Written by Amie Chapman
It has been a little while since I have written a blog about Penny’s progress—things have been a little crazy around the Chapman house lately. But Penny continues to grow physically and mentally.
Let’s start with Penny’s current size. She is now nine-months old and I have a feeling that she isn’t quite done growing yet. She is currently weighing in at 92 lbs and when she stands on her hind legs she is now as tall as I am … big girl! She is officially the largest puppy we have raised so far and well, her size does have its challenges.
For the most part Penny walks pretty well on a leash, but I have mentioned in previous blogs that even the slightest pull on the leash can feel like you are leading a small horse. She is still a very young dog and sometimes she can’t help herself and really wants to try and sniff things and get a better look at something, so she pulls slightly. We have been working really hard on teaching impulse control and she is doing well in most situations, but I’m sure I have put on a little bit of muscle working with her.
The other hard part about Penny being so big is getting her to move out of the way some sometimes. She loves to be right next to me all the time and when trying to walk by her at times it is like walking into a wall. She is working on her “move” cue, but sometimes she doesn’t understand what we are asking of her and it is a bit of a struggle.
Another big challenge that we faced with Penny over the last two months was that she went through her first heat cycle. This brought on some interesting behavior changes. This big one was her fear of things greatly increased. She became afraid of people that she didn’t know very well, and afraid of moving objects and noises a couple of weeks before her cycle started. She was afraid of things that she had never been fearful of before. The other thing that was different about her was that we saw a level of protectiveness over us that we had never seen before. Over the holidays we had a couple of dogs belonging to friends staying with us and our usual happy go lucky, gets along with everyone Penny turned into a different dog. When either Matt or I returned from being away from the house, Penny would spat with one of the other female dogs during the greeting process. It became enough of an issue that we would have to call each other to say that whichever one of us was outside so the other could separate the two dogs until they both had a chance to greet and then they were completely fine with each other. This was totally unexpected, but we are happy to report that now that her hormones have called down and she is back to her normal self.
The other challenge for us and Penny was to keep her mentally and physically stimulated without leaving the house while she was on her cycle. It was a very long 2½ weeks for all of us. We did work on body awareness training and had lots of cuddle time. Matt and I took turns with who walked the other dogs and who stayed home with Penny so she wouldn’t have to spend too much time in her kennel while we were gone. It was hard enough for her to be confined to the house, let alone the kennel. She didn’t like wearing her “panties” and would take them off if we were not watching her so we had to confine her to the kennel for cleanliness reasons. Poor Penny just couldn’t understand why all of a sudden she had to stay behind. But we all made it through it.
Another big change in our house for Penny is that we volunteered to foster a young puppy for a local rescue organization, Pound Puppy Rescue. We brought home a 5-6 week old Rottweiler mix that we named Noelle. We had no idea how Penny would react to such a young and small puppy. At the time that Noelle entered the house Penny weighed about 85 lbs and Noelle weighed in at only 4 lbs. That was a huge size difference, and let’s just say that Penny doesn’t always understand how big she is and isn’t always careful about throwing her weight around or where she puts her feet.
To our surprise Penny loved Noelle and was super gentle with her. It took a little while for Noelle to trust Penny because the reason why she was in foster care in the first place was because her mom bit her over food. Noelle was a little traumatized by this event. The backstory on Noelle and her mom is that they were found in an abandoned house when Noelle was less than a week old, and she is the only surviving puppy from the litter. I’m not sure if the two were in a foster home at the time of the bite incident or the shelter, but Noelle was a little aloof from the events early in her life.
Bringing Noelle into the house turned out to be a great decision, as both she and Penny have greatly benefited from their relationship. Noelle has grown to trust other dogs from Penny’s gentle nature and Penny has learned to be more aware of her body actions and how they can affect others. They are almost inseparable at times. If I take Noelle to work with me, Penny is so happy to see her when I get home and Noelle is the same. They are constantly playing and snuggling together. Noelle came at a great time, just before Penny started her cycle, and helped relieve her of her boredom.
We haven’t done any super exciting training outings recently with Penny, just everyday life things. We slowly eased her back into her normal routine after her cycle because of the increased fear she showed before and during her heat. We wanted to make sure that this issue had passed. But when I did take her on her first trip to a store after her cycle, she was the best behaved that I have ever seen her. She didn’t pull on the leash once, walked very politely next to the cart, followed every cue I gave her, and seemed very happy to be out and about again.
Other events that have slowed our training outings other than her cycle was an allergic reaction that Penny had on Christmas Day. She developed hives all over her back legs and her back. My best guess is that it was caused by a bug bite, since she has a habit of trying to play with bugs. After a few injections from the vet and the hives disappeared and never came back. We did discover that Penny is not the most trusting patient and that we need to increase our work with body handling. She is fine with Matt and me handling her, but she does not trust other people. Now some of that could be the hormones, but we will definitely be increasing our puppy handling and I will be asking co-workers to help with this. With her size especially she needs to be accepting of body handling at the vet office. The other thing we discovered from her allergic reaction is that Benadryl makes her hyper. She did not know what to do with herself when the Benadryl kicked in, and trying to handle a hyped up 90 lb puppy is not the easiest thing in the world. This was totally not her fault, but once again her size was a challenge.
As with almost every puppy raising experience there are ups and downs, some difficult times and some amazing times. Raising Penny is no different. Despite her large size I am very amazed with her gentle soul. At times her size can be challenging, but I also know that her size might be an amazing asset to someone. It is my job to help guide her to understanding her size and how to have good manners with it. So far I think that we are doing a pretty good job with our little pony. This is a new experience for us and with all new experiences I am learning a lot and thankful for it. So keep growing Penny, but please maybe a little more on the mental side and slow down a little bit on the physical side.