On Puppies

Thankfully I’m on a bit of a puppy vacation tonight, Aja is off on a sleepover. I’ve been sick this week and puppies + sickness is not a good equation – nice to be able to actually rest for a bit. There has been way more unsupervised puppy action than there should have been this week, Aja has discovered shoes and she’s a huge fan. I can’t imagine how that will come back to bite me.

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Thankfully my dogs have been wonderful babysitters. There has always been quite a lot of talk in dog training about separating puppies from your other dogs so they don’t ‘bond’ to the other dogs but to you instead. I went to a John Rogerson seminar years back and he went even farther, he felt your puppy shouldn’t even SEE your other dogs until the puppy was a year old – total separation. I can’t even imagine the logistics of that. He felt very strongly this would prevent dog aggression. Maybe it works, I don’t know, I have no frame of reference.

I do think dogs are all individuals, and sometimes they don’t get along, and obviously some breeds are more inclined to have issues than others. Mostly what I see when I’m watching puppies interact with other dogs is they’re literally learning to be a dog – and that, to me, is the most important thing they need to learn. I believe to have a well balanced dog your dog must understand what it means to be a dog before they can learn to be a ‘pet’. Watching dogs interact is just so fascinating and extremely complex, and not always transparent. I don’t always know why dogs choose the responses that they do, but they always communicate so well. I can only wish I could communicate with a puppy like my dogs do, I feel so fumbling and inadequate, not sure what exactly my puppy needs at any given time. And often when a dog is grown I look back and it seems so OBVIOUS, but I just don’t know as they’re growing what the right response is – but the dogs do.

And that doesn’t mean that I let dogs ‘figure it out’, we have a lot of structure in our household about what is allowed and what isn’t. While I do let my puppies spend a lot of time with my older dogs, they get a lot of time puppy-free as well. I do trust them to set boundaries though, and they do it well. Much better than I could have, I just can’t imagine raising a dog without the whole pack involved.  I want my dogs to feel comfortable and confident interacting with other dogs, it’s incredibly important that my dogs get along and work well together – it would be too stressful to live in a household where dogs couldn’t live together. I don’t care if they LIKE each other, I just want them to co-exist in harmony.

The other one I heard recently was from Denise Fenzi about how to never let your puppy play fetch with the adult dogs. And the reasoning was sound, about not teaching the dog to focus on the other dogs instead of fetching or pester the other dogs, etc. However, to me group retrieving is a very delicate exercise as it is. The dogs must be very aware of each other and the ‘rules’ of who gets the toy – it’s yet another dog social situation that they need to learn to deal with. Group fetching is not a safe game unless the dogs all know exactly what the rules are – they need to be mindful of each other. My dogs have very different ‘rules’ for when we’re out throwing a frisbee and when I’m playing with them one on one. I don’t WANT them all to race out trying to get the toy as a group, that would be suicidal. I CAN tell my dogs which dog gets the toy when I throw it and only that dog will get it, but I don’t usually. If I don’t specify, I can tell you Navarre will get it – and the other dogs are fine with that, they enjoy just running around, which is the point.

The point being, I don’t build value for toys and fetching by playing group fetch games – I do that by playing with my dogs one-on-one, which we do all the time. But I also don’t think I’m losing value for toys and fetching by playing group fetch games. And if I have dog that doesn’t fetch in a group situation and just wants to run around obsessing on the other dogs, I don’t care. Doesn’t change our working relationship at all, the dogs that really WANT to get the toy still get the toy, and the dogs that want to chase other dogs get to chase other dogs – everyone’s happy.

Though let it be said I’ve had to fix dogs body slamming or biting other dogs when aroused, but that would happen whether a toy was involved or not – and we worked through it. If you want to play with the group (and my dogs LOVE to play group games), no touching allowed or you’ll be ejected. This is usually that 8 month old stage, teenage asshats.

The more experience I get with dogs the more that I feel that they are who they are. ENS and puppy culture and carefully constructed puppy plans really don’t matter. I’ve worked at the shelter, I’ve seen all types of dogs of all breeds in their ‘raw’ untrained, unsocialized state – and they are who they are. I’ve seen terrible trainers with amazing dogs that figured it all out in spite of everything that was thrown at them. I’ve seen absolutely amazing trainers with dogs that just can’t handle things despite being given every advantage. Some dogs are just hard, and some dogs are easy – and sometimes it’s real easy to see right from the start which is which (but of course both dogs can be equally fun in the end!).

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Classes are have now wrapped up for the year, we ALMOST made it without any cancelled classes, but not quite, alas. But I am looking forward to 2018, hopeful that it will be a good year. 2017 was quite a year of change, I’m hoping next year feels more settled, comfortable and focused. It’s official, entered AKC nationals in Reno, so that’s a big trip to look forward to. Doing a few seminars, feeling the need for some new ideas with Navarre and agility in general. I finally feel like we’re in that space to explore new ideas, so we’ll see what’s available. We’ll still see Justine later this year locally as well, we have missed having online classes to keep us busy. No big trialing goals, Bright should finish off her MACH and Navarre is still in that fun baby stage of who knows what he’ll do. Navarre will be THREE soon, Bright 7 and Haku will be 9 in the summer. NINE, when did THAT happen?

But before we get to 2018, my Christmas/Divorce gift to myself arrives in 4 days – so excited to meet my new kitten! God I love cats ❤

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Don’t they look excited?

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One Reply to “On Puppies”

  1. Your photos are something else; ginger cat is not pleased with the prospect. Pixal is adorable in her birday suit.

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