Sunday, July 28, 2013

Confessions of a Bad Dog Owner: Or, You Probably Shouldn't Follow My Lead

I've waited a while before writing this post:  Didn't want Rigby's breeder to make the 14-hour round trip to steal back her precious girl to save her from the perils of living in our home.  But Rigby is 10 and a half months old and has not only survived her puppyhood so far, she seems to be a happy, well-adjusted young dog.

Always busy, Rigby found a stick to play with!

I'm Sure We Need a Behaviorist!

Oh, yes, I spoke those words several times during the first few months after Rigby came home with us.  Even after being warned by many experienced dog people that a puppy would be very active and very mouthy.

Sure, I knew puppies like to chew everything in sight and we did our best to puppy proof our house and remove some cherished possessions that we didn't want destroyed, but I wasn't expecting that my hands, and my husband's, would be used as teething toys for about 6 weeks.  Covered in scratch marks, scabbed and red, in the middle of winter our hands had the appearance that we were spending our days working in a garden of thorns.  As a professional who uses her hands to make a living, I was constantly explaining to lawyers and witnesses that we have a puppy at our home, and my explanation was met by nods of understanding.

I raised the topic of Rigby's mouthiness and incessant biting and chewing to several friends who have raised and trained many puppies over the years and each time I got similar responses, "She's a puppy, that's what they do" or "Puppies use their teeth to explore, it's very normal."  If I tried to protest and tell them that this was beyond normal they would just smile knowingly and walk away.

When the doctor decided that Dan's heart problems required him to be put on a blood thinner, I showed him my hands and told him that we have a young puppy at home going through the early teething stages and that this might not be the best time for Dan to be put on medications that would make any small wound seem even greater, as the bleeding would not stop as easily.  The doctor said they had been through this with several patients and not to worry.  Thankfully, it took about a month and a half for all the necessary testing and paperwork and Dan didn't start on the meds quite as quickly as I thought he would.

Keeping those teeth busy, she chewed anything she could find.

Then there was the constant activity.  The only time Rigby would take a break from running, playing, jumping on the couch, attacking Rocky, et cetera would be when we put her in her crate.  For months she never slowed down or took a nap outside the confines of her crate.  Even cuddling with her was not possible, as the stimulation of reaching for her or touching her made her think you were trying to play and she was off again at top speed or she was biting at the hand that wanted to pet her.

The response I heard to my worries about Rigby's nonstop play were, "Well, you wanted a dog with drive, what did you expect."

Playing with Rocky has been great for Rigby in so many ways.
We're lucky she has such a great playmate!

Maybe we had made a mistake, maybe we weren't up for this, maybe we had waited too long to get a puppy and this just wasn't right for us??  Oh, I had some doubts.

I never did seek out the help of a behaviorist, I used the knowledge I had from the books I read, followed the advice of my experienced friends and set off to keeping my busy pup busy and training, training and training.  We lived through the teething and mouthy stage and by the time Rigby was six months old we saw great changes in her behavior and we knew we were on the right track.

Rocky only got a rest from playing if we put Rigby in her crate.
Several times Rocky has had to put Rigby in her place,
as she sometimes doesn't know when to stop,
whether it be play or getting too rough.

Rigby started to cuddle at about six months of age and started sleeping in bed with me at night.  At seven months of age I commented to my husband that this was a common age for Weim pups to come into rescue and I couldn't imagine how anyone could give up a pup at this wonderful stage.  She was nine months old before she allowed herself to relax and slow down from her play time enough to take naps on the couch.  Now it's a common sight to see her and Rocky both sleeping while she's out of her crate.

Toys are Toys and Clothing is Clothing -- or Are They?

Ever since Dan and I got our first dog together, Sister, I've used my old socks with holes in them as toys for the dogs.  After washing the sock, I tie a knot in the center of the sock and throw it in the dogs' toy box and these old socks have been used as tug toys for years.  My dogs have never had a problem determining which socks were mine and which were the "retired" socks, and I've never had a problem with dogs getting into dirty clothes.

Now I hear about so many dogs, and especially pups, eating socks, soft toys or other things and needing to be forced to vomit or, even worse, needing surgery to remove the item causing a blockage in their digestive tract.

We still use our old socks as toys and -- wait, Linda, get out of the car, go back to the computer and keep reading.  Really, Rigby is just fine.  Where was I... oh, yes and we use them as training tools for our dogs.  Not only do we have socks as toys, we leave our shoes sitting out and teach our dogs not to chew them and to leave them alone.  My hope is that by making these things all seem normal that they won't look at them as a "treat" or wonderful toy that they need to chew.  Yes, we have lost a shoe here and there, but for the most part this method has worked for us.

In this photo from last Christmas you can see socks in the toy box.

This takes a lot of management on our part and is why our young pups and fosters are not allowed out of the crate unless we have eyes on them at all times.  If they get a shoe and learn the joys of chewing up a shoe it makes it much harder to train them not to chew the next one, so we do our best to keep them from learning habits we don't want to perpetuate.

Our pups learn what are toys and what are not toys.

Rigby has advanced to the stage that she is allowed the run of the main part of the house while I am showering, and usually when I come out to check on her she is resting quietly on the couch.

Our Dogs Eat People Food

Oh, yes, I admit it, I'm not one of those perfect dog owners who don't allow their dogs to enjoy a bit of the taste of the foods Dan and I eat.  It probably does cause more counter surfing and begging, but to me it's worth it.

Our dogs are taught manners and, if it is enforced, will lay at our feet while we eat and wait till they are offered food.  Dan is not as stringent as I am about where the dogs stay while we're eating and so they get away with a lot more when he's in charge.

Rocky and Rigby will both sit and wait to be given a tidbit of food and I think it is good that they learn to wait while another dog gets a treat and then they get theirs.

Rocky waiting as Rigby gets a treat.

Rigby waits while Rocky gets his treat.

While visiting my parents last weekend we would put Rocky on a down stay at one end of the living room while we sat at a table at the other end of the room eating our dinner.  Our family members were pretty impressed that Rocky was so well trained.  My sister's pup is allowed no people food, a fact her family is very proud of, but I doubt that her dog will ever be as well behaved as my dogs are.

So ends my confessions for this session.  Believe me, there are others that I might decided to divulge later in life, but for now I think I've given away enough of my secrets. 

I believe that dog ownership and training is a journey of sorts and I've learned that it is a never-ending adventure of learning and discovering new ideas and methods.  I try to keep my mind open to novel approaches for problems and constantly strive to improve my relationship with my dogs.

To that end, I am going to try another new training method and I have signed up for an on-line class that will begin August 1st.  With my crazy work schedule it is very difficult to get to weekly classes, but I'd like to have an agenda to follow and weekly goals to work towards.  Stay tuned and I'll let you know how Rigby and I do in our new adventure of cyber training!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Little This and a Little That

Wishing our Best to the Newest Grayhart Litter!

Yesterday following a puppy party the newest litter of Grayhart pups left the Hartheimer nest and headed out to begin life in their new homes.  The Fast Times litter, by Savi and Parker, look to be as adventurous, confident and lovely as the last litter and they will be fun to watch as they grow, develop and learn.  Rigby and I want to wish all the pups and their families the best of luck and tons of fun over the coming months and years!

The loot for the gift bags that were given out to the
 new owners of the puppies at the puppy party.

Miss Pink heads for home after the puppy party.

Mr. Blue stacks up nicely at the puppy evaluation.
 Now known as Grayhart's Show Me The Money or Cruise.

KellyAnn and Chris with their new puppy CeCe,
Grayhart's Almost Famous, formerly known as Miss Pink.

The puppies get some exercise the day of their temperament testing.

Mr. Black is especially excited to be out on a new adventure.
Now known as Ice.

This video shows a portion of the temperament testing of Miss Teal, now known as Mica.  The temperament testing puts the pups in a new environment with a strange person and allows a chance to see how they adapt to different situations presented to them.  The retrieving this pup did was pretty great and it's nice to see how happy the pup was in what can be a stressful situation.

Sometimes You Just Have to Go it Alone!

I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee Friday, the 5th of July, to repair a torn meniscus and to, hopefully, soon get my leg back to its normal strength and mobility.

Since I had missed several weeks of tracking training with Rigby due to a variety of reasons, I wanted to get her out tracking the Saturday before my surgery, in hopes that she might better retain what she had learned since it would be a few more weeks before I'd be up to working with her after the surgery.  I knew that one of my tracking partners would not be able to attend that day, but, as I had worked late the night before, I missed the email that would have alerted me that at least one other person would not be attending, and the snowball effect that I was the only one planning to show up that morning.

Rigby and I were up and about early and at the park by 7:00 a.m., waiting for the other trackers to arrive.  We waited an hour, until 8:00, thinking maybe they decided to start later, since there would be fewer dogs to track.  Then we drove through the park to make sure they didn't meet at another location where the grass was not so high and the tracking would be easier.

Finally I decided it was just Rigby and I that day and it was up to me to give Rigby a bit of a tracking experience to keep her training going.  This was the first time that I laid track for her and it was a bit odd, as she waited in the car while I prepared her tracks, rather than stand and watch the tracks go in.  It also aged her tracks a bit longer, as it took more time for me to walk back from the track, get her out of the car and prepare to start the tracks.  She did both her tracks like a star, showing all the same motivation, enjoyment and skill.  She found the glove both times and we played some fun retrieve games once she did locate the glove.

I'll be anxious to get back to tracking with Rigby, but I don't think either of us will mind missing some of the hot weather tracking that the next few weeks are sure to bring.

Growing Up More and More

At almost 10 months old Rigby has been showing more and more signs of maturity as the months go on.  The fact that she has learned not to jump on people has pleased us very much and has been especially nice since I had my surgery.  She has also had to sleep in a crate at night again and not in bed with me, to ensure that she not hurt my leg during the night, and she has quickly adapted to that change in her sleeping arrangements.

One of the biggest changes we have seen in Rigby in the past few weeks is that she will finally rest and sleep while out of her crate and loose in the house.  Yes, it has taken her this long to be able to relax and learn that she can quit playing with toys or bugging Rocky and just take a break.  We would always end up putting her in her crate to give us or Rocky a break from her constant playing, exploring and general nosiness.  As I write, she is in the kitchen looking to get into something as Dan, Rocky and I rest quietly on the couch.  Saturday afternoon the four of us took a nap on the couch and it was so nice to have Rigby join us in our family relaxation.

This morning I took time to spend a bit of time training Rigby, as it has been several days since we had done anything.  We played some glove fetch, dumbbell retrieve and just some basic training commands.  I'll be anxious to get her back into full training once my leg permits.  In the meantime, Rigby is fully enjoying being a silly, happy puppy!