13 June 2011
Raising a Puppy - Week 6
It does get better... It does get better...
But how do you get to "better"? Lots of patience, energy, time, and consistency. And — now this sounds easy, but it's not always — you've got to pay attention. Just as much as you need the puppy to pay attention to you, you've got to pay attention to it.
I'm learning Gem's "moods" and mannerisms and how to interpret them. So far, I'm pretty clear on how he acts when he needs to "go to the bathroom" (starts nosing around the living room) so that we haven't had an accident in the house for a couple of weeks.
That down, I now need to pay attention to how tired he is. A tired puppy is a lot like a tired toddler — cranky and downright ornery. Gem snaps and jumps and even sometimes growls and bites when he's tired. My goal is to put him down for the night or for a nap before that happens, but sometimes I'm stuck outside with him trying to figure out how to get him back to the house. For now, carrying him is OK, but I'd rather lure him in with some tasty treats (make him follow his nose, as Cesar Millan recommends). Lesson: Always carry a handful of tiny but attractive puppy treats [list of favorites to come].
Also very important: Is he hungry? Have you ever noticed a young pup jumping up on its canine mom, grabbing her fur, and generally being a nuisance when it wants to nurse? Translate that to 3-mo-old puppy behavior and you have torn clothing and a frustrated human. I'm making it a priority to see that Gem has eaten a proper amount of breakfast or dinner before we head out on a walk. This makes life a lot nicer and easier for both of us.
What do I mean by "a proper amount"? Well, Gem sort of does what I call "drive-by eating" — he'll grab some food and then move on to play or go outside or fall back asleep. I have to set the bowl back in front of him (after making him sit-stay); usually, he eats all or almost all the food on the second go. Regarding quantity: I give him about one and a quarter cups of kibble at each meal (incl. lunch, which he'll get for another month or so), with some white rice and either a dollop of plain Greek yogurt or a tablespoon of canned puppy food on top to get him interested. He doesn't always eat all the food, but sometimes he licks the bowl clean (at which point I give him a little more). It's important for his growth and my peace of mind to see to it that he does eat a reasonable amount. When he gets older, I am sure I will have the opposite problem...
The good stuff: Gem is called "well-adjusted" in his puppy socialization class. He can go through the little agility tunnels all by himself (such a good boy!), and he learned to go up and down the stairs with almost no fear and very few treats. Gem is intrepid: He goes boldly forward into, say, McGuckins (a Boulder hardware store), and walks about calmly, but with keen interest in all the smells. He does not jump on people who want to pet him, nor does he shy away; he approaches with tail wagging. Gem is getting used to all kinds of activity: We have bikers, skateboarders, runners, and children going by our place all the time. Dogs and their owners pass by, and Gem will sit calmly and watch, or go say hi if I tell him he can. The best of the good stuff: I can pet him and brush him and even trim his nails while he chews quietly on a rawhide or even just lies back in the grass, gently nibbling it and stretching to show me his little tummy.