Last month my family rescued a two-year-old maltipoo from Arkansas. All we knew of her background is that she was picked up as a stray by a southern shelter. Her friendly, laid-back personality and love of children leads us to believe that she once lived with a family. We named her Dolce, Italian for “sweet,” also in reference to La Dolce Vita to represent “the good life” that we’re giving her and she to us.
I assumed that finding the right dog would be the biggest hurdle. Little did I realize how much adopting a dog would resemble the early weeks of parenthood. We’re completely exhausted and wondering what exactly we got ourselves into.
The first several nights I slept fitfully, alert for any sounds from Dolce in her living room crate. Was she whining? Was she scared? Would she think we had abandoned her? This was preceded by a lengthy family discussion about whether we should move her crate to one of our bedrooms or keep her in the living room. We did co-sleep with Sofie for five years, after all. However, the living room won out since we were expanding Dolce’s territory gradually in our home, and the bedrooms were yet to be allowed. We also weren’t sure how long Dolce could hold her bladder, which meant one of us kept waking pre-dawn to take her outside.
Getting on a Schedule
Just like a baby, we’re trying to figure out the dog’s feeding and bathroom schedule. I’ve been recording when Dolce poops every day (is this normal?), looking for a pattern so I can feed her at the times best for us now that the school schedule has begun. Most books say dogs will poop 20-30 minutes after eating, our dog ranges from three to seven hours later. Which makes planning family outings a bit of a hassle.
Like many rescue dogs, Dolce has issues of separation anxiety and abandonment. She doesn’t know that we’re her forever home; to her we might just be one more in a series of transitional places. This expressed itself with Dolce whining and barking whenever we left the house that first week. Upon our return, she’d be overeager to see us, she’d claw at her crate and pee in it — an involuntary action we learned was called excitement urination.
This made me not want to leave the house, which made me feel trapped, which, in turn, made me resent the dog. Rather similar to those newborn days when leaving the house with Baby was such a production that remaining stuck inside the house seemed the lesser evil.
Happily, I’ve struck upon Piano Magic. That’s the name of the Pandora music station that lulls Dolce into a calm state when we’re not home. I discovered online that solo piano sounds tends to soothe dogs, and it’s working for ours. We combine that with returning home in a quiet state and not approaching Dolce’s crate until she’s had five minutes to calm down. Now she sits in her crate wagging her tail until we let her out. No more excited urination. Woohoo! We’re working our way up to longer periods away so that we can return to normal family outings like polo matches and fall festivals.
Methods of Dog Parenting
There seem to be as many diverse dog-caring methods and opinions as there are for parenting. And folks can be just as touchy about which way is best.
With Sofie we followed attachment parenting. With dogs, I’m not sure where we lie. Our tendency is toward easy, positive-based training, however, that was not working when it came to training Dolce to walk on a leash. Our frustration at not being able to take our dog for a simple walk around the block led us to training collars that heretofore I might have seen as medieval torture devices. While the prong collar seems to be working with Dolce, I still struggle with that new parent guilt — Am I doing the right thing? What if the other parents judge me? Will my dog one day end up in therapy?
We know many dog owners with various methods and opinions. So whatever we choose to do, we’re going against somebody’s well-meaning advice. Perhaps I was surer of what I wanted with raising a baby (exclusive breastfeeding, cloth diapers, unisex clothes and toys), because I had nine months to research and prepare.
I spent my two months pre-Dolce researching what breed would be best for our family and which were quality rescue organizations. By biggest concern was that the dog be housetrained. I hadn’t considered a multitude of other issues: leash training, quality food choices, herbal vs. chemical flea and tick meds, appropriate and safe pet toys, whether to allow the dog on the furniture, whether to feed her from the table, whether she might be triggered by other dogs, people or pigeons… I feel like I’m cramming for an exam in dog care, worried that I might get an answer wrong.
As in parenthood, every day has its share of little frustrations (having to take Dolce outside three times in the evening before she would poop) and small triumphs (yesterday she walked into her crate all of her own accord — she’s obviously starting to feel comfortable there)
My quick frustration reminds me of those early days with Sofie when the simplest tasks seemed insurmountable. However, this time I have the benefit of not being overrun with post partum hormones and knowing that it does get easier. It’s early days. The dog and I are still establishing our bond. For me, it’s a bit slower than bonding with a baby that grew inside me, but I am beginning to consider Dolce the fourth member of our family. I know it will all be worth it.
This post is shared at Natural Family Friday.