Puppy Camp - What a Week!

Okay, so I failed miserably at keeping everyone updated with Nike’s week of Puppy Camp.  This was mostly due to my underestimating the energy it would take to get through the week!  Of course I’m not new to puppy training, but every now and then you get a more challenging pup that needs a little extra effort.  Nike was that pup, and I enjoyed every second of it!

I mentioned her fear issues in my first post.  This remained my main concern throughout the week.  I took her to classes with me and to many public places.  If you’ve done this kind of work before, you know that you are starting at square one in each new location. 

What I mean is that just because the pup becomes comfortable at training class and the park, it doesn’t mean that she won’t be extremely scared in the grocery store parking lot or at the local farm supply store.  For a dog, each new place is just as scary as the next until we’ve been to enough places and had enough positive experiences.  How much is enough?  That is always up to the dog.

Nike is a striking dog who attracts attention.  This was both helpful and a problem.  On one hand, it was always easy to find plenty of people willing to give her a treat in order to prove that people are great.  On the other hand, it was constant work to get those folks to JUST give her a treat and not reach out to pet her.  Like most shy dogs, the act of taking a treat from a strangers hand was a huge step forward.  Having that same stranger try to touch you is a whole ‘nuther ball game!   If they tried to pet her after she took the treat, we’d taken two steps forward and one step back.  But that’s okay, because it still comes out to one step forward, right?

Because of the amount of work we were doing with socialization, we pared down her other manners training to sit, somewhat-loose-leash-walking, and an approximation of house training. 

We did hundreds upon hundreds of sits!  One of the issues her parents wanted help with was jumping up…and boy did Nike like to jump up.  My short answer to jumping up is to teach sit…for everything!  Within the week Nike became a pro and even started doing some distance jumping up followed by a sit.  What I mean is that she would raise her paws as if to jump up, but never touch the person and land in a sit.  I’ll take that!

I’m a strong believer in loose leash walking being one of the easiest things to teach any dog.  I know that many, many trainers disagree with me.  With Nike, the trouble was that her pulling on leash was related to her fear.  In a new area, she would do a strong pull paired with a sort of tucked-tail army crawl. 

I generally use the “stop when the leash is tight” method to train nice leash manners.  I’ll call to the dog or make kissie noises so they’ll turn toward me, then I move forward the moment the leash is loose.  If Nike was scared, all of this was useless, as she couldn’t respond to anything but her fear.  This left us to work on loose leash walking in limited areas where she felt really comfortable.  The better she got in her “safe places” the easier it was to begin working on the same behavior in some slightly scary places.

Her house training progressed to the point that as long as I hurried to the door saying, “Outside, outside, outside, outside,” she could get there and pee right outside the door.  She did not reach the point of ever signaling to go out on her own.  However, she stopped having any accidents in her crate and in the house.  Success was still dependent on me making sure she was taken outside after play time, nap time, chew time and quickly in the morning.

The best part of Nike’s training is her family.  While she was at my house, they did all of their homework.  They read the entire Raising a Puppy section of the Training Textbook.  They were already well aware of how much socialization they would have to do in the coming weeks.  They understood what I meant by bite inhibition, long-term confinement and chew toy training. 

I instructed them to ignore Nike when I brought her home and have a clear path ready from the front door to the backyard.  I wanted to make sure Nike understood that her new manners didn’t fly out the window simply because she was home and excited.  Her owners followed my instructions perfectly!

Nike knew where she was the minute we arrived at her home.  I stopped three or four times on the way to the front door because the leash was tight.  She was VERY excited.  When we got to the door, I asked her to sit.  She complied, so we went through the front door and straight to the back door with me saying, “Outside, outside, let’s go outside!” 

Once in her own backyard, she immediately peed.  HOORAY!  We went to the back door, had another sit and went in to say hello to her family.  Of course, the first thing she wanted to is jump up on them.  Now my training goals shifted from Nike to her humans.  I only had to explain to them once what to do when Nike jumped on them and within minutes she was sitting for them over and over again.

Nike’s owners have put away her food bowl and will now be feeding her by hand, in treat toys and in other creative, enriching ways.  They have plans to invite lots of neighbors over to meet Nike as well as a list of places they will take her to visit.  They have baby gates up around the house to provide dog free zones for the small children and will be making sure that Nike has plenty of great things to chew while the kids are playing.  Best of all, Nike will be coming to puppy class to continue her education.

While we’ll never know for sure what might have happened if Nike hadn’t begun her early education now, the probabilities are predictable.  An undiagnosed UTI would have led to a lack of house training, which is a leading reason for dogs being relinquished or forced to live outside.  If they end up living outside, they will never be house trained! 

Fearful dogs become aggressive dogs.  Remember, Nike is a Great Dane!  What chance would a giant, fear aggressive, un-house trained dog have?  I am always honored to be a part of a lovely dog’s preventative care.  I am confident that Nike’s owners will follow through with her training.  This is one dog who has a great chance at living a long, happy life with her family!