Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The (Hopefully) Final Installment of the Puppy Nutritionist

We have a winner...I think.  Hadley has been steadily eating her breakfasts of California Natural Lamb & Rice kibble and her dinners of the same kibble mixed with a couple of tablespoons of California Natural's canned version of the same flavors.  Yummy.  She's also very fond of the chicken & rice formula.  She's enjoying her food more and I enjoy watching her enjoy her food.  All of this regular eating is also resulting in some regular pooping and she seems to be going to her potty box like a good girl.  Oh, I know even as I write this that I've not seen my last poop "accident" but it's progress nonetheless.  I can also now go back to reinforcing the tricks and commands she's learned with healthy treats of fruits and vegetables.

What's interesting is that she likes the taste of this kibble well enough that I can use it as her 'good girl' treat when she's gone potty in the correct place.  But I think there's also something about the fact that the piece of kibble is offered along with lavish praise in my "happy voice" that makes it a prize.  She's also accustomed enough to her weekly bath that cheese incentives are no longer needed.  OK, she does get a biscuit or long-lasting chicken chew to keep the peace when I leave for work but otherwise, this is going to be one hell of a healthy dog.

Other than the fruit and vegetable treats, I don't generally feed her people food...although I do offer grilled chicken when I'm having it for dinner myself.  It's not bad for her and she loves it so!  What I don't like about the California Natural is that they've chosen to add vitamins and minerals rather than including the vegetables themselves.  I think I will cook a weekly batch of sweet potatoes, string beans, pees, carrots and broccoli and keep them in the fridge to add to her food.  I had some sweet potato left over from my dinner yesterday that I added to hers and she found her meal to be extra yummy :)

Otherwise, I'm pretty happy with the choice of food.  I'd made a list of about a dozen foods, in order of excellence but with any one of them being healthy and acceptable.  California Natural fell near the middle of the list, makes a wet and a dry food and comes in a choice of beef, lamb or chicken.  The wet food doesn't upset Hadley's tummy or give her diarrhea and she seems healthy and energetic.  Her ears are a little itchy but they've always been and it's on my list to ask the vet.  She's also always sneezed which the vet said was due to allergies but to what we don't know.  If it's food allergies, the sneezing might improve on the new food but, then again, with summer over they might ease anyway.  Her coat looks good and thick.  We've run into a number of pale looking CKC Spaniels and Hadley's coat is a much deeper and richer shade of chestnut.

In all my reading and discussions on this topic, I've run into extreme opinions on both sides.  To those people who think I'm spending needless money and enabling my fussy puppy, my answer is that I don't know if Hadley will live a longer, healthier life eating high quality food rather than cheap, well-advertised brands.  No one knows.  But I don't feed myself or my boyfriend garbage so why would I give it to her.  If her life will turn out to be short, I will know I'd done the best I could for her.

On the other side of the opinion fence are people who are distrustful of all dog foods and who take the trouble to cook chicken, rice and vegetables for their dogs every day.  Although I've chosen not to go that route, I do admire it.  I remember the big pet food recalls of a couple of years ago and the fact that animals died.  I had no puppy then or immediate plans to get one so the news didn't hit home as much.  Looking back on it now, I can't even imagine the pain and rage I'd feel if my beautiful girl died because the food she trustingly took from my hand was laced with toxic ingredients.  I'm angry after the fact at those responsible and certainly wish them a special place in hell.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

One More Time...

I was home from work yesterday and Hadley spent most of the day in the bedroom, playing and napping in her favorite spot on the carpet.  In the afternoon she woke up from a nap, walked to the area near the door, squatted and peed on the rug.  I don't get it.  She gets it right 95% of the time so what goes wrong in her mind the 5% she screws up?

Patience...deep breath...patience...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Leaving My Baby

Brian and I are going on a short vacation to Vermont, to a stunning little bed & breakfast and the glorious colors of autumn. Fall foliage stays in New England sell out fast so we booked this trip almost a year ago. In other words...pre-puppy. This B&B is a romantic, no kids, no pets getaway so Hadley must stay behind. I looked into several options including boarding, puppy-sitters and volunteering friends. In the end, and for a variety of reasons, I've chosen to board her at her vet's. Hadley's vet is especially fond of her, always carrying on about how beautiful she is, so I know she'll spend time with her. And who better then her own doctor to take care of her if anything were to go wrong? Still, I will worry if she's happy, lonely or just confused as to why mommy left her. I worry that the other dogs will bark and scare her or, even worse for me, teach her to bark :) I worry that she won't have her usual potty box routine and that it will derail her training. On the other hand, I've been looking forward to this trip for so long that I don't want to worry about anything. In the end, I'm sure that Hadley will forget the whole experience long before I will :)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Conniption

Today Brian had to run a quick errand in Queens so he took Hadley with him while I stayed behind. He was able to drive out there but would need to take the subway back so he took her soft carrier with him. It would be her first time in the carrier, apart from practice runs in the living room, so I was pleased for the opportunity.

He called me while they were on the subway coming home and when I asked how their trip was going he informed me that "we don't like the subway." He said Hadley was calm until the train started to move and then she had a conniption in her carrier. He didn't think it was the motion because she's used to the movement of a car but rather the shrieking loud noise of the old train. He was forced to unzip the carrier a little so she could stick her head out and that seemed to do the trick. She rode the rest of the way with her head sticking out of the bag and her chin resting on Brian's arm while he hoped no one would complain.

Brian doesn't mind the subway...or much of anything else for that she didn't get her cue from him. I was relieved though, that it happened with him and not me. I definitely do not like the subway and I would have blamed myself for creating her nervousness. It reminded me of the latest installment of The Puppy Diaries series that The New York Times has been running and which discussed the differences between socializing a puppy in the city versus the country. I had been proud that my city pup had been exposed to all manner of loud, fast-moving stimulation and was unfazed. But, it's true that she had not been on the subway. Of course, since I avoid it at all costs, that's probably just fine :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Another Installment of the Puppy Nutritionist

Well, I'm certainly keeping the pet food industry well financed.  Let's last count I've purchased...hmm...a hell of a lot of money's worth of dog food!  The vast majority of which Hadley wouldn't eat...of course.  I wish I could donate it to the ASPCA but I'm sure they wouldn't take open bags.  Seems a shame not to feed the needy rescue dogs the good food that my spoiled purebred princess won't eat.

So, it's been a week since I put my nutritionist hat on for my fussy puppy and I've learned a lot.  I now know what to look for on the ingredients label - both what should be there and what shouldn't.  I'm amazed at the garbage that most well known brands turn out to be.  And all those unfamiliar names I used to pass by at the local pet supply store now jump out as being the good foods I'd read about.  I made a chart (of course I made a chart!) of what brands are worth trying, what I've already purchased and finally, what Hadley's verdict was.

I've been trying to give her new foods several times (just like with a child) and I've done head-to-head taste comparisons.  Its' really curious to do a comparison with three different brands, all with almost identical healthy ingredients and all of which smell the same to me.  But they certainly don't smell or taste the same to her!  A spoonful of each on separate plates resulted in two plates being sniffed, licked and then ignored while the third was quickly eaten.

I've learned that a diet of 25% canned/wet food and 75% dry kibble is best (Hadley would probably prefer those percentages were reversed) so I need a food that's available in both forms and with both being appealing.   That seems to not always be the case.

Petco doesn't carry most of the brands I'm researching but, fortunately, a local pet supply store opened just a couple of weeks before we brought Hadley home and they lean towards the holistic and organic on their well-stocked shelves.  There are a couple of brands that were on my list to try that this store doesn't carry.  I checked a couple of other places in the area but they also didn't carry them and were generally more poorly stocked than the store nearest my apartment.  I could order these foods online but I think I will stick with those products that I can quickly and readily purchase and the list is certainly long enough.

I'm still not fully settled on Hadley's new food yet but there are two serious contenders and I'll report back.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And Again...

I was getting ready for work this morning while Hadley alternated between playing with her bunny toy and napping in her favorite spot on the bedroom carpet between the bed and my dressing table. I went to use the bathroom and came out to find a puddle of pee on the floor next to the door! I yelled at her and I don't think she even understood why she was getting yelled at.

This past Sunday, Brian and I took advantage of a beautiful late summer day and relaxed in Central Park. We ran into a nice man with two CKC Spaniels so we all sat on a bench together and traded stories. His youngest Cavalier is a one year old girl and he said she's only now beginning to become trustworthy not to pee on the floor. OK, so my Hadley is not the dunce of the doggie world. But it's still frustrating as hell to be cleaning pee off the floor after all these weeks.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Tooth Fairy Visits

Hadley's lost two puppy teeth or at least that's how many I've found on the floor.  I've been finding blood stains on some of her toys so I suspect the tooth fairy has swooped in more times than I realized.  It's hard to tell by looking in her mouth because she's squirmy and I'm not sure what I'm looking at.  The two big puppy fangs on the top and the two on the bottom seem to still be there but other spaces look empty.  I can also tell by the way she eats her kibble, kind of tilting her head and moving the bits around, that she's trying to find some teeth :)

I know she's been in some discomfort and I worry whenever she seems under the weather.  But mostly I'm happy this time has come.  In all honesty, she's not been a very destructive puppy and has chewed more on her toys and bones than on furniture or wires.  Still, the arrival of her adult teeth should lessen or end the puppy nipping and I'm ready for her to grow up...mostly :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Trying My Patience

My pretty potty monster peed on the floor this morning.  She didn't forget her training or have a random accident.  No...she did it deliberately...but as a result of a bad decision.

She's now old enough to be capable of holding her pee for a long time but having a potty box at home gives her the comfort of peeing more often.  That's good for her and one of the reasons I chose this method but it has a drawback.  I try to change the paper in her box often but within reason.  She peed in the early morning hours so by the time I was getting ready for work, there was a dry pee stain on one part of the paper.  I hadn't changed it yet because it was still reasonably clean and I was hoping (in vain) for a post-breakfast morning poop.

Hadley went to her box, put her front paw on it, studied the cleanliness situation in there and decided that it wasn't clean enough to enter (yes, this is a DOG).  So, with her paw holding the box, she squatted and peed on the floor next to it.  I was right there, grabbed her, put her in the box and yelled at her pretty severely.

While I was cleaning up she stood quietly off to the side and was upset.  I know that because her tail wasn't wagging.  She's usually the happiest dog that ever lived and wagging is her tail's default position :)  But here's where I really saw how she's grown and matured.  Maybe I'm crazy but I could sense that she knew exactly why I was angry and that she'd made a bad decision.  A few minutes later, when I sat down at my desk, she came over and put her paw on my lap.  I picked her up and she nuzzled into my arms...her way of saying 'I'm sorry.'  I accepted her apology :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Puppy Nutritionist

When it comes to people food, I'm somewhat of an amateur nutritionist.  I've done a lot of research over the years and taught myself about healthy food and how the human body works.  Granted, there's probably no real need for the chocolate I so dearly love but otherwise I feed myself and my boyfriend healthy meals loaded with lean proteins, complex carbs and fiber.  I consider it my specialty to cook in a way that makes these foods as tasty and appealing as possible.  So why then, have I not applied these talents and interests to my puppy?  I don't know what took me so long but Hadley being such a difficult eater nudged me into putting my nutritionist hat on.

From day one I had been feeding her Hill's Science Diet dry food.  It has a reputation as being a high quality food and it's what the vet sells and recommends at her office.  I was surprised to find it wasn't good quality after all but, then again, I don't know why I'm surprised.  In a nation where people are subjected to an advertising onslaught for junk foods masquerading as healthy, why should the dogs be immune?

Since I switched from free-feeding to regimented meals, I've had nothing but grief.  Hadley has become a terrible eater and I've sought out and gotten lots of conflicting advice.  "No, don't give her wet food because it's bad for her"..."it's OK to give her some wet food"..."combine the wet food with dry food"..."don't combine it because they don't like it"..."be tough because a dog won't starve themselves"..."you're being too soft"..."you're being too harsh."  Aarrgghh! 


And so, I'm embarking on the same research odyssey I'd been on years ago when figuring out what I'm supposed to eat.  Here's what I do know already:

-  Much of what I'd been told or believed is wrong.
-  I wouldn't force Hadley to eat food she hates just to keep from starving to death.
-  Among the healthy dog foods, there will be one that will be both nutritious and palatable so that my doggie will be both happy and healthy.

I will be back with my results.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another Week...Another Potty Update

It's been just over a week since I bought that can of Pedigree wet dog food and I thought peace had been restored to my house.  The first day I had it, I gave Hadley a little taste and when I saw that she liked it, I mixed two tablespoons of it in with a scoop of her dry kibble.  She pounced on it, wolfed it down, licked the bowl, licked her chops, licked my hand...and pooped in her box.  That was last Wednesday.  I was so happy.  It was so short-lived.

Ever since then, she's back to being persnickety.  Sometimes she'll eat it, sometimes she won't.  Sometimes I can tempt her by holding a spoonful of it under her nose.  Sometimes she just runs away from it.  I have a weird dog.  Other dogs pounce on their food while she couldn't care less about it.  She's not sick, by the way.  Her appetite for people food is just fine, although she's not getting any from me because I want her to eat her dog food. Yes, I know...she'll eat when she's hungry enough but it's making it very difficult to time her bowl movements and complete her potty training.

She was good about pooping in her box on Wednesday and Thursday but pooped on the floor on Friday when I wasn't looking.  Aarrgghh!  Over the long weekend away, we mostly took her outside on the grass after she ate so most of her poops ended up there.  Back at home she was fine on Wednesday but screwed up again on Thursday. So frustrating!  It all sounds so simple in the training books.  You feed 'em and start the poop watch.  About 15 minutes, give or take, they'll either head to the right place or try to go on the floor but you're there to correct and move them to the right location.'s all so simple...unless they won't eat their meals!

On the bright side, she hasn't made a pee mistake in over two weeks, not even in a strange environment when we were away.  At least that's something.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What a Nice Way to End the Summer

Our extended weekend on Long Island for Labor Day was blessed with beautiful weather and Brian and I both got to relax.

Hadley turned out to be an intrepid traveler. Unfortunately, the doggie seat belt we'd bought gave her too much room to roam around and, occasionally, if we made too quick a turn, she'd end up on the floor. But she remained unfazed.  She looked out the window for a while, explored whatever the back seat offered and then settled down on Brian's sweater for a nap. No nervousness, no car sickness.  Next time I'll put a knot in the seat belt to make it shorter so she can't slip off the seat :)

At the house, we had her sleeping in the kitchen because it was a room we could block off and that didn't have hardwood floors.  We put her potty box in there but were kind of thinking she'd screw up and have accidents.  But she actually surprised us and used her box.  I think she prefers to sleep in her pen at my apartment in a quiet, familiar corner of my home office.  Out in the country the crickets were out in full force and a couple of evil ones ended up in the kitchen and dining room.  Who could imagine such a small insect can make such a racket and I don't know if my poor little girl got much sleep.

But her days were certainly happier than usual...having both of us with her all the time for six days straight must have seemed like a lifetime and she looked quite perturbed when I left for work this morning.  But nothing could equal her joy at being able to run free on the grass.  Off-leash dog runs in the city are nothing compared to nearly 2 acres of nature in which to romp around and she was in heaven.  She never tried to leave the property, always keeping one or both of us in her sight so I never needed the outdoor tie-out I'd bought.  Whenever she tuckered herself out and needed a break, she hopped up on the porch where we were sitting and napped while we sipped our drinks and enjoyed the breeze.  Can there be a nicer way to end the summer? :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Seasonal Thoughts

I always find myself looking forward to the next season.  Well, three of them, anyway.  All of winter is one long daydream of spring, walks in the park and beautiful blooming flowers.  Hadley was born in the spring.  How lovely to have a puppy in spring.

Then I long for summer with the first appearance of sweet cherries in the market, hot weather, cold drinks and weekends by the water.  How lovely to have a puppy in summer.  This week brought the first taste of cooler autumn weather.  There is still the delightful Labor Day weekend ahead and a final chance to enjoy the sun and the water and the long days.

I don't want to let go of summer, but an autumn-themed Pottery Barn catalog has already arrived in the mail.  I tossed it on my desk and it lay, unopened, for a few days.  I finally broke down and perused it this morning and the inevitable happened.  Pictures of pumpkins and fall leaves and baskets filled with apples have turned my mind to fall.  I didn't want to go there yet, but it happened nonetheless.  I LOVE fall.  I love everything about it.  Hadley got overheated easily this summer but she's never experienced fall.  She will love fall.  We will take long walks together in the crisp weather.  We will watch the leaves change colors.  We will buy apples and pumpkins in the farmer's market and she will keep me company in the kitchen while I bake a pie.  How lovely it will be to have a puppy in the fall.

Family and friends will gather for the holidays and she will enjoy the company.  But then, the new year will come and it will just be winter.  I don't like winter.  I don't like being cold or being cooped up in the house or trudging through snow-covered city streets.  Hadley's coat will be thicker by then so I don't know how cold she will be.  But our walks will be short and both of us will dream of spring.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I'm Still Amazed

The weather was so gorgeous last night that I took Hadley for an extra long walk by the river.  We left right after I got home from work and that is prime time for dog walking...everybody was out with their doggies.

I'm still in awe of how much friendlier people are when you're walking a dog, especially a cute little one like Hadley.  We ran into four other CKC Spaniels and those greets are almost mandatory.  But lots of other people stopped to chat, those that had other types of dogs and those that had none at all.  Young, old, male, female, people dressed in jogging clothes, business clothes, medical scrubs.

I spent most of my life without a dog and had no idea how she would enlarge my world.  Granted, the people I spoke to didn't give me their phone numbers and aren't coming over for dinner.  No need...I have friends, family and a boyfriend.  But the social feeling when I'm outside is not one I've ever experienced before.  Hadley and I returned home two hours later and it might as well have been two days.  Any annoyances I may have encountered during my work day were long forgotten.  The vague beginning of a tension headache when I left work was now a distant memory.  Any anxiety about preparing for work the next day wasn't there.

My life at home certainly changed dramatically when a puppy came to live there.  But my experience outside my home changes just as much whenever my hand is holding a pink leash.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Persnickety Puppy

I didn't realize how good I had it, food-wise, until I switched from free-feeding to regimented meals.  From day one, Hadley was fed Hill's Science Diet Small Bites Puppy Kibble.  I would scoop the correct daily amount into her bowl and put it in her pen.  She ate little bits, here and there, and somehow most of it would be gone within a 24 hour period.  She clearly didn't gobble or overeat so I didn't care how much she ate or when.  For healthy snacks she got little pieces of apples, carrots, string beans and bell peppers.  Occasionally there would be a piece of chicken if it was on my dinner menu.  She was energetic and healthy and growing like a weed.  No issues.  No headaches.  But I now have both!

The first day that I switched to regimented feeding, she ate her dinner.  But the next morning she didn't want breakfast.  Fine, she'll eat at dinner.  Nope, she didn't want it then, either.  She wasn't sick because she begged for whatever food I was eating and lunged for the little treat she got for peeing in her potty box.  OK.  I don't want to be mean.  I didn't get a puppy to not love and spoil it.  I do prefer her to eat a high quality, dry food because it's better for her but I can try to make it more appetizing.  So, I tried pouring a little canned beef stock over it.  Nope.  I had some homemade gravy left over from a pot roast I cooked so I poured that over it.  Nope.

I had a little bit of Cesar's wet grilled chicken food left over from when she got her heartworm medicine so I mixed a tablespoon of that in with the kibble.  Now she ate.  OK....  Science Diet makes a wet puppy food which I figured would be higher quality so I bought a can of that and mixed it with the kibble.  Nope.  She didn't even like it on it's own.  A dog-experienced friend told me that her vet suggested Pedigree was not too bad so I've bought a can of that along with another tin of the Cesar's (just in case).  If I can get her to accept her kibble with a couple of tablespoons of wet food blended in, I will live with that.

In the meantime, no regimented meals means no regimented poop.  We had been making progress but this has derailed it.  Brian says to let her be.  She won't starve to death and will eat whatever is there when she's miserable enough.  I agree about not nurturing a fussy eater but neither do I see the need for her to be miserable if there's a compromise to be had.  I do have newfound respect for the parents of children who are picky eaters and I'm trying to take my example from them.  You wouldn't give in to a child's demand for nothing but cake at every meal.  But you do compromise.