Tag Archives: Aussie

Puppy Blues with an Australian Shepherd Puppy:

For anyone who has ever endeavored to raise a puppy and has been fortunate enough to not experience the puppy blues, I applaud you. With Maple, I had a very serious case of the puppy blues! Maple is a typical puppy: bouncy, bitey, and bad, and after having well-behaved adult dogs for over ten years, I was not mentally prepared for how much work Maple is. I have had her for a little over 2 months now, and my puppy blues are basically gone. Here, I am going to talk about what the puppy blues are, what I experienced, and most importantly talk about the fact that the puppy blues do go away!

What are the Puppy Blues?

The puppy blues refer to the feelings of guilt, regret, dismay, depression, frustration, and sleep deprivation that come along with having a new puppy. Many people (like me) aren’t even sure they like their new family member. Puppies are baby animals with no impulse control and razor sharp needles for teeth who explore the world by biting everything. As such, many people become overwhelmed when a new puppy comes into the home, and experience many of the emotions listed above.

Don’t feel guilty about having some of these thoughts! Puppies are a ton of work. The day you bring your puppy home, your whole world changes, and that shift can make anyone feel down.

When Maple came home, I was surprised at how stressed and frustrated I was over the situation. I have cared for dogs for 15 years and have been through many ups and downs with them. Lady and Oscar had health conditions in their later years, and close to the end Lady required around the clock care. While giving her this care was tasking emotionally, I never felt frustrated with her. Being that I had cared for Lady, along with other sick pets over the years, I felt I was ready for the commitment of raising a puppy. It was shocking to experience feelings of wanted to get away from Maple. She was my new pet, and I had waited so long to get her, but once I had her I was always waiting for her to take a nap so I could just step away for a minute. I felt so guilty, why didn’t I like being around my own puppy?!

 I personally feel the hardest part of dealing with a new puppy’s antics is the fact that the bond isn’t established. Caring for a pet with tons of needs is easy when there is a deep love between owner and dog. But with a new puppy, it can be hard to bond. It is hard to love something who bites your hand each time you try to pet it but cries when you walk away. Some people might instantly bond with their new puppy, I just didn’t. Looking back, it took time to bond to most of my pets; the bond only instantly happened for me with Raina. So, if you feel as if you don’t like your new puppy, don’t worry, you are not a terrible human being! Bonding takes time, and it takes some people longer than others.

Bringing Home Maple:

As stated above, I was shocked by how much Maple May bites. Raina was the rare pup who never mouthed or chewed anything other than her toys. Also, I was not prepared to handle a puppy who didn’t know when she needed a nap. Maple gets overly-tired, and when that happens, she is impossible to deal with. For the first week, I had no idea why she would get into fits of chasing me, jumping on me, and biting my clothes and hands hard enough to tear and break skin. Then, I read a little bit of other people’s experiences, and discovered that she was probably not sleeping enough. Sure enough, next time she got in “alligator mode,” I popped her in her crate, and after five minutes of throwing a hissy fit, she crashed and slept for over an hour.

For the first month, I really didn’t like Maple. I know that sounds horrible, but it is not as bad as it sounds. I felt protective of her and I would have done anything for her if she was sick. In short, I didn’t dislike her, but I did not like being around her.

Does it get Better?

Yes! Maple is by no means a well-behaved dog yet, but I am not nearly as stressed as I was the first week she came home. While she has improved in some areas, the biggest change is that I am bonded to her now. I love her, and I am happy she is in my life.

As for how long it can take, it just depends on the owner and the puppy. I had Maple for over a month before one day I was playing with her and I realized I was actually playing with her because I enjoyed her company. Prior to this, I was counting down the minutes I spent interacting with her, ready for her to need to be put down for a nap.

Tips to Help it get Better:

  • Don’t compare your puppy to previous pets! This puppy is an individual, it’s not fair to expect them to be something they are not.
  • Forced naps! These are a life saver. Many puppies should only be up for an hour or two at a time, and then they should be taking a nap. Remember, puppies should be sleeping 14 – 18 hours a day.
  • Remember your puppy is just a baby. When I get really annoyed with Maple, I remind myself that she is just a puppy and that she hasn’t been on this planet very long. It really isn’t fair to expect a puppy to behave when they don’t even know what behaving is. When puppies bite, whine, and poop on the rug they are not being bad, they are just being puppies. It is up to us to teach them how to live in our world, and learning for them takes time.
  • Google “puppy blues” and read about what other people struggle with. It really helps to go on dog forums and read other people talk about the hard parts of bringing home a new dog.
  • Get away from you new dog. Remember to take time to get out a bit. Even leaving the house for an hour or two helped me so much. If you can, have a friend come over and spend time with the puppy while you take a break. Most people love puppies, so it is a win-win situation.
  • Crate Train. Once your puppy is crate trained, they are much easier to put down for a nap. When the puppy is in his/her crate, you can step away from them without worry that they will get into something bad.
  • Training classes. Puppy kindergarten is a great place to see that there is no such thing as a perfect puppy, and that you are not a failure of a pet parent. Most people in puppy school will be going through the same things you are, and not feeling alone is very powerful for changing your mood and emotions.

I hope these tips help. Adding a puppy to your life can be really difficult, but also incredibly rewarding. Stick it out, put the work in, take breaks, and someday your bad puppy will turn into a great dog!

Adding an Australian Shepherd Puppy to a House with Other Pets

Adding an Australian Shepherd Puppy to a House with Other Pets:

It has been over 10 years since I have raised a puppy, and Maple, my new Australian Shepherd puppy, is only the second puppy I have ever owned. All of my previous dogs other than her and Raina came to me as adults. As stated in an earlier post, Maple is very different from how Raina was as a puppy. Raina was a very easy puppy, and Maple is quite the handful. Here are my experiences so far with introductions and how I plan to deal with some issues I am currently experiencing with Maple, along with things I wish I would have been aware of before bringing her home.

Maple and the Cats:

While Maple is my first Australian Shepherd puppy, she is not my first herding-type dog. Lady was a herding mix, and she adjusted to life with our cats very well, but like Maple’s interactions with the cats so far, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Maple wants to chase the cats in the worst way, and I think this is an important point to make. Much of what I read of Aussies said that they do well with cats for the most part, but I really think it depends on the dog and the cat. I think Maple would be doing well with a neutral cat, but Tiger, the elderly calico, goes out of her way to get in Maple’s face, and then swat and hiss at her, so it has been tricky to teach Maple to leave her be. Here is what I have been doing and what I plan to do:

  • Management: this is honestly the biggest part. Maple is just starting to seem to have some impulse control development at 15 weeks of age, so up to this point when Maple is out, Tiger is away, and when Maple is in the crate Tiger has free run of the house. Thankfully, Tiger is not as active as she once was, so she sleeps most of the day anyway. She has a bedroom that is her room that the puppy is not allowed to enter. This is SO important for other pets in the house, especially older cats and dogs.
  • Teaching “leave it:” This is going reasonably well with using a toy as the object Maple must leave. I have mostly been doing this motivationally up to this point, and I have avoided using it when the cat is present simply because I think Maple does not have enough self-control to comply.
  • When Maple matures a little, I am going to introduce leash corrections to enforce the “leave it” command. I plan on using a prong collar when she is old enough to wear one.

While it has been tricky dealing with Maple’s desire to chase cats, Lady was also very insistent on chasing every new cat that came to live in my home, and she learned to leave our cats alone. Almost in the same way, Raina wants to chase cats she doesn’t know, but she is very good with the cats of the house, and is friends with one of them. So at this point, I think the combo of Maple being a herding dog and being an immature puppy is making things difficult, but I am confident she will learn the rules of the house. Still, I would recommend people wanting to add an Aussie to the family to be aware that they WILL try to chase cats, and potential owners must be ready to manage the environment and make sure their cat has a safe space to escape to that is completely off-limits to the pup.

Maple and Raina:

Maple wants desperately to play with Raina, and she flat out ignores Raina’s growls to back off. This means that in addition to managing Maple’s access to the cats, her access to Raina is also managed. Here is what I have been doing so far:

  • When Raina is around Maple, I give Maple a high value chew, and this keeps her pretty occupied most of the time. As with all things, when Maple is overly tired this really doesn’t work, and at that point the only thing that will calm her down is a forced nap.
  • This is something else to keep in mind when introducing a puppy into a home with an older dog. Raina is 12, and she really doesn’t want to put up with an annoying pup in her face. It is imperative the older dog can escape the puppy. Raina likes going in the basement, and the puppy doesn’t go down there. I know, it might seem weird, but between the de-humidifier and other appliances down there, there is plenty of white noise to block out noises such as gun fire, fireworks, and thunder, and Raina has many noise phobias, so the basement is a place she goes on her own. Also, my room is a favorite of Raina’s, and the puppy doesn’t go in there. These escapes are so important.
  • Along with Raina’s own space, I also spend time with Raina without the puppy around so she knows she is still my best bud. I was originally planning to walk Raina everyday, just her and me, but the slipped disc stopped that until a couple days ago when the vet gave her the ok to go on short walks again.
  • Raina always comes first. When I get home, I greet Raina first, and I have visitors do the same. I feed Raina first and put her out to potty first.
    • Note: with going out to potty, I would take them out at nearly the same time early on since Maple had a bit of a weak bladder. Now that she is a little better at holding it even when excited, she stays in her crate while Raina goes in the yard when I get home from outings, except for first thing in the morning. At that time, I wake up earlier than when I just had Raina, and Raina likes sleeping in, so for this trip, Maple technically goes out first most mornings, but Raina has no objections.
  • When I take Maple out for socialization, I give Raina a food stuffed toy or chew-type treat to keep her busy.  
Make sure you spend plenty of time with your other pets when introducing a new puppy.

Something important to keep in mind is that your older dog may suddenly become very needy when a new dog is introduced. I felt comfortable introducing a puppy to the mix largely because Raina has been very independent most of her life. I often joke she is like a cat that needs a daily walk. Sure, she would previously want to walk, want to play a bit, and want some petting, but she was always the kind of dog that would get up and walk off if petted for more than a minute or two. Raina is rarely cuddly, preferring instead to simply be around me, but she has never needed to be in my lap. Since bringing home Maple, Raina has become very needy, and she constantly gets in my face and wants lots of attention. So, even if you have an independent dog, expect their needs to escalate when bringing home a new puppy of any breed.

Overall, Maple is making improvements from her first week home, but we still have a long way to go. Don’t let your pup be obnoxious to your other pets, and make sure all pets have safe spaces to escape. This stands true for any puppy, but can be extra important when raising a head-strong Australian Shepherd pup!