Oh, this boy. The breeder described him as “a dud” because he was super mellow, and the calmest of the litter of seven pups.
Welp, it turns out Grey was a little trickster. As soon as this boy gained some confidence in his brand new home, he became a tiny terrorist, and all but ruined my life for at least the first two months. 😉 Maybe, while he was with the breeder and his littermates, he was hanging out and observing the chaos, so that he knew how to really make a splash in his new home.
Of course, it was never even a thought not to keep this perfect boy forever and ever, but gosh did he give me a run for my money and I did not enjoy having a puppy. I remember saying to everyone, “Emmet was a really easy puppy and a really difficult adult dog, so hopefully I’m just paying my dues now for a perfect dog later,” which I do honestly believe to be true and the universe has a funny way of giving me what I’m due!
I was grieving the loss of my best friend and missing the pace of having an old dog. Despite the complications of caring for a senior Dane, life had been simple and easy with Emmet. What had I gotten myself into? I knew I was ready for a puppy – but was I ready for this puppy?
Living with Grey from 8 weeks to about 17 weeks was (if I’m being totally honest?) a nightmare. He slept for no more than 2 hours at a time. He’d wake up from a nap and immediately begin chewing on my face. He simply would not stop the puppy-biting for months. He would bark directly at my face before each meal, demanding that I hurry up and feed him.
In the car, he insisted on trying to sit on my lap or perch on my shoulder like a parrot. Even after we got a barrier for the car, he scaled it and screamed bloody murder from the backseat because he couldn’t be sitting on my body, chewing on my hands. If he wasn’t trying to invade the front seat, he was being all sorts of rambunctious in the back. This dog had NO chill in the car.
Outside, he was working on digging a huge trench behind the tree in our backyard. He was relentless and didn’t listen to the word “no” or give in to my attempts to redirect his attention. When I walked up the sidewalk to check the mail, he would attack me (playfully, of course, but he plays so rough!) and rip my clothes, make me muddy, and draw blood with his razor sharp puppy teeth.
When I realized how tired bath-time made him after one day’s muddy park adventure, I started giving him a bath about once a week just to make him tired, in hopes that he would sleep well and allow me to get some rest. There were LOTS of baths for Puppy Grey.
As a seasoned dog-owner, I had really thought I knew what I was doing this time around and that I was going to raise the perfect dog. I had no idea he was going to make it so dang challenging. Through all of this chaos, I could see that Grey was going to be an incredible dog, though. He picked up obedience skills quickly and eagerly. He was polite and well-mannered anytime we left the house (we left the house A LOT for this reason). On days we didn’t have training, I’d take him on at least one outing a day, just to make him tired and give myself some sort of a regrouping time while he napped after. We visited stores, the park, and friend’s houses. I’m so thankful we had 6 weeks together before Covid shut things down – I would have gone insane if Grey was a tiny puppy during the lockdown.
We were training twice weekly at first. Some days, he would thrive in class and be the perfect little example of a puppy who was ready to learn and behave. Yet other days, while all the other puppies in class practiced their “place” command, Grey would wrestle my legs, biting through my jeans and making me bleed and bruise. I tried to figure out what the reason was behind this: Had he napped too much? Had he napped too little? Should he go to class on an empty belly so he’s eager to work for food? Should we train in the mornings or at night? Was he better on days when we stuck to a routine?
In those beginning months, I kept a note in my phone where I documented every meal, every potty break, every nap, and every outing. I looked for trends and tried to figure out what led to that glorious 3 hour stretch of sleep overnight. I came up with no trends, no consistencies, nothing. It was time to call in the big guns: we had our trainer, Brett, come to the house to help us figure out the issues we were dealing with at home.
Brett is nothing short of a genius when it comes to understanding a dog’s mindset. He listened to me explain our daily routines and the troubles we were having, and he gave me invaluable insight into Grey’s likely thought processes leading to his lack of sleep and self-inflicted exhaustion. Within days of implementing Brett’s crate-training tips and understanding that the crate wouldn’t be seen as a punishment if I put him inside to settle down, life changed for the better.
We made huge strides in the sleep department (he went from 2 hours at a time to 6-8 hours overnight to 12 hours within weeks), which made the rest of a difficult puppyhood bearable for this tired dog mom.
We found a rhythm by mid-April and I stopped being miserable about puppyhood and Grey and I had built our bond even stronger than I thought possible. Throughout late spring and summer, we continued our adventures & training, and we worked at home on earning three AKC Trick Dog Titles. The rest of puppyhood with this boy was a blast, but as for those first two months together, 2/10 I do not recommend 😉
Even to this day, Grey is a little bit rotten. He is the most perfectly behaved gentleman when we are out in public, and at home he lets his crazy side loose. I’ve always told myself, if he’s going to act like a giant puppy anywhere, I want it to be at home – so we allow him to be a little silly here, knowing that he understands when he needs to behave and really brings his A-game when the situation warrants it. When people meet my perfect, well-trained, calm and docile boy in public, they find it hard to believe that the bruises all over my arms and legs are from yesterday’s playtime when Grey tackled me to the ground as I unsuspectingly walked through the living room. You pick your battles 😉