Oh puppies…they are so cute and fuzzy, you just want to eat them up. Then, you go in for a belly rub and expect a little nuzzle or maybe even a kiss but the hethen grabs your pant legs with their shark teeth and when you try to pry him or her off; starts gnawing your arm. Your trainer told you to give your pup a chew toy but the instant he puts his mouth on it, he turns to bite you again, humps your leg and starts tearing through your living room like it’s on fire. He stops and…pees all over your carpet. All this in about 90 seconds.
We are starting this articles series to help guide you through the trials and tribulations of puppyhood. It can be so rewarding but also so unbelievably exhausting. Snapshots of Grace’s training will be chronicled in the weeks and months ahead. She recently went to live with one my favorite clients and her other dog (who has been there since puppyhood) we will call him “B Dog”. B-Dog is a lovely creature with wonderful social skills and some darn good obedience if, I might say so. His guardian is an intelligent woman who loves her dogs and works with them on a regular basis. However, she only has 24 hours in a day to socialize, teach obedience, chew toy train, housebreak, create appropriate rules AND do luxurous things like go to work, grocery shop, clean, etc. So we stepped in to help twice a week.
The top three! We started our very first session with basic bite inhibition, holding a chew toy and teaching her “chew on this, not on that” and “gentle” with a soft toy so Grace learns to be nice with her mouth. It is a daily task (and will continue to be) to remind Grace what is appropriate to chew on. Teaching Grace to go outside to do her business when her bladder is still so tiny requires my client (we’ll call her “Jane”) to get up every three hours but it is going great because she also crates Grace in between training, official play sessions with B-Dog and cuddle time. The crate, Grace still does not LOVE it. But, dogs are supposed to love their crates, right? We practice Ian Dunbar’s crate restraint game so she learns to like it more and more everyday when B-Dog is hanging out with Jane. And, B-Dog is four years old so he deserves a little break every now and then from Grace’s endless energy.
Control yourself. Because Jane works daily on training drills (sit, down, touch, come, leash walking, bed and stay), I thought today was a good day to work on some calm behavior. We started our session with five second “sit/stays” with a quiet release. Using a calmer toner of voice but keeping drills fast kept her nice and focused and less interested in jumping. Again, I was able to do this because Jane does work on her “sit/stays”. I also worked on “wait” while I held a treat in front of her. She was only required to “wait” for a couple seconds. She is just a puppy and I like my hands to be as free of teeth marks as possible. We were able to do this because Jane works everyday on “gentle” . While outside working on our loose leash walking and some recalls, I saw three children down the street.
Because socialization is so critical to pups, I asked them if they wanted to say hello. Learning to love strangers and teaching pups not to jump can be a tricky task because many dog lovers willingly allow cute little pups to jump all over them. So, to prevent Grace from bouncing up and down the kids’ legs; I rewarded her while they pet her. This also helped prevent her from nipping them. When I say reward, I mean rapid fire. If she starts jumping on children now, we have a lot more work to do in the future. After a few moments, I slowed the treat distribution down to every second or two. She quickly learned with those three children that if she said hello with all four paws on the ground and bounced back to me, she was rewarded. Until next time she sees them, you know how exciting EVERYTHING is to pups.
Stay tuned for more on Gracie’s training, social skills and eventually her teenage stage. Oy, I will need some coffee.