Friday, July 18, 2008

Dog Training Classes - Ten Memories #3

This post also appears over at our new home.

#3 Dog Training Classes

Finnegan was fifteen weeks old when we got him, which is older than most puppies, but it also meant he was fairly well potty trained. After two or three days he knew where to go which avoided one of the biggest issues with training a pet, all the was left to do was to teach him how to behave. Of course doing that is a much more complicated process than it would seem. There are thousands of things that go into training a dog so we decided to get some help.

After taking a look at some ads, reading around online for some reviews and calling a few trainers we settled on one that held puppy obedience and manners classes. The classes were officially a gift to Finn's Mom as part of her birthday present to help her bond with her new love. Each session was an hour long and build upon the last session, and there was even homework. For the first class we read all the pre class material, avoided a large breakfast for Finn (to help him respond to the treats) grabbed our towel and leash and set off. Finnegan was excited, it was still one of his first times out interacting with other dogs, but we were instructed to stay well away from the others and concentrate on handling our puppy. We learned the basics of how to make Finn sit, stay, behave on walks, wait at doors, go to his spot and more importantly we learned what we were doing that would cause Finn confusion.

One of the biggest revelations was that it didn't matter what we said to the dog, it was much more important what we did. This meant understanind everything from how we said a command, what other movements we made, our facial expressions, and even our emotional state. Dog physchology is a massively complicated issue and the classes were only the tip of the iceberg to understanding Finn. That is not to say there were not quick results. As a golden retriever Finn has been breed to please his handler and he was quick to respond to anything that smelled and tasted great too. By the end of the sessions, including all the homework, Finn was sitting on command, was able to lie down, come when called, and his general demeanor around was that of a well trained gentleman. The excitement of seeing our little guy go to school was amazing and just another reminder that he relies on us to teach him the things he needs to know and the way he needs to act.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Neutering, Xrays- Ten Memories #2

This post is cross posted at our new home.

#2 Memories From the First Year of Pet Ownership- Neutering and Hip X-Rays

I've watched too much Price Is Right to not know what spay and neutering is important whether or not you win a cool RV. Only days after getting Finn we saw his vet for a little check, he was fine then but we used it as an opportunity to book a visit to get our puppy, how do you say, 'fixed'. Poor little guy.

I believe it was the right decision for Finn for a variety of reasons, to keep him safe, avoid health problems, and as we learned to avoid spreading a genetic disease. While he was sedated for the surgery they took some X-Rays that showed Finnegan's hips were succeptible to hip dysplasia. It was after the surgery when they called, so I was relieved he was fine for now, but terribly worried about what seemed like a horrible diagnosis. Over the next few days I did some research and realized although it is not ideal, a diagnosis for Hip Dysplasia was manageable which helped calm Finn's Mom and me. It is something we need to keep in mind, we should monitor Finn's weight and be aware of his activity level, but until he starts to show pain we need to take it easy. That just left the cone.

Coneheads. That's what dogs wind up being after most surgeries. Little bear was no different, and when I got him home in his drugged out state he wadled around bumping his little plastic protector into all sorts of things. The next week and a half were filled with mad dashes ending in *clunck* as Finnegan never really figured out how to deal with having such a huge head. That's what you get for not being able to withhold from eating your own stitches though.

Such a major medical procedure and diagnsis made a real impact on us as dog owners. It was a reminder that we were now responsible for the well being of something else, and we took that seriously. If feels nice to care for and even worry about a pet. My only hope is that Finnegan gets as much enjoyment out of his life as he brings to others.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ten Memories from the First Year of Pet Ownership #1

This post also appears on the new website, this site will be migrating over there gradually and I hope so of you reading this will join in.

July first marked the first anniversary of our life with Finnegan, a beautiful golden retriever. With this milestone I find myself reflecting back on all the things that have happened in the past year and all the things I have learned. There were the hours spent lounging on the couch or playing fetch, buying toys at the pet store only to see them ripped apart in mere minutes, exciting trips to dog parks and hikes and countless other experiences that I treasure. In an attempt to explain what a whirlwind at has been, and all the things I have learned I have complied a list of the ten most memorable moments, some fun and some worrisome, from the first year of pet ownership. Because some of them involve full stories I'll be posting them serially over the course of the month. If you are a pet owner feel free to chime in and let me know how you dealt with some of these issues or what your favorite memories were from your first year of having a pet.

#1 The First Night of Owning a Dog -Day 1

We had discussed getting a dog for a few months and after much deliberation we decided on a breed, the golden retriever. The research was extensive, including books on ownership, tons of informative websites and plenty of google image searches (on the part of Finn's mom who could oogle baby puppies for days on end). We tried to register with rescue organizations, filling out forms at three separate organizations but unfortunately the response was not as timely as we would have hoped. I had a month and a half before I would start my job so in an effort to use the time to acclimate ourselves to the life with a dog we turned to the classified ads. There were a few listings for golden litters and we set up visits on a Sunday morning.

The first stop we made was to Finn's breeders. We got to meet his mom and dad, both of whom were beautiful well mannered pets that were in great health and generally seemed like the type of dog we were searching for. At the time Finn's name was "Orange" (each of the litter had a different color ribbon used to identify them and save the breeders from growing too attached). He was 15 weeks old, a bundle of energy and looked simply adorable. The breeder's told us how great his parents were and all about his litter. His father was 12 and was clearly a part of their family, his mother a 4 year old whom was also a great family pet. Of the litter of eight, five already had new homes. A sixth was leaving that day which left "Orange" and Bella. Bella, who was staying with the family, had a close call when she was caught under her sleeping mother and had to be revived via CPR. After such a harrowing experience the breeder's could not bear to part with her. After meeting with "Orange" and friends for almost an hour we set off to fulfill our obligation to the other breeder with whom we had set up a meeting. We had a great feeling about him "Orange" and almost made the decision right there but decided since we had already set up the second meeting it was the least we could do to show up. At the other breeder our minds were made up in a matter of minutes, we played with the litter for a little bit, chatted with the breeder and left telling them "we'll think about it and give you a call when we make a decision".

Back in the car the discussion went something like this:
Me: "Ummm... so what do you think"
Finn's Mom: "I liked Orange, he was just..."
Me: "Let's go pick up Finn!" (we had decided on his name previously)
Finn's Mom: "YAYYY!!!!"

We called Finn's first family and gave them the news. On the way back to their place we stopped at a Petco to get Finn's first toy, a ball he would never play with.Twenty minutes later we arrived at the breeder's and set to filling out the paperwork; AKC registration, health history, and transfer of ownership, as well as collecting a large packet that included immunization and breed information that the breeder's thought we would enjoy (we did). As we left, loading Finn into a small crate we had brought with us, it was apparent he was going to be missed. The teary eyes further convinced us that he had been raised properly up that time and reiterated that this little pooch's life and well being was now in our hands.

The trip home was a nervous drive below the speed limit. Finn piddled a little while poking his head out the top of the carrier we used to secure him. Finn's Mom sat in back with him, making sure that he knew he had someone to watch over him. Back at the house we let Finn out to romp in his new yard and introduced him to his room, complete with couches he could jump on, his water dish and food bowl and a spot for his crate. For the rest of the day we played with Finn, gave him treats and did everything possible to make the transition an exciting and pleasant one.

Night one started by putting Finn into the carrier we had brought him home in but that did not last. The carrier we had was part of our planning for a puppy but because Finn, at 15 weeks, was older then the puppy we anticipated he didn't seem to fit. The small size coupled with the fact that it was his first night alone forced us to make the decision that it would be less traumatic if we let him roam, and we resolved to get a suitable crate the next day. Equipped with a piddle pad the small room, the size of a single garage port, had all the amenities a puppy needs. We heard the golden nugget whimper for only a few minutes before the excitement of the day took over and he curled into a ball and got busy sleeping.

Our first day as pet owners was an exciting and memorable one, but it was only the beginning of all the wonderful things to come...

Memories 2-10 to come. Have a memorable tale of your first experience as a dog owner? Love to hear it, share in the comments or e-mail it along.