We recently celebrated our puppy’s six month birthday. There was cake (fit only for human consumption), beef and cheddar homemade gourmet dog biscuits by the Brown-eyed Baker in the shape of a bone (fit for both human and puppy consumption), an extra long walk and treats from Bone Adventure.
Copper, our beloved medium goldendoodle with an Instagram account, now nearly five times his bring-home puppy weight of 7 lbs; knew something was up on November 20, his half-birthday. He was so insatiable and would hear of no rest, even past 10:30p.m. We attributed some of this spunkiness to his neutering a mere 10-days earlier and the removal of the puppycone. Saying goodbye the the cone gave him a new-found freedom (since removal, he has thoroughly inspected it, swatted it and nearly tore it apart, signifying his dominance over it).
It might seem silly to celebrate a dog’s half-birthday, but his presence in our lives has held a lot of meaning. Having never had a dog before, the decision to get one was not taken lightly (see 2.5 years of research in The Perils of Puppy Pursuit). For our family of four, with varying levels of interest from main caregiver/walker (me), to nuturer (my 12 year-old daughter, Ava) to hyped-up player (my 10 year-old son, Calvin) to my nonchalant husband whose attention ebbs and flows, consistency in training has been a challenge.
Here’s the Six-Month Overview:
In the beginning he peed a lot. And just wherever. I was happy we did not just recently do our flooring. We will be doing that next. It needs to go. It was a good two months before we could stop walking on eggshells for fear of a mess when he disappeared into the next room. Soon, we understood the random-pattern floor-sniffing, much like a crazed ant, as a key indicator to get him to the dog run stet.
At the onset, I was summoned at least once nightly by barking to release him from his kennel and take him out. Thank God it was summer. I honestly don’t know if he’d be with us if he required winter training. It was insane how quickly I jumped back into the newborn mom routine and sleep deprivation. That lasted a good month (or bad month, as the case may be).
I recall many a happy dance when he did sleep through the night. Even then it was only until 6:00a.m. For weeks we were in great stride with early morning walks. Sometimes I tried to go back to sleep 6:30-8:00, but could never seem to get quality sleep.
We started dognapping often as the breeder (Goldendoodle Acres) reported the goldendoodles need for up to 16 hours of sleep a day as a puppy. Most days a dognap could work, but catch me after the shrill ring of the doorbells mid-nap (a trained Copper-induced cue that he needs go out), and you would find a not-so-happy dog-owner.
A crazy thing happened at the end of June, just as we were thinking about prepping our small city lot for puppy. Our neighbors on both sides installed fences. In addition, we had our own chainlink fence on the street-facing side. It was a design nightmare of sorts and I spent months contemplating options to enclose the fourth side of our yard that faced the alley. It was clear that escorting him around to the side of our house to the 18 x 7′ enclosed dog pen 10X daily was not a sustainable effort.
Finally, in October, I reached out to our neighbor’s fence company and found a contractor for the small fencing project. He was awesome. He completed the fence (6″ planks with 2″ gaps to allow some site lines) to complement our neighbor’s fence.
Because we completed the cedar fencing so late in the year, I had to give the wood just enough time to dry out, but not wait too long before temps dipped below 40 or for precipitation set in to stain the fence. Luckily, we had one of the nicest Minnesota fall seasons on record! Our neighbor’s shared the cedar stain brand/color they used and I was off to the races. It took me four hours of really intense work to complete the staining.
Now Copper runs free the yard, with just a quick open of the back door to let him out and a high-pitched treat call to bring him scrambling in. Liberating. It changed our lives just when patience was at an all time high (hauling a 22 lb dog to the dog run equals no fun).
Things were going smoothly until one day we called and he didn’t come. We heard meek squeaks coming from underneath our wrap-around deck. My dad had just completed some fancy lattice work surrounding it, leaving no space too large for little Copper.
How could this be? He was stuck under the deck. It became apparent that he’d been working on his project for weeks, clearing dirt in a non-visible area under one set of steps, much like Tim Robbins work in the Shawshank Redemption.
I lured him out to his neck with a treat, then grabbed his collar. Had he not had his walking harness on, which was completely necessary to grab, I might have had to dismantle the step to remove him. Jeez, Copper! Calvin said, shaking his head. When will this dog ever learn?
Well, he’s learning. We’re all learning. One thing at a time. From late August – Sept puppy obedience classes at the Canine Coach to our recent investment in a bark collar (six month minimum age required), training a dog takes diligence, consistency and patience. The collar was immediately effective, making all the difference between a bark-through Thanksgiving dinner at my parents to a bark-free Thanksgiving meal at my house two days later.
Next up? Winter-weather exercise. We headed to the Minnehaha Dog Park last Sunday. No way would we let him off-leash there… we’re working up to it though. Just keeping him from destroying the backseat of the car after that visit and bathing him was hilarious challenge enough.
Through it all, I continue to remind everyone that all we need is just a little patience.
— Happy six month, Copper! We love your unconditional love and sweet little licks all over our faces. — love, the fam