Miss Destructive: Puppy On A Rampage

I don’t know about your puppy, but my 16-month-old terror, Lucy, has been on a binge of destruction, galloping like a wild Indian through my apartment, set upon chewing up anything she can get.

Yes, she has plenty of dog toys–an elk bone, a Nylabone, stuffed animals, kongs, rubber balls, torn socks–but why bother with those when she can eat Chinese grasscloth off the wall? Or my new sneakers? Or most recently, C A S H. Yes, I was in the bathtub reading a magazine and I heard Lucy contentedly chewing on something–which turned out to be my WALLET. Not only did she eat through the leather with gusto, but she also took $200 and efficiently tore the money in half with her nice white teeth.  By the time I got out of the tub, and almost broke my back slipping on the marble floor, she had my American Express card in her mouth, knawing on that as well.

She could be a custodian–as she also relishes going through the bathroom and kitchen waste baskets, excavating for watermelon rinds or used paper toweling. And when she can can work it into her schedule, a long doggie list of don’ts, she also has enjoyed eating through the silk backing of pillows. And in the evening, nothing makes her happier than finding Bazooka chewing gum. I recently found four pieces in her mouth, and she managed to blow a few bubbles.

Do you think she needs puppy Ritalin or Valium?

Mind you, while “her” room is untouched by chewing and totally intact with no damage done–her very own silk pillows still in pristine condition without a saliva stain on them–she doesn’t feel a bit of guilt about tearing into my space.

Today, she’s in “time out” in her room, stretched out on the beige couch, enjoying the air-conditioining, and watching the Food Channel, too hot to destroy anything else for the moment, but she will. The terrible twos really are pretty bad, but I’m hopeful that with proper

training, and lots of NO’s–she’ll understand that hers is a dog’s life, rather than my own.

All worn out and taking a nap after a rampage

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We Are Not Running A Zoo: So Make Your Dog A Good Citizen

Posted March 4th, 2011 in Socialization of Dogs, Socializing Dogs by Glenn Plaskin

Last night, my new puppy, Lucy, and I were heading out for an evening walk along the Hudson River, when danger lurked, just around the bend.

As we were moving into the lobby and toward the exit doors, Lucy mischievously broke away from me, her leash whipping out of my hand as she raced toward our dog-loving doorman Dave, her tail merrily wagging.

Lucy with our doorman Dave

Lucy at Borders, great at press events and book signings

Lucy is the happiest, friendliest puppy imaginable–and one of the reasons she turned out that way is because she was socialized extensively from the time she was 8 weeks old. I exposed her to babies and kids of all ages, dogs of all sizes and breeds, city noises, escalaters, elevators, any and everything.

Lucy at 8 weeks old, when she first began socializing

Anyway, as Lucy trotted over to Dave, one of the neighbors in my 35-story-highrise was entering the lobby from outside with his two Akitas, a majestic breed, known to be loyal and intelligent. They do, however, need to be socialized as puppies so they are friendly dogs and should have experienced owners.

In this case, the owner keeps these 100-pound plus dogs on a very tight leash because they look aggressive, not playful or friendly in the least. Having observed them many times, they frankly look as if they’re going to lunge toward another dog and eat them! Hostile is the word.

I’ve seen this many times–as dogs seem to divide themselves between the well-socialized ones–and those sadly filled with fear. (Not the dog’s fault!)

As my congenial puppy trotted over to these two dogs, one of them growled, and looked ready to pounce. I immediately pulled Lucy away and got a lecture from the owner about keeping my dog on a leash–“there’s a reason they have dogs on a leash laws!”–indeed, as the implication was that if his dogs were free, they’d be a significant threat to other dogs.

So well socialized that she visits book stores to sign autographs with her paws

First of all, my dog accidentally got away from me, and she was on a leash. But the real problem is this: If you have dogs in a large residential complex that houses many others dogs–and kids–and these dogs are hostile, poorly socialized, or a potential threat to others–THEY SHOULD NOT BE LIVING IN THE BUILDING AT ALL. After all, what happens if one of these aggressive dogs accidentally breaks away on the leash just as mine did– what then?

Is a child or another dog going to be in danger?

As I told the owner, much to his displeasure–“If you have dogs who are aggressive and are poorly socialized, they should not be living in a residential building with hundreds of other dogs and people around them.”  We are not running a zoo.

Lucy likes to read!

The sad part is that this is not the dog’s fault. It’s the owners–who did not properly socialize their dog.

In order to successfully do this, it MUST happen within the first 16 weeks. So while vets differ on whether or not you should keep your puppy away from adult dogs until they have all their shots, I can tell you that a puppy must play with other dogs from 8 weeks on. Lucy did it and she was absolutely fine–never catching anything–as most well-cared for dogs have had their shots, and are not contagious.

Lucy socializing with twin girls on the lawn outside our building

Remember, socialization is the window of time in our puppy’s lives that determines who they will become as adult dogs.

Lucy's Best Friend, Stanley

Socializing includes curious babies

Lucy loves pit bull Donny

As I recently read in the excellent ‘complete guide to responsible dog ownership’ site:“The temperament, character and behavior habits of your puppy are developed during this socialization period – and will last a lifetime. It affects how your puppy will relate to his family, strangers, animals and the environment in which he lives.

“Puppy socialization stimulates the five senses of your young dog. It is the introduction, exposure and desensitization to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch of everyday life. The socialization period conditions your puppy to the many different situations he needs to be familiar with and comfortable around. It also prepares him to deal with the new experiences and challenges which inevitably arise throughout life in an appropriate manner.

“Puppy socialization is the crucial stage where you begin to build the close bond you share with your dog, one that will last forever. It’s up to you – any puppy can become a well adjusted and trusted member of society through proper socialization.

Lucy with her majestic friend Cesare

We owe it to our puppies to provide them with thorough socialization.”

And when we do–the result is a good canine citizen for life, a source of joy to kids, adults, and other dogs–the best possible companion imaginable, like my Lucy.

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What To Do With A Puppy In Winter?

Posted January 10th, 2011 in Doggie Day Care, Exercising Dogs, Friendship, Puppies, Socialization of Dogs by Glenn Plaskin

My new puppy, Lucy, needs a ton of exercise.

At ten months old, she’s in full-blown adolescence–athletic, hyper and in chewing mode–a mischievous, energetic rascal.

Like any healthy pup, she wants to run, jump, wrestle, and race–not only ‘up and down’ our long hallway (as my previous dog KATIE did) but outdoors too.

In fact, nothing makes her happier than trotting along the Hudson River and nearby parks, chasing birds and squirrels, sniffing every tree and bush, and, of course, checking out any dog she meets.

And like  any cocker spaniel, she’s an active sporting dog who revels in the hunt, her long pendulous ears flying in the wind as she gallops along the river’s edge at home here in Battery Park City, looking for “action.”

More than anything,of course, Lucy craves the company of other dogs–big ones, little ones, she likes them all.

Recently, Lucy was tackling a 95-pound bushy-haired giant, getting a hold of his tail and being whirled around by him, literally lifted off the ground as she took a ride before the Husky put her entire head in his mouth. Lucy walked away exhilarated, her tongue hanging out of her mouth with pleasure.

In the summer and fall, giving Lucy enough exposure to other dogs was no problem.

On long hikes along our tree-lined Esplanade (described in the Introduction of Katie Up And Down The Hall) Lucy met literally hundreds of dogs of every shape and size.

And it was this daily exposure to other dogs, that created in her a hearty appetite for play.

Scenic but freezing!

Six months earlier, the 1.2 mile Esplanade just outside our door

Lucy’s Play Group

She also became a regular at our Battery Park City “breakfast club,” a super-friendly group of dogs (and people) that meets each morning in an enclosed dog run overlooking the Marina. There she started every morning with a full hour of running and socialization.

One of Lucy's pals, Cesare

But now that winter has come and temperatures have dropped, it’s not safe to walk a puppy outdoors for very long, especially in gusty winds that sometimes whip up to 50 mph.

Pit Bull Donny protective of his friend Lucy

So our dog run is now sadly deserted, with residents taking their dogs out for only very quick walks, then back inside again.

But for Lucy, a leashed walk around the block doesn’t cut it. She needs to explore, hike, and tumble with other dogs and clock in at least 3-4 miles daily.

Otherwise, she’ll gain weight and become destructive at home. (She recently starting eating the wallpaper off the dining room wall!)

Looking innocent, but watch out!

And THAT’S why I finally decided to send Lucy to Ciao Bow Wowa nearby, eco-friendly, state-of-the-art Doggie Daycare Center where dogs

Lucy can't wait to get through the door...

are pampered, exercised, and minded by a devoted staff. I love the idea of it because dogs here can interact with one another for hours, helping them to become calm and confident rather than aggressive or fearful.

Lucy loves it.

Like a successful dating mixer, she socializes with gusto, blending into the pack of 25-30 small-and-medium-sized dogs, all of them supervised by three dog-loving referees. (I don’t trust just anybody to take care of my dog–but I have total faith in the people at Ciao Bow Wow. It’s spotlessly clean, lively, and the dogs are all healthy and non-aggressive.)

When I drop Lucy off, she’s anything but insecure. No separation anxiety for this Alpha dog. As I’m saying:  “Bye Lucy…..” she’s already taken off into the pack without a glance backward, chasing her new friends, bouncing a rubber ball, leaping from one level of the room to the next, back and forth, I’m told, for five hours at a time.

So far, Lucy’s best friend is Jack, a 1 year old Corgi. She also spends a lot of her afternoons playing with Ramsay, a 1 1/2 year old Poodle Mix.

Amusingly, from 12-2 pm, all the dogs are put into individual crates or beds, the lights dimmed, with soothing classical music lulling them to sleep for their afternoon Siestas.

Lucy snuggling in for a classical music Siesta

And then it’s lights up again until check-out at 7 pm.

By the time Lucy returns home, she’s worn out and deliciously content, falling off into a deep sleep right after dinner, which only proves that a tired (and well-socialized) dog is definitely a happy one!

So Ciao Bow Wow, for me, is the perfect solution–and I know that doggie daycare is a growing industry with lots of contenders in the field.

Just be sure to check them out carefully, educate yourself on what to look out forand soon your dog is going to have a brand-new set of friends, and so might you!

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