Sweet Birdie will be five months old next week, and now that the cast is off, the holidays are over, and things have settled down, we’ve been really trying to focus on getting her used to normal life around here. (Well, as “normal” as the Shove household can be, haha.)
Ryan and I had two miniature schnauzers (just like Birdie but gray) that we adopted when we had been married less than a year, but they’ve both passed away. They were our buddies through new marriage, new babies and new houses. Now that we have Birdie, I definitely feel like her addition marks the start of a new version of our family. A decade from now, we’ll look back and think of Birdie as the dog who grew up with our girls, snuggled with them over broken hearts, and healed ours as our house became an empty nest. *Sigh.*
That all to say, having Birdie has been a big deal around here for a lot of reasons. (I mean, I did want three girls, and technically now I have them…so I can’t complain I guess!) I definitely view and treat Birdie like my third baby. And, like I did with my other two destructive, messy toddlers, I’ve been slowly trying to get her potty trained (ugh) and to obey basic obedience. TBH, though, I have had as much success as I have failure. (Same goes for my kids, haha!)
And I want to be honest about the frustration I’ve felt in failing, but also realistic, because…
Truthfully, we’re not a regimented-dog kinda family. I am jealous of well-trained dogs when I’m around them, but I just want to snuggle with mine and show them love. I mean, yes, I want Birdie to be potty trained, to come when I call, to not jump up on people, but beyond that I have pretty low expectations. (Although I’d really like her not to be a barker, but she’s a little dog so I know that’s a losing battle!)
So, a couple weeks ago, after picking up my 100th indoor poop, I knew it was time to do something before we ended up with a little monster on our hands. After weighing out our options, goals, and budget, we signed up for a 12-week-long puppy training course at a local pet store with a very qualified trainer. We started this week, and my biggest take-away was…
We have been doing everything wrong. Whoops.
After getting to know us and our puppy philosophy, the trainer chastised us for a lot of things — for letting her sleep in our bed, for giving her attention when she barks, for viewing her as a full-fledged family member, for not starting training earlier… Okay, for basically everything.
The biggest thing I learned from our first class is this: It doesn’t have to be hard; you just have to know how to do it. For example, with our other dogs, when we wanted them to sit, we did a pointing-down motion. Well, it turns out that (according to the trainer) a dog’s bum automatically goes down when it looks up, so if you lift your hand, causing the dog to look up at it, the dog will likely sit. Easy-peasy! He got Birdie to sit 100% of the times he asked her during class simply by doing the best motion for compliance. And if you want the dog to not jump up, you can’t just say “off;” you have to move your whole arm as you point to where you want them to go as they get down (which makes them look where you’re pointing, like fake-throwing a ball). It works! So we’re focusing on a lot of simple things with her right now: only saying their name once, asking her to “come” only for positive things, cutting back rewards so that they mean more.
The one thing I have struggled with from his recommendations is about crating at night. (I know, I know. I’m the only crazy one who actually wants to sleep with their dog on the bed; but that’s part of the reason we chose another schnauzer — for her size and lack of shedding. And her snuggle-ability. Duh.) But after some considerate thought and a bit of time to come to terms with the idea that it might be what’s best for her right now, we are going to attempt crating her. But not right now because…
Birdie just got spayed!
I realize that most dog owners go through this little surgery and recovery with their puppies, so I’m not trying to be dramatic. However, she is my dog, so it was a big deal to us. (No one wants to see someone or some animal they care about in pain, even if it’s what’s best for them.) I was shocked when the vet told us it was time to schedule her surgery (she’s just a baby still!), but even more shocked when the vet told us the cost (almost $700!). Thankfully I’m cheap, so I remembered the Humane Society does low-cost spay/neuter for $90. That’s a big difference. Yes.
When we picked her up a couple days ago, she was groggy and confused…and incontinent. (In fact, TMI, but as soon as I picker her up, she diarrheaed all over herself and me. Thankfully I’m a mom and it literally didn’t phase me. To the point that it might be concerning. Haha!) It was a rough first hour at home, trying to get her cleaned up while not truly bathing her (doctor’s orders) and seeing her in pain. But she slept heavily all night…
And she was back to her antics (almost 100%) the next day!
We’ve got one week of post-surgery recovery and 12 weeks of training before we can see the fruits of all this puppy labor, so I’m holding my breath a little bit as I try to really commit to all this…knowing that (hopefully) in the end it will all be worth it. #fingerscrossed
I haven’t posted pics of our sweet Birdie in a while, so here’s a quick recap of the last couple months:
those sweet paws!
four months old
She loves getting wet (rain, showers, water bowls)…
first time at a (very small) dog park!
found a grasshopper in the mud. chased it down. ate it. (sigh.)
post-spaying (so sad!)
first time at the REAL dog park!