A Week of Chaos - A Dog Trainer Gets a Puppy

So the first full week with my new puppy, Professor Chaos, has been a blast.  There’s so much going on with a new puppy that it’s hard to focus on what to write about.  We do have a couple of emergency issues that we’re working on with Chaos:  a bit of resource guarding and some difficulty with crate and alone training.  I’ll write a separate post about those.  In this one, I’ll cover all the routine things that are going right. 

Socialization

It’s critical to expose a pup to as much of the world as possible, and we’re doing that with chaos.  He loves meeting new people and explores new environments confidently.  He’s a bit cautious with new dogs, but getting better.  We need to get him meeting some toddlers and maybe some people who need help walking from crutches or walkers.  Here’s a very brief rundown on the week’s socialization.     

  • Monday:  met 2 adult friends, play session with well-socialized dog, on-leash obedience class with 8 other dogs and maybe 20 people, met 3 contractors and watched them work on our house. 
  • Tuesday:  Light socialization day.  Met one friend, exposed to vacuum cleaner. Carried him around town a bit and he watched some teenagers on skateboards.    
  • Wednesday:  2 puppy classes.  Met 16 new people and 10 new dogs.  My students did training exercises and handling with him.  He was a bit shy of bigger older puppies at first, but was playing with confidence by the end. 
  • Thursday:  Met one new friend, went to our training building, and experienced the vacuum cleaner. 
  • Friday:  Went to a craft show taking place in our training building.  Met at least 50 people.  Lots of men with beards and lots of people in hats.  A few children.  Met 6 friends who came to our house and all did handling and food bowl exercises with him.
  • Saturday:  Farmers’ market trip.  Met tens of people, including many children.  Met several dogs.    

 

Housetraining

House training has not been errorless.  We’ve had two accidents getting up to let him out during the night.  I should probably set the alarm to get up after 4 hours with such a young pup, but I’ve been pushing it to 5+ hours because he sleeps so well.  That led to peeing on the way to the door.  My lazy man’s solution has been to carry him outside, thus preventing accidents en route.  He peed in the house 3 other times – all following periods of heavy play where we should have gotten him out sooner.  We supervise him constantly, so we caught him and scooped him outside each time.  It’s a pretty poor record for a dog trainer, but Thursday he whined to go outside for the first time.  We’re getting there, even if it’s been a little sloppy.      

House Manners

Supervision is the key to teaching a dog not to destroy your stuff as well as to housetraining.  In our house, each room is separated by a gate or a door.  We have leashes in every room, so that if we get really busy we can tether him to our waists.  I’ve only actually used one twice, both times when I was going from room to room cleaning.  Mostly, I just call the puppy’s name when is headed towards potential trouble and use a sharp “eh! eh!” to interrupt mischief that I fail to anticipate.  He is responding very well to both.  Calling him off harassing the cats still only works maybe 2/3rds of the time, but everything else is closer to 90%.  He hasn’t really learned to go to the toy basket when he has a craving to chew, but I find that I’m calling him away from shoes, jackets on chairs, and hanging leashes less and less often.    

Social Skills

Chaos has great bite inhibition, and responds quite well to an “Ouch!” or a yelp when he bites too hard.  His hair grabbing has decreased dramatically as a result of that technique, but he’s still biting (gently) at my face too often.  He in fact still wants to gnaw on people too much in general.  I’ve taken to stuffing a toy in his mouth whenever he comes over looking to play, although I still let him chew at my hands a bit just to make sure that we maintain bite inhibition.  

Obedience

His response to his name is fantastic.  If he is close to you, he looks and sits.  If he is far away, he comes and sits.  He comes running like he was shot out of a cannon pretty much every time and plops into a sit.  Even in a crowded off leash puppy class or when playing with another dog he is so far probably at least 80% reliable.  He’s also sitting reliably with just a verbal cue and responding to down for a hand signal.  I haven’t really worked on the verbal down yet.  This coming week I’ll start stay and probably work on high 5 and roll over.    

I generally tell my students to keep formal training sessions to short 5-10 minutes bursts, but I find that I’m not even doing that very often.  Instead, I just throw training in at random intervals whenever Chaos is awake.  If he wanders off, I call and reward with a treat.  When he comes over to me, I might throw in a couple of puppy pushups (sit/down/sit/down…) before petting him or playing a game of tug.  If climbs in my lap getting sleepy and looking for petting, then I handle his ears, feet, and mouth.  It’s all quite easy to work into routine interactions; even easier than I remembered.    

I have little bowls of treats all over the house – next to my computer, on my kitchen counter, on a coffee table near where I watch TV, and near the bed.  That way the treats are always within easy reach but never on display before a command.  I give the command, Chaos does it, and I go grab him a treat.  It works so well to keep him focused, that in puppy class Wednesday night, I was able to start reward him for staying as he patiently watched me working students’ dogs in puppy class.

Those are the high points of our first week after inviting Chaos into our lives.  I know there’s not much detail, but there’s so much going on at this point that it’s hard to go into detail.  I welcome questions or comments on any of this.  I’ll get into the more difficult issues we’re working on in another post very soon.    

 

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