If I was to write a book about bringing home a new puppy that would probably be the best title for it. Or, “Take All Advice With A Grain Of Salt”. But I’m getting ahead of myself – let me give you a little background before I get into our latest kerfuffle…
It seems that as soon as you have a puppy, or are thinking of getting a puppy, there is no shortage of advice being offered to you. We were fortunate to receive some wonderful advice that helped us ease into Kona’s early days at home.
We also quickly discovered that multiple sources means multiple opinions. It can be difficult to know whose advice is best. Early on when we were thinking of getting a dog we read the following concept, which we have tried to apply as best we can:
“Take health advice from a vet, behaviour advice from trainer, and breed advice from a breeder.”
Given that mantra, we took the time to find a breeder, vet and trainer that we felt we could trust and rely on. It has meant that when we were at our wits end on an issue (house training, digestive problems) we knew who to call and could trust in their advice. And so far, that tactic has served us well. Until now.
One of the biggest decisions we needed to make about Kona’s health was when to get her spayed. Vets encourage you to do it when the puppy is 6 months of age. There are two reasons for this. It helps control the animal population by making sure dogs are spayed / neutered before they are mature enough that an accidental litter could occur. Second, for females there is a slightly higher risk of mammary (?) cancer if they go into heat before they are spayed.
On the other hand, our breeder and a neighbour who also breeds labs both encouraged us to wait until Kona was at least 10 months of age. Their argument is that this way the puppy develops enough hormones to develop female or male specific traits. Otherwise you allegedly end up with an “it”, a dog that is neither male nor female and does not develop to be a true physical specimen of the purebred dog that you selected (smaller, lankier, etc). Our breeder felt so strongly about this that she sent a letter to all the families that adopted her puppies when the litter reached 6 months of age.
P and I debated this for a long time. In the end, we decided that the only real risk to waiting was that we might have to deal with a dog in heat and she’d be at a very slightly higher risk of one type of cancer. As our breeder also claimed that Kona’s mother, grandmother, and several generations back were all over a year old when they went into heat the first time, we thought it was a risk worth taking. So we waited and scheduled Kona’s procedure for December 28th, 5 days after she reaches 10 months.
Somebody’s in heat.
P made the discovery when he came home from work Monday night. We went straight to the internet – always the best source of information (note the heavy sarcasm) to find out what we were in for. Some of the comments / cautions are fairly entertaining (I especially like the one here that describes a dog in heat trying to chew her way through a door to reach a male dog). We’ve also heard tales of dogs barking outside of a house where a dog in heat was inside (and the bitch returning the barking), and of males jumping 6 ft high fences to get to the female in heat.
The biggest issue is that we have to confine Kona to our property for 3 weeks – no dog park visits, daily walks, and an end to letting her unsupervised in our yard (apparently male dogs might try to break in or she might try and break out). I’m really worried about the lack of walks –she’s going to go stir crazy in our house. Since I rarely see other dogs on our 6am weekday morning jaunts, we may try and maintain them at least.
I also called our vet and confirmed that we have to cancel the surgery – there’s a much higher risk of blood loss if they are in heat when they get spayed. We have to wait until she’s no longer in heat (2-3 weeks from now) and then rebook the appointment.
We’re very frustrated – this is not something we wanted to deal with and discovering it right before Christmas (and just 9 days before she was to get spayed) made it that much more annoying. All in all though, it’s mostly an inconvenience. The situation is completely manageable and hopefully in 6-8 weeks it’ll be like nothing ever happened. On the plus side, she’s become a lot more affectionate. Last night she curled up on top of my feet – something I’ve been hoping she would do ever since we brought her home!