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Saturday, January 8, 2011

True Confession: Puppy's First Night Home

Once a month for at least a dozen years I preached to people in my Puppy Parenting Classes about how to get through the first few nights with a new puppy.  "Get a proper sized crate," I'd say.  "Put the crate in the master bedroom, where the 'leaders' sleep, and don't acknowledge the puppy's whining or barking.  In just a couple nights the puppy will learn to sleep quietly through the night."

It virtually always works.  So why did I decide to "buck the system" when we acquired our Lab puppy last spring?  Lord knows.  I guess I figured it would be "different" this time...this was a hunting dog.  We had a two-story house.  I didn't want more dog hair upstairs in the bedroom.  Whatever my lame reasoning, we put Angus to bed the first night in a little crate alone DOWNSTAIRS IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM. (Gasp!)

[If someone in my Puppy Parenting Class had confessed to doing that, I would have thrown a fit and chastised them up one wall and down the next!]

Angus barked almost nonstop all night long.  I know, because I was awake listening, waiting for him to stop.  They always stop, they always stop, I kept telling myself.  He has to sleep.  He'll learn this routine.

He did not learn the routine.  When we finally took him out of the crate at 6 a.m. the next morning he was a traumatized little mess.  After pottying, breakfast and more pottying, Don cuddled him in a rocking chair.  Angus shivered so violently in Don's lap that we put a blanket over him.  Within minutes he passed out from exhaustion and slept soundly there in Don's arms for a good half hour.

We actually repeated this routine for another night and morning.  Angus' post-breakfast trembling had me concerned.  No eight-week-old puppy should be allowed to get that exhausted.  It was definitely not good for his health and well-being.

On the third night, we moved Angus' crate to our bedroom.  You know the rest of the story.  Of course he slept without  a peep all night long.  He's slept there every night since then, and has been absolutely problem-free.

It took me a while to realize why I'd expected Angus to sleep downstairs, apart from us. I'd had a hard time accepting the fact that we were getting another dog--a Lab, which was a breed I didn't particularly want.  I think I was a bit resentful of this new puppy and hesitant to let him into my heart...and thus, our bedroom.  However, this dog was obviously going to be much easier to live with, much better adjusted, and much easier to train,  if he could bond with us.

Needless to say, Angus is now "Mommy's little darling" and I would never consider having him sleep anywhere but with us.

It bears repeating:  The best place for any dog to sleep is in a crate or mat in the bedroom with the head of household.  Our dogs are our charges.  We are a pack.  The pack sleeps together for security and unity. It's natural, correct, and it's the easiest way to raise a well adjusted four-legged family member.

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