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Now begins the real work involved with getting a new puppy. Prime socialization time is up to 16 weeks, and I’ll be doing my best to pack in all of the positive socialization experiences I can during that time. I want this puppy to believe that the world belongs to her, because it can!
At 8 weeks the pups got their first shots and a chance to go on “walk about” around Ken and Aimee’s acreage. Adventurous, but keeping an eye on their humans, they had a great time. They’re getting cuter every day, and I am now able to see beyond the wild curiosity and observe their personalities starting to emerge.
Each puppy gets individual attention from me. I can’t just work my own puppy, especially when all of them are clamoring for attention. First the puppy goes outside on leash for a chance to pee, and they do pretty quickly. I try to preempt accidents and so far not one has had a potty issue during a training session. Once pottied, we work in the kitchen/living room area on the tile floor. It’s a big combined room with a huge island separating the two rooms with bar stools on one side. I sit on the floor with a bag of fresh cooked treats (chicken, turkey, pork, liver, cheese, etc.) on the high bar stool where I can easily reach it. I give the pup a couple of minutes to explore before we start, play with toys or whatever, then when the pup orients to me we begin. Using a treat as a lure I hold the treat above the pup’s head and usually he or she will sit to look up. The key is, if I hold it too low the pup will just try to pry the treat from my hand or jump at it, if I hold it too high the pup may lose interest. As soon as the puppy’s bottom hits the floor, I have to quickly get the treat to him or her before the pup can bound out of position. They need to get the treat while they are doing what I want. We work a little, then they run about a bit and explore, then they come back to see if another treat is available. There is plenty of time for puppies to just be puppies, but I also want them to “learn how to learn”. It’s about figuring out that when they do something specific I will deliver the treat. So far, so good.
At 9 weeks of age the pups are progressing well and I’m adding behaviors. Sit is now a solid behavior, and they will all quickly plant those little bottoms when they hear the word sit, without a treat being presented. They naturally come to “front”, sit and look up at me, because that’s how we’ve been working on sit. Now I’m adding a lure into a down, and also a lure into a stand from both a sit or a down. We’re also doing a lured “spin” or “circle”, one right and one left. I am also trying to teach the pups to follow the treat in my hand as I toss it a foot or two away. Visibly following something a person throws is a new concept for a tiny pup. Once they go get it, I call them back to front and they get another cookie for coming back and sitting. They’re learning come and go. No pressure, no stress, and we quit if the pup becomes tired, full, or disinterested. In any case, with 4 puppies to work each one probably only gets 5 to 10 minutes. Everyone is responding well, except Carl sees no point in laying down. Oh Carl! He’s so silly, and funny. He looks at the cookie I’m holding against the ground, looks up at my face, and sighs, and he will do that several times. Everything else he is quick to do, but the down position appears to be pointless to him. Ah, well – plenty of time to get there.
Jimmy has surprised me. Jimmy is a problem solver. I have mentioned before that he is very thoughtful. He has figured out that something he does will get me to give him the treat, and he has started “throwing behaviors” at me. I hold a treat in my closed hand and he will dig at my hand, sit, down, stand, dig again, sit again, etc. And he is tenacious. Not only is he a gorgeous puppy, he is brilliant! Oh, my gosh – he’s going to be just amazing! Judy Blume, the prettiest girl with the most white coloring, has a very strong social attraction to people. She doesn’t venture off as much as the other pups, preferring to stick close to whatever human is handy. She’s quite a love, and very biddable. Her attitude is delightful. She’s also quite a chow-hound and her nose is constantly in over-drive. While all of the puppies air-scented the location of the treats on the bar stool and studied how they might get up there to retrieve them, Judy is always the first to indicate their location. She is a spectacular puppy!
Honestly, I would have been delighted to get any one of these pups. Their potential is off the charts. But Daisy continues to tug at my heart-strings. She is clearly absorbing the lessons on how to learn, and each time I work with her we become a little more in tune with each other. Initially she goes on a flat-out run to burn off some energy. Then she checks in with me and we do a couple of things, then she goes and gets a toy or weaves in and around the rungs of the bar stools, then checks in with me again. To me it is the perfect mix of attentiveness and independence. And she’s so doggone cute! I can’t stop looking at her! She may just be the cutest puppy ever born, but of course it is possible that I am biased. The next step with Daisy was to take her to a new location. Since she had not been in the training building (a lovely 50 by 60 foot air conditioned structure with thick black mats), we stepped out there to see what would happen. Confident and curious she examined the jumps, then came back to check in with me. She explored a bit more of the ring, always sure to observe my location so I didn’t get too far away from her. If I did get more than 20 feet away, she came bounding back to get under foot. In fact, it’s hard to walk with these pups because they are almost always under foot. I was pleased with her reactions and we quit with things on a positive note, returning Daisy to her brothers and sister to play or rest.
At 9 ½ weeks we took the two girls on an outing. The boys will get their turn, but they are also going to their new owners sooner than the girls. Janice Carpenter, a friend of mine, met me at the downtown area in Kissimmee, FL, and we each took a puppy and set off on an adventure. We walked to the lakefront across streets and grass and metal grates. The girls got to see ducks and ibis in a pond with a fountain. A train came by and they watched traffic pass. A number of folks pet them and asked about them. They went up and down stairs and heard someone singing in an echoey bathroom. We worked our way over to the playground where a number of kids were enjoying the day with their parents. The kids came squealing up to see the puppies, who took all the attention in good stride. We found a hill to walk up and down on the way back to the car, and the pups slept well on the way home. So far, so good!
The pups are 10 weeks now, and just as spectacular as they have been all along. I’ve been working with them every couple of days and training is progressing well. In addition, I have started taking them all on outings as time permits. One of my favorite places to take a dog is my car dealership. Starling Chevrolet is very welcoming of pets and I would often bring a dog, hang out in the waiting room and train around the building. Lots of people and noises, loud-speaker announcements, horns honking – it’s a great place for socialization. Pups did well and are winning hearts left and right.
At just over 10 weeks the two boys went to their forever homes. Carl will be an Agility dog in Wyoming, and Jimmy will do Agility, Conformation, and will become a “toad hunting” dog. Now it’s just the girls to get out and about. We’ve had great visits at Home Depot & Lowe’s hardware stores and a variety of other places. There is construction near my Vet so we went by and watched that for a while, and on another outing several fire trucks passed by, which the girls found fascinating. With each outing they become more and more confident in the big world around them.
The pups are now 11 weeks old and Real is coming home to me, my husband Chip, my Boxer Maya, and Cavalier Dylan. We are planning to attend a conformation class, puppy Agility (even though I don’t do Agility, I feel it gives them great skills and balance), a puppy class, and various other activities. Daisy will be 4 months old at the AKC Classic pre-shows and should be entered on Thursday and Friday there. Wish us luck! We will occasionally report how we are doing together, and thanks for being patient with me over my excitement of getting such a spectacular new puppy.
Good training, everyone!
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