After choosing the English Springer Spaniel breed for my next dog, I found a breeder in nearby Oklahoma and arranged with him to get a puppy from his next litter. In the meantime, I put in a request to the Humane Society that if they were to get an English Springer Spaniel, I wanted him.
To my surprise, within a few weeks I got a call from the Humane Society that they had an abandoned pure bred female English Springer Spaniel puppy. I was fine with the fact there were no AKC papers or anything like that since I didn’t plan to competitively show her. I was just happy to bring her to her forever home.
I had somewhat prepared before bringing Trixie home. I had been reading dog magazines, learning what I could about the breed online, and bought a couple books on training. But, the real work came after.
I had to safety proof my house making sure there weren’t electric cords she might chew on or other small objects she might get a hold of. And, of course, the challenge for all new dog owners… housebreaking.
8 week old Trixie readily accepted her crate as a safe place to rest and not something to fear. For many years after, she would still retreat to it to relax.
Some Benefits of Using a Crate
There were times when I didn’t want Trixie to run around freely and a crate is a great way to keep them with you, while controlling them at the same time. In Trixie’s case, the crate was placed right next to my work area in my home office.
Dogs like to have a place they can consider their own. Dog crates make your dog feel secure. I wanted to condition Trixie’s mind that the crate was hers and she could safely go inside it without fearing any harm. The crate became a familiar place to rest and retreat for Trixie where she could feel relatively safe and secure inside.
The idea of using the crate for house training is because the dog won’t want to eliminate in an enclosed space like this. Instead, she will learn to wait so she can go outside. Once I let her out of the crate, she was ready to relieve herself.
I would then put her on a leash and take her outside. We always went to the same general spot in the yard where she could relieve herself. She learned pretty quickly and eventually I didn’t need to accompany her out. All I needed do was open the sliding door leading to the back yard and she would go out.
I felt comfortable, for example, going out of town for a day or two knowing she had access to the back yard. Overnight trips… no problem. Even two nights away seemed to work pretty well.
Eventually as she got older I also taught her to use the doggie door installed in the back to go outside whenever she wanted. She got real good at using that and I was able to leave her alone outside her crate, confident she would go outside to potty. In fact, she got so good at using that doggie door, I was eventually able to leave her alone for extended periods.
I didn’t like leaving her alone for longer periods, even though I’m sure she would have done fine. There were, however, several times I had to be gone for an extended period. The first time, I took her to a kennel and they told me upon my return she was reluctant to come out of her kennel and wouldn’t play with the other dogs. After that, I was lucky to have found Kristin who would come by our house every day and look in on Trixie, feed her, and play a bit.
We were fortunate to have a nice medium sized fenced-in back yard to explore and play in. Like indoors, I had to safety proof the yard to make sure there were no dangerous things she could get a hold of and that the fence was secure to prevent her from getting out. Once that was all done, I felt perfectly comfortable with her being outdoors unsupervised.
It was so cute to watch her explore her environment as she wandered outdoors. Her curiosity would sometimes get the best of her and she’d stick her head in tight places. She never did get stuck.
Back indoors, where Trixie spent most of her time she had numerous places where she liked to lounge. Usually, she wanted to be near me so I found her near my feet.
Having free reign of the house, Trixie could pretty much get comfortable anywhere. I remember needing to be careful walking around the house, especially in the darkness of night, so as not to step or trip on her. She always wanted to be close and seemed to always be at my feet. Constant awareness of where she was became paramount. In fact, that was one of the more difficult adjustments I had to make after her passing. For days, I still looked for where she was.
Trixie liked laying at my feet under my desk in my home office. I liked having her there as well. She would be so patient with me when I shifted my feet. She would sometimes rest her jaw on the top of my foot and moving my foot would disturb her. I did have to be careful when moving my chair so not to run over her.
Trixie quickly became a central part of my family. It seemed most of my waking hours were somehow connected with caring for and playing with her. For the most part, we were together 24/7.
I was always eager to get back home those times I had to leave without her. When I came into the house she was so excited to see me. It’s funny, though, Trixie didn’t seem to have a sense of time. Even if I were gone for 5 minutes, she was just as excited upon my return as if I had been gone for hours.
Another comfy place Trixie liked was in my recliner chair in the living room. I don’t know if it was because she saw me sitting there often or if perhaps it was my scent that attracted her. At any rate, I didn’t discourage her. That may have been a mistake because later in life she jumped up on my couch and would look out the picture window.
If she saw somebody out there, she’d get all excited and start barking and jumping up against the window. Needless to say, that took a toll on the backside of the couch and her nails shredded the draperies. To discourage her from jumping on the couch, I laid out a section from a wire cage that prevented her from using the couch for a launching pad.
When I began fostering dogs for the Humane Society, Trixie lost her crate. I needed that crate for the puppies and she was willing to share. What she did was to find a new place to hang out and that was under a table next to the front door. I got her a nice big soft pillow bed that she quickly sunk into. At first I thought next to the front door might not be isolated enough but she quickly made it her new safe place.