Adopting a dog comes with its own set of challenges, different from getting a puppy or a cat. While we anticipated them, until you do it, you don’t really know what you’re getting into.
When we adopted Dally, I cleared our schedule for a few days. I wasn’t sure how skittish she would be, or how much constant attention she would need. I didn’t want to overschedule and make her transition more stressful, and I wanted to make sure that she would fit in with us and the cats.
To our delight, Dally is almost completely housebroken. She lets us know when she needs to go out, she makes it through the night without accidents, and has only peed inside twice—although what prompted that, I’m not sure. She also has some bizarre behaviors that leave us wondering what her life was like before.
Dally is about nine pounds underweight. It’s possible she wasn’t treated well before, or that she was missing for awhile before she was found. She is terrified of her crate and will not go inside it at all. She is also terrified of the bathtub—she won’t go near the bathroom when I’m bathing the kids. She has absolutely no leash skills, and does not consistently sit on command. We can’t tell her to lie down and have her respond at all.
That said, when she does sit down, she lifts a paw to shake hands. She will more consistently sit for me if I tell her to in German. She lets me walk through doorways first (most of the time). She is gentle with the kids, curious but not overwhelming to the cats, and only mildly interested in other dogs.
So we’re a week into this thing now. Kullervo takes Dally running every evening, and they both come home tired (Kullervo is tired because Dally makes him run faster than he would on his own; Dally is tired because Kullervo makes her sprint at the end!). I have managed to navigate taking her out regularly with getting the kids to bed on time, and yelling less at everyone (more on that later). She still barks when we leave the house, but not always. And when we get home, she is still really excited to see us, but is doing better about letting us into the house first.
We did have a bit of a kink in our plans though, something new to both Kullervo and me. I had noticed that there were occasionally droplets of blood on the floor. It wasn’t much… but it was definitely blood. I assumed that Dally was teething—she’s still young enough that she might not have all her adult teeth yet. But I couldn’t see any bloody spots in her mouth. I also wondered if it was from eating some of the treats I got—maybe she swallowed bites that were too big.
Then we saw a couple of drops of blood on our brand new couch. (She has a bad habit of getting up there even though she knows she’s not allowed; as soon as I catch her, I growl at her to get back down and she does right away, but, apparently not before she bled on my couch.) And Kullervo came home last night and saw that there was blood on our comforter (WTF Dally—she is definitely not allowed on my bed and hasn’t even tried that when I’m around). Kullervo checked her over to see what was going on, and that’s when it became clear. What I had hoped wouldn’t happen; what the vet said shouldn’t happen for a few more months… was here.
Dally is in heat. Now, I have never been around an animal in heat before. I am a strong believer in neutering and spaying my pets. The only reason that that hasn’t happened yet was that the first appointment we could get her into the vet was on September 11—two weeks from now. The vet had said that he thought she wouldn’t go into heat for another few months. I guess he was wrong. I called my little sister, who I know has dealt with dogs in heat before. She gave me advice on what to do. And I went to the pet store and bought dog diapers. And dreaded the next month (month!) of dog period. And the next month of needed to change two small creatures diapers, neither of whom really thinks I should be messing with their junk.
In terms of training, I have been slowly working on leash skills with Dally. I was going to get a choke chain—what we had always used when I was growing up—but the woman at the store told me that studies have shown that dogs are less likely to suffer trachea damage with a pinch collar, both because of where it is positioned and the face that it bothers them sooner, so less pressure is needed. I have no idea if that is accurate, but it convinced me and I bought a pinch collar. It looks terrifying, but it makes a huge difference with her leash skills.
So, right now, when I take her out to use the bathroom, (after I take off her diaper), we walk over to the designated area in our backyard where we want her to use the bathroom, away from where the kids usually play. We obviously clean up after her right away, but the kids run around barefoot, and let’s face it—sometimes dog dirt is too squishy to scoop everything. After she goes to the bathroom, I praise her, and then we practice. I stand still, and her job is to keep the leash loose. If she pulls too hard, I give a quick jerk and release of the leash, to let her know she needs to come back.
Once she’s gotten the hang of that, we walk around the yard. If she wanders too far, and pulls the leash, I jerk and release repeatedly to guide her back. (Note: I am not hurting her at all by doing this; it makes her uncomfortable, but that’s sort of the point—if she wants to avoid discomfort, she needs to stay close to me.) She’s getting a lot better. I’m excited to take her on a hike this weekend with the family to see if she fares better this week than last week, where she basically yanked me around on her halter for two miles.