Jessie T. Wolf (wlfdog) wrote,
Jessie T. Wolf
wlfdog

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The Joys Of Parenthood

Sooo... We got Torwin's Border Collie puppy a week ago, a bit earlier than we had expected to pick him up. Unfortunately the pups' mother died from a uterus infection, and all of the puppies had to go to their new homes at 7 weeks old.

For being so young, I've got to say that Toby is *quite* the dominant little puppy. In fact, I've never known a puppy as dominant as he is, at his age, and I've taken care of a lot of puppies! The first day we brought him home, he walked right in with his head and tail right up, totally unafraid of the other dogs, not phased by anyone or anything, like, "Yep... this is my house."

He's fiery and feisty, and means serious business. He also kicked Jango's ass real good. :-P I'm glad that I have a Rottie who will willingly submit to other dogs during rough play. The size difference between them is hilarious, and it's so funny seeing a Collie pup half his size pinning him on his back. Toby's also a humper already.

Unfortunately, we've started on the wrong foot with Toby's training. During the first week we've had him, Tor's been letting him get away with a bit more than he should, despite me trying to train *my* Collie in how he should train his puppy. :-P

One mistake was just letting Toby have full run of the house off the bat. He gets a lot of free time to run and play with Jango, and with his toys. Toby's not under as much supervision as he should be, which quickly results into him getting into things he shouldn't, or having multiple accidents all around the house, despite the fact that we're taking him out every hour to do his business. So I've instructed Torwin that if he, or I, can't watch him at *every* moment, (and with puppies, they HAVE to be under *constant* supervision, no matter what) then he needs to be on a tether - either tied to the coffee table while he's in the living room with us, or on leash with us wherever we go around the house (this is called umbilical training).

The other rule I tried to implement with Torwin was that when he takes Toby out to the bathroom, that he always be on leash, and always go in a designated area. All of our dogs have certain spots on the lawn that they go. This does two things. One, it makes sure that we know where they're going, so that when we have to take them out at night, we're not stepping in dog poop (the yard gets scooped every day, but sometimes a few poops get missed, and it's harder to see at night). Two, this prevents any of the dogs from becoming territorial over our yard, if we're setting boundaries for them to go.

(Toby's getting the hang of going outside to do his business, and when he does he goes very quickly. But I find he is actually marking. At 8 weeks old, he already marks, and totally scratches and kicks out the dirt behind him, with his back legs. I find it so amusing. :-P)

Unfortunately, that rule got broken pretty quickly when Torwin started letting Toby run around the front lawn off-leash, and so now he goes wherever he wants. -___- This is not a particularly good idea to be ingraining in a dominant puppy.

Tor's also trying to teach him "Come" which is why he's been letting Toby run around the front yard unleashed. Toby sometimes responds to it... but that's the other thing - he only *sometimes* responds to it. I had to explain to Tor that when we're teaching Toby "Come" we have to do it in a controlled environment, and also *separate* that from Toby's time to relieve himself.

Ideally, we want to teach Toby the Come command on a longline, in the backyard. That way when we say "Come!" and he doesn't respond within two-seconds, we can real him in right away and then reward. This way he learns that no matter what, when we say Come, he will, whether we have to real him in right away, or whether he comes on his own. This teaches the dog that it's worth his while to come when called the first time, because he'll end up coming anyway, and always with a reward at the end to keep it positive.

Tor's also allowed Toby to come up on the couch with him. This is normally not a problem for dogs who are trained to know when they're invited on, and when they have to get down off the furniture. But again, for a dominant puppy, it's not the best idea, because now Toby tries to jump up on the couch whenever he wants.

Torwin's also experiencing the joys of fatherhood, including waking up at crazy hours of the morning to a screaming puppy. Actually, the crate training for the last week has been the hardest challenge, as Toby has much more stamina than any of our other dogs. He will literally SCREAM at the top of his lungs in the crate for HOURS, nonstop.

We've tried everything that you're supposed to do with dogs during the crate training phase. Ignoring him doesn't work. Noise pollution doesn't work (that's when you use a shaker can, or clap your hands and stomp your feet while yelling "No!" suddenly - it's supposed to be a shock effect, that usually silences most dogs pretty quickly). I'm hesitant to try the citronella collar on him at this point (it didn't work for Jango, and Toby is much more persistent than Jango ever was).

After Toby screamed his head off for four hours straight this morning, I've come to the conclusion that we'll have to put him on Lock Down. I normally wouldn't do this with a puppy so young, but considering he's already learned so many bad habits in only one week, the Lock Down process is basically meant to strip all unwanted learned behavior, and allow you to start from scratch by conditioning the dog with new sets of rules. Usually it takes two to three weeks to do, successfully. Most dogs start showing serious changes in their behavior within three days to one week.

The Lock Down process works like this:

The dog learns to live in his crate. He's in there all day and all night, and can scream as much as he wants, but he is ignored, and pretty much treated like any other piece of furniture in the house. The *only* times he gets any attention is when he's fed his meals, (in the crate only) when he's taken out to do his business, (on a leash, and in his designated area *only*) and when he's taken out for exercise (which will be a good, brisk walk, and NOT running around the house, playing with toys or with the other dogs).

This is the bare minimum of attention that Toby will get, for two solid weeks, and even then that attention must be given with neutral energy. As much as Torwin will want to baby Toby and play with him, and cuddle him, he'll have to stay absolutely neutral, and not talk to Toby, not touch him too much, and not give him too much eye contact. This is very important, because all dogs want is attention and any reaction they can get from their owners. By taking that attention away, you'll have a dog that is less likely to just bugger off and do what he wants, and you'll begin to see that he's paying more attention to you, and following you as a leader and provider.

His meals will also be cut from three times a day, to two times a day. We're having problems where Toby doesn't want to eat his meals at mealtimes, and has little tantrums (seeking attention). He's not hungry enough, so a key in training is keep them hungry, (not starving!) and they will start working for their food.

After two weeks in our room, living in his crate and eating in his crate, he should start associating his crate as his new way of living. To dogs, this is not cruel - they simply learn that this is the way that things are. This is how it's going to be, so they'd better start getting used to this way of being. The screaming should start to lessen, until he just stops altogether.

After two weeks, he's going to be moved into a slightly bigger crate, in the Dog Room, where Jango and Penny are also kept. He'll have one more week in Lock Down, as he gets used to the change of environment.

If he shows that he's settling in fine, the following week he'll be allowed out, but only on a tether (umbilical training) and he won't be allowed anywhere around the house unless he is on a leash with either Torwin or myself. This phase is also where we'll pick up on his basic training. Right now he is already learning Sit, Stay, and the beginnings of Come... but during the actual Lock Down period he won't be training in any obedience, because we basically want to wipe him clean of everything, other than his strict crate routine. The umbilical phase of training will reintroduce Toby's basic obedience, and get him working to earn his place in the family pack.

When he starts listening and responding in more positive ways, and showing more respect to us as his handlers, then he'll slowly be allowed to have more freedom around the house. If he's listening and responding to commands, then he can have time to play with his toys, or play with Jango, while under constant supervision. Then he may be allowed to come up onto the couch, *only* when he's invited, but he'll have to learn to get off when we tell him to.

If he starts getting cheeky or pushy, we up the obedience again. That usually whips them into shape really quickly, because they learn that we won't let them get away with anything. In most cases, dogs don't actually want to be the leader. Rather, they want to follow a confident leader, and in a lot of cases, dog owners don't recognize what their dogs need to become balanced members of the family pack. If we don't step up to the plate and set very distinct rules, boundaries and limitations for our dogs - in other words, if we don't have control of the pack - that's when they feel that they need to take control over things, and that's when behavioral problems come up. With Toby, we didn't implement the rules and limitations right off the bat, and so we're having small problems now, which left untreated has a very high chance of becoming very serious behavioral problems later on down the road. It's much easier to mold a puppy into a model dog at this age, than it would be to try and fix an older dog that already has all of these bad habits ingrained.

This will be a good challenge for Torwin, and I know it'll be tough for him, because of how much he loves his puppy (and a lot of people think of their dogs as their babies, but we have to remember that they are not furry humans - they're dogs and they think differently than humans do). But in the end, he'll have a really awesome, respectable dog, that he can be proud to take anywhere with him. :3
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