Gail Fisher's Dog Tracks: The good news and bad news about life with an active puppy
It's confession time. I don't think I have ever had a puppy like our now 12-week-old Chinook, Larry - at least not that I can remember. I also don't think it's just that I've forgotten how active and into everything a puppy is. I think it's that Larry is an into-everything puppy in spades.
I wrote last week about having compassion for other puppy owners, but I am starting to wonder if maybe puppies in my students' and clients' past have been more trying than I might have understood.
Here's the good/bad news. The good news is that I know this time, this energy level, this hyper-exploratory behavior, shall pass. But that's also the bad news. There is so much that is fun, funny and adorable about his antics, but I know this time is short-lived.I got an email from a reader after last week's article. She wrote: "I am really enjoying reading your columns about Larry in the Union Leader as we recently added a new member to our family. Your last paragraph nearly brought me to tears as I've been experiencing the same frustrations as you, but him waking me up at 4:30 a.m. every day is so worth it if it gives me five extra minutes with him. He is growing up so fast, and it has been so challenging, but I wouldn't change anything. His unconditional love makes it ALL worth it. I wish I lived and/or worked closer to Manchester so we could visit your gym, but thank you for sharing your experiences with Larry. If it's tough for someone who is a dog trainer, that reminds me that it's not just me! I hope to learn something from you! Please keep sharing!"It's so true that this time passes way too quickly. Larry has lived with us for only three weeks, and so much has changed in that short time. Aside from putting on 8 pounds, seemingly growing before our eyes, his antics have grown with him. He kept trying to leap onto the chair hassock, bouncing off it in repeated attempts, and last night he made it! I think his success surprised him nearly as much as it did us. His expression was priceless.
Larry is getting bolder and more confident every day. I love bold, outgoing dogs, but Larry needs training to develop self-control - or "Gail control." As his success on the hassock underscores, Larry is a leaper. One day last week, he leapt up at the exact moment I was putting his food dish down, almost causing a disastrous mess. Fortunately his foot merely glanced by the dish, and the contents didn't get dumped. But it served as a wake-up call. Now Larry has to sit before I put his dish down. Easy to teach, I simply held the dish and looked at him until he sat, marked his good behavior with "Yes," and put his dish down as his reward. Over the next few days, I started pausing briefly after he sat so he's developing a bit of self-control. It's just a little thing, but it's a good start, and important for both of us.The other two saving graces in our short life together are "trading," that is, getting him interested in something other than the carpet fringe, the sofa skirt or other non-removable items, and the dog crate. Trading is easily accomplished by simply telling him "Nope" or "Leave it" when he's about to go for something inappropriate and enticing him with a toy.
As for the crate, I remember when dog owners thought they were cruel and unusual punishment. Fortunately, those days are long gone, and most dog owners recognize the importance of acclimating their dogs to safe confinement. Next week I'll write about crate training that isn't difficult for either the puppy or the owner.
Gail Fisher, author of "The Thinking Dog," runs All Dogs Gym & Inn in Manchester. To suggest a column topic, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write c/o All Dogs Gym & Inn, 505 Sheffield Road, Manchester, NH 03103. Past columns on her website.