Thursday, February 28, 2019

Introducing Alice, Our New Puppy!

On February 5th we welcomed home our new puppy, Alice! 

I've had puppy fever for years, even though I'm not the biggest fan of puppies. I've never liked puppy breath or sharp needle teeth but the thought of raising my own baby puppy after only having adult dogs was appealing to me. I agonized over breeds and breeders and rescue puppies. My husband wanted to do another rescue and I wanted to find a breeder.

One thing became apparent to me after knowing my older dogs so well. If I were to bring in a third dog, that dog would need to fit in well with at least Phoenix. Out of my two dogs, Phoenix still has a lot of get up and go in her. Where as Zoe just wants to nap all day and go for a walk around the block, eat snacks and hang out with her dad. Phoenix still wants to play and train. I would need a dog that she would like to hang out with but not be too intimidating for her.

After obtaining my home owner's association's permission, I decided to look at rescue puppies. I knew that Phoenix tends to get along with smaller "terrier" type dogs. Looking for rescue puppies in the Portland area is a huge pain. Puppies are adopted within hours of even arriving at facilities. I would see a puppy on Petfinder and it would be gone. Some were even adopted out the night before arriving at a facility. I was afraid I'd have to go to California or Colorado! 

I saw the above photo after weeks of looking at puppies. My husband was still very much on the fence about getting a puppy, especially since our financial situation is always a bit unstable with his job and I had quit my job recently. We were planning on waiting to get a puppy until either this summer or next year. When I saw her picture, I couldn't get her out of my head. I just imagined her being with us. I could see her in my house. I saw her photo a week before we adopted her. I told myself if she was still available by my husband's next day off, we had to go meet her. This puppy even attended an adoption event (she was the kissing booth puppy!!!) that weekend and was still available. That never happens here. I really feel like it was meant to be.

We drove over an hour through the crappiest Portland traffic to meet "Indigo", a 7-8 month old (Yay! adult teeth!) "terrier" mix. The rescue worker brought her out and she ran right past me and jumped into my husband's arms, giving him tons of kisses. It was like she knew who she had to win over! LOL! After she was done with him, it was on to me. I was immediately smitten with her as you can see in the video above. My husband and I looked at each other and it was done. Decision made. Indigo was coming home with us.

After a quick stop at Petsmart to get a harness and some puppy things, we made the drive home. The whole time I agonized over how to introduce her to the girls. We decided that Vince would go inside, greet the girls, get them leashed up and take them outside on a walk, then I'd meet up with him with the puppy. The meeting outside on our walk went really well. Both of the older dogs greeted her politely. Phoenix has always had a hard time with face-to-face meetings with new dogs and I definitely held my breath when they met but Phoenix did really well. 

Moving to inside the house was pretty challenging for Zoe. Zoe has liked dogs her whole life but now that she's gotten older, she's gotten less tolerant and can be grumpy. We knew that bringing home a new dog would be a little tough for her but we didn't realize how tough or how upsetting it would actually be. Zoe was not the world's happiest camper having a new dog in her house and let us know pretty quickly that she was stressed out. In the first couple of days of Alice being here, we had two instances of aggression from Zoe. The first time was a resource guarding incident, the second time was the puppy bouncing into her face. Alice was fine, I think I was more traumatized than she was! After those incidents, I decided keeping them completely separated for a while would be best. Up until now we've done crate (or room) and rotate inside the house. 

3 weeks later

Three weeks later and I'm happy to tell you things are going much better. Zoe is definitely more comfortable and isn't as grumpy. Zoe has even initiated play a few times! Since Alice is half the size of the other dogs, I've been keeping a basket muzzle on Zoe any time they are together in the house. Zoe was introduced to the muzzle years ago and has no problem wearing it and it makes me feel better. I am able to keep my emotions out of their interactions and everybody feels better when I'm able to praise them and mean it. Outside on walks, they've been doing great together and I don't need the muzzle then. We also use tethers, crates and baby gates inside the house. Alice is usually on a 25 foot line or we switch her out with Zoe being baby gated into the kitchen/dining area, so I don't have to wonder where she is or if she's getting into anything.

Please excuse the giant t-shirt on Alice, we didn't have cold weather gear for her yet!

Phoenix is still the best damn dog in this house. She is doing so well with Alice. They play together every day. Phoenix has had moments of snarkiness with Alice but it's been really mild and appropriate. "NO! You can't bite my legs", "This is actually MY bone", etc. They've done great together and I trust Phoenix completely. Every morning when we wake up, Phoenix does her happy dance when I let Alice out of her crate. "Oh! You're still here! Let's go play!" She's always happy to see her. It's the cutest thing I've ever seen. 

All of our animals have special names, our theme here is scifi/mythology and we wanted to give this puppy a special name, too. We decided to name her after Alice in Wonderland, since this puppy is going down the rabbit hole into dog training land.

Speaking of training and behavior, that's been a fascinating time. When Alice first came home, she scared the crap out of me with a behavior I've never dealt with before. CHEWING. She was literally chewing everything soft she could find with her back teeth and trying to swallow it. She also had zero interest in hard toys and SO much energy. I joked to my friend that I got a "working bred" puppy. The chewing gave me so much anxiety. I had to remove a ton of stuffed toys, fluffy beds and blankets. I felt like I had to watch her like a hawk and every second was spent worrying she would kill herself by eating something. After 3 weeks, I believe the chewing was actually displacement behavior from stress. It has gone way down. Now if she gets a hold of stuffing, she spits it out like a normal dog. LOL

I also noticed resource guarding right away. She would get stiff when a cat approached her when she had a bone. Luckily, this has gone way down as her comfort levels increased. She's beginning to realize cats are dumb and just want to smell things.

One week into her adoption, our neighbor's reactive dog flipped out on us and for two days, Alice barked and lunged at dogs. If she wasn't barking or lunging she would fixate and would plant herself and wouldn't move. This incident also coincided with a booster shot where she had a vaccine reaction (hives all over her body) and wasn't feeling well. This was my lowest point with her so far. I've been dealing with behavioral issues for so long with Phoenix and Zoe that I just didn't want another project and I was super upset about the whole thing. Then I came to my senses and realized that Alice liked dogs (every day she was at the rescue she was kept in a play group situation and would play all day long with dogs) but she was just sensitized to them from being in the shelter system. My mentor told me "you know what to do" and she wasn't wrong. We started playing reactive dog games with high value food (red meat) and haven't had any meltdowns since. She's already learned that dogs mean cookies rain from the sky.

We've been doing a lot of training. She hasn't eaten out of a food bowl yet and I'm not planning on her seeing one for a long time. All of her meals come from me as training sessions and I carry treats on my person at all times. She is reinforced throughout the day, all day, for doing things I like. 

She did come with some training already, which was amazing. She was already crate trained, she walks well on a leash, sits for everything and knew what hand targeting was. She gets distracted very easily, so I've been playing a lot of focus games and working on building her attention span. The first week, she couldn't even train for a minute without grabbing a toy and leaving me. Now she can make it through a whole 10 minutes! She used to ignore me the whole walk and now I have her attention. She knows I'm there and she can earn snacks! I'm also working on teaching her to settle and building an off switch.

Alice is one of the sweetest dogs I've ever met, she loves to cuddle and I'm pretty sure she was exactly what was missing in my life. I've been having a really hard time watching Zoe and Phee get older and slow down. When you already have anxiety and depression, watching your dogs age becomes terrifying. When the reason you get out of bed every morning, doesn't want to get out of bed either, it's hard! Alice is so energetic and she's brought a lot of joy and fun back into our lives.

I'm hoping to start updating the blog more! Alice has so much to learn so I will actually have things to write about now. If you've made it this far, thanks for sticking with us and I will be back soon with more updates!


  1. So exciting to hear about your new addition! We've missed hearing about Zoe and Phoenix, hoping Alice inspires you to keep us updated.

    It's great to hear that Phoenix has been so appropriate with Alice; all the hard work you put into modifying her reactivity is paying off in spades. And Zoe, at her mature age, is allowed to be dog-selective; looks like you're handling it very well and it's becoming less of an issue. Introducing new dogs into an existing-dog household can be tricky.

    One thought on watching dogs age: if you can use it as a mindfulness exercise to remember to celebrate every day you have with them, it makes this stage of their lives precious rather than something to fear. Yes, it's not easy! But it changes the focus from fear of the future to joy for the present. And Alice is probably giving you LOTS of practice of living in the moment...:-)

    Have fun with all of them!

    Chris from Boise


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