Our First Week
December 7, 2001
SoftMaple's Pax Americana arrived in Seattle at 4:30 this afternoon! Jay and I picked him up at the airport. He traveled really well -- peed once, but Cathy had put a thick lining of newspaper down so he wasn't wet. When we got him home, we whisked him right out to the back yard where he peed and met Satch and Rain.
The two big dogs were not impressed. Satch, the oldster, resolved to simply ignore the little interloper. Rain's heart was broken. He, after all, has been the baby in the family for over three years.
We called Cathy, and her husband suggested feeding Pax a little food and water, but warned that he may not eat. Mistake number one -- I wasn't sure how much a pup his size would eat. I guessed and gave him what looked like a small amount of food, not wanting to overtax his stressed system. Then I dug out a reference (duh -- should have done that first) and found out I'd given him an entire day's worth of food! He wasn't reticent about eating either. He chowed down and magically all of his energy returned. Wow! He played and jumped and chewed and mouthed and acted exactly like a puppy should.
After he played for a while, he climbed into Jay's lap and fell asleep.
We stayed up a while longer, then moved upstairs to the bedroom. I sat on the floor and let Pax fall asleep in my lap, then transferred him to his crate, which was next to my bed. That woke him up, but I stayed there and stroked him until he fell asleep. Ta da! Puppy asleep and no crying!
He woke up at 2AM. Mistake number two. I picked him up and carried him outside with no fuss, but Rain showed his first interest in the pup and I let them play a bit. Bad move. That woke the pup up, so when we went back upstairs, he was unhappy about going back in the crate. I tried bringing him out to try to settle him like I'd done before putting him to bed, but he was wired, so that made it worse. I put him in his crate, put my hand alongside, and then just crooned softly until he settled. It took 15 or 20 minutes for him to fall asleep. I'll do better tomorrow night!
December 8, 2001
Pax was up at 5AM. He's on East Coast time, and I'm in Seattle. I got up with him, took him out, fed him, and played with him until he was ready to nap around 6:30. He napped a little, played a little more, then finally crashed hard and slept most of the day.
He's very "needy" right now, crying if I'm out of sight -- or even out of physical contact. It is unnatural for pups to be alone. An abandoned puppy is a dead puppy -- and every cell in his body instinctively knows that. What he doesn't know is that I'm going just to the bathroom, just down the hall, or just to the mailbox. Also, my pup has just had a *hugely* stressful event in his life. It will take many days for the effects of that stress to wear off. Pax doesn't want me out of his sight right now. He had an ex-pen in the next room, but he couldn't stand to be in it, even when he wanted to play with his toys. So I brought it in here. Better, but he's still only secure when he's with me. Thus far, he plays with his toys at my feet, sleeps in my lap, and accompanies me on every room change. Will it always be like that? No. For the first few days, all I'm interested in is ensuring a smooth, calm transition for him. Once some of the stress has worn off, we'll begin to work on behaviors like "play quietly in your ex-pen" and "nap in your crate."
I woke him in the middle of the day and took him for his initial vet check. I don't want to expose the pup to sick dogs, so he stayed in his crate in the car until we were ready to go back. To keep the pup busy and relaxed, I put his lunch in a Kong and gave it to him when we arrived.
My vet is Dr. Eric Schneider at Auburn Veterinary Hospital, and he's wonderful! He didn't want to stress an already-stressed puppy with vaccinations, so we decided to postpone those until next Tuesday. This trip was just going to be fun stuff! We had a successful trip, then went home. He napped some more, and then Jay and my friend Debi came home and gave me a break.
I'm not doing any formal training yet. I'm going to let him settle in and de-stress over the weekend. I am, however, reinforcing behaviors I like, and I'm building a foundation with behaviors like "sit before petting," "sit to be picked up," "sit before I let you out of the ex-pen," and so on.
December 8, 2001
Last night went pretty well. Again, we went upstairs when I thought he was ready to settle for the night. He must have gotten a second wind though. He started racing around the room, under furniture, wrestling, barking, growling -- just having a marvelous time!
We played for a while, then he crawled under the bed to go to sleep. Pax definitely likes to go under things to sleep. Downstairs, he sleeps under the ottoman -- he can just barely fit if he crawls flat on his belly. He really has to wiggle to make it! Anyway, after a couple of minutes, I called him out and put him in his crate. A minute or two of stroking, and he was out with nary a whimper.
He needed to pee at 12:30, so I took him out. I learned my lesson the night before. No talking, no playing, just pee and back to bed. He whimpered for less than a minute, then went back to sleep. He did, however, wake up half an hour later and cry for a few minutes. At three he woke up, and I took him out, but he only wanted to play. Nope, not doing that. So we went back in. I don't remember if he cried or not. He slept until 5:30, and then we were up and about. I fed him and played with him until he settled for a nap shortly before 8:00. Then he went back up to the crate, and I went back to bed. When Pax woke up, Jay took him downstairs and puppy-sat until 11:00 when the big dogs wanted their lunch. It was nice to get the extra sleep!
Jay is wonderful with Pax. He is very conscientious about watching him, never letting him out of his sight. He plays with him and entertains him and just does everything right. I can't tell you how happy I am to have such a terrific husband/dog-father.
Housebreaking has its good and bad moments. He has been great about peeing outside except one time when Jay didn't know to take him into the grass and one other time, which I'll explain in a minute. We've been less successful with pooping. :-) He is on a primarily raw diet, so he doesn't poop very often. I haven't gotten the timing down yet. He went upstairs in the bedroom last night after running around. (I know, I know.) Then today, I needed an uninterrupted moment to do a task, and he kept climbing out of the ex-pen, so I popped him into a large-size wire kennel in the "dog room." He screamed bloody murder when I got out of his sight. I finished my task and then waited for 10 seconds of silence to go in and release him and found that he had popped in the crate. Sigh. The interesting thing is when I was doing laundry later, he went in the crate and peed! While it was nice that he went there instead of on my carpet, I don't want him to develop the substrate association that the bottom of that crate equals a place to relieve himself. Better management needed by the puppy parent!!
Puppies are great fun. Their energy levels are quite humorous -- they're either on or off. No middle ground. Run, run, run, SLEEP! When Pax is starting to run out of energy, his behavior escalates. He gets more excited, more stimulated. He jumps and nips and refuses to take no for an answer when it comes to biting hands, sleeves, shoes, pants, whatever. I've found a couple of toys that are good for stuffing in his mouth at those moments (or I'll roll a ball or toss something), but often it is hard to deter him. If he gets to be too much, I'll take hold of his collar and physically hold him away from me until I can extricate myself from the situation. That frustrates him, but out-of-control jumping and nipping is not a habit I want to reinforce. I teach bite inhibition -- a soft mouth -- before I teach "no bite," but when he's over-stimulated and over-tired like that, he is not in a learning state of mind. (More on bite inhibition below.)
Rain is thawing just a little bit. He stopped giving me the cold shoulder this morning, and we played ball several times today.
He was willing to lie next to me and the puppy a few times and he and Pax did some mutual sniffing. One funny incident -- Jay threw a ball from the living room into the dog room, and Rain ran to retrieve it. Pax followed, venturing into another room on his own for the first time. Rain came back, Pax on his heels. Pax took a circuitous route back, and when Rain dropped the ball, Pax came from the side and pounced on it. Rain's reaction was priceless. His expression clearly said, "Are you INSANE?" Jay and I laughed and laughed.
No real training today. Still letting Pax settle in. I did put a leash on him and let him walk with me to the mailbox and back. I tried using Cheerios to reinforce him for walking with me, but he was too interested in the front yard to notice my treats. Duh. Bad trainer. I also clipped the nails on Pax's front feet. I waited until he was settling for a nap, then cuddled him in my lap, stroked, clipped a nail, stroked, clipped a nail, and so on. He whimpered and jerked every time I clipped, and I'm not sure why. I definitely didn't quick him, and my clippers aren't dull -- they cut quickly, and shouldn't have "pinched" his nail at all. Hmmm. Back feet tomorrow.
Puppy mouthing is a 100% natural dog behavior. It's not dominant. It's not meanness. It's a puppy being a puppy. Rather than "No bite," I strongly, strongly, strongly urge you to teach your puppy bite inhibition instead. Bite inhibition is a "soft mouth." It teaches your pup to use his mouth gently.
Dogs have one defense: their teeth. Every dog can bite. If frightened enough or in pain or threatened, your dog will bite. That doesn't in any way make him a "bad" dog. It makes him a dog. It's your responsibility, therefore, to teach your dog that human skin is incredibly fragile. If you teach your dog bite inhibition that training will carry over even if he is later in a position where he feels forced to bite.
A story... Ian Dunbar tells a story of a bite incident he had to assess. A Golden Retriever therapy dog was leaving a nursing home and his tail was accidentally shut in a car door. The owner went to help, and the dog delivered four severe bites before she could react. Dr. Dunbar wasn't the least bit surprised by the bites. The dog got his tail shut in a car door! Of course he bit! What shocked Dr. Dunbar was a dog with no bite inhibition was being used as a therapy dog.
"But he's never bitten before." Of course not. And barring an accident like that, he probably never would have. But an accident is just that. An accident. Unpredicted. What if it had happened in the nursing home?
Stages of bite inhibition
Again from Dr. Dunbar, there are four stages of bite inhibition. The first two stages involve decreasing the force in the bites. The second two stages involve decreasing the frequency of the bites. The training must be done in that order. If you decrease the frequency first, the dog won't learn to soften his bite.
Teaching bite inhibition
Although bite inhibition is a vital lesson, that doesn't mean you have to constantly tolerate puppy mouthing. Puppy teeth hurt! Work on bite inhibition only when your pup is calm, and you have time to sit on the floor and play gently.
If the pup bites too hard, yelp. If he backs off, reinforce with calming pets and more interaction. If he is too excited and bites harder, end the game immediately. If you end the game, be able to get away from the puppy with as little fuss or attention as possible. Even negative attention is attention. It's often helpful to have the puppy tethered, so you can simply move back out of his reach. Or have him in a confined area, and simply stand up and move past a boundary.
The rest of the time, deal with puppy mouthing by redirecting the puppy to acceptable chew toys. Literally surround yourself with chew toys, so you can stuff toys in his mouth, one after the other, until he gets the message that you are not going to let him bite you. Puppy mouthing never requires anything more aversive than time outs or withdrawal of attention. Work on bite inhibition when you can, and at other times redirect, redirect, redirect. When it's too much either, end the game. Physical aversives are confusing, unfair, and unnecessary.
December 9, 2001
I have to share a story. As usual, I took Pax upstairs with me to settle down before being put in his crate. Every night, he goes bonkers with a last-minute energy burst when he gets in the room -- he always gets out-of-control, over- the-top WILD just before he crashes. These bursts include major jumping and nipping. It hurts, and yelping just makes him go harder. If you stand up, he goes after clothing -- and the skin under that clothing. Trust me -- you cannot redirect to a toy. Is there a hand holding that toy? Then he wants the hand and arm and shirt and body attached to it. All you can do is physically restrain him until the moment passes.
Well, Rain came up with us tonight, and he was sitting in front of me when Pax started in. Pax had been running around and playing with a toy, and Rain ignored him. Then Pax grabbed my shirt and started growling and really going after it. Suddenly Rain leaned down and barked at him LOUDLY twice. The pup backed off fast. Rain then looked at me, his expression clearly saying, "You really need to put a stop to such rude behavior."
He was right! Rain wasn't resource guarding me or anything like that. He was telling Pax very clearly that he was behaving abominably. Pax immediately settled and walked back and sat beside me, and Rain was fine with that. The energy burst is the equivalent of an over-stimulated, over-tired toddler throwing a tantrum just before nap time. The behavior isn't acceptable, and soon I'll start using time-outs to deal with inappropriate, too-hard, out-of-control mouthing. I haven't started using time-outs yet because I want to let him settle in a bit.
We had a wonderful night. After the wild burst, Pax went to sleep without a peep. He woke up at 12:15 and 2:30 to pee. He stirred at 4:14, and I thought he might need to pee. I realized too late that he was just shifting positions -- he hadn't even sat up. By the time I realized it, though, I had gotten up and inadvertently woken him up. I took him out, but he didn't want to pee -- just play. When I brought him back in, he settled right down, thank goodness. Most importantly, I had learned something -- check to see if Pax is sitting up before getting up to take him out! Because I didn't alert to every whimper after that, we slept until 7:30!
Housebreaking has gone wonderfully today too. No accidents, and we're getting on a predictable schedule. I, by the way, am associating cues with peeing and pooping. After associating the cue with the behavior, ultimately, I'll be able to use the cues to elicit the behavior -- handy when traveling, in inclement weather, or at a show.
Pax was much braver today -- much more confident. He is exploring the house and is willing to be one room away from us. Because everything is a chew toy to him at this point, we'll use gates and doors to restrict him to the room we're in, and we'll continue to watch him -- constantly -- until he proves himself reliable. Puppies don't make mistakes -- owners do. Today was the first day I saw good retriever ability. Rain and I play a lot of retrieving games, but until now, Pax had been content to just chase and pounce on the balls I rolled for him. Then today he started chasing balls -- even those thrown into another room! -- and bringing them back. (Rain wasn't pleased -- Pax's ball of choice was Rain's current favorite.)
Pax was also braver with the other dogs. He and Rain interacted quite a bit more. Rain is much more relaxed and accepting, but he sets strict boundaries. I like that. He will raise a respectful pup who speaks fluent dog-speak. Satch, on the other hand, isn't setting any boundaries. I'm going to have to manage the environment and keep Pax away from Satch, or else the pup will drive him nuts. Pax was chewing his ears, walking on him, and driving him crazy once he figured out that Satch didn't react like Rain does.
I did what trainer Tmara Goode terms a habituation exercise with Pax today. I got out the vacuum cleaner -- a new stimulus for him. I put it out and at first left it turned off. He is very bold and trotted right up to check it out. He pawed at it, tried to play with it, then lost interest. Jay called him across the room away from the vacuum, and I turned it on. Pax again came over to investigate. He was curious, but a bit less brave. I was sitting nearby, so he crawled into my lap and watched it. We repeated this a time or two, then when Pax was across the room and distracted, I started vacuuming the rug. By the time I was done, he was utterly unaffected by the noisy contraption. Success!
One of the nicest things about Pax is that he's such a lap puppy. When he gets tired, he likes nothing better than to crawl into a lap and fall asleep. It won't last, but while it does, I won't complain!
December 10, 2001
Pax was born nine weeks ago tonight.
Today he got his first clicker lesson. My first goal was to teach this wild, confident pup some self-control. First lesson: exert some control, and don't mug me for treats! I started by holding a yummy treat in my hand and clicking when he stopped licking and gnawing at my closed hand. We clicked and treated for about two minutes, then quit. In the second session, I had treats in a baggie, and he went bonkers! So we switched to backing off the baggie. We did two two-minute sessions of that, and then one two-minute sessions with the baggie and clicker in one hand and treats in the other. I'm waving both around to attract him and getting them closer and closer to the ground. Although I usually use this as a precursor to teaching attention, with a high-energy pup like Pax, I will shape it into "Leave It." Once I can work unmolested when treats and the clicker are present, I'll start working on all the other behaviors I want him to learn.
I held one of the training sessions when Pax was especially hyper, and it calmed him down. Gotta love that! I'm definitely going to keep that in mind for other hyper times. Speaking of, last night, I got through Pax's before-bedtime energy burst by throwing two chew toys and keeping him moving. I can't dangle a chew toy, or he'll go after my hands, arms, clothes, etc. But I can toss a toy. Life saver!
Satch had to go to the vet today, and Pax went along for the ride. I had my hands full and couldn't take Pax in, but he did get a ride in in the car in his crate. He cried for the first half mile, then fell asleep -- and pretty much slept until we got home two hours later!
Two people came to the house, and I gave them each some treats to give Pax. Both times he was napping and subdued during the visits. They believe he's a quiet, calm puppy!
December 11, 2001
Ever tried to keep a sleepy puppy awake? Yesterday evening, Pax slept hard a fair amount between 6PM and bedtime. As a result, he wasn't anxious to sleep last night. He woke frequently, wanted to play, and didn't want to sleep late this morning. So tonight I decided that he wasn't going to sleep between 6 and 9PM. At 9PM I'll take him upstairs for our bedtime ritual. He's welcome to crash then -- goodness knows I'd love the extra sleep myself. I'll let you know tomorrow whether the forced activity results in a quieter night's sleep.
Today was a marvelous day -- probably the most successful yet. What changed? The clicker! Praise be the click. Today I carried the clicker and some small, low-value treats around with me. I clicked and treated lots of things I liked, including...
It made such an amazing difference. He spent much less time mauling me. Instead, he was repeating calm behaviors trying to earn treats. He was concentrating, which seemed to calm him down even after we quit "training."
His trip out of the house today was a trip back to the vet's office. He's getting very familiar with that ride! He was an absolute dream. He let the vet handle him, he met each of the vet techs (and took treats from the entire staff), and didn't even seem to notice when he got his vaccination. He was so relaxed, he fell asleep on the table while Dr. S and I were chatting. He was even good when he got those awful bordatella nose drops. Pups often feel bad -- feverish, achy --after vaccinations, but Pax has been normal all day. Nice!
I must say, I'm infatuated with my little boy. We have just two behaviors that I need to redirect/retrain before they become problem behaviors. One is jumping and nipping when he is excited. The other is doing his "business" outside immediately, rather than playing for a while first. The second issue is easy to fix -- I'll just start taking him out on leash. The first is harder. Using his mouth is normal, and bite inhibition is important. I'll work it out though.
It's 8:20, and Pax is a zombie -- asleep on his feet, desperate for a nap. I'll let you know if we make it to bedtime without a nap -- and if it helps our sleep tonight.
December 12, 2001
Just a quick entry today...
Very frustrating day. I have many weekly deadlines, and with Pax here it's tough to get anything done. When Jay gets home, he cooks dinner and does other things, watching the pup a bit but not enough for me to accomplish everything I need to accomplish. So today I tried doing both, and ended up making mistake after mistake on both sides. Pax had THREE housetraining accidents, and every one was my fault. I did a few short training sessions, but he was really wild because I had been ignoring him so much. And of course, since I wasn't watching constantly, he was into freaking everything.
And I've still gotten absolutely nothing done.
December 14, 2001
(Morning) Didn't do much yesterday. Jay saved my sanity, took the pup (I've oh-so-affectionately nicknamed Satan) in the middle of the night and morning, and let me sleep late. Honestly, Satan... er, Pax is perfect. He's just a puppy, which means he's either chewing/mouthing or exploring. It's a full-time job to keep up with him -- absolutely no difference between him and a newly-walking human child right now. Well -- except the needle-sharp teeth! It gets frustrating, though, when you want to go to the bathroom, take a shower, run to the grocery store, fix a meal, or whatever. I haven't had more than two meals -- and no snacks -- since I brought Pax home. He's that much of a full-time job
Don't get me wrong -- I wouldn't trade him for the world!
We're signed up for a puppy kindergarten that begins January 5. Of course, we're certainly not going to wait until he's almost 13 weeks old to begin working on basic obedience behaviors. Last night, Jay and I played a game of calling the puppy between us. This morning I did my first "bathroom" session of capturing downs. Although I encourage sits before petting, sits before being picked up, sits before opening the baby gate, etc., I'm not going to concentrate on capturing sits with the clicker until I get down first. Sits are easy!
I mentioned bathroom training... The bathroom is a marvelous place to first capture or shape behaviors. It's small, easy to close off, easy to puppy-proof, and almost completely distraction-free. There's even a place to sit down! I start new behaviors in the bathroom and continue bathroom sessions until the dog is actively offering the desired behavior.
I'm off now, and I probably won't get to update the diary again until Sunday. We've got a big day -- and weekend -- planned, so that update should be great. I'm taking my camera, so there should be lots of pictures too!
December 15, 2001
Wow! What a trip! Pax and I are exhausted. I certainly wouldn't have planned to do these three big things all together, but Pax took it like a trooper. He charmed everyone who met him!
We started our trip on Friday (yesterday) by visiting Great Dogs Daycare in Seattle. Lovely place run by lovely people who immediately make every dog part of their family. They really make you feel special, and they make you feel like your dog is special. The facility is huge and spotless. There's a retail store area (with some really neat stuff!), a grooming section, a section with pet foods, and then huge rooms for the dogs -- with outside areas. They use fencing to divide the big areas into different playgroups, and there are always people on the floor interacting with and watching the dogs. They are wonderful interpreters of dog behavior, and they are very good about developing less confident dogs and socializing under-socialized ones. I am thoroughly impressed!
We got the grand tour, and eventually we went into a room where they usually start the puppies. They put pups with puppy-appropriate dogs first, so they won't be overwhelmed. I wasn't expecting to interact with any dogs, but they brought in a few. First was Calla, a gorgeous pit bull/whippet cross. Oh, so sweet with Pax. Then there was Gabby, a six-month old Lab. And finally a Rhodesian Ridgeback popped in for a minute. Pax was a little overwhelmed at first, but he gradually began to warm up to the other dogs. The funniest thing was, once we started back to the front, he puffed up and trotted along as confident as can be. "I did it!!" Very, very cute.
After the doggy daycare, we headed to my husband's office for their Christmas party. It was held in their building's cafeteria. Jay herded me and Pax to a table in a corner, then went and got me a plate of food. (Food-deprived me was happy to get it -- it was my first meal of the day.) After we ate, Pax settled in my lap, and we held court for a steady stream of admirers. It was fun to meet Jay's coworkers and show off my baby boy. He made a good impression by curling up in my lap and falling asleep -- Mr. Innocent and Sweet.
After the party, I headed downtown to pick up my friend Joene and her dog, Tucker, and the four of us headed to Oregon. Tucker is a Jack Russell Terrier and just as cute as can be. He has a beautiful face and one prick ear (a fault in JRTs, but darn cute anyway). Tucker had a seatbelt-thingy and a cool, raised dog bed that let him see out the window from the back seat. Pax rode in his crate in the back of the station wagon. Pax is either an angel or a devil in the car. No in-between. If he's at all relaxed or sleepy, he beds right down and doesn't make a sound. However, if he's awake and energetic, he howls like a banshee. Fortunately, he howls for only a few miles (usually), then he settles and sleeps.
We drove about a hundred miles ( which took a fair amount of time in Friday afternoon traffic), then stopped at a certain freeway exit to wait for our friend Pamela. Pamela is the friend we were going to Oregon to meet. She was meeting her ex-husband at this exit to drop off her son for the weekend, and then she would lead us the rest of the way (another hundred miles or so) to her house. She didn't come alone. A friend of hers had an emergency, so Pamela was keeping Tierra, her friend's 10-year-old daughter, and Cody, her daughter's Golden Retriever overnight.
Pamela has two dogs of her own, so the house was delightful chaos -- two Goldens, two Jack Russells, a curly puppy, and four females! Pamela has a small farm, so in addition to the dogs, there was a ferret, six cats, a goat, and five horses. What a wonderful menagerie! Pax was quite the little trouper in all the confusion. He held his own with the dogs, jumping out and playing tug with them. When they were too much, he would scoot under furniture out of the way. I think e really liked the Jack Russells because, even though they're scrappy, they're his size! These dogs enjoyed interacting with him too, which Rain and Satch don't particularly.
After breakfast this morning, Joene, an Aesthetician, gave Pamela a facial. Then Pamela took us on a walking tour of the farm. I chose not to take Pax, though in hindsight I wish I had. But it was freezing and spitting rain, and I figured he'd get too cold. Her farm, a relatively new purchase, is just wonderful, and I can't wait to go back! After the tour, we said our good-byes, loaded up, and headed out. Joene's daughter, Lisa, goes to college nearby, and she was finishing up her fall semester. So we picked her up, managed to fit her stuff in the already-packed car, and headed back to Seattle. Pax slept the entire way!
Before I close, I want to talk about the risks of socializing young puppies. I know there are people reading this who say, "But my vet told me not to take my dog out until he's fully vaccinated! He could get Parvo and die!" Your vet is right -- he could contract a disease and die. However, far, far, far more dogs die (are euthanized) because of behavior problems resulting from poor socialization than ever die from puppy disease.
It is a risk. If Parvo were rampant in my area, I wouldn't do it. As it is, I try to introduce him only to "known," healthy dogs until his second set of shots. I won't take him to PetSmart or a dog park, and I carry him at the vet. (There are sick dogs there!) Taking him to the doggy daycare was a definite risk. But I decided to risk it because the owners require all attendees to be current on their shots, and they watch to catch the first sign of illness. True, if anything goes wrong, I'll definitely regret it. But it won't stop me from socializing my next pup early as well. The risks associated with not socializing are just much, much too great.
List and Site Owner: Melissa Alexander, mca @ clickersolutions.com