Puppy. Week 2
I had from Thursday evening until Monday morning to get done all the things I usually like to take a week or two to do. Crate train, toilet train, teach isolation, travel and of course bond and get the pup feeling comfortable. Whilst I had less time than usual I know that the early days are the foundations for all future training and development so rather than cut corners I just gave the task in hand my undivided attention. No gym, no out with the boys. Everything was geared around what the pup needed including in the early days letting him out for a wee every 15 minutes and after every play session and whenever the pup wakes.
All this hard work has paid off because we have had only three accidents in the house with the pup now whining if he needs to go out to the toilet. He is sleeping through the night and had my bed not been full of sick kids I could have left him alone sooner than I did.
I needed all this done because once I return to work the routine begins and if the pup can’t travel, can’t be left and isn’t toilet trained it doesn’t take a genius to see the sort of problems I may have to start dealing with (toileting in the crate, anxiety at being left, mat chewing, whining/howling, sickness and drooling, and a general unwillingness to get in the van).
The day starts with the dog going out for a wee as usual. I then scatter fed him whilst I had my shower. I then played tug for a few minutes because he always gets bitey after food. I then smeared some cheese in the dips in the bottom of an egg box. I placed him in the crate with this whilst I sorted out my food and had breakfast. It is all about management and trying to prevent unwanted behaviour. If I don’t occupy himself and you can bet that won’t be a behaviour I want. Barking and biting whilst I try not to wake the rest of the household. This bought me enough time to get ready. Eventually the dog will become more self contained and I won’t have to bother entertaining him like this. But for now, he is a puppy and needs guidance (benevolent leadership as Linda Michaels calls it in her Hierarchy of dog needs).
As it was everything went well. The journey to work on day one was slightly vocal but soon settled. Arrival back at base obviously reminded the pup of the feelings he had when he arrived there the previous week. He was noticeably subdued but settled within half an hour. I sat in the back of the van with him on our journey to the training venue and again after some vocalisation he settled. I did give him attention because as I have stated before you can’t reinforce emotions, so if he was scared then the attention would hopefully allay his fears and resolve the problem at root cause. He settled down and I fed him some happen, reinforcing being quiet and hopefully making a good association with the journey. The rest of the week the travel has been absolutely fine and like most of our dogs he will soon start to associate the van with going places and really enjoy it.
Pretty much everything about day 1 was new and so we did very little. It is important to bear this in mind as pups can get easily overwhelmed. I very much try to balance busy days with quiet days to avoid stress trigger stacking and give the pup to regain his composure between exposure. This is how we build resilience.
The week included the first trip to the vets. This is somewhere that it is important the pup have good experience. Later I will teach him to stand and lie for examination as there is no way we will go through life without needing to come to the vets. It is so much easier for the vet and less stressful for the dog if it knows what is expected of it and just as importantly it is comfortable in the environment. Being ill or injured often lowers a dogs tolerance and without training, visits to the vets can become traumatic for all involved. Prevention is better than a cure as Grandma used to say.
The work routine is now well established and I couldn’t be happier at this stage.
A lovely day for training!!
Pup, now renamed as Kylo is very confident. I had an industrial team of tree surgeons working in my garden on Friday and was careful to take him to the front of the house for a wee etc so as to not spook him. He wasn’t bothered though and scratched at the back door to get to them. I let him out and he approached them (chainsaws only going in the trees so no danger). He was not bothered at all.
That being said, all things come at a cost and so we remained home that day and did very little. I entertained him by trying to encourage him to retrieve a ball. He will happily chase anything but only really likes the feel of tennis balls at the moment. I assume this is a texture thing, it is then strange to see him pick up metal objects and carry them. Either way, no concern.
We also spent more time locked in the crate than usual whilst not tired. This is a fundamental change needs to be given some time and attention. Perfect timing as I was home making coffee for the army of tree men anyway. There was some vocalisation but it very much felt like protesting at being locked in. Combined with pushing at the door it was very different from his initial cries when he was distressed at being away from his siblings and then in the next phase, away from me. This is the time to be aware of reinforcing unwanted behaviour.
I know the pup is watered, fed, can cope with being alone for small periods, is familiar with the crate and so wanting to get out of the crate is the most likely explanation. Whilst I am trying not to create a situation where he does this, it is almost inevitable at some point. What was nice is that it lasted only seconds before he settled down quietly watching me. So I let him out. Then a few minutes later I put him back and he lay down straight away. I threw him some ham.
This process has continued over the weekend and I can now confidently leave him locked in the crate whilst wide awake for short periods of time. I will still give him things to occupy him from time to time, especially if he hasn’t done much and is likely to be a bit more energetic (it is still early days and preventing unwanted behaviour is still at the forefront of my mind).
So with the settling in period done successfully and the working week routine established, what a fitting end to the week than a last minute call to go and work the stand at Crufts. Being such a confident little thing I knew he would cope with the crowds but peoples love to tickle a puppy rapidly became too much even for him and when I saw him give a little yawn which can often be a stress signal I rather abruptly announced my departure. It is often necessary to be abrupt when protecting a puppy as people often oblivious to the pups body language and their desires to greet the little furry thing are often strong. Your loyalty is to the welfare of the pup though.
We managed three short visits of around 5 minutes where he coped well, even wanting to get down and explore. As always though, a busy day is followed by a quiet day and today has been a day in the garden biting the kids. Fun for the puppy but not so much for the kids. More on that next time.