What have I gotten myself into?

Luna - 13 weeks old
Luna, at 13.5 weeks

Yeah, I know, she’s super cute. She’s friggin’ adorable. She’s smart as a whip. Hilarious to watch. But she’s also a bit of a nightmare at times. A nightmare I was so not prepared for.

Trust me, I love this creature, most of the time (kidding, kidding). But I am having a hard time of it, too. There are so many things Luna is performing incredibly well at. She sits beautifully on command — even off command, as she’s starting to grasp that she must sit before we go through doorways (not bust through them like a rocket). She knows all sorts of tricks now, like “on your bed” to go into her crate, how to shake both paws, how to lay down, even “wait.” We’ve even taught “speak” but we’re putting that trick on hold for a bit because, as with most puppies, it becomes great fun to bark at everything once you realize someone is asking you to do it. She performs nearly everything she has been taught so far seamlessly, with that cute little cocking of her head like, “Yes, what else would you like? NOW GIVE ME A COOKIE.”

The nightmare begins when we leave our yard, to go for walkies. We had a lot of challenges with going for walks when she was about a month or so younger, which is natural. The big wide world is a scary place after all. But after our first weekend at the cottage she suddenly “got it” — that going for walks meant exploring the world, seeing new things, and that this was actually fun. So walks improved dramatically, overnight, with occasional hiccups. Now those hiccups have become explosions of insanity. It’s like I’m walking a dog who’s ass is on fire and she has no where to go. She becomes a twirling, biting banshee at the end of the chain (yes, we’ve switched to a chain for walking because the poor nylon leash is not going to survive much more mouthing and teething; half of my salary is going towards industrial quantities of bitter apple spray). She tends to start out this way, have a dump, improve for about a block, and then become incredibly intensely wound on the last stretch home. Last night, in efforts to have her calm down, I only ended up making her worse, leaping and biting at anything she can get her teeth on (my hands, the flaps of my good leather coat, the leash).

I walked in the door and burst into tears. Because this has been happening the last few walks I’ve tried to take with her, and probably because I was feeling a bit run down, having been home sick with a stomach flu for a few days this week and having thrown my back out as a result of spending too much time in bed. I had a good ball about it, which always, inevitably, morphs into me lamenting the passing of my amazing old Zeuseroo. But I eventually calmed down. I emailed my in-the-same-boat buddy Tahnie, who also has a banshee of a dog named Storm (how appropriate) that she has been battling with training over the last year and a half, and as I can always depend on, she emailed me back with some soothing words, and a pep talk. We both were blessed with incredibly well-behaved dogs in our last go-round, and now we’re both dealing with monster puppies who test us to the max.

I’m going to try using a Halti on Luna. This has actually been the plan for several weeks but the first one I bought her, a size one, while it just fit, seemed a bit awkwardly shaped for her head (it was after all designed for small dogs under 20lbs) so I decided to try to get the next size up, which I fear is just a smidge too big for her. If you don’t know what a Halti is, it’s basically just like what a horse wears for general handling — a halter. It is a type of collar designed for the head. The beauty of the Halti is that it provides perfect control over what the dog’s head is doing, and the muzzle strap gently closes the dogs mouth if they pull. It can act like a muzzle, but is not designed to be one. Rather, it allows you to “check” your dog’s behaviour by gently putting pressure over their nose. As a result, the dog just cannot pull you in the same way. It aids in focus and control. I used one on Zeus when I began to have problems with his aggression towards other dogs (a result of my not neutering him early enough — lesson learned, thanks). I know Luna will hate it. I had hoped to be able to teach her to walk pretty without it. But so be it.

The other major challenge we’ve had is around finding other dogs for her to play with. Good lord. We know that easily 25% of the people in our ‘hood have dogs. But we also know that probably 100% of them hire dog walkers. We have gone to the local, very convenient but small fenced in dog park (called Woburn Park, at Cranbrooke and Bathurst in North York, in case anyone out there is interested in hooking up for a doggy play date) at least half a dozen times now after work, and no one is ever there. A few people in passing have told me that the only people who use it are dog walkers. This is incredibly frustrating. We know Luna needs to get her ya-ya’s out, and play play play, but we can’t find anyone to play with her. Fetch and walkies only go so far.

So I’ve been looking into doggy daycare. Yet another thing for me to blow my meager salary on (I purposely have not kept track but I can tell you with certainty that she has already cost us a few grand in supplies and vet bills). But after several weeks of investigating, I find that most of them don’t accept puppies until they’re at least four months old. Now that’s only a few weeks away, but still. Sheesh. I think I’ve found one that I want to engage with, called Metro Dogstop, although we have yet to see their facilities and meet them in person. But the people were fabulous over the phone, and they come highly recommended by my vet. Since I like my vet, that goes a hell of a long way. You wouldn’t believe some of the conversations I’ve had with people who advertise themselves as pet professionals.

We should be able to set up a consult with them in another week or so. Also, they offer pick up and drop off services for a minimal fee, and since they aren’t super conveniently located for me, this too, is awesome.

At daycare, manners will be reinforced. Playtime will be structured and eventually, as she gets bigger, she’ll be able to join the older dogs on group walks and hopefully, her walking manners will begin to also improve. I’m not trying to farm out her training, but I welcome the added support. And if it leads to happier fun times at home and increased sanity for Sarah, well, hells yeah.

In the meantime, we’re going to check out a “Puppy Play Group” at Petopia today. I have no idea if it will be a good mix of dogs, or how it will go, and we have to drive halfway across town to get there, but it’s something. It’s only $5 but they only hold it once a week, Saturdays, from 1 to 2 p.m. As of last night I also found a place called The Dog’s Park in Mississauga that offers open play groups for dogs of all sizes (indoors), in the evenings, but given traffic, that could be a lot harder to get to during weeknights. But it’s another option. Who knew finding other dogs for my girl to play with would be so difficult?

Anyway, I’m hanging in there. Most of the time. If anyone lives in the Avenue & Lawrence area of Toronto, and has a friendly medium to large sized dog or a large puppy who needs a play buddy, send me a comment. Luna would love it. And so would I.


  1. AmyKnitty says:

    okay, i have ZERO experience with dogs, but i have watched the show called “At the end of my leash”. the guy there is a dog genius and knows how to take any dog that’s not behaving and make it do so, with simple strategies (nothing hurtful, stressful or violent. the dogs seem so much happier once they know the rules he teaches). I’m pretty sure there is an episode with a dog that’s out of control on her walks like Luna is doing, so you can see what he suggests? he’s like the Canadian dog whisperer, i guess.


    hang in!!

  2. Leanne says:

    Hey Sarah

    what is with the people in the big city?nobody takes their own dogs for a walk or just outside for god sakes?if i were closer to you me and lola would have lots of play dates with you guys!!!Why can’t luna just have a friend that lives up the street like lola does and life would be sooooo wonderful.

    i can’t believe that nobody takes their own dog to the dog park.whats up with that?crazy if you ask me.boy i want a dog but i don’t want anything to do with it…hello people….

    it will get better sarah,hang in there.

    be good luna


  3. AmyKnitty says:

    p.s. there’s also a “your family/marital relationship is deeply flawed and that’s affecting the dog” component to the show that i would ignore if i were you. it probably makes good tv in some people’s opinions…maybe?

  4. admin says:

    Update (I know – I posted this all of an hour ago): Halti has been chewed and busted. Great. There’s another $20 down the drain.

  5. shana says:

    I completely know what you are feeling – we have 2 young rescue beagles and I read somewhere a dog can pull 3 times their weight – so between the two of them they could tow 180lbs. Walking them together was a nightmare and since my husband didn’t get home until 7 with his commute I was often in tears. The final straw was when my boss gave me a gift cert for a massage for Christmas and the massage therapist said my right arm and shoulder was so messed up he could believe it. He kept asking what kind of work I was in and telling me that I should get physical therapy and I was too embarrassed to tell him my dogs were doing this to me – finally I did and he thought we owned mastiffs. I just couldn’t tell him they were beagles! Needless to say I never went back.

    We got them haltis and it was remarkable! the first few days were TERRIBLE – all sorts of bucking and fighting and even now if given a carpet in the foyer or a patch of grass in the park they will rub their faces on the ground trying to get them off. I did find it helpful to give them their favourite high value treat (freeze dried liver, coldcuts or cheese) through the halti while it was going on their snouts. They soon came to think it was okay. But the walking! Oh man the walking – it’s a dream now – they trot nicely beside me and know as soon as the halti is one it’s time to work and be good. I can now walk them both with one hand and my arm has never been better.

    Oh and I always hang our leash up by the halti end – and had to train the dogwalker and husband to do the same – there is something about those hard plastic snaps hanging down that were delicious for my one dog – he ate 2 before we got wise.

    Good luck – it will get better!

  6. admin says:

    Yes, I used a Halti on my old dog and it was a lifesaver. Unfortunately I think we have to wait a bit longer before she’ll fit into the size 2 (the size 1 fit awkwardly and she got part of the size 2 nose band in her mouth and had it chewed in half within the first hour we had her wearing it). Sigh. I can’t wait to start using it. Tonight we had another “banshee” walk home from the park.

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