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Thursday, March 10, 2011

The joys of being a doggy's mommy

When I got Oliver as a Christmas present 4 years ago, I was overjoyed with the idea of finally having my very own puppy. So overjoyed, in fact, that I seemed to overlook just how much work it would be and just how little I knew about training a puppy.

I went through a lot of the motions—enrolled him in a puppy training class, used treats to reward him for going potty outside. But the truth was, I was terrible at it. We didn’t have a steady enough schedule to make things run smoothly. Having moved so many times (and living with different people) made it difficult for him (and me) to really feel settled into a routine. And honestly, in many ways, I was plain lazy with following the rules with him (especially in the early years, when it mattered most).

Early on, I started letting him sleep in my bed. But after Sean woke up in the middle of the night covered in puppy pee, we decided to “follow the rule” that puppies should sleep in their kennel. I’m a softy, so it broke my heart putting him in there whenever I left the house or went to bed. No matter how often people told me it’s what puppies expect and what puppies need, I still melted inside. I’m not quite sure how or when, but eventually he came back to bed with me, and he’s never gone back.

I love love love snuggling with him in bed. I know the dog whisperer would be terribly disappointed in my dog mommy skills, but I’m not giving it up for anything.

But here is where we have a problem: Oliver has almost completely stopped sleeping through the night! I swear I remember a time when he did, but Sean claims it’s always been this way. Either way, it’s getting old! Lately, it seems like it’s been more and more often—not just once or twice but sometimes three, four, or even five times!

Usually he just wants to go outside or needs a drink of water. It’s a quick trip downstairs, one I do almost in my sleep nowadays. And I rarely have any trouble falling right back to sleep as soon as my head returns to the pillow. But it’s still terribly frustrating.

I’ve always been fine taking the responsibility on. After all, he is my dog and I can fall back asleep much faster than Sean. But now I’m going to be out of town for a whole week, and that means Sean is going to be in charge. He’s not thrilled about it.

So we’re troubleshooting. How can we get this dog to sleep through the night?

There are lots of ideas on our list:
  • He needs to eat earlier in the day. For some reason, the weird-o usually only eats when Sean and I are around, and preferably when Sean and I are eating, too. So he usually eats in the evening. But we’ve noticed that the later he eats, the more he gets up in the night. The other day (a weekend) he ate mid-afternoon and slept through the night. So we need to find a way to get him to eat earlier in the day, even though Sean and I are gone.
  • More exercise. In the brutally cold Minnesota winter, the last thing I want to do is spend time outside voluntarily. Unfortunately, that means the dog gets a lot less exercise. Thankfully spring is creeping up on us and there will be a lot more opportunity for evening walks.
  • Later bedtime. He sleeps through the night more often when we go to bed at a later hour. Sometimes we’re like grandma and grandpa and go to bed really early (ok, more than sometimes). So it’s no wonder he gets bored lying in bed all night when it’s what he does all day while we’re gone. Another reason for more exercise.
  • Better potty training. Just like I mentioned above, I was not great about training Oliver in his earliest and most formative years. Consequently (and to no one’s fault but my own) he still has some potty training issues. I know they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I do believe you can teach and old dog to hold his bladder through the night and quit pissing on the kitchen floor! So no matter how much hard work it will take, we need to get better about that, too.
Ahh, the frustrating joys of being a dog owner (and a crappy one at that). I will say this: I may not have been great about training him or following all of the puppy owner rules, but I love him something fierce. And boy does he love his mama. So while we’ve got a few kinks to work out, I assure you he doesn’t go neglected or unloved. He’s our baby!


Do you have any doggy advice? All suggestions welcome!

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