First, my apologies for this being a long post. My questions are at the end, so feel free to skip down to them.
Since my last post, I did a large amount of research, and after visiting a number of people, meeting a lot of different dogs, my Fiancee and I finally found a poodle breeder we were comfortable with. The breeder was registered, had won show prizes when she previously bred Keshonds, but had 'retired' from those to breeding miniature and toy poodles.
We went to her property and met the parents (both pure poodles), both of who were clearly well socialised and trained, with excellent temperaments. The puppies were in a purpose built area with lots of hanging toys, plenty of space to roam, and they clearly loved the breeder as much as they did their mother.
There we spent hours playing with the pups and ended up selecting Remy:
Two weeks later, after reading Dr Ian Dunbar's "Before you get your puppy" (and half of 'After you get your puppy' - I'm still going!) (yesterday), at age 7.5weeks (slightly earlier than we would have wanted, but we wouldn't get a clear day anytime soon to give him the attention he needed on his first day, so we chose today, and hope this isn't too premature!!), we picked him up. We brought his blanket and let his litter mates roll over it to get some of their scent on it.
He was very comfortable in his crate, and only started to whimper and cry about half way back home.
We took him straight to the vet, who gave him the all clear. He only cried when she used a thermometer on him (I may have cried too if I wasn't expecting it!).
He came home and we put him into his long term playroom for a pet and some water, before getting him to go to the bathroom in the backyard.
We played with him, standing at either side of the yard, and calling him by name to get him used to it. He came each time, and almost immediately started to learn how to sit to get a small piece of kibble from us.
We also introduced him to his Kong (medium size) which we lined with some honey and the kibble the breeder had been feeding him.
After another bathroom break, we took the little guy to his playroom and he went to sleep in his crate. After an hour, my Fiancee couldn't help herself and took him out to the toilet and for a play.
This is where the problems began. After that, we tried to get him to settle in his room so that we could see what he was like when confined on his own.
We tried Dr Dunbar's technique of sitting in the room with him and ignoring him until he was quiet, but that only seemed to work temporarily. Added to this, he is not overly interested in food (either kibble or dried liver snacks).
After about an hour, we took him out for another pee, and then brought his crate out to the living room. He happily went to sleep inside it, but didn't like it when we closed the door (cried).
After more playing, he slept some more in his crate.
At about 8:30pm he asked to go to his playroom, had a long drink and went to sleep on his own.
We woke him at 9:45pm for a bathroom break and some calm low intensity play. At 10:15 I took him to his playroom, put him in his crate (together with a heated pet pad, and a ticking clock under the dog bed next to his crate, as well as a stuffed kong and a soft/squishy ball in the room, and a puppy pad on the opposite side) and stroked him until he slept.
I crept out and he was out like a light.
Sadly, at 11, he woke and cried. Loudly. I waited outside the room hoping for a break in the crying, but he just kept going. As our landlord lives next door, and I don't want to disturb him (we share a wall!), I went in during a 2 second break and praised him for being quiet. I took him out to the toilet again, then back to his room, onto his dog-bed (he seemed to like this more than the crate at this stage) and stroked him for about a minute, then backed away and sat without moving for about 5 minutes until he slept.
He woke up at 4:30 and cried, but after my fiancee took him to the toilet he went straight back to sleep.
He was up again at 6, and we noticed what was either an accident, or spilt water from his bowl. He was toileted, and then wanted to play. He was hungry, so my fiancee filled his kong with kibble (although he doesn't seem to get much out of it when he plays with it, and loses interest quickly). He seemed to amuse himself with his soft ball for a while and my fiancee snuck out. He was crying again at 6:30, and after praising him for being quiet and turning off the lights he went back to sleep until 7:45 or so.
I took him for another toileting and a play, then brought him back to his playroom to play with his kong (trying to convince him that yes, there was kibble and liver in there), but he wasn't overly interested. I left him there playing with himself for a while, and he was okay for about 20 minutes before the crying started.
I decided to try something a bit different. I closed him in his room, and whenever he broke his crying for 5 seconds, I went in, praised him, and gave him a bit of kibble, a quick pat and then left. I then increased the amount of time by 5 seconds required to get me back in there. We got to 20 seconds, before he stopped breaking his crying at all. After about 10 minutes I figured he may need the toilet so I took him out, and he went (he's learning to go on command already, which is awesome), and now he is back inside, on a dog pillow next to me in the living room.
He seems happy when he has me in line of sight, but whimpers a bit and searches for me when I move around the living room. He seems to love our feet, and will happily fall asleep on them.
Whilst the pup had a reasonable night, my Fiancee and I are stressing out quite a lot about him. This is the first time we've had a dog together (or one that wasn't 'broken in' by our parents at our respective homes, and so we are getting somewhat neurotic about how long he sleeps, how much he should play, how he is left alone. My folks have offered to take him for the day to give us some respite, but I'm not sure if that's a good idea (although as you may recall, after the school holidays, he will be spending weekdays up there in any case with two other dogs). When he cries, we stress quite a bit.
Whilst writing this, I think we're doing the right things, but I could use some assurance:
1. Are we right in letting him sleep as much as he wants to?
2. Is our crying treatment appropriate?
3. Are we using the stuffed kong correctly? The breeder was feeding him both kibble and minced chicken. We haven't given him the chicken yet, and aren't sure the best way to do this.
4. How much should we try and leave him in his room on his own?
5. Is it okay to let him chill out on his doggy pillow in the room with us, and let him do a bit of exploring?
6. Should we be putting him outside to learn about his surroundings on his own? What should we do if he whines?
7. Are we doing the right things to have a well behaved, loving and (sufficiently, but not too) independent dog?
8. Is it okay to take him to my parent's house for a play today (both other dogs are fully vaccinated).
If we are doing things wrong, please be gentle. We are trying our absolute best!!
Thanks so much everyone!