Six months with Bella

by DaniGirl on September 23, 2013 · 2 comments

in Life, the Universe and Everything

My pretty baby girl Bella turns nine months old this week! When Bella bounced into our lives and hearts back in March, I envisioned writing a series of posts about life with a puppy. (There is almost nothing I do in life that I don’t consider blog fodder, is there?) I imagined posts full of savvy tips about integrating puppy into your household, puppy training basics, and clever, witty posts recounting our misadventures.

So much for that plan, eh? Turns out having a puppy is so life-altering that it takes up pretty much all your time just to keep your sanity. Had I managed to write them out, the first month of posts would have been a long and painful series of “holy crap, what have we done?” lamentations. Oy, those early weeks were tough. But she was cute, and clearly there was a good dog buried somewhere underneath the ceaseless energy and mischief (but buried deep, oh so deep, so regretfully deep in that thick outer shell of mischief) so we stuck it out.

See? So cute.

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We took her to puppy class at the Bytown Obedience Club, and I have nothing but good things to say about them. We enjoyed their puppy socialization class so much that we went back for the novice obedience class as well. Bella is a clever but exhuberent girl and clearly loves to please us, so she is pretty easy to train. I’m sure if I didn’t also have three kids and four jobs and the attention span of a nanny goat we could train her as a rally dog — or at least train her to more reliably come when she’s called. For now, though, we’re happy enough that she listens to our commands more often than not. The obedience bar is not high.

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I love how much she loves people. She adores the members of her pack, and it’s cute how she clearly sees the boys as fellow pups in the litter. The first few months were tough, though, as she tried to play with them exactly as she would have played with the other pups in her litter – by leaping, nipping and pulling at them. Several bits of clothing were torn, and a few long scratches were endured, but she was (thankfully) never so rough that she did any significant damage. I think we’re mostly past that now – at nine months, she’s learned to control her enthusiasm, but still has a bad habit of gently tugging at hands and feet with her mouth when she wants to play. She’s also a ridiculous jumper – during puppy class, the trainers would laugh as she sproinged straight up and down when she was restless. She doesn’t lunge in a vicious way but does love to jump up, the last bad habit we must yet conquer. Good thing she’s only 50 lbs and probably never will be much bigger.

Did I mention she’s a people dog? She adores Papa Lou, probably in equal measures because the feeling is mutual and because he so blatantly ignores all the house rules about no feeding of table scraps and no dogs on the furniture while he is visiting. Oy, grandparents! šŸ˜‰

Bella meets Granny and Papa Lou

True to her shepherd lineage, she is loyal to a fault. Probably because I am her main trainer, and she sleeps in my room, and because I am so deeply a dog person while so many others in my house are cat people, I am her alpha dog, and she will follow me from room to room as I move through the house. If she’s awake, she likes to have me in her line of vision, which was really sweet at first but can occasionally become tiresome as I trip over her or she runs into me if I stop too abruptly moving from room to room.

#fromwhereistand - with a dog on my feet!

She is also an excellent guard dog, in that she barks at strangers as they approach the house, walk past the house, walk anywhere near the house, walk in an area that might be near the house, or walk anywhere that could conceivably some day bring them near to the house. She also barks at other dogs, and squirrels, and leaves, and trees, and butterflies flapping their wings in China. Oy, the barking. And not just one or two alert barks (I always think of the Gary Larson’s dog translator comic – turns out all the dogs are saying when they bark is “hey! hey! hey!”) but a full series of barks, hackles raised, and occasionally quite shrill. It’s lovely when she feels a disturbance in the Force worth barking at when it’s 4:03 am, I can testify. We are seriously considering a bark collar. Or a sedative. (For me, I mean. I’m developing a twitch from the constant startles.)

Incoming porch dog!!

When the barking gets under my skin, I find it helpful to think of all the ways in which she has been a remarkably good puppy. We have not, to my surprise, lost a single shoe to chewing – although we have lost a plastic Super Mario and the arm off one poor Skylander. (By comparison, my darling Katie in her puppyhood chewed up among other things several shoes, my eyeglasses, a TV remote, several cords and wires, and an entire tin of coffee, can and all.) She has also shown a remarkable resistance to the kitchen garbage, showing a level of restraint Katie was never able to master. We finally have the house training largely under control, although that was also touch and go (as in, go in the house) for a while. She sits contentedly with me on the porch for hours at a stretch, and learned quickly that while digging is great fun, digging is only permitted in the sand under the playstructure and not the rest of the lawn.

Bella and the shoe

So you might be wondering how Willie the cat has taken to our lively Miss Bella. Not well, I’m afraid. It pains me that Willie loved to play with ancient, slow-moving and tolerant Katie, and would even try to sneak a cuddle every now and then, while Willie will have absolutely nothing to do with Bella. Oh the irony!

Willie and Bella

This is an older picture now, but easily sums up pretty much every one of their interactions – either Willie is rearing up to bat her on the nose (thankfully with claws mostly retracted) growling deep in his throat, or he is scrambling to make it to safe ground while she tears after him, claws scabbering on hardwood. I had hoped that by the time we were six months in, we’d have less baby gates around the house, but they are an ongoing vexation in my life as we keep Bella away from Willie, Willie’s litter box (aka the snack tray) and the kids’ rooms full of the one thing Bella seems unable to resist – stuffed animals.

Bella and Willie, not quite a love story

Last week we brought her in to the Ottawa spay/neuter clinic to make sure it is a very long time indeed before we have any more puppies in the house. I was super-impressed with the care she received, and if you ever think your job is a nuthouse, just drop by the spay/neuter clinic some morning during the morning drop-off. What a madhouse!

Do you have any thoughts about those bark collars? Have you used them? I know they have citronella ones and ones with a little jolt. I’m not super-keen on the idea, but we either get the barking under control or I have to cut my caffiene consumption so I’m a little less jumpy, and that’s certainly not going to happen!


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Deb September 23, 2013 at 8:41 am

My dog also loves to bark at anything and everything that walks by our house or yard. I tried to train her to stop as it started as soon as we got her as a pup, but nothing doing. I bought the citronella collar and it was the best doggie purchase I made. At first I put it on her every time she was let out in the back but as she got used to “not barking” I started to put it on only in the early morning and late night. The times you really don’t want to anger your neighbours. We are at the point now where I don’t even put the spray inside, just showing it to her or putting it on her empty does the trick (she is 4). I recommend it for your sanity šŸ™‚

2 snackmommy September 23, 2013 at 9:14 pm

…butterfly wings in China. Snort.

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