Four months later…

Jorah will be rolling over the 11 month mark this week (with his official birthday designated as October 26th). It feels like a good time to assess where we are now that he’s had four months of learning how to fit into the household.

I’d like to say that the whole process has been seamless, but anyone who follows along with the day to day saga on Facebook would immediately know that’s a bald faced lie. Since Jorah was about six months old when he picked us out, he’d had plenty of time to learn a lot of bad habits at the shelter. It also meant I missed out on the early training window when most dogs learn how to act in civilized society. I’d never say that an older dog can’t learn new tricks, but getting those new ways of doing things through their fuzzy little heads is just going to take longer and require a lot more effort. Jorah’s a smart little dog, but he’s no exception to this. Teaching him any new behavior has felt like it’s taking far, far longer than it should. My overall experience has been that young pups are far more receptive to basic training. Winston and Maggie had their share of training issues, but didn’t go through months where I was legitimately concerned that they were never going to “get it.”

So four months on, where are we? Jorah is a dog who happily goes to his crate – as long as there’s a treat involved. He’s gone weeks now without randomly peeing on the kitchen floor or sneaking off to the laundry room to go. He’s started to have some self-awareness and there are fairly noticeable signs that he’s ready to go outside – noticeable at least when you’re paying a degree of attention. He still doesn’t love road trips, but he’s learning to tolerate them – even willingly walking out to the garage instead of having to be carried the whole way. He’s caught on (mostly) to what should and shouldn’t be chewed to oblivion.

Since his overall bladder control has shown marked improvement, he’s now even getting to spend time in the living room. Mostly it’s limited to an hour or two in the evenings and he’s still a long, long way from being a trusted agent able to enjoy the space unaccompanied, but it’s progress. After spending ten weeks confined to my own kitchen any progress on this front is cause fo great joy and celebration. You don’t realize how much you miss regular access to the big television and comfy seating until you don’t have it.

Progress has been slow, but hasn’t been equal across all fronts. Jorah is still peeing in his crate at night once or twice a week. We’ve mostly ruled out medical causes, which leaves me casting around to sort it out as another problematic behavior issue. For now, it’s restricting water in the evenings and pushing back my own bed time to try giving him less time overnight to have a problem. It’s not ideal, but the alternative of scheduling a 2AM bathroom break is even less appealing.

Realistically, I know he’s come a long way from the scared-of-his-own-shadow little dog that came home with me over Memorial Day weekend. I don’t know if I can realistically say that the worst is over just yet, but at this pace, Jorah might just be a tolerably well integrated member of the family by the time Christmas rolls around.

Crate…

I worked from home half a day today (the other half given over to Jorah’s first vet visit). Most of the work today consisted of cleaning three days of backlog email out of my inbox, so it wasn’t exactly heavy lifting. It did, however, mean that I had to do some reading for comprehension… and that trying to keep one eye on that and one on a creature who’s still trying to learn the house rules was going to end in badness on both sides.

Enter the crate. It’s a big crate. Probably sized for something more like a great dane than a 35 pound puppy. I was determined to let our new boy ride out the four hours unassisted – but next to a very relaxed lab who loves sleeping all day while I’m at the office. Aside from the a few short bouts of whining about 90 minutes in, Jorah took to the experience as well as anyone could expect.

It’s going to be harder – on both me and him – when I actually head back to the office and he’s left to his own devices for the entire day. I know that means housebreaking is most likely going to take a giant step backwards… but balanced against having an entire room chewed to hell by a pup who has no problem vaulting gates or scaling exercise pens, it’s just going to have to be what it is.

I’ll be able to check in during the day with the laundry / dog room camera, but I’m really not sure if knowing I can follow along the entire day live on camera is something that will make the whole experience worse or better. Worse, I assume, since it means being able to see everything but do absolutely nothing about it. That level of voyeurism is decidedly not one of my favorite things.

Escape artist or Why buying a steam cleaner was a money saver

Maggie has once again proven her mettle as an escape artist in training. This afternoon she defeated her crate… At least I can say it wasn’t the zip tied sides that failed. This time she sprung the bottom latch of the only door that will open and jammed herself through the gap. It seems like an impossibly small opening when you pause to consider that Maggie is now probably 20 inches at the shoulder and easily running on 50 pounds.

The first time you clean watery poo out of the carpet, it’s all about the poor sick dog. The third time you do it, the sick pup act has lost its charm. Add to that an area rug with its corner shredded and you really begin to question your sanity. We’re reaching the point where something is going to have to give. Poo or no, she’s going to have to stay in her crate while I’m not here. The 3-year-old carpet is in rough enough shape without her helping it along any further… and destroying things is a new trick altogether. I suppose it’s time to start looking at those industrial strength billeted aluminum crates they use for military working dogs. Summer down here is going to be too hot for me to be comfortable leaving a dog outside all day and the garage gets even hotter than the outside during the day. So yeah, I’m not quite at my wits end, but there is a definite steep upwards trend in my frustration level.

Since the zip ties seem to be out of chewing reach (in theory) the next step is adding a padlock on the non-zip tied door. If she gets past that, I’m going to be out of ideas… and that’s not a position I really want to be in.