13 June 2011

Raising a Puppy - Week 6 addendum

Just when you think you have everything right...

I'm coming to learn that raising a puppy is sometimes about taking two steps forward and one step back. Today was one of those days when I felt like we were sliding backward. Little pup has been nippy all day, and I have the torn shorts to prove it. Holding him down until he takes a deep breath is getting harder, because he's getting bigger and stronger. So, I have to come up with an alternate plan. That requires that I remember everything I have in my arsenal. One easy tool that's easy to forget when I have a puppy jumping on me: While he has no idea what "no" and "stop!" mean, he will sit on command. He will high-five and go down all the way. Next time he becomes a whirling dervish or a little Tasmanian devil, I will try using my commands. Right now I'm not feeling very confident, but we'll see. I have also been trying to redirect his attention to a toy or a stick, but currently this approach only has about a 25% success rate.

Speaking of confidence (or lack thereof): I'm reading Cesar Millan's book, Cesar's Way, right now. I've also watched several seasons of his television show, "The Dog Whisperer." Comparing how I'm doing with what Cesar says leaves me feeling very pale to the task. Every interaction I have with Gem I'm thinking, "Calm-assertive energy; I have to have calm-assertive energy." Then I'm thinking, "But I'm freakin' frustrated! How can I have calm-assertive energy when I'm so frustrated?" Can you be frustrated and calm-assertive? I'm working on it. I'll let you know.

And yes, Cesar Millan readers, I am remembering his other mantra: "Exercise, discipline, and affection, in that order." This puppy gets up to an hour of play and walk time in the morning and up to two hours of play and walk time in the evening, along with a midday break with brushing or exercise depending on his energy level. Sometimes I wonder if I'm giving him too much exercise. Discipline: When I get bored with exercise alone, we work on training. Until those things are done, it's actually difficult to give the puppy affection because his energy level is too high. That doesn't mean I don't encourage him and pat him when he does things right — especially when we retrieves the toy we are playing with. Affection and play and exercise kind of go hand in hand, but foremost is play and exercise.

If you read my last post, you'll know that one thing I am not doing according to the Cesar Millan plan is waiting to feed the puppy until after he has had some exercise. I know when Gem grows up, I will have to feed him after exercise in order to avoid bloat (a highly dangerous and often fatal condition that you can learn more about by following the link), but for now, it's better to feed him first.

These ups and downs are natural, but that doesn't mean they're easy. It's hard on everyone in the household, and that in turn adds to the stress. But when I find myself questioning whether getting this puppy was a bad idea, I realize I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. I would just rather I were doing it better — and that Gem would be, well, more of a gem and less of a fire brand. To think I almost named him Sparky...

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