The first day:
Nando the Groodle puppy was 9 weeks old when we picked him up from the breeders. We had been researching breeds and breeders for 12 months and we were so excited about our final choice. We lived a 5 hour drive away, and we spent the first night with Nando with my husband’s family, who lived locally.
As we carried Nando away from the breeder’s home he started shaking when we reached the car, and kept shaking for most of the journey. He vomited once in the car from the stress (awwww) but once we got to our destination and let him out on grass to run round he revived quickly and stopped shaking.
We were as gentle as possible with him on the first day, and let him sleep as much as needed. He was scared of many noises, and anything that happened overhead. He quickly found a comfort zone in the bedroom, and he would run there if he got overwhelmed.
The first week:
We did not sleep much, especially the first 2 nights. We brought a crate on the first day (more on crates later), and within 12 hours he was sleeping voluntarily in it. He complained occasionally if we closed him in there, but mostly he settled into the idea very quickly – part of our early strategy was that if he fell asleep in there, we would open the door so that when he woke up he was free to come out and did not feel trapped. We would also put treats in there for him.
In that first week we did feel overwhelmed at times, despite being previous dog owners. I cannot recommend enough, Jake Buvala’s website http://3lostdogs.com and his book:
I Got a Dog – What Was I Thinking? A guide to surviving life with your new dog or puppy. by Jake Buvala.
This book was brilliant for getting me through the new dog jitters, and for reminding me that everything was OK, and we hadn’t just brought a extremely good looking maniac into our home.
I took the first few days off work to spend time with the puppy – after that he either came with me to work, or hung out with my husband, who sometimes works from home.
This was our focus in the first 4 weeks. Every 30 minutes to 2 hours, we made the elevator trip down 7 floors to let Nando out to pee. There were a number of accidents in the apartment, usually in the afternoon between 2-6pm, when Nando needed to pee more often – thus the 30 minute intervals!
At night we kept him in a crate, and never had an accident in the crate – the urge to pee seems to disappears during sleep, and puppies are known to be reluctant to pee where they sleep – which is why crate training is so helpful to toilet training. Nando’s last pee is at 10-11pm, and first pee is 6-7am. He was fairly well toilet trained by 14 weeks.
There is still the occasional accident, for example, if we get distracted doing non-dog-related-things (aka real life) and do not take him out in time.
Nando has learned how to let us know when he needs to go to the toilet. He has 3 strategies, which escalate in intensity if his people are not paying attention;
- He sits and looks intensely at us, sometimes panting a bit.…..if I am in the kitchen cooking, the intense look can easily be confused for a desire for chicken.
- He gets hyperactive and ‘in our face’……in other words, if he is being really annoying, it means he wants to go to the toilet! It took a few accidents before we realised what he was trying to tell us.
- He barks, just once, when we are being really ignorant!
Nando has never once defecated in the apartment – lucky us! – and no doubt thanks to the early work of his breeders.
I have read many articles recommending to stop access to water at 8pm to prevent night time accidents. I am not a fan of this, as dehydrating a puppy is not a great idea. We have allowed Nando to drink water at night……we have not had any accidents during the night, but I would rather clean up pee than dehydrate the puppy.
Nando has 2 water bowls available during the day. That Groodle beard (even a baby beard!) traps a lot of dirt and food, and every time he drinks, the dirt and food get washed into the water – so the water gets dirty quickly and needs to be changed 2-3 times a day. Nando drinks better when the water is fresh. The beard also holds lots of water, which dribbles everywhere after a drink. Its lucky that beard is so cute!
We maintained the breeder’s recommended diet for the first 2 weeks:
- 3 meals per day,
- Puppy biscuits: Josera Youngstar (a high quality German dog food brand) biscuits for breakfast and dinner, with yoghurt or cottage cheese with dinner
- A home made meal of meat, vegetables and rice/pasta for lunch. The breeder’s preference was for raw meat, but I will confess I did cook the meat, because my desire not to feed the pup Salmonella or E.coli (among other nasties) was stronger than the reported benefits of feeding raw meat (I am going to write a blog article on raw vs cooked meat – because there is a lot of debate on this topic and I do not really know which is best).
Currently (at 16 weeks) Nando is being fed a similar regime to above, but:
- We have tried different biscuits – Nando has received buffets of up to 4 biscuit types in 1 meal, in order to figure out what he likes. All are high quality puppy feeds, and when available (brand dependent), feeds designed for large breed dogs. The current winner is Hills Science Plan <1 (year old) Large Breed diet.
- The home made meal is chicken, mince, vegetables, rice and pasta cooked in one pan (meat first, then rice, then vegetables, and lastly pasta) with a small amount of beef stock added to the water used to hydrate the rice and pasta. The brew is divided into tupperware containers (enough for 3 meals per container) and frozen until needed. I have also added flour, cheese and eggs and made ‘meatloaf’, which also freezes well.
For snacks, Nando gets apple slices, carrots, chicken necks, peanut butter, chew treats (we have tried a huge variety) and an egg (no more than 1/week).
Weight gain and growth:
We weigh Nando often – its my husband’s favourite job, because it gave him a reason to make a spreadsheet :). My husband stands on the scale while holding Nando and weighs both of them together, then puts Nando down and just weighs himself. I feel Nando’s ribs daily and watch his leg growth closely (my last dog had lifelong joint problems)……..I still have questions about how his legs are growing – and this was one of the driving factors behind this blog, because I could not find answers to my questions.
We brought a soft fold-up crate on the first day. We chose this crate type because Nando would be coming to work with me, so I needed something I could transport on a bus. This crate has been brilliant. We bought a large size crate, so that adult-sized Nando could also use it, and he was perfectly comfortable in it. He was not overwhelmed by the size, which can reportedly happen. One of the reasons for this might be that the crate is dark in colour, and the mesh on the windows is dark, so even though it was very roomy inside, it was also dark and comforting. Nando adopted the crate concept quickly (within 24 hours!).
We didn’t get many crate photos early on, except the for the photo on the left at 10 weeks, but here he is modelling the crate at 19 weeks:
We also used the crate for car travel. Nando slept comfortably in the crate for almost the entire 5 hour trip home to Zürich, and did not whimper or bark once. Now Nando eagerly jumps into this crate whenever we make car trips.
I worried that when he got older and more opinionated, he might shred this crate, so we have now got a more solid crate – that will double up as a safer car crate for when we do road trips in the future, but Nando’s clear preference is for the soft crate.
I believe the worst is yet to come with destructive chewing, but we are doing our best to avoid bad chewing habits by never allowing Nando to get bored……if we cannot entertain him, we make sure he has some form of chew treat or toy to keep him occupied. We got some great ideas from:
- Jake Buvala’s website http://3lostdogs.com – this website has some excellent suggestions – e.g. Kong toys stuffed with food, and frozen.
- Nando’s puppy school trainer (http://wholetthedogsout.ch) recommended the dried skin from the head of cows – its thick and tough and takes time to chew. Ox tails are also great – but we need to be careful that he doesn’t swallow the pointy end.
- Cats! Cats love cardboard boxes, but they are also super fun for puppies! They keep Nando entertained for ages, while he tears them into shreds. We prefer to clean up the extra mess of shredded cardboard, than risk similar destruction of our shoes or electrical cables!
The Tissue Issue:
Tissues and paper serviettes are currently the bane of our puppy-parent life – you can read more about that under Growing up in the City.
Nando steals socks for pure pleasure, I don’t understand what the attraction is, but it is cute to watch his naughty run as he takes off with one…..he can’t run away very far in an apartment 🙂 and he gives them back easily enough without making any holes, they are just a bit wet afterward. My husband is happy because there are no longer socks (or tissues) lying around the house.
The puppy obsession with hand chewing lasted about 5 weeks, and has gradually settled into an occasional sucking of my thumb when he needs comfort (no joke….its very cute, and a bit weird, but also kind of bonding). It took time to figure out the best way to discourage the hand chewing – at first his jaw muscles were not strong, so it did not really hurt, but that changed reasonably quickly. I went through a phase of yelping like a puppy when the chewing hurt – but felt like an idiot – and found that a genuine ‘ouch’ did the job just as well. Accompany that with walking away from the play, or distracting him with another game, and over time our hands are starting to look better. I won’t lie – there was sometimes blood shed, but he was never doing it out of aggression – purely in play, or curiosity, or sometimes for comfort, and he just needed redirection. One of my neighbours calls puppy teeth ‘Bostitch’, which seems reasonable.
I did a LOT of Googling on puppy training methods, and really enjoyed Jake Buvala’s website http://3lostdogs.com and the YouTube videos by Zak George (you just have to sit through the advertising spiel at the start – but its worth it!). My personal philosophy is that if a dog loves and trusts you, there isn’t much it won’t do to want to please you. We do our best to earn love and trust from Nando by being gentle, kind, patient and fun (some days this is easier than others!)…….and most importantly, feeding him – its the fastest way to a dog’s heart.
Nando quickly learned basic commands – Sit, Lie down, Stay and Come (he actually learned them in German – Sitz, Platz, Warten, and Komm). ‘Come’ has varying success depending on what else is happening, but we are working on it.
We initially just used praise as a training reward, but treats are also very helpful, especially when Nando is getting distracted by whats happening around him.
Nando started puppy school in his first week with us. He graduated level one after 4 weeks (http://wholetthedogsout.ch), and his pet-people learned some interesting things too. In the city we live in, it is compulsory for large breed dogs to complete 14 weeks of dog training – this is a really great idea, as you know, when you meet other dogs at the park, they have had similar training and socialisation.
Playtime and socialisation:
Nando loves to run alongside people and other dogs – he would rather do that than chase a ball. So down at the park, for exercise, we throw the ball for other dogs, so Nando will run alongside them. Many dog owners from our local park have told us that their dogs developed a joy for chasing toys over time – so we will see.
Nando plays really nicely with other dogs – it is interesting watching him learn and adapt his strategies. He plays differently with different dogs, depending on their age, size, energy levels and sex. About 50% of the time he either gets ignored by older dogs (but thats OK, he just runs in circles around them), or chased off, but the rest of the dogs love to play with him.
Nando enjoys playing tug, and he is more interested in playing the game with us than taking ownership of the toy. If he wins the game, he brings the toy back into reach so the game can start again. He occasionally grabs us and not the toy by accident…..but that is not a major problem, and I can see he learns from that and tries to avoid our fingers. Tug is also something we can play on the couch at home if the weather is bad.
OK, so this might be an over-share, but its a ‘quirk’ that deserves a discuss. Nando’s penis started making an appearance at 11-12 weeks. Before this time it remained in the sheath/prepuce. He has a lot of long hair at the tip of the sheath, where urine and dirt accumulate, so I did trim that a little bit to keep the area cleaner – but I could not find any information on whether this was a good idea or not. 7 weeks later, it certainly hasn’t caused harm, and my husband has now requested that it gets trimmed back further.