Wednesday, March 05, 2014

S/He's just a baby - what a pig is teaching me about puppies

Today's a BLOG DAY! YAY! No thinking of topics - just trying to figure out a take on the topic that embraces my own perspective and isn't a repeat of all the other things I've said on the subject.

PUPPIES and starting puppies is the focus of today. For more great articles click on Blog Day either here or in the first sentence.

Puppies we do a plenty. We have fostered high risk animals for many years and orphan puppies, or underage puppies certainly are high risk. In fact we foster infants of many species (wildlife has been under the control of a certified wild life center - that is - legal). Kittens, puppies, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds (most notably a blue jay), a raccoon and now a piglet.

Somehow I am sure there will be lots of plans for success today. Puppy Peaks people will astound you with their puppy's preciousness. People will be so proud of what their dogs could do by X age. Body awareness, preparation for life as an agility dog, things to do. I can`t wait to read them all. I am so proud of all the puppies I know who amaze and astound their humans with their brilliance and excellent teaching.


my plan is much simpler. (Although I do love the learning from all the babies!)

Thanks to literally hundreds of orphans for the lessons .. and little Arnold for the current reminders. (Yes raising a pig is much like a puppy it turns out - just on a faster timeline - already I think Arnold is smarter than me - and he isn't two weeks old yet!)

Provide the essentials: Food, Water, Shelter and Love. Unconditionally and always. If infants are secure in the knowledge of these things all the rest really will come in the fullness of time.

Make sure rewards are rewarding for the puppy not for you. Just one example: lots of people swear by tugging but  if that isn't rewarding to the puppy there is NO POINT in using it as a reward. Play with it, sure, see if it becomes more enjoyable (and every non tugging low drive puppy we'e had here has developed a love for tugging). I love a mix of rewards - personal play, toy play and mixed bag of food - but each animal I play with has their own preference too - so I respect that and give em what THEY want. Not what I want them to want. They are the one who earned it after all.

Give them time to be a puppy (or pig). They have attention spans typical of any small infant ... do one or two  repetitions of something for you - then take a break. For example - recalls. Lots of great games to play to make recalls FABULOUS - but if you overdo them  you risk poisoning your cue as they will eventually get distracted. Let them explore new things at their pace. Try not to rush them, avoid "see see this ball, THIS BALL THIS BALL is what I want you to see", even if a cat has come to check them out and they want to reciprocate.

Avoid poisoning any cue. I really don't rush to put formal cues in place. The longer you can make sure the behaviour is solid the more responsive to the cue the dog will be. All the puppies we have had, as adults in their permanent homes, run to pup pup pup with great reliability. "Here" comes much much later in this neck of the woods.

Address stuff or ignore it - depending on what it is. Fear is a good one to consider in this context. I keep reading about fear periods in puppies. I have seen the odd moment of concern flit across some of the puppies we have had long enough to go through at least one classical phase of it but many of the puppies sort it out themselves. I carry on. Life is normal. If I notice something causing a little more concern than I think it normal I ignore it at the time then do a gradual set up to help them deal with it. Yen was very afraid of banging pots and pans ... rather than making a huge deal of it if a pot banged I would get cookies for the dogs who wanted to be in the kitchen afterwards. She would sit on the couch and shake and stare at us at first. Now if a pot bangs (and I store cookie sheets in a stupid place here so the clatter often) she runs to see what the hand out will be. If there is a backdoor, lazy way to help my dogs you know I'm all over it!

Your baby is a baby. Seriously. They don't need to jump, do a teeter, weave have any stress on their body that is forced. Playing rock around the house, or learning to scramble up over and through things is plenty of body stress. They need long periods of down time to grow up. Resting or sleeping is so important for healthy development across species. They need time to play - not play training games but play for sheer joy and learning  inherent in a good game of whatever. Play laid down here will result in happy play forever.

Stop comparing. Love the one you live with.  Swagger was an incredible puppy - and is an incredible dog. But I'm not Susan Garrett and Wyn wasn't bred out of champion stock. Dora sure isn't a Wyn. Other people's experiences can be guide posts but don't  let them be your measuring stick. Your experience is your own. Your relationship with your puppy is unique, special and precious. Do not be disappointed if your puppy is a little slower at some stuff than another puppy. Celebrate it!

Have Fun! Your dog is only a puppy once. If going to puppy camp and spending lots of money learning stuff together makes you happy that's awesome - do it. If instead it causes you grave stress (either financial or emotional) do a simple local puppy class (if possible) and don't sweat it. Do your socialization thing but do the bits that make you happy and are doable. You do not need to accomplish entire lists unless you want to.  Brody started agility trials at 7 years old. I have had just as much fun with him as I have with Sally who started doing agility prep before I knew she'd survive. Agility prep work would not have been fun for Brody as a five month old - it would have caused us both stress. I am very glad I got hooked when he was a adult. Celebrate the zoomie fits, and occasional mistake. Plan some time to just enjoy your new friend. Build your memory bank for that day - far off we all hope- that memories are so precious to us.

Enjoy this Blog Day - let me know what you think (I love comments!)  - and if you want more of my thoughts on puppy raising just enter puppy in the search box above ...  there's been lots of puppy since this blog started


trainer said...

Love love this and the timing is perfect. I have had little time to formally train my puppy but he's still learning lots by playing with other dogs, meeting new people and going new places. He can't find heel position yet at 15 weeks. I will stop beating myself up about that now. Thanks!

Merinda said...

Awww! Great post!