Friday, November 23, 2018 10:00 AM

New house, new pet

in Pets and Animals by MegaBearsFan
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Yesterday, I wrote about how I took in my parents' pet tortoise, and then moved into a new house and had to build a burrow for him. However, that's not the only pet that we took in when we moved into the new house.

We took in one of my parents' tortoises when we moved to the new house.

Several years ago, shortly after my girlfriend and her daughter moved in with me, the little girl started asking us to get a dog. At the time, we were living in a relatively small house that was filled to the brim with our stuff. Board games, video games, costumes, kitchen appliances, kid's toys, furniture ... the house was starting to feel awfully cramped. So I told the kid that we would get a dog after we moved into a bigger house.

That's the sort of promise that young kids don't forget!

Well, this summer, we finally found that larger home. Before we had even moved in, the kid was asking to get a dog, but we had to get settled in and furnish the house first. We also gave her the chore of having to pick up the tortoise's poop as practice for a dog. We told her that if she wants a dog, she needs to get better at cleaning up. If she continues to leave toys laying around, then the dog is going to chew them up, especially if we get a puppy.

I didn't want to get a puppy, however, as I wanted to try to get a dog that was already house trained. We started looking at pet stores, but I wasn't really fond of the idea of buying from a pet store, especially one that is supplied by a puppy mill. I wanted to try looking for a rescue or getting a dog from the shelter.

We visited the local animal shelter, which was full of very depressed-looking pit bulls.

We went to the local shelter to look around, but that place might as well be called the "Sad Pit Bull Prison". It was so depressing to see all those poor dogs in those cages. We saw probably 250 dogs. Of those 250, maybe 10 of them were not pit bulls. Of the 10 or so that weren't pit bulls, about half were chihuahuas. Of the remaining four or five dogs that weren't pit bulls or chihuahas, every single one of them had a sign on the cage saying that the dog had already been adopted.

I wasn't opposed to getting a pit bull. They have a reputation as being dangerous, but I know that the reputation is somewhat unfounded. They are very strong dogs, but they aren't disproportionately more likely to attack someone than any other breed. In fact, my understanding is that they have much lower incident rates of bites and attacks than German shepherds, huskies, golden retrievers, and other popular dog breeds. Like with many other dog breeds, it all comes down to the individual dog's temperament, and the manner in which the dog was raised. In fact, one of my co-workers has a pit bull, and she's one of the sweetest dogs I've ever met. I had to go to his house to troubleshoot some hardware / software that we had installed there, and his dog sat calmly by my side the whole time looking up at me with a big doggy smile waiting for me to pet her.

However, all the dogs that we asked about at the shelter had unknown histories. The workers there didn't know if the dogs were good with kids or with other pets, and I didn't want to risk bringing any animal into my home that might be a risk to our kid or pet tortoise, regardless of breed. So our plans to get a dog fell on the wayside for the time being.

Practice dogs were a handful

In the meantime, one of our friends was moving from California to Tennessee, and asked us to dogsit his brother-and-sister saint bernards for a week while he trucked some belongings cross-country. We agreed to do it, figuring that it would be good practice for having a dog of our own. They are both friendly dogs, but they are big, and strong, and very hairy. The male also is rather stinky and slobbery. We had to cover our new couch with blankets to try to prevent the brother from making too much of a mess of it.

These two Saint Bernards were a handful to dog-sit.

We gave our kid some chores to clean up after the dogs and feed them as practice for getting her own dog. She did OK at it. She was not happy about picking up their big, smelly poops the first time, but she didn't complain about it afterwards.

I also tried walking the dogs when we took the kid to school. The first day, I wasn't sure if I could handle both of them at the same time. They weigh 120-130 pounds each! So I took one dog out, with the plan to take the other one after I got back. Well, the brother was not happy to be left alone in the house while I took his sister out for a walk. He scratched and clawed at the front door, scraping off the paint. So after that, I bit the bullet and tried walking them both at the same time; one leash in each hand.

It went mostly well. Later in the week, we had an incident in which the male tried to chase after another dog. I was able to hold him back, but when his sister decided to join in, I couldn't hold them both back. They knocked me to me knees and dragged me through some rocks, tearing a hole in my jeans, scraping me up, and twisting my ankle. Fortunately, I kept hold of the leashes through all this, and they didn't hurt the other dog. The only casualties were my jeans and my pride.

Despite that incident, and their general messiness, we enjoyed having the dogs around. By the end of the week, however, my allergies were starting to give me problems, as there was so much dog hair all over the house. We had to do some serious deep-cleaning after the end of that week!

Bringing home our new dog

We decided that weekend to go check out a dog adoption event at a local ranch store. They were having dog adoption and fostering events every weekend during the summer. While many of the dogs were agitated and barking at everybody who came in, there was one dog who was just sitting in her cage, quietly watching everyone who walked by. My girlfriend fell for this particular dog's rather pathetic-looking stare and wanted to take her out of the cage to meet her.

The name that the adoption people had given her was Daisy, and she seemed to be a very calm and personable dog. We walked her over to a quieter part of the store to get to know her a little bit. She seemed to take to us right away, and was licking our hands and faces and seemed very friendly. My girlfriend liked her a lot, so we asked about her history.

My girlfriend fell in love with this dog, and we decided to foster her.

Remember when I said that I would not be opposed to adopting a pit bull? Well, now it was time to put my money where my mouth was. Daisy was three-and-a-half year old boxer / pit bull mix with a mottled brown and black coat, with a white underbelly and nose (and a white strip across one side of the back of her neck). The adoption workers told us that she is very good with people and with kids, but isn't very good with other dogs. They weren't sure about other pets though. She had previously had puppies (and had the nipples to prove it), but had since been spayed.

We brought our kid back with us the next day to meet the dog, and they seemed to get along really well. So we decided to try and foster her for a week to see if it works out.

Trial period

We brought her home, and the very first thing she did was run into the living room and drop a big wet turd right in the middle of the carpet. Off to a great a start!

We've been getting a lot of use from our carpet cleaners, since the dog has had many accidents in the house.

It became obvious to us fairly early on that she was not particularly well house-trained. We had many incidents of her relieving herself on the carpet. However, she was very well behaved otherwise, so we were willing to chalk the potty problems up to her being nervous or anxious about being in a new place. Once we started leaving the back door open for her, she goes out on her own to potty. It's only when she is locked in the house that we have problems, as she doesn't really give us any indication that she needs to go.

The dog has been very good with the kid.

She also turned out to be a very charismatic dog. Everybody seems to like her, and she seems to get along with everybody who comes over. She was very quiet and calm, even when guests came over. And she loves attention and always wants to be near people so that they can pet her. She especially loves having her belly rubbed, and she'll run up to someone and flop on the ground with her legs in the air so that they can rub her belly. (I'm not sure if she'd be a very good guard dog with behavior like that...) And she is very affectionate. She loves to give kisses, and she'll plop her head (and a paw or two) on our laps when we're sitting on the couch.

Most importantly, she was good with our child and with the tortoise. She pretty much ignored him after she had a chance to sniff him.

She has also proven to be very good with the tortoise.


After the end of the week, we decided we would go ahead and adopt her. My girlfriend and her daughter decided to rename her Cosette, after the orphan child from Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables. Despite being only seven years old, my girlfriend has already started introducing her daughter to literature including Les Miserables and Shakespeare. She started with the movie, and moved onto children's versions of the novel.

Cosette has imprinted most strongly on me.

She was supposed to be the kid's dog, but she seems to have imprinted most strongly on me. She follows me everywhere around the house, and whines whenever I leave. She'll even drop everything (including a belly rub from someone else) if she notices me leaving the room. So I guess she's my dog.

We've had her for about three months now (as of the time of this writing). After a couple weeks, her personality started emerge a bit. At first, she was very quiet and calm and submissive, but as she got more comfortable at our house, she started getting more energetic. She may not be a puppy, but she has the energy of a puppy. She's very playfull, and can be a little bit rough at times. Mostly, that seems to come from how strong she is. She's about 40 pounds of pure doggy muscle, and I don't think she recognizes her own strength.

She play bites when she gets riled up, but never hard enough to hurt or cause damage. The kid and I have fun chasing her around the living room, especially around a pillar in the middle of the room. I also recently taught her how to play tug-of-war because (believe it or not) she didn't seem to know how to play when we first brought her home. I had to rub some peanut butter on the ends of the rope to get her to start licking and grabbing it.

We didn't hear her bark at all for the first week or two, but now, she loves to run outside and bark at the other dogs around the neighborhood. I try to tell her not to, because I don't want her disturbing our neighbors, but she does it anyway. She's generally very quiet in the house, however, and she never barks at people or visitors when they come inside. She does, however, get very excited whenever someone new comes over, and we're working on trying to teach her not to jump up on them.

It took me a while to finally teach her to play tug of war.

In general, she is very excitable. I wonder if she might have a doggy version of ADD, as she is very easily distracted, and seems to get overwhelmed with excitement whenever there's activity going on around her. We're trying to work on stuff like that with her, and we may eventually try to send her to obedience classes or have a professional trainer work with her, since we're struggling to teach her commands. She'll sit and lay down on command, but only when we're in the house and she isn't over-excited by anything. If there's a lot of activity in the house, or if we go outside, she gets too wound up and won't listen to any instruction. Though, we're slowly teaching her commands, and she's getting better with obedience.

She sneaks up onto the couch for a barrage of kisses.

She's also lately taken to jumping up on the couches, which I have mixed feelings about letting her do. When she lays on the couch with us and is nice and calm, it's fine. But she also likes to use the opportunity to sneak attack us with a barrage of kisses to the face while we're watching TV or playing video games.

Doesn't like other dogs

We do have one frustrating problem with her. She loves people, and is very friendly with visitors, but if another dog is around, we have problems. I'm not sure if it's hostility, or if she's afraid of them, or if it's just aggressive play. We haven't let her get too close to other dogs because we don't want to find out. My sister brought her dog over once, and Cosette seemed very agitated by her presence. We kept them on opposite sides of a gate in the hopes that they'd get used to each other, but when we finally let them together, Cosette bit at my sister's dog's tail, and my sister's dog snapped back.

My sister did give us one of her dog's old toys in the hopes that maybe Cosette would get used to the other dog's smell. It doesn't seem to have helped so far. Despite previously belonging to another dog, that toy is Cosette's favorite. She takes it everywhere with her.

We wish Cosette were better with other dogs, as she loves to run around outside.

It's a shame that she doesn't get along with other dogs. Cosette loves to run around, and I'd like to be able to take her to a dog park and let her run wild. But I fear that she might murder someone else's chihuahua, so we have to keep her on a leash. I take Cosette with us when I walk the kid to school in the morning, and she's usually very good. The other kids at the school really like her, and she's very well-behaved around then. That is, unless another dog comes around. We did have one incident in which I was walking her around the neighborhood, and someone else's pug came running out their front door right at Cosette. She reared up like a horse as the pug got to her, and I held her very close and tight until the pug's owner managed to grab it. No harm was done. It looked to me like she was more afraid of the other dog than outright hostile to it, but again, I can't be sure.

I'm not sure if the aggression towards other dogs is something that is fixable (especially at Cosette's age), and I have no idea if it comes from some trauma in her past. We're going to keep trying in the hopes that she'll get better. Our next step is to try muzzling her when she's around other dogs. I hope that we can get her used to being around other dogs, but sadly, it might never happen.

A happy home for a rescue dog

Other than the aggression towards other dogs, Cosette is a good dog. She's friendly and affectionate to us and all the other people she's met. She's been getting gradually better about her behavior and obedience, and we've even managed to get control over her house training issues. She's my first dog, so I'm new at all this. Nevertheless, I really enjoy her company.

My proxy daughter finally got her dog, as I promised. Cosette is a very sweet, affectionate dog, who I think deserves to have a loving home. I'm happy that we could provide her with one!

Cosette deserves a loving home, and I'm happy we could provide her with one.

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Comments (3) -

11/24/2018 09:29:58 #

How did you manage to get control over her house training problems? This is one of the main reasons I haven't gotten a dog of my own yet, it's a big concern of mine and I'm not sure how to train a dog who's already used to going wherever it wants to go. What did the trick for your dog?

11/24/2018 13:47:52 #

We're pretty sure the dog had some house-training before we got her. So we had that as an advantage. The big problem was that she would never give us any hint that she needed to go until she was basically squatting down -- at which point, it was too late. We got her in the summer, so it was too hot for us to leave the sliding door open for her. Once it cooled down a bit, we started leaving it open, and she would regularly go out on her own. Now, we also have a doggy door, which she uses whenever she needs to.

The import thing is to reward the dog every time she goes outside. Take her out every couple hours to give her an opportunity to go, and reward her every time she does. Eventually, the positive reinforcement will mean that she will want to go outside, because it will mean she gets a treat.

This is my first time having a dog, so I'm not very experienced with this. That being said, my best advice is to just accept that the dog is going to make messes, and to be patient.

11/27/2018 12:36:12 #

She's beautiful. You need to (dog) socialize her and then get a Chihuahua like Tank!

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