Saturday, May 25, 2013


Piper just experienced his 8th week of life, which also coincided with his first week with me. Initially I thought "Well, just housebreak him and crate train him, feed and water him, give him some love, nothing too important." How wrong I was. A 7-week old puppy is a Sponge-Pup. EVERYTHING is a learning experience and school is all day long. In this short week, merely 7 days, here are some of the things Piper is learning.

Valuable dog socializing is going on at meal times.
1. Socializing with dogs:  My dogs are getting to be old fogies, and they were more than a little sulky when roly-poly Piper toddled in the door and into their lives (but not their hearts). However they know the routine and are veteran co-raisers. Their low growls and aloof manner have taught Piper to respect them. He does not nip them. At feeding time they all eat together and Piper has learned their food is off limits. It took two tries followed by two growls. Now we have harmony. This is important since I finished a dog who could have been a wonderful guide dog in all respects except for resource guarding food and toys from other dogs. For that reason alone she was career-changed. Little Piper is learning a valuable lesson at 7 weeks.

2. Socializing with me:  Piper missed his home and family. This was a hard transition for him and for the first few days he was lost. He wanted his old life back, not this new one that had been foisted on him. He cried shrilly when I put him in the crate at nights, but there was no way around that. So I read to him, thinking the sound of my voice, steady and monotone, would be a comfort to him, letting him know I was there. The hysteria would slowly quiet and after a few frustrated little whimpers, he would drift off to sleep. I even did this for the middle-of-the-night hysterics, and now it's not an issue. His crate is his sleeping chamber and he is OK.

Initially I was worried Piper wouldn't bond to me. He is a very independent little guy and the first few days he would go off by himself to explore or play with his toys. But as the days went by and we explored together he started to seek me out, and cuddle up just a little more. This morning Piper crawled up into my lap when he got tired and I knew he had bonded, and was putting his old life away.

3. Mouthing:  Wow, Piper wants something in his mouth ALL THE TIME.
Piper looks like a black bear cub - sharp teeth and all!
And when you are there, the convenient object for Piper is your hand, feet or clothes. With teeth like quills, this is no fun. So we are continually working on his bite inhibition. When he bites, I say "OW" once, loud, and lean into him and look hard at him. Most of the time he stops and will even turn away or lay down as if to say "My bad." Still he has to be reminded often. We pause a moment, then go on like nothing happened. I also try to redirect him with a toy he can bite. Piper is learning mouth control - really important.

4. Leash:  I use the leash to "park" Piper (read: go to the bathroom). The first few days he put on the brakes and twisted his little head from side to side, letting me know he did not want to be led by some giant, anywhere. But treats and coaxing and being very, very patient, and switching directions and tiny tugs are all doing their magic and he trots along pretty good now mostly.

Sleepy little Piper.
5. Infinite:  Time and my limited intelligence constrain me to list all the ways Piper is learning, but they are almost infinite! Every sight, sound and smell is brand-new and soaked up into his little sponge-brain. He's learning his name, to want to be with me, the lay of his new house and yard. New experiences abound. No wonder he gets so tired.

Our first few days together, I admit, were rocky! But the future awaits. All the world is a stage. My little Sponge-Pup is soaking up the stage of the world and I am his stage manager, timing his entrances and exits and making sure he has the right props to be successful.


  1. What a handsome little guy! Ooo, I love the idea of reading to him when he is unsettled in the crate! It is perfect so that they hear the calm in your voice, but you're not talking to them to reinforce whining. I'm gonna have to remember that when Little Mr. comes in a few weeks :-)

    1. Thanks, Hannah. I was reading aloud from Thunder Dog. If you have not read it, it is wonderful. About Michael Hingson and his guide dog Roselle who navigated down a stairwell 77 floors after the disaster at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Very inspiring. I was thinking, maybe some of this will rub off on Piper :0)