I knew raising a puppy would be hard.
I knew we would need to work hard to nurture the relationship between the two dogs.
And I knew all of this would be doubly hard because of the breeds we’ve chosen.
Yet, I hadn’t quite realised just how much work the combination of all those things would be. I’m really grateful that I have the time while on my sabbatical to focus on the dogs, and that I have the luxury of being unhurried in everyday life. If I had needed to go back to work full time after, say, two weeks off to welcome the puppy in our house, I would be a nervous wreck because it is already a part time job to look after these two dogs because we need to consider both dogs’ needs and their interaction.
The baseline is that our existing dog, Nell, is very active and needs a lot of mental stimulation, as well as being a keen resource guarder. Add a bouncy puppy to the mix, and I have a lot of preventive policing to do by removing toys from the floor and watching their body language when they move around from the corner of my eye.
From that same corner I try to keep track of what Grace is up to because practically every minute she has a different thing in her mouth – cables, cardboard boxes, kitchen roll that was on the low coffee table, wood chip or ivy leaves from the garden… and of course her own poop. She also likes to jump of the back of the sofa (sometimes straight into the pavement in the garden!) which is not good for her bones, so it’s my job to try to protect her from her fearless young brain.
If I don’t pay attention, Nell will try to sneak into Grace’s playpen to steal one of the toys – that is, when she isn’t requesting the garden door to be opened for her for the 11th time that day. We could, of course, just not open the door for her but dogs don’t have the internet, books or TV – i.e. anything to entertain them. So if my philosophy is to give her a rich, fulfilling life, I can make that small effort to give her access when she wants it – just a sniff is as important a reason to want to go outside than a toilet need. Thank goodness for spring and warmer weather so I can just leave the door open!
Now, if all that wasn’t enough, my biggest job of all is to make sure the dogs sleep. Of course, I take them out for their exercise and balance Nell’s needs with Grace’s age limitations but by far the hardest thing for two FOMO spaniels is to get them to settle, relax and sleep. As long as I’m moving around the house and doing things, I will usually have two faces following me around – even if they are lying down, their eyes will be open to make sure I don’t have any fun without their knowledge…
Puppies obviously need a lot of sleep to grow their body and mind, but sleep deprivation is challenging for even adult dogs. Psychological research on humans has shown that when we are sleep deprived, we are more irritable, prone to mood swings and perceiving things to be a threat when they are not – all of which are detrimental to nurturing a positive relationship between Nell and Grace.
Getting them to sleep enough is a more important job right now than making sure they have a lot of exercise. As busy doggies they keep their minds busy just in the garden by themselves and with our daily nosework games, but they need some help in finding their “off switch”. So what do I do? I sit down either on the sofa or at my desk, and wait for them to settle and start snoring. I don’t move even to go to the toilet to make sure they definitely fall into deep REM sleep because that is when their body repairs and regrows itself, and their minds process emotions and events of the day. Dogs also reach REM sleep less than humans (10% vs 25%) which is why they need to sleep so much more than we do.
So, here I am – blogging about dogs sleeping while they sleep. And I’m definitely going to let these sleeping puppers lie as long as possible before heading out for a walk 🙂