Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"My Puppy is OVERWHELMING ME!!!"

This was Rilda’s statement to me in May.  She had just she brought home her little schnauzer puppy, Nike.  How can one little puppy cause so much stress?  Actually, it’s pretty easy……

First there's the crate games, then the recalls, the puppy tricks, and not to mention socialization!! Oh, what about the house breaking, getting the other dog use to this new little MONSTER, and the constant ‘helpful’ feed back of…’you should do this, and have you tried this and this’…..!!!  Dog owners don't even need a 'mother in law' telling them how to raise their kids!  
That's what dog friends are for!!!
  Calgon -TAKE ME AWAY!!!   
(Do they even make Calgon anymore?)

Now, I understand what she meant.  You can’t do it all!  Not all at once anyway.  So, you pick and choose what’s important to you.  That’s all that really matters.    

Nettle knows an amazing number of ‘beginning’ behaviors.  I say beginning, because I tend to get bored doing the same thing over and over again.  So, one morning we might work on one behavior, the afternoon a different one.  We might not come back to the first ‘behavior’ we worked on, for several days or weeks.  Guess what, she still remembers it! 

To me, the absolute number one thing to work on is a good recall.  If you’re dog won’t come when called, you are putting them at risk.  Not to mention, if they won’t come to you when called, what’s the likely hood they will stay with you if there’s something more appealing?  NOT LIKELY!!  So, along with a good recall, a nice working relationship is formed. 

Our recall games involve restrained recalls, whether they are restrained by another person, a long line around a post, or off a distraction.  We mix them up; sometimes I run, sometimes I stop and let them catch me.  It’s all positive, as I want them to be successful and associate coming with good things.  There has never been a time when I’ve asked her to come and she hasn’t.  NEVER!!! 


She’s 4 months old, and I’m not stupid enough to compete with a Border Collie’s tail, a duck, chicken or turkey.  I’m not even more interesting than a cat.  So, guess what….I don’t call her!  It’s really pretty simple.  If I need her to come in, I can call the Border Collie!  Guess who follows along, sometimes still attached.  The birds are not as attractive as they use to be, but if she was chasing one, it would be pointless to call her.  The cats, they don’t run and she knows which end is NOT safe!  So, it’s easy enough to just pick her up.  Okay, not as easy as it use to be! Someone needs to STOP GROWING!!!

So, you might be asking, “What do you do if she chases something and you can’t call her.” Well, I go get her, then bang my head on the sidewalk for being so stupid.  I had to do this a couple times (OUCH!!!),  with the birds.  Especially the ducks, who knows what made them so attractive.  It’s probably their lack of speed, when compared to the chickens, and they are not as big as the turkeys.  Over the last month, they’ve thankfully lost their appeal. 

Crate Games – or impulse control is right up there on my list of important things.  Duck chasing would be an impulse control issue.  Your start line stays….impulse control, right along with contacts (if you do 2o2o), retrieves, walking on a loose leash, not bouncing off the windows when another dog is outside training, and numerous other things that happen in every day life.

No Barking, is another very important rule at our house.  Sorry, I don’t like it, and we have several vehicles a day coming down our lane.  Not appropriate behavior, and for our household, not acceptable.  Yes, we’ll probably be murdered in our beds, as our dogs didn’t alert us!  G  Barking will earn you a little “crate time out”.  It only takes once or maybe twice, and they figure it out.  Nettle sometimes forgets, and will bark at Kruz while he’s taking a nap.  Sorry Muskrat, into the box you go! 

One continued struggle is when she’s in a crate and we’re outside, she continues to bark.  I’m hopeful it will stop….but so far, not!  It would be ideal to go in a praise, but as soon as she has the slightest inkling that you are near, she’s quite.  Mowers on, she’s quite….it shuts off, she barks.  Honestly, this girl has stamina!!

Not pulling on a leash is another ‘right up there’ in my book.  Not that we have much opportunity out in the county to ‘go walking on a leash’, but it’s important.  I don’t know how people do it.  When your dogs are pulling hard enough to win you the Iditarod, how can that be fun, or pleasant?  Nettle wears a head halter when we are in situations that I can’t control her reinforcement.  I do not use it to yank, or pull on it, as this should not happen if I’m attentive.  The idea is to get ‘rid’ of this as soon as possible, in the mean time, reinforcement comes from the handler, not the environment.  The “Red Light/Green Light” game worked wonders for Seeker, but Nettle is NOT a Border Collie. (that’s material for another post!!)

Socializing is not a biggie on my list either.  WHAT!!!  Okay, I do not want our dogs to be afraid of people, or other dogs. I don’t necessarily want them ‘running up and pouncing’ on every John, Dick, and Spot either!  I love Michael Ellis’s approach to puppies in a new environment, and people.  It’s about YOU (the handler), not about that scary shape in the corner of the dark building, or the large man in the hat.  Bring the puppy into a new environment, play some games, and leave.  Do that several times, so they know when they get to a new place, it’s about YOU, not about ‘what new fun friend’ or ‘what scary object(s)’ they might find. 

How often do you go to class, and your dog immediately wants to go visit with your friends, or their dogs.  I’ll admit, that’s very cute, but is it the behavior you want to nurture.  Do you then get angry or frustrated when it’s time to ‘work’ and your dog still wants to visit?  Who’s fault is that?

The majority of the time, Nettle works for her meals.  Not necessarily a lot of work, but something.  Why?  Building value for working with me, is one very important factor.  I’m also learning how she learns, and she’s learning to learn.  How cool is that!  I think so many people miss out on this amazing training opportunity.  What a waste of perfect good food! 

I had a friend tell me once; when I said, “Nettle could visit when we were done training.”, that “I was mean, poor Nettle”.  Mean?  Maybe?  Structured, YES!  I do not want Nettle to think its okay to just go off and visit whenever the opportunity presents itself.  I’ve seen too many PWDs running up and down the beach during their water test.  I don’t want her, to be one of them.  Will this guarantee that won’t happen?  No, but it will sure increase the odds that it won’t.

Not to worry, Nettle found a couple laps to sit on, and a couple puppies to play with over the weekend.  Those opportunities were on my terms however, not on hers. She spends class time in an xpen, and is perfectly quite and gets attention from people and dogs alike.  She's great at the vet's, yes, even though she is shaped, she can be touched!  Shaping doesn't mean you never touch your dog.  I'm not sure how that rumor got started?

She has plenty of free run time in the yard at home, with the two Border Collies, and an occasional cat or two.  She loves to jump, bite, play in the pool, get dirty and just be a puppy.  

She doesn't even think Seeker is a "Freak", 
even when the rest of us do.

Bottom line, you need to do what’s best for your puppy.  You also need to keep in mind what ‘freedoms’ you’re giving him now, could ‘bite’ you down the road.  You can’t have the puppy doing whatever it wants for the first 9 months of its life, and then expect it to change its behavior overnight.  That’s not only unrealistic, it’s unfair.  

Mold your puppy into the dog you want it to be.  
The confident, well adjust, dog you want!
The best time to do that is from day one!

Now….where’s the pliers, so I can pull the rest of those teeth!!!  VBG


  1. So many good thoughts here. Most we are working on. Many I need to. One of my biggest is letting her go "visit" so much. Like I mentioned the other day, this is more of a "me" thing since it's the first dog I can actually do that with and yes, I need to curb it soon. Recalls are another. Sophie was soooo great with recalls wherever she was. We've just be messing with them in the house. This one is just harder to work on (for me anyway). I like the restrained recall and have tried with using the clothesline pole but for me it's just a harder one. Crate games - we use that EVERY day. It's your choice is another - every day. I can see her little brain turning sometimes. It's just fun watching her learn. I just need to get to be a better teacher and it will all work out. We are getting there with many things. Just soooo many things to learn. Thanks again for all your help! Nettle is awesome.

  2. I think it is sooooo overwhelming when there are so many things I want to do!! I want to train agility, tricks and obedience stuff, take my dog for a walk, work on core strength with the balance disks/balls, take him to new places to work on distractions, etc... Oh yeah - don't forget all the reading/watching of training books and DVDs that needs to be done! It's a full time job sometimes (maybe I need to retire??)

  3. I'm starting a notebook for "The Next Dog" so I can list EVERYTHING I want to teach, how I want to teach it and prioritize so I don't go crazy trying to do everything at once and not doing a good job of any of it.

    Agree - recall will definitely be at the top of the list!

  4. I've been feeling overwhelmed with all there is to teach my 6 mo Aussie too. And trying to 'fix' my 3yo sheltie who still needs that 3rd utility leg. Nice to know I'm not the only one.

    Barking is a problem here as well. Guess what you get when you put an Aussie pup with a sheltie - an Aussie that barks a lot! I'm gonna give crate timeouts a try since nothing else I've done seems to work. I think if I can get the sheltie to shut up then the puppy will quiet down too. Wish me luck!