BabyMolly_2014Miss Molly entered our lives almost two years ago, capturing our hearts from the moment we met her at Valkyrian Dobermans. We’ve learned a whole lot about the breed since we brought her home, sitting on my lap – but the surprises keep on coming 🙂

Molly en route home_2014

Like every other Doberman we’ve met, MissM’s very affectionate and people-oriented. She took to sleeping on our bed early in the piece and likes to colonise the couch – usually squished up next to (or on) one of us. The phrase ‘velcro dog’ or even ‘parrot-dog‘ describes her perfectly: she has no concept of personal space, preferring to be close to (or on) one of us… an ever-present, 26kg shadow.

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We were warned that Dobermans are athletic – and this appears to equate to ‘runs and jumps like a crazy thing and has boundless energy.’ Daily walks are a must for MissM, and these need to be augmented by a good run a couple of times a week. It makes a huge difference to both her happiness and our sanity!

MissM out for a runDobermans can have a propensity to suck on (or chew) blankets. MissM is one of these – and seems to particularly enjoy the blanket we have on our bed… Preventative measures are in place but, given that her grandmother still does it, we may be doomed on this one.

The biggest hurdle we’ve faced – the one we come up against on a daily basis – is that dobermans can be darned stubborn. And by this I mean really, really stubborn. MissM does obey commands – but, like many two year olds, it tends to be in her own good time, thank you very much.

MissM in a rare moment of calmOur young lady is very protective and has a giant bark that she’s very willing to use any time anyone comes through the gate. This can result in some nervous visitors… She also seems to think she’s smaller than than she really is and will persist in trying to fit into fruit boxes 🙂

Molly in a box

Dobermans respond well to training… eventually, but not to drama or negative/forceful discipline. It takes consistent, patient training and positive reinforcement. Luckily, Himself is all about patience – so the game is gradually going our way.

Molly at school_23aug16

All in all, whilst her first two years have been frenetic, she’s been a great addition to our lives. Cassie, our six month old Welsh Springer pup, is her best buddy. Happy birthday, MissM 🙂

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As you may have gleaned by now, I’m a dog person. By this I mean that my life would be incomplete without dogs in it –  preferably my own, although access to friends’ dogs for a ‘puppy-fix’ worked in dog-free years. I pat dogs in parks (after asking permission), talk to dogs in passing (crazy dog-person impersonation my speciality), and our dogs currently fill up every nook and cranny of our lives.

Many years ago we had a pair of labrador retrievers and a very cute little mixed-breed hound.

rsadogs1At the time we were renting a cottage on a working farm, and these pups were lethal around the cows – or, more specifically, the cow pats. If they saw / smelled any and could make a break for it, they were in there, mouth first, then shoulders. Likewise, bird guano appeared to be a source of dietary delight, much to my horror. It was a trial – and one of the many reasons we were glad to move back to the city.

Fast forward 35 years to Perth – and a puppy who looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth…

Cassie_22June2016

… and it probably wouldn’t, since she’d have swallowed it in one gulp! She’s also decided that poop-eating in not restricted to country living. However, in the absence of cows and large birds, Cassie’s discovered the delights of dog-poop instead. Just to clarify, she’s not interested in her own faeces… In a bizarre turn of events, she’s taken to lurking nearby and pouncing on freshly laid Mollypoop!

Now I realise that puppies tend to show an interest in such things, but until this week the puppy had done little more than sniff. Yesterday – well, that was a first… and, if I have anything to do with it, a last! My shriek of aaaaargh! as she picked up a piece of freshly-produced-faeces and ran off with it was probably audible to the entire neighbourhood! It certainly had the desired result, allowing me to swoop down like a packet-wielding avenging angel!

Research tells me that this behaviour is thing called coprophagia,  and that it’s not uncommon in dogs. The trick is to find out why Cassie’s started doing it. Apparently it could be for any number of reasons, including learned behaviour, attention seeking / bored, wrong or insufficient food, yard not cleaned up, worms, or enzyme deficiency.

I think we can rule out the first one – unless she’s remembering her mum (in Tasmania) cleaning up behind the litter of puppies. The second is possible, I guess – but she’s kept pretty occupied (played with, given puzzles, taken for walks, has Molly to chase and be chased by), so I think not. Food – the diet she’s on is healthy and balanced, but I’ll up the quantity she gets to see if that makes a difference. I’m paranoid about yard cleanup and do it twice a day – so that’s out. Today was the day for the monthly de-worming routine, which ensures that box is also ticked. That leaves visiting the vet to discuss blood tests (and medication) for enzyme deficiency… but I’ll wait to see if my epic-aaargh combined with food increase and de-worming has any effect.

I’m also wondering whether Molly has blocked anal glands again and whether that might be playing a role in all this… FYI, anal glands are a pair of small sacs located between the dog’s external and internal sphincter muscles. They usually empty themselves during defecation, but in a small percentage of dogs they don’t. Instead they fill up, get blocked, and sometimes overflow in a smelly and yukky sort of way. Might this be a reason for the puppy suddenly being more interested in Molly-poop: insufficient scent-marking?

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With a pair of toddlers (otherwise known as puppies, 18 months and 3 months old respectively) at home, I’ve been thrown back into the deep-end of stay-at-home-mum life. The gaps between feeding them, playing with them, walking them, cleaning up behind them, making sure they don’t chew anything important or squish each other (one weighs 25kg, the other 5kg!) are few and far between.

Puppies are fun, no doubt about it, but this stage does remind me of when my human children were small. When they finally conk out for a nap it comes as a welcome break, but it’s also quite regularly when my brain starts reminding me about the restless nights monitoring said children/pups. Sleeeep, it says, sleeeeep nowwwwww

With the children, well meaning friends and relatives – even strangers – would tell me, ‘Nap when the babies nap. Make the most of your time.’ After a while I started to wonder whether they all had home help. Or perhaps they had a secret supply of magical wee folk lurking in the background, ready to do all the nasty accumulated chores in exchange for small gifts of food…

In the absence of magical or other help, and with catch-up-sleep the stuff of daydreams, I nevertheless learned that it was possible to chunk away at various tasks while the babies napped – sometimes even while they entertained themselves for brief periods.

Similarly, the first few weeks with the two dogs together have been pretty full on. House-training a new pup takes determination and vigilance, also a goodly supply of paper towel and a bottle of clean-up spray. We’re getting there and, in some ways, it’s no worse than potty training. If anything, it’s easier as it’s taking far less time. Nunzio/Cassie’s conquered the doggy door and now usually makes it to the lawn in time (and there was great rejoicing!).

As with any toddlers, playtime can be a tad fraught – although Molly has been surprisingly patient and it’s suddenly clear just how much she’s matured over the past few months. However, the puppy has an endless supply of nippy little teeth and a good deal of persistence, and patience definitely has its limits. The trick is to leave them to it and to intervene/distract just before drama happens. That way some learning happens, but she doesn’t get chased and stomped on too badly. This too shall pass – Molly’s coping and her Nunzio’s getting bigger and less squishable each week.

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Meantime, I fit writing in where I can, conquer the household chores where possible and – today, after a certain amount of procrastination, have finally started my chicken-piñata. This has already entailed a certain amount excitement. The first balloon I inflated exploded – making both dogs duck for cover and me dive for the remains before either of them could decide they were edible! Later, the second balloon – now part-covered with strips of soggy papier mâché – got knocked off it’s stand and fell on Molly’s head, pretty much confirming her notion that balloons are très dangereux 🙂

Piñatas take about 50 hours to create, from start to finish, depending on how large and how complicated you decide to make them. The process is done in stages to allow the layers of papier mâché to dry, which is just as well since nap times are fairly brief. I’m 3 hours in, having made the glue, torn up some newspaper and started to apply the first layer. With luck, by the time I have this piñata completed we should be through the worst of the toddler stage…

Cassie

Our Nunzio, Cassie

The past few days have been full of puppy: fetching, feeding, herding, stressing about and playing with our new puppy. It’s been a busy time – and both T and I have had very fractured sleep. Despite this, finally bringing MissMolly’s Nunzio home was a delight. It’s the culmination of months of debate, weeks of dithering, and days of shopping for puppy-related gear and ‘baby proofing’ the pool fence, house and garden.

We headed out to the airport on Thursday evening to pick her up. She’d spent all day in  a crate, having left the breeder in Quamby Brook (Tasmania) for Launceston mid-morning for a flight to Perth, via Melbourne – where there was an hour and half stop over. A long day of being cooped up for a not-quite nine-week-old puppy. Fortunately one of her siblings (Holly) was flying over to Perth as well, so she had company in the crate – but they were both very happy to be freed.

Holly and Cassie arrive in Perth

Adding a puppy to a family unit – especially when there’s already another dog – is in some ways more stressful than adding a second child. You can’t simply pop a puppy in a pram/cot  and put out of harms way in the nursery. Puppies can get around on their own by the time they come home with you. So, unless you stash your new addition in a crate (or other secure area) for part of the time, keeping an eye on ‘sibling interaction’ is a lot trickier and more time consuming than it is with children.

I remember the day I brought Boychilde home. We’d spent his first week together at the maternity hospital and I had missed DaughterDearest enormously. I couldn’t wait to see her and to introduce her baby brother. But bringing home a new baby turned  out to be less exciting for her than bringing home a new puppy might have been. DD just waved hello from the kitchen and told me she was making jelly with Gran. For his part, the baby also showed no interest and stayed fast asleep in his carrycot.

Introductions

MissMolly, however, was all over the puppy. She was super excited that we’d come home, very curious about the new addition and keen to share my lap with her. She was also perfectly happy to get fed a second dinner when we fed the very hungry and slightly dehydrated pup. From day one, Molly’s actually been remarkably tolerant of having her tail chewed, her mouth licked and our attention shared. To our surprise (and amusement) she’s taken to bringing Cassie toys to entice her to play – and was even prepared to share her bone.

day3_2Apr16_bone time
That’s the upside. The downside is that puppies don’t wear nappies – and they do wake up and need to go outside for ablutions at oh-my-goodness-o’clock (several times). After a few nights of this, T and I are both operating on spoon deficit and could do with a solid snooze to catch up on our sleep debt.

My solution this afternoon was to trot out my time honoured technique of child sleep management: curl up on the bed with both ‘kids’ for a cuddle – and see if this lulls us all into nodding off.

Success! (only for an hour or so, but such a good hour!)

day4_nap time_3apr16_3

Over the past few months we’ve visited dog shows, breeders, friends, dog parks and websites, all with a view to finding our Nunzio… and ended up with an overload of information, too many choices and high levels of indecision. Eventually I had to resort to a spreadsheet, entering size, weight range, temperament, grooming, exercise requirements and common ailments of each of the breeds we’d shortlisted.

We ranked them out of 10, based on our original criteria of size and disposition. Then we discarded all but the top four breeds and had another think. We could immediately rule out two of the four contenders: we already have one (but need something calmer for a second dog) and aren’t prepared to risk a repeat of the other (because of health issues). In the end it came down to a choice between a German Short Haired Pointer and a Welsh Springer Spaniel.

More discussions ensued. A decision was made.

Finally after all the procrastination, we have a puppy in our sites. Sometimes it’s good to simply go with what you know.

honey_apr03

Based on how quickly they learn and respond to commands, Welsh Springers are only ranked #31 on the smart-dog scale. However, this still means they tend to obey a first command 70% of the time or better. This is good enough – and a lot smarter than a most other breeds.

Besides which, we’ve realised that we’re not looking for clever. We’re looking for a good companion dog for our Doberman, one that will keep up with her but not be as wildly excitable. In this arena, Welshies score very well. Their temperament is predictable, they’re good fun without being super boisterous, and are very loving. Our Honey (above) really was a Honey 🙂

So, we have confirmation that one of these little cuties is our Nunzio. They’re only three weeks old at present, so we won’t know which one for a few weeks yet.
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She’ll arrive in Perth in early April, flying across from Quamby Brook (Tasmania) with another puppy also destined for Perth. You can keep an eye on their progress via Talzon’s website or email me for updates.

spider and rosie

Spider and Rosie, the parents. (Images courtesy of Talzon Welsh Springer Spaniels.)