Life with Maple: Raising an Australian Shepherd Puppy

Life with Maple:

Everybody’s first days and weeks with their puppy are going to be a little different, as every puppy is unique. Here is my experience with my Australian Shepherd puppy, Maple, up to 15 weeks of age.

First day:

We picked up Maple and had a 3-hour drive with her home. She did very well with the car ride and slept most of the way. Upon coming home, she met Raina. Their interaction was uneventful. Raina really did not have much interest in the pup, and when she did initiate play Maple got spooked and rolled over! The cats seemed confused by her, but not very effected.

The biggest issue on the first day was peeing. Maple did NOT want to pee! I took her outside multiple times, but she just didn’t want to go. Little Maple May finally went late in the afternoon. She also wasn’t very hungry, but she ate a little and finally drank some water. She did not like being left alone, and seemed quite upset that her littermates were no longer with her. She did very well sleeping through the first night. Overall, she seemed overwhelmed in her new situation.

First week:

I was planning to document how each day went individually, but Maple is quite the handful, so that did not happen! Also complicating matters is the fact that my older dog, Raina, developed a pinched nerve this week. So, between Raina not feeling well and the Maple being extremely exuberant, this first week was challenging to say the least.

As an Australian Shepherd, Maple is VERY mouthy. Prior to bringing her home, I read about how mouthy Australian Shepherd puppies can be, but I was taken aback by just how much this puppy likes to bite. Her worst moments are first thing in the morning. It is as if she recharges all night and awakens a tiny alligator, ready to grab whatever and whoever is in her path. The spray bottle helps somewhat, but when she is really in the zone the best solution has been putting her in her playpen crate (the play pen didn’t work for long, she learned how to climb the sides).

Also, she despises being left alone, but this can be pretty typical for an 8 – 9-week-old puppy. Thankfully, she is progressing well with her crate training, and is slowly getting used to being on her own from time to time. Relatively quickly she seemed to understand that when I take her outside, she needs to pee, but she still does not completely understand that she shouldn’t pee in the house, so housetraining is a work in progress.

People say that these dogs need both mental stimulation and physical exercise. This is absolutely the case! Maple needs lots of playtime, but she behaves and settles the best if she also gets mental stimulation in addition to physical exercise.

Week 2 and 3:

Maple’s personality has come out more and more. She is very strong willed, and constantly wants to go after the cat, Tiger, as well as Raina. True to being a puppy, in particular an Australian Shepherd puppy, Maple still likes to mouth, bite, and nip. Of particular trouble is that Raina still is having issues with her back, and she does not like being confined, but confining her is necessary so she heals. Rotating time with the puppy and with Raina has been challenging, but making matters easier is the fact that Maple is crate trained, and will sleep in her crate now for at least an hour at a time without issue.

Forced naps are an absolute necessity! Maple gets very, very bitey and uncontrollable when she gets too tired, and she doesn’t know if she needs to sleep.

15 weeks old!

Maple is now 15 weeks old! Time has gone by pretty quickly, and she has grown considerably in the past several weeks. She is probably about 22 – 23 pounds, and is very strong even though she is only about half of her adult size. She will let me know when she needs outside, and she hasn’t had an accident in at least two weeks, but I watch her closely and don’t leave her in fully carpeted areas unattended, so I am not sure if she would hold her bladder if she had access to carpet. She started puppy kindergarten last week and had her second lesson today. Currently, she knows sit, down, stay, shake, and come, but she is not completely reliable with any of these, as she is just a pup and her attention span isn’t the best.

Milestones:

  • She was crate-trained at around 10/11 weeks.
  • Between 13/14 weeks she was able to sleep through the night.

Challenges:

  • Maple doesn’t like to sit still… ever. She was vomiting many of her meals, mostly because she would eat and run around if given the opportunity. Now, I keep her in the crate for at least 15 minutes after feeding, and this seems to stop her from throwing up her dinner.
  • Always wanting to get Raina: I have discovered that if she is involved with gnawing on a spiral bully stick, she will leave Raina alone. Other than that, I have used gates to keep them apart, or should I say, keep Raina safely away. Raina likes to walk right over and stand where Maple’s tether reaches, and then she gets upset if Maple pounces her. Maple doesn’t seem to get that a bark and growl mean, “leave me be.”
  • Maple’s mouthiness has been tough, but she has slowly but surely been improving.

Comparisons to other dogs:

Even owning dogs for the past 15 years, I was not prepared for just how much work an 8-week-old Australian Shepherd puppy would be. Raina came to me as a puppy, but she was already 12 weeks old, and I am starting to realize just how much of a difference there is between an 8-week-old and a 12-week-old puppy. Raina, I now believe, was also and exceptionally calm puppy. She did not mouth at people or try to destroy the furniture. She never had any issues with being put in a play pen, and if Raina was told not to do something once, she stopped and never tried it again. She went after the broom one time, I told her no, gave a pop on the leash, and that was the end of that. Raina also had an exceptionally long attention span; from a very young age she would focus on training for 20 – 30 minutes at a time. Unlike this, Maple is a typical pup, 5 – 10 minutes is her maximum limit. One issue I did have with Raina was the fact that she was very difficult to house break. Raina just didn’t seem to understand not to potty in the house, but other than that, she was a very easy puppy.

Socialization:

Maple is a bit leery of new situations and people. She comfortably sits in a crate when visiting stores, but was initially nervous to walk about on the ground. With more exposure and trips, she has become more confident with this. New people are hit or miss; she is chill with some people but tries to avoid others. Overall, she does not run up to new people, but upon second meeting she will get excited to see familiar, friendly faces. This is an area she is similar to Raina in, as Raina also has always preferred her family, and has never been super eager to meet new people. Unlike Raina, she has done pretty well with loud noises thus far, as we had some bad thunderstorms shortly after bringing her home, and she really didn’t seem fazed. She doesn’t like the vacuum cleaner, so we are still working on that. Car rides have gone very well so far, with her only becoming car sick once, and she is always happy to get in the car, where she sits calmly or sleeps in her crate.

I can’t speak to how helpful the crate has been for car rides, as well as socialization. I took her over a family get together, and Maple seemed a bit overwhelmed. I brought her crate with us, and she quietly settled in there and took a nap when she had enough of the new people and dog. This is just one of the many benefits to using a crate, as once trained to it the dog will generally see it as a safe space.

What I have learned:

A puppy will be a puppy, don’t expect too much from them, they haven’t been on the planet long, and they don’t know their place in this world yet! This was a hard thing for me to get used to after having nothing but adult dogs for over 10 years, and having extremely well behaved dogs for the past 8 years. I was getting frustrated with Maple, and I had to take a step back and realize that she is just doing the things that the vast majority of puppies do. Don’t take their biting personally, and when they really act up, it is probably because they need a nap.

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