How can we soothe our fretful new puppy?
March 2, 2014 9:33 AM   Subscribe

A week ago we adopted a four-month old puppy. She is currently teething and clearly in an adjustment period in her new environment, but she is terribly antsy and fretful. Is this just normal teething / settling in to new home behavior and is there is anything I can do to help her?

She whines and moans almost constantly; even after feeding, watering, walks, playtime (which she doesn't do much of anyway), cuddles, toilet, she will still whine. She has loads of chew toys, Kongs, etc. but nothing holds her interest for more than two or three minutes. We keep her on leash in the house; if allowed to roam freely she simply looks lost and will stare blankly or simply whine at the door. She appears constantly disoriented and ill at ease.

She is a sweet and affectionate little thing, but she just seems miserable and I feel terrible that I can't seem to make her feel better. I've been at home with her for the past week, so she has had constant companionship. The only place she seems to calm down and not fret is in her crate, wher she will whine for a few minutes but then (usually) eventually settle down, which she simply will not do when she's out. But I don't want to keep her in the crate all the time!

I am going to take her to the vet on Tuesday, but she has already been given a clean bill of health so I'm not sure what else the vet can really do. Can anyone reassure me that this behavior is normal teething / settling in to new home? Is there is anything else I can do to make her feel better?
posted by ladybird to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One thing that helped my puppy with the teething was ice to suck on / play with.
posted by youcancallmeal at 9:52 AM on March 2, 2014

What do you know about her previous four months?
posted by cecic at 9:53 AM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is anecdotal and also about cats, but just in case it's useful: my cats recently had some sore teeth removed, which had the effect of cutting their anxiety in half. They gave no sign of being in pain, but I have to assume they were, and that pain was making them fretful.

Just wanted to mention this in case the "clean bill of health" means your pup was looked over for obvious problems, but may be having a harder-to-notice physical issue that the vet may discover.

Also, have you tried music or tv? Some pets find it calming.
posted by jessicapierce at 9:57 AM on March 2, 2014

Have you tried having the crate in the room with you with the door open?
posted by munchingzombie at 9:59 AM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, I think the leash thing is confusing her. Does she have access to her crate if she's allowed to roam freely? If she sees it as her den, that's a good thing. I'd just let her roam and if she wants to roam to the crate, that's fine. If she looks lost, let her sort it out.
posted by youcancallmeal at 10:00 AM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

When my dog was teething he was super whiny. I actually had all four of my wisdom teeth grow in so I have adult memories of what it feels like to grow teeth and all I wanted to do was whine too. Try some crushed ice balled up in a kitchen towel to chew on. The fact that it is crushed gives some massaging qualities which is really what helped me when I was "teething."
posted by magnetsphere at 10:01 AM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: She is a pedigree dog that we got from a responsible breeder, where she lived for her first thirteen weeks. She seemed healthy, happy and playful at the breeder's and passed all her regular vet checks. But yes, I want her specifically checked again on Tuesday.

The crate is always in whatever room we are in. She understandably does not like to be separated from us and cries piteously whenever my husband or I leave the room.

We have actually been giving her ice, and that does seem to help. But she won't eat more than three or four tiny cubes.

I also meant to add that we are using an Adaptil (D.A.P) collar. I can't really tell whether it has made any difference.
posted by ladybird at 10:06 AM on March 2, 2014

A week is not that long for a young puppy to adapt. I wouldn't worry too much. However, I wonder if keeping her on the leash is really helping.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:18 AM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ditto what youcancallmeal and J. Wilson said. Being on a leash inside would confuse the hell out of our dog. He would be upset that we weren't going for a w-a-l-k. (Sorry, he's sitting next to me and I'm pretty sure he can read. :-) As I understand it, having a dog on a leash in the house is more of a technique for behavioral problems (jumping on visitors, etc.)

Since she's in a new environment and away from her family, having a place she can calm down and seemingly feel safe, i.e., the crate, is a good thing! It's only been a week. If she wants to be in the crate, let her. It sounds like you are responsible with the walks and toys and playtime. Dogs are den animals. There's nothing wrong with them being in the crate for a while.
posted by Beti at 10:19 AM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's only been a week and four months is pretty old to be separated from her breeder. I'd stop the leash thing, keep giving her ice and things to chew on (you can put peanut butter in a Kong and freeze that, which might help) and if she wants to hide in her crate, let her.

It sounds like a mix of missing her family / breeder and being in pain from the teething. Poor pup. On the upside, it shouldn't last much longer.
posted by youcancallmeal at 10:19 AM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if puppies this young can use them (ask your vet), but I've heard really amazing things about the Thundershirt for Dogs. Apparently it can work wonders for anxiety and nerves in dogs. (It was designed, as the name suggests, for dogs that get worked up during thunderstorms, but it is now used in a variety of applications.)
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:20 AM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sounds totally normal for only one week, though I agree that the leash thing is probably confusing, or at least slowing things down. If she's already comfortable in the crate, that's a great safe home base from which she can begin to explore and get comfortable with her new environment; keeping her on a leash all the time is preventing her from doing that.

I wouldn't keep moving the crate from room to room either, as that's potentially disorienting too. (If she cries when you leave the room, call her to follow you, it's a great opportunity to start training her to come when called!)

Generally I tend to find that if you set up the dog's environment one way when they're a tiny puppy and then a different way when they're no longer teething and then a different way when you begin house training and then a different way when you want to take down the puppy gates... well you can see how unpredictable and confusing that would be. If you just go ahead and as much as possible set things up the way they're going to be in the long run, you end up with one relatively short adjustment period instead of lots of long dragged-out ones, and fewer behavior regressions every time you introduce something new. (We did this the wrong way with our second dog, and are still paying for it eight months later...)
posted by ook at 10:23 AM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

For the teething, knot, dampen, and freeze dish towels for her to chew on. Ice can be not good for them in quantity. (Makes mine throw up)

Four months is a long time to stay at the breeder. She felt safe there. Think of it like the difference of a human being adopted as a baby versus as a 4 year old. It may just take time to feel comfortable in her new home. She might miss being with the other dogs at the breeder. But the vet visit is a good call. What about a puppy training class with other dogs? It's great for socialization.

Once the vet has confirmed there is nothing wrong, try not to respond to the whining so long as you know her needs are met (she's not hungry, has to go out, etc). You run the risk of encouraging the whining behavior if every time she does it she gets attention and cuddling.

To those who say not to leave the leash on, it is a very common dog training practice. I doubt it's the problem.
posted by cecic at 10:23 AM on March 2, 2014

I did the same thing with a leash when my dog was a new puppy to my home. It did not confuse him about walks. It kept him out of trouble and his focus on me.

I think it is possible that your pup is missing her liter mates and might be lonely. She may be more of a timid dog on her own than when she was with her liter mates and mother. Do you play with her? Rolling balls, chasing games, slight tug-of-war type things. Can you take her to play with other puppies? At our local Petco they have a free puppies only play get together.

I would take her to the Vet too. If nothing else it will relieve your anxiety abut whether or not she is in pain. When my dog was in pain he whined like you are describing but could not stay still. It was horrible to watch. $600 later I found out he had gas.

Good luck with your new puppy. I hope she is okay and has a better upcoming week.
posted by cairnoflore at 11:12 AM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

The leash training method is not considered especially controversial in dog-training circles (it's just not done as often because humans find it really tedious), so I really doubt it's hurting anything, but I am in agreement that maybe you should stop changing the environment so much. If you need a second crate in the second room you spend the most time in, do that, but leave them in place.

But honestly I've never seen a dog in so much teething pain that they are disoriented, and I don't know if I would wait until Tuesday unless you are otherwise confident (by eating/drinking/peeing/pooping behaviors, and normal breathing) that she is not ill. They are very susceptible to parvo at that age, and it is a horrible experience watching a dog die of parvo. They're also chewers of things that block or bind their intestines, another very terrible way to lose a pet. If you are not absolutely certain that you have a normal input/output situation, go to the e-vet for ex-rays today.

If you give her frozen towels (which I think I would do just to see how much it alters her behavior), make sure they remain intact.

Dogs are really stoic, and I would take a week of being "out of it" and not playing (huge deal, she should have so much energy you're pulling your hair out, and if she was venting anxiety you should be run absolutely ragged trying to keep her from destroying everything) really seriously. It would scare the hell out of me if I had a puppy acting this unpuppylike for a week.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:13 AM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Try not to focus too much on her - by constantly looking to her and putting out a questioning vibe, you're going to cause confusion; she thinks you want something, but can't understand what it could possibly be. You're the pack leader; you need to be calm and totally in control of everything in order to give her the confidence that she needs in order to relax. Continue on with your daily routine, and ignore her when she's fretful. Keep everything in the same place and do all of her training activities with her at the same times of the day in order to build a daily structure that she can understand and predict - dogs hate unpredictability. Reward her when she is calm and relaxed.

She always had a pack, and knew her place in it; now she doesn't know where she is or who is in charge. You have to be the one in charge, the one who is strong and calm - this will make her calm. If you are anxious and querulous, she will feel that anxiety and magnify it back to you.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 1:00 PM on March 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

Firstly, you have broken askme protocol in a most egregious way by asking a dog question and not sharing a picture. For shame. Correct this oversight.

I don't think you could have a parvo-infected dog and not know it. My boy had parvo and got steadily more lethargic before starting the puking and runs. (He recovered, after an extended stay in the vet w/ IV fluids)

I don't think a week is enough time to assess her settling in. We did not do the leash-in-house thing ourselves but I have known people who did and it was not weird for anyone. However I would say that if she likes being in her crate I wouldn't view that as worse than keeping her on the leash next to you. Why would it be any worse to have her enclosed in a space she likes vs tethered to you? That extra 2 feet of range isn't making a lot of difference.

Our boy loves his crate and goes and sleeps in it with the door open. If this is your dog's safe space then she'll do the same. Unless you're concerned that YOU need the leash to make sure you give her enough attention rather than just leave her in the crate, let her be where she feels safe.
posted by phearlez at 2:32 PM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Something we were told when we adopted our puppy was to put some peanut butter in her kong toys to soothe her, and it works miracles. She didn't whine at night once we did that, and it's good if you need the puppy to be distracted why you do something.

nthing taking the leash off your puppy. That will definitely cause some issues as well.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 2:53 PM on March 2, 2014

You probably already know this but, assuming your pup is having some kind of fear/anxiety issue, make sure you don't try to sooth her with a high pitched, soothing voice. It just tells her that she is having the right reaction to whatever it is that's bugging her. Try not to worry about the dog, she'll pick up on it.

Instead, just be calm, talk to her in a normal voice. Hopefully she'll say to herself, "Well, the pack leaders seem to think that everything is okay so I guess everything must be fine."
posted by VTX at 5:31 PM on March 2, 2014

Is it a husky? If so the disconsolate moaning and general weirdness are there to stay.

Otherwise, I'd try playing with your pup. She's lost all her friends and she's probably bored and sad. Get on the floor and play with her and see if she perks up.
posted by fshgrl at 10:13 PM on March 2, 2014

This may sound strange, but have you tried covering her up with a blanket or sheet on her dog bed?

Our dog (7 year old Weimaraner) behaves this way when he wants to be covered up under a blanket, snuggled up next to us if we're on the couch or in the bed. We actually tuck him in at night in his own bed and he gets snuggle time in our bed after the alarm goes off in the morning.

You didn't say what breed but you might want to give this a try if she's a Weim.
posted by jshort at 10:28 AM on March 3, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all for your help! Quick update: she is perfectly healthy, and has calmed down considerably over the last few days. In case it's helpful to future readers/frantic puppy people...

Things I did that AskMeFi suggested:

Taking her off the leash in the house. I didn't think it was causing a problem, but it was worth it to stop doing it just to see if it made a difference. Now I just keep her confined to one room at a time, keeping the door open but the rooms to other doors closed so that I can still keep an eye on her without having her tethered to me.

Relaxing ourselves. I think my husband and I were getting upset ourselves as not being able to understand or help her, and we were feeding that negative vibe back to her. So we worked more at actually NOT paying as much attention to her; if she cried or started wandering around looking lost, we'd gently lead her to her bed and try to get her interested in a toy.

Things AskMe suggested that I didn't do:

We're still moving the crate from room to room. We do a fair bit of travelling, and I'd like her to get accustomed to being in the crate in different environments. She is settling down in the crate nicely regardless of where it is.

Things AskMe didn't suggest that we did anyway:

Actively discouraging the whining. Occasionally we said a firm "NO" if the crying kept up when we knew she had no unsatisfied needs. Actually, saying NO, although it seemed harsh at first, seemed to make the most difference, as it appeared she was not even always conscious of the fact that she was whining.

Another thing that might be helpful to puppy owners reading this in the future: we have the kind of pup who didn't really seem to know how to play by herself or with people, probably because she'd been with her littermates / other dogs for quite a while. So we needed to take some extra time to literally show her how to play with her toys, get her interested in chewing bones, etc. Now she is playing more and seems more relaxed.
posted by ladybird at 4:32 AM on March 4, 2014

The thing I would watch out for on the "no" in response to the whining is that not all dogs recognize the difference between good and bad attention. If this is a temporary thing where she needs some reassurance that her pack is there and she's a part of it, great. But watch out for giving her the message that an annoying whining is the way to get attention when she wants your focus.
posted by phearlez at 12:43 PM on March 4, 2014

We have a 7 month old puppy and read up a lot on puppies before bringing her home. One of the things we read was to have something that smells like her littermates to keep with her. So our breeder gave us a spiderman blankie that was in the puppy pen, and we left it in the crate with her. Worked like a charm, she whined the first night and we just ignored her, but she never did after that.
posted by lizbunny at 3:09 PM on March 11, 2014

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