful and you can use things you already have at home. When your puppy starts to teethe they will gnaw on your hands, legs and clothes like the chew toys they aren’t. Here’s a solution. Buy a couple dozen cotton washcloths then wet and freeze them.  Always have a couple in the freezer and put one in the crate with your puppy when you have to leave. This will give her something to chew on and keep her occupied for a few minutes, at least while you think about what to do next.  The frozen washcloths will also sooth sore gums while satisfying the urge to bite things.

You should keep your puppy busy with other things to chew on, there are puppy size chew toys which can fill with treats, and you will lose less shoes, purses, clothing and furniture to puppyhood. Try out this big nibbler for bigger puppies. I was lucky the week I had Hannah that I only lost those glasses, (and a ton of sleep). Don’t strive so much to puppy proof your home but to home proof your puppy

Finally, after a difficult week of cleaning out Hannah’s crate, listening to her incessant barking, trying to get her to not wreck my entire house and losing sleep, she finally went home. I have to admit the week with the puppy was difficult and stressful especially on my new marriage. I was glad to see her go home but I have to admit I got used to her cute big ears and constantly wagging tail. I do kinda miss her… NOT!

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