Puppy problem? Or par for the course?
July 4, 2012 11:34 PM   Subscribe

Puppy woes: Is there any possibility of making this work?

The short version: We have a stubborn 8-week-old lab puppy that was naturally weened and then separated from its mother/litter at 6-weeks. It seems comfortable in our home and gets along well with us, but we're having big issues with figuring out how to raise/train/socialize the puppy. Can anyone recommend a specific training plan or point us in the direction of a source you trust? I've found so much well-intended but conflicting information online that it's getting overwhelming.

The long version, all situation-specific details included:

Background info:
I live with a roommate and her two kids -- 14-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy. I have a friendly, entirely platonic relationship with my roommate and a pseudo-authority, avuncular role in the children's lives.

The kids have long wanted a puppy, and I let it be known quite a while ago that I was willing to take financial responsibility for a dog if the kids were willing to take a significant amount of the responsibility for its care. Mom was never psyched about the idea of a dog (they had had one many years ago and had to get rid of it because of aggression issues) but now that she's agreed to a puppy, she thinks the one we brought home is quite cute.

Current situation:
We adopted a six-week-old lab puppy (mother an American Lab, father an English lab) from an amateur breeder (obligatory picture, apologies for quality). At the time, we didn't realize how young six weeks was... but at least the mother had already weened her pups -- all 11! of them.

Beyond the young age, here are the puppy problems:
1) Living/play space: Sadie spends the majority of her time in the kitchen. It's decent sized with plenty of room for her to play, but she does get bored of it. Unfortunately, it's the only non-carpeted space in the house and she seems to poop and pee constantly.

She cannot run free in the backyard because it is not puppy safe. Also, we have two cats that often go outside and my roommate says that it's bad for the dog to dig up cat poo, which makes a long tether a problem as well. (I'm assuming she's right with the cat poo issue, but the thought hadn't struck me before she said anything.) Also, we live in Austin, TX, so the summer heat is an issue.

2) Potty training: She seems to have no problem peeing without warning wherever she is. She will usually whine when she needs to poo but only if there is a person right by her. I've read lots of conflicting advice about crate training, tether training, paper training, etc.

3) Obedience training: Sadie sits well. Crazy well, actually. So well that whenever you try to get her to do anything, she ends up sitting. She also accepts her leash but is horribly stubborn about pulling. She will pull and pull and whine and pull and yank and thrash as hard as she can, sometimes fighting for several minutes before finally submitting to walking in the direction I want. Also, when it comes to learning any command beyond sit, she's pretty dense (regardless of how yummy the treat).

4) Health concerns: We would like to take her to the park, to play with the older retriever at grandparents' house, etc. but our understanding is that we can't do any of these things until she has her parvo vaccination. Is this accurate?

5) Cat concerns: Sadie and our older male cat seem to have a healthy enough relationship. Our younger female cat (7-8 months) and Sadie love to play (especially tag), but their fighting goes way beyond what we think is healthy if left to their own devices.

Here are the people problems:
1) What level of responsibility is reasonable to expect from the kids? Mom and I don't have a problem doing general supervision duty and taking some of the responsibility, but we made it clear to the kids that primary care (with us consulting) should be their responsibility since they specifically wanted a puppy. Is that too much to ask?

2) We're not sure how much attention to give her. We don't want her to be starved for attention/interaction, but we also want her to eventually learn how to amuse herself/be comfortable just hanging around during the day.
posted by GnomeChompsky to Pets & Animals (36 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you didn't really have a plan in place for how to manage the puppy, and now you are winging it. I suggest getting to a good trainer as soon as possible, preferably with one or both of the kids, and learning from them. I'd really encourage you to crate train -- it really helps with house training.

I do think it's a lot to expect two kids to know how to raise a puppy when it sounds like this might be the first puppy for all of you. If you want a well-behaved, well-trained dog, you need to take the lead in setting the puppy on a routine with lots of regular exercise, regular pee breaks, etc. The kids can do a lot for the puppy, but you need to show them how. They can do things like pee breaks, playing time outside, feeding, etc., but you'll need to set up the routine, the crate, the schedule, everything.

Puppies are really hard. They are absolutely adorable, and when my dog, now 3, was a pup, it felt manageable -- but I remember getting up once a night for the first 2-3 months to take him out to pee. Kids really want puppies, but they don't know what they're getting into when they say that. Perhaps a chart with the pup's schedule and assigned tasks would help.

In terms of the pup and kitty playing -- are you sure it's fighting and not just really rambunctious playing? Puppy play can look scary if you're not used to it. If they're both enjoying it and not desperately trying to get away, I think it's probably fine. In fact, I think it's a great way for them to bond and get a lot of great exercise.

I don't think you can give your pup too much attention, or at least I wouldn't worry that would happen. She's still a novelty, so I wouldn't have the kids back off if they're enjoying her. Puppies and dogs sleep a lot, and puppies do need play time and attention.

I can't speak to your other questions, but I do again recommend enrolling in a puppy training class (even at the local humane society) as soon as possible. That trainer can really help you. Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:04 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

1) What level of responsibility is reasonable to expect from the kids?

Nighttime feeding, afternoon and nighttime watering, afternoon walks and yard supervision - and be prepared to pick up any one of these if they can't. Sorry, but the adults should still be primarily responsible for the dog. Make sure you're feeding it once a day, make sure you take it on some walks, and make sure you water it.

It's not uncommon for kids to say, "we'll take care of all of it, honest!" and then parents try to take them at their words, then the kids don't take that great care of it and the parents need to step in. Unfortunately between these events there's a period where the dog is being semi-neglected. It's easy to get into a back-and-forth with a kid if they don't want to do something at a specific time, but it's not about them cleaning their room or doing their homework, it's a living animal. Especially with such a young dog, you should be prepared to do the bulk of the work. After all, you are the adult that brought it into the house.

2) We're not sure how much attention to give her. We don't want her to be starved for attention/interaction, but we also want her to eventually learn how to amuse herself/be comfortable just hanging around during the day.

She'll let you know. If she's asking for attention and you're there to give it, give it.

All in all, your questions seem almost directed for an adult animal. She's a baby, you need to treat her like one. I don't know about other people, but I would be thrilled at an 8 week old understanding "sit" - I wouldn't call her dull for not knowing anything else.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 12:08 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

(when I said you're feeding it once a day, I didn't mean feed the dog once a day, I meant make sure you and not the kids are responsible for at least one of its feedings)
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 12:11 AM on July 5, 2012

- Get a good vet. You seem not to have one, and many (all) of your questions can and should be addressed by your vet. Seriously.

- Yes, this too much actual responsibility to place on children, even a 14 year old! Can you make it look like they are responsible, but actually take on the responsibility yourself??

I say this because...

- No 14 or 12 year old can train, supervise, or look out for health concerns in a puppy. Impossible! Learning to play with the puppy appropriately or take it on supervised walks? Sure! But you are skipping a lot in between (for the dog's benefit) if you think children can rear a respectful, well-adjusted canine of any breed - full stop.


Get a vet and possibly a trainer.

You have special issues here because your dog is so young. I've had a dog (Besenji mix) and a few cats that were weened or away from their moms too young. They all turned into "special needs" pets that required more insight than you might be applying right now.

There's no shame here! Telling you that if you put in the effort now, you will have a LOVELY pet once this pup grows into an adult.
posted by jbenben at 12:12 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not entirely sure that you were ready for a puppy, but here goes.

1. Limiting a puppy to a particular area is fine. We used baby gates to protect our puppies from stairs, cords, etc.

2. Housebreaking: Crate training with constant supervision while the dog is out of the crate. The dog took a sip of water? She goes out. The dog ate breakfast? She goes out. The dog is sniffing/circling? She goes out. The dog completed an active play session? Out. After accomplishing an outdoor peep/poo, the dog should be praised in a high voice and treated. I have never housebroken a dog that young, but it's never taken longer than 2 weeks for me to housebreak a dog this way.

3. AFTER vaccination, Sadie needs a puppy socialization class. Mostly it's a horde of puppies running around being puppy-like for 40 minutes or so. It is vital for young dogs to learn how to be dogs, and other dogs are the best way for them to learn. You also learn basic commands. (At a certain point in most puppies' development, they suddenly forget everything they learned. That's a good time to take them to regular obedience.) As for pulling on the leash, the best way to get a dog to do what you want is to not reward them for behavior you don't like. Puppies think that you pulling back on the leash is super awesome fun. When she pulls you have to stop walking. Eventually she will learn that fun ends when pulling happens.

4. No park until vaccinations.

5. No cat playing without observation until Sadie is bigger and more mature.

1. Teenagers are perfectly capable of caring for dogs but it's best if they are properly trained in how to do so. Until you read a book or two about puppy training, it's best if all training and care is supervised.

2. Puppies need more attention than adult dogs. Constant supervision, really. But that doesn't mean you need to play with her 24/7. She needs to learn that it is up to YOU to initiate play, and that it's not her role to do so. Having said that, however, you do need to play with her a lot. It's how she learns to trust and love her humans.
posted by xyzzy at 12:13 AM on July 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

Forgot to add, for housebreaking: The dog had an accident? She goes out.
posted by xyzzy at 12:18 AM on July 5, 2012

Popping back in to say that as much playtime as the kids can give her in the kitchen will be AWESOME.

My Besenji was abandoned in a shopping bag in a mall - that's how I got her. For the first few years of her life (especially the first 6 months) she went EVERYWHERE with me - even to college. I'd walk her to class across the parking lot, and she'd be so tuckered out from that, she would sleep for two hours on a chair next to me. Your dog sounds that kind of little, so really, tons of affection and interaction works here.

That dog turned out amazing. I know, and have known, lots of dogs since. She was by far the most well-behaved dog I have ever encountered, but really, it was because I went overboard in the beginning.

Besenji's have a lot of energy, and as an 18 year old, I had the time to take her to a field every day to let her run it out. Labs like affection, play, and some intellectual stimulation. So whatever you do, provide this for your pup.

The effort now rewards you later on.
posted by jbenben at 12:26 AM on July 5, 2012

Response by poster: Quick bit of additional information: I appreciate the people suggesting that perhaps we weren't ready. No, we weren't. The kids' mom thought I'd never agree to pay for a dog without first doing a ton of research and I assumed their mom would never okay a puppy without doing a ton of research. So... treat me like a complete idiot with all of your recommendations -- as if I don't know the first thing about puppies (because apparently I don't!).

Also, to allay anyone's concerns: I'm absolutely making sure Sadie gets fed and watered appropriately. I even bought the awesome, super high grade puppy food. There isn't a question of whether Sadie will have her basic needs met. It's more a matter of: Can we let the kids do most of her training (after being trained themsielves and while generally being supervised) or should we throw in the towel and let a different family take her?
posted by GnomeChompsky at 12:29 AM on July 5, 2012

At various dog sporting events I've attended (obedience, agility, field trials, etc) there are always a fair number of teens showing their dogs. So yes, I think teens are perfectly capable of training dogs, provided they take classes and are interested and consistent. But that doesn't let you off the hook--you have to know how to interact with the dog, too. Dogs develop different relationships with different people in their lives, and she will walk all over you and/or piss you off if you don't know what you're doing.

I know you're doing your best (I wasn't imagining a starving little puppy or anything), but you need to evaluate for yourself how responsible you think the kids can be with the dog, and you need to REALLY think about whether you can handle a puppy right now. Puppies are a LOT of work. I've spent many a night taking a puppy out every 2-3 hours, and hundreds of hours training, taking classes, socializing, and playing/walking. And that's for a dogs that aren't even mine. :)

If you don't think you can handle a puppy, I highly recommend looking at rescue, either pure-bred or shelter. A young dog (1-3) that already has some training can be just as awesome as a puppy.

That said, labs are freaking awesome to own and train. They are smart, love to please, and aren't as clingy as, say, a golden retriever. (I love golden retrievers; my parents have one that's pretty much a lap dog, but that is definitely not for everyone.)

I would also like to mention that your breeder is pretty irresponsible. (Not your fault; you didn't know.) Some states even have laws about adopting puppies under 10 weeks, and those two weeks are very important because puppies are still learning how to be dogs from mom. I think my parents' breeder adopts at 11-12 weeks.
posted by xyzzy at 12:49 AM on July 5, 2012

Nthing crate training. It sets a schedule that makes it easy for everyone, including the puppy, to follow. We crate trained our pup when she came to us at 3 months, and accidents inside the house were pretty rare. You're not supposed to crate the puppy for more than 4 hours each time, and given that puppies sleep a lot, crating meshes very well with a puppy's lifestyle. Ever since our dog was about 7 or 8 months old, she no longer spends any time inside her crate during the day even when we leave her home alone as she is fully housebroken. I've persuaded another friend to crate train her puppy as well, and she's thrilled with the results. This is the schedule we lived and died by. Puppies are hard work, but the hard work will totally pay off. Good luck!
posted by peripathetic at 1:09 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

You should consider a trainer when Sadie gets older- she is too young right now for formal obedience training. It concerns me a little that you have described her as "stubborn"- she is just a baby animal and has to learn how to understand how to live within your family structure. Puppies are a lot of work! It will take time but you will be rewarded with an awesome dog if you have patience and kindness. Here is a good website for you and the kids (there are tons on the net!) and you can read there about some approaches to raising a puppy: Dog Star Daily
posted by catrae at 3:28 AM on July 5, 2012

You're getting some good advice about training, trainers, and taking her to a vet. I just popped in to remind you of one area where I believe you need to adjust your thinking in order to successfully raise and train this dog:

The puppy is not stubborn. She is a baby dog. A baby, without the ability to know what you want and also make a decision not to do it. This--doing things other than what you want--is not stubbornness; it's a developmental stage in the dog's life. It's akin to being disappointed because your one year-old human is being "stubborn" about learning to walk or use a toilet.

It's also due to your not knowing how to train her. There's nothing wrong with that; knowing that you don't know is a great first step. You should really get an in-person trainer to come to the house for a couple of one-on-one sessions. Believe me, that will go a long way toward helping you be successful in keeping this dog.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:44 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Emphasizing that your 8 week old puppy is not "doing" anything and is certainly not misbehaving. The entire responsibility for the puppy becoming a great dog is on you! Not the kids, not your roommate, YOU. The kids can do their dog chores once that dog is trained up. But you have got to get into a rigorous class or hire someone to teach YOU how to help this poor pup become socialized.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:07 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I found The Puppy Primer helpful.

Bonding, bonding, bonding. Adjust your expectations of the kids -- not because you're wrong in expecting them to step up to increased responsibility -- but because, as noted above, what's at stake is sentient, vulnerable to ill health, loneliness, hunger, thirst and injury. That's too much to put on the shoulders of inexperienced kids. However, they *should* be asked to give more of their time and love as far as actively playing with, and bonding with, the puppy. Lots of tummy rubs and petting and time together.

This is all FWIW, of course. My first dog is now two years old; the first year we had him was fraught. He responds best to attention and affection and treats. My neighbor, an experienced dog owner, advised me that the first two years are the roughest, and that it gets better thereafter. That's been true for us. But I think it's a useful rule of thumb to lower your expectations all around and be pleased (and give appropriate treats and praise) when something goes well. More love, fewer "shoulds."
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:33 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

'Puppy Perfect' is a good starter book that contains a lot of age appropriate training 'games' that the kids could play with the puppy.
posted by whalebreath at 5:45 AM on July 5, 2012

GnomeChompsky: "Can we let the kids do most of her training (after being trained themsielves and while generally being supervised) or should we throw in the towel and let a different family take her?"

I think that a 12 year old and a 14 year old are definitely not going to be able to train a puppy. It's not a skill, like you teach them to bake a cake and then they teach the puppy to bake a cake, the end. Whoever is in charge of the dog has to develop a training relationship with her. Basically all the time you spend with this puppy for the next while, you should be "on." First you have to watch all of her cues and potty train her. Then, as she gets a bit bigger you deal with appropriate play. Then as she gets even bigger you deal with treating the house and everything in it appropriately. Meanwhile, this entire time you work on commands and every single walk is also teaching time from beginning to end.

Now, I don't have a dog, but I grew up with them, some well-trained and some not. I love dogs, but all of that training is the reason I don't have one. It's doable, but a lot of work, and not something you can just teach a kid and expect them to take over, especially if you don't have any experience yourself.
posted by that's how you get ants at 6:00 AM on July 5, 2012

Taking care of a baby-anything is real work.

You need to get Sadie and the kids into a puppy class. This is so that everyone knows what to expect, including Sadie.

A Gentle-Leader is great for teaching Sadie not to pull when on the leash.

You need to wear the poor thing out. A walk in the morning, another in the afternoon and one at night before bed. Let that rambunctous energy out.

Have you thought about doggie day-care as a way of having someone look after her during the day as well as for socialization and just having a good-old-doggie time?

Sadie looks like a lovely little doggie, and with love, discipline and lots and lots of effort, she will bring joy to your family for years to come.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:27 AM on July 5, 2012

I highly recommend Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Sophia Yin and How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks by Ian Dunbar. Yin is a behaviorist and her book offers some very, very effective tips for the very basic issues you're currently dealing with: housetraining, very basic commands, what to do with the puppy when you can't be there to monitor. Dunbar is an engaging writer with some more in-depth advice on how to integrate a dog into your life.

We have a 15-week-old border collie puppy. Know that the rhythm of your life (and your roommates') is going to change. It can be tough, but you'll get used to it. Don't give up. The moments of silliness, wonder, and snuggliness add up quickly and very soon will outweigh the frustrations, which get smaller week by week as training continues. (I can't imagine my life without Ben already, and we've only had him for a couple of months!) Bear in mind that you have a baby dog, and you will need to be patient, just as you would with a baby human. She's not old enough to be stubborn yet, she's just starting to learn and is not even developed enough to have much self-control yet.

As for the kids, it's great to ask them to take on some responsibility, but ultimately, if stuff doesn't get done, you're just going to have to be okay with doing it. The first 18 weeks of a dog's life are critical for socialization, training, and development, so you just have to be sure everyone's consistent, and if they aren't, you have to step up and be the leader.

Don't take the puppy to a dog park until she has all of her shots and has a very, very solid response to commands, including "come," "sit," and "off." This will probably not be until she's 12 weeks old. Socialization with other dogs is important, but you have to be 100% sure of their vaccination status and any interaction should be closely monitored, i.e. in your own house or garden with a person around and paying attention at all times, in case things get too aggressive.
posted by Spinneret at 6:48 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

and nthing that what you need to do ASAP is take Sadie to a good vet to start or continue worming and vaccinations, and while you're there, voice your concerns and bring something to write on so that you can follow up on your vet's recommendations.
posted by Spinneret at 7:11 AM on July 5, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers, tips, resources, attitude adjustments, etc. I was wrong to call the dog stubborn -- though I do maintain that she is definitely "difficult to move" (unless I pick her up, of course).

We have taken her to a vet at a wellness clinic to start the vaccination process and do a worms test. We have a vaccination schedule that we'll follow. That sort of logistics isn't a problem. We'll have to talk about finding a permanent vet, though, who does more than give shots. I've gotten so used to doctors as pill-pushers (no offense MDs, I just get cruddy healthcare) that I guess that bled into my impression of vets.

The advice that's been "nth'ed" has definitely sunk in, but there is one additional caveat that I suppose I should have mentioned: This dog really isn't supposed to be "my dog." I work full-time, and my roomie specifically wanted to get a dog in the summer so the kids -- in their abundant free time -- could shoulder a large share of the chores, at least during the day. I have no problem handling morning/evening routines, but the puppy is most active during mid-day (when I'm not there).

I have ordered a crate and a couple of the recommended books, and I've located a beginning puppy obedience/socialization class for the family to attend that looks ideal.

If anyone has any additional thoughts on the caveat I mentioned above, I'd appreciate it. Thanks!
posted by GnomeChompsky at 7:24 AM on July 5, 2012

This dog really isn't supposed to be "my dog." I work full-time, and my roomie specifically wanted to get a dog in the summer so the kids -- in their abundant free time -- could shoulder a large share of the chores, at least during the day.

You ask for "additional thoughts on [this] caveat" but I don't see how it's going to change the advice and opinions offered already here. Puppies take a lot of work. As others have mentioned, a lot of this work is not simply "chores" like walking the puppy and feeding it; this work ideally entails training and socializing the puppy in ways that young teens might not be able to manage (e.g. getting the puppy to socialization classes, as mentioned above). Puppies are adorable but they are known to frustrate even the most responsible, dog-loving adults. The thing is, if you don't train a puppy well, you run the risk of creating a problem dog. So this isn't the sort of thing you want to play around with.

It seems to me like what you really wanted was an adult dog. But you got a puppy. It's totally possible to raise a puppy responsibly while working a full-time job but if you don't want much part of it and the other adult in the house doesn't want much part of it, then, yeah, I'd suggest finding another home for the puppy while s/he's still a puppy, and looking for a grown dog for the kids (which should be easy, as shelters, sadly, are full of well-trained adult dogs).
posted by artemisia at 7:41 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

RE: vaccinations

A puppy has immunological protection via maternal antibodies THROUGH the first 8-12 weeks of life. If a puppy still has maternal antibodies, vaccinations will not be effective.

That is why canine vaccination programs begin at 8 weeks and continue though approximately 16 weeks, with additional boosters at 1 year. Vaccinations given prior to 8 weeks are not effective because the maternal antibodies react with the antigen, not giving the puppy's immune system the chance to develop a response. Repeated vaccinations are not boosters, but rather repeated attempts to prompt your pup to generate the appropriate immune response to the vaccine and have protection against the disease.

If money is an issue, have your puppy vaccinated at 16 weeks and again at 1 year. This is most important for Distemper, Adenovirus and Parvo as those are the diseases that your pup is most likely to contract by contact with its surroundings. Rabies, while being an important core vaccine for both animal and human health, is not something your pup will be exposed to on the ground or via bedding, so it is given at 3 months or older.

Please don't take your puppy anywhere in public (ie. pet stores, dog parks, etc.) until its initial puppy vaccination schedule is completed. After one vaccination, it may not have generated sufficient immunity for protection from the tragic consequences of, say, Parvo.
posted by Seppaku at 7:54 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Labs are great dogs - we have one along with a Golden Retriever. They also require immense amounts of exercise to burn off excitable energy. Especially when under the age of 3 - 4 years.

The truth is, training and socialization are a must if you want a manageable dog and from the sound of it, you should find a local trainer with either a class or the ability to come to your home for private sessions. It will be worth the money. Trust me, especially if you are winging it currently.

If you want to get the most out of training here's a pro tip: exercise the dog prior to your training session, otherwise the proverbial ants-in-the-pants will make your session less than enjoyable or fruitful. A tired pup is more focused and easier to manage.

There are some simple lessons your kids can learn and then train with, but I think you would be far better suited enrolling in a course. Group courses are great because they give the pup a chance to socialize and learn dog manners with other dogs; Private lessons are good because they give you a lot of one-on-one with the trainer.
posted by tgrundke at 7:58 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can we let the kids do most of her training (after being trained themselves and while generally being supervised) or should we throw in the towel and let a different family take her?

It's possible for a 12 and/or 14 year old to handle this (the training), e.g., this was typical for 4-H type projects a generation or two ago. But, you have to factor in all the life-style changes in the meantime, including changes in what adults expect of children. Of course, the fact that it's "possible" doesn't mean anything when it comes to determining whether or not "your" two kids can handle this (substantial) responsibility.*

Frankly, when it comes to adding a dog to the household, I think that the kids' availability to handle training should be a negligible factor in the equation (across the board, not just in your case). Adults get dogs to—among other things—provide the kids with the experience of having a dog, which includes opportunities to teach/learn responsibility. Plus (especially applicable in your case), the dog is likely to be a member of the household long after the kids have grown.

FWIW, if I were in your place I would really try to keep the pup (i.e., try to arrange the necessary time to commit to training). I grew up with a dog and once owned "the best dog that ever was"**—I truly regret that my kids haven't had this experience.

*No disrespect intended toward the kids—I doubt most kids these days (my own at that age, included) could handle this.

**Hannah, a lab-spaniel mix, who looked a lot like Sadie.
posted by she's not there at 8:05 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you guys made explicit who will keep the dog in case one or the other of you moves out? Especially if you have the financial responsibility but it's their dog... that just seems like it could get complicated if you don't put something in writing.
posted by juliplease at 8:32 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

If I were you, I think I would try to keep a schedule (as mentioned up-thread) but try to make the kids actually do those things. That way, you keep track of the timing (since I don't know if the kids will be able to do that) but you can probably (hopefully) count on the kids to do things once they've been prompted.

When it's time for the puppy to have lunch, you can call, e-mail, or text the kids to remind them and have them do it. I'm also of the opinion that "taking the dog for a walk" is shorthand for any exercise outdoors so if the kids don't want to put her on a leash and go for a walk around the block, going out and playing with her in the yard accomplishes the same thing (getting exercise and going potty outside). Later on, you'll want to train her to walk on a leash but that can be a separate task.

You'll need to workout with everyone in the house on the logistics of that plan and the kids will need some training on what they need to do and why they need to do it but I think it would work, it wouldn't require a ton of work from you so the kids would still feel more or less responsible, but you'll still be the safety net that makes sure the dog is cared for properly.

A note about crates. Dogs evolved from wolves and wolves live in underground dens. A remnant of that is that they like to have a tight, closed off space where they can feel safe and sleep. If you don't find a crate, she will find someplace to substitute for it or she'll get stressed out about it. The last dog that my parents had always slept in her crate and often took naps in there. They never closed the door do it she just liked having her own personal space that was small, dark, and quiet.

That fact helped me wrap my head around the idea that the dog doesn't get put in the crate as a form of punishment. They need to have a safe space and you're just training them to use the crate as that space.
posted by VTX at 8:40 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've MeMailed you.
posted by Urban Winter at 8:42 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read in some "how to raise kids" book a long time ago that it's nice to have a dog when you have kids but that you shouldn't get a dog "for the kids" [with the idea that it's primarily their responsibility] any more than you would get them a 1-year-old baby or a toddler.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:52 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have been the well-meaning middle school kid who loved a dog and swore up and down that I'd do all of the care. It often just doesn't happen for various reasons.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:54 AM on July 5, 2012

Yes, you can absolutely make this work. I had a my whole childhood and trained it and exercised her, played with her for hours a day. Just thinking about her right now brings tears to my eyes, and I am so beyond glad I had her in my life.

You, and/or their mom just need to be the supervisor. You need to be the person to make sure things are done correctly and regularly, so it just means you need to have the knowledge to guide them and the time to supervise them.

This means things like learning about puppy care and making sure everyone uses the same behavioral techniques on the puppy (very necessary) and all of you going to training classes together (fun). It also means staying constantly aware of things that might fly beneath the kids' radar, such as realizing how hot black asphalt is and it's burning the puppies toes, that being locked up in a hot car can damage a dog's brain within minutes, etc. (but their mom raised 2 kids already, so she should have that kind of maternal awareness/instinct already there).

It's a lot of hard work, but I think the kids are absolutely able to do most of the work and get some real enjoyment out of your new house member.

One caveat. What kind of kids are they? If they have exhibited long term follow through, you will be just fine. If they have a short attention span and jump from one thing to the next, well, that is when you might have a problem.

O.K. one more thing. It might be good to take over some of the difficult chores, such as getting up in the middle of the night to let the puppy out. One, the kids need sleep, and two, that might be overwhelming enough for the kids to start to resent the dog because he is such a chore. Lighten their load a bit and it will become a joy.
posted by Vaike at 9:12 AM on July 5, 2012

In 6 years, the 12 year old will be 18. A 6 year old dog is in its prime; my dog is 16 and still going strong.

Are either you or the kids' mom prepared to care for the dog when the kids head off to college or other young-adult type endeavors? If the answer is no, then I'm going to second this:
I'd suggest finding another home for the puppy while s/he's still a puppy, and looking for a grown dog for the kids (which should be easy, as shelters, sadly, are full of well-trained adult dogs).

It is not fair or reasonable to expect them to have primary responsibility for the dog when making decisions about where to go to school, or finding their first jobs. So either you or mom needs to start considering Sadie "yours" for the long haul. Or reconsider having a dog at all.
posted by Kriesa at 9:20 AM on July 5, 2012 [8 favorites]

Also, to avoid frustration, remember that a dog is a different species. They communicate in a different language and have different reasons for their actions than we, as humans, do. But we often project our reasons for certain behaviors onto them and that is when problems start.

The leash for example. It sounds like you see the pulling as the puppy is being difficult. But the puppy, who has absolutely no concept of a leash and walks is terrified. There is a thing around it's neck that is pulling it. It doesn't know what this thing is, it pulling at a sensitive area, etc. Scary, scary, scary! Introducing a puppy to a leash is a whole process. And it is a process because you are trying to teach it the communication skills of a different species. And it's a baby. With a noose around it's neck. And it's only been on this planet for 8 whole weeks. So it really is a process where you have to look at things from the view of the canine, not the human species to really be successful.

The only thing that I can agree with when anthropomorphizing a puppy, is, as started above, it is a BABY, with similarly developing brain, etc.
posted by Vaike at 9:22 AM on July 5, 2012

This dog really isn't supposed to be "my dog." I work full-time, and my roomie specifically wanted to get a dog in the summer

Regardless of whose the dog is "supposed" to be, the dog IS yours. As in, if the dog is neglected, attacks someone, etc. you, not the kids, will be the one appearing in court. I do NOT think it will get that far - you seem way too responsible - but you need to see the kids as just your helpers. You say your roommate wanted the dog in summer, but you also said she didn't really even want it in the first place. If you brought it into the house, it's your dog. Yours.

the kids -- in their abundant free time -- could shoulder a large share of the chores, at least during the day. I have no problem handling morning/evening routines, but the puppy is most active during mid-day (when I'm not there).

Well okay, if you're willing to do the work when you're home, that's fine. The mid-day activities will be mainly watering, observing outside play, and walks - which teenagers should be able to handle. Accidents will be hard to avoid at this stage, but teenagers should be able to clean those up. Just remember that if you come home to a puddle of puppy pee, talk to the teenagers, not the dog.

Also, work on getting the backyard puppy-friendly, even a fraction of it. I wouldn't worry about the cat poop.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 2:12 PM on July 5, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone for your input and recommendations. A huge special thank you to Urban Winter for a totally awesome, ridiculously detailed MeMail.

We'll keep the puppy for now and concentrate on doing as much socialization/bonding/training/classes/etc. as possible until 14 weeks. Everyone in the family has sat down and made a detailed chart and accountability checklist for what everyone needs to do. If the kids are able to follow through with their chores, then we'll soldier on.Otherwise, we'll give the puppy up. The breeder said she'd be willing to take the dog back within the first couple of months of adoption.

Also, in the long-term (i.e. when the kids are looking at leaving home), the grandparents have no problem with taking the dog once it's trained. For that matter, both my roommate and I have no qualms about owning an adult dog.
posted by GnomeChompsky at 5:31 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Really the method of training is less important than the consistency. Get puppy to socialization/training as soon as possible. Make sure that you teach the rest of the family what you learn at school so that they can reinforce it. I actually took my rescue (about 2 years old) to training classes at Petco and it was great - I really only picked it because it was cheap but I was very happy with what he and I learned.

Definitely start crate training now. I'm so glad our two dogs are crate trained, especially since we just moved cross-country with them and it made the three days of driving and the subsequent adjusting to (temporarily) living with in-laws so much better.
posted by radioamy at 10:34 PM on July 5, 2012

Good. I am glad you are giving it a go! Honestly, from your concern, attention, and the family being on board, you are already giving this puppy a better home than most people do. I think that makes up for the inexperience you have. You sound like you will make a great family for this puppy.
posted by Vaike at 10:23 AM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

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