Last week we handed in a one-year-old, well mannered, attuned-to-our-patterns Future Leader Dog (FLD).
Five days later we picked up an almost-seven-week-old, everything-is-new-and-nothing-is-controlled FLD puppy.
I am in "blank-slate-puppy" shock. I need to follow my own advice:
TIPS FOR SURVIVING THE ARRIVAL OF A NEW PUPPY
- Remember that this innocent little life is dependent on me for everything: physical care, mental stimulation, boundaries, and rules. He knows nothing except what his body dictates. He doesn't even know his name. Yet.
- I, and the puppy, must adjust to a changed living arrangement. He is missing his mother and the warm pile of his siblings. I am missing the carefree feelings that come with a trained, mannerly adult dog, in tune with our lifestyle.
- Every puppy is different. Yet every FLD puppy needs his puppy-raiser to help him gain the social skills and confidence necessary to grow into an exceptional dog.
Seven-week-old FLD Gus is feisty, vocal, and not the snuggle-bug that FLD Mike was 10 months ago. When Mike was seven-weeks-old and I carried him outside to "park" in the middle of the night, he nestled his nose into my neck, sweet puffs of puppy-breath sighing in my ear. When I carry Gus out at 2:00 am, he cranes his head to peer through the darkness. "Hurry up!" he seems to say to me.
- Take the puppy out to "park" every time he wakes up, gets out of his crate, or has a heavy "play" session, and 10-15 minutes after eating or drinking.
- Feed the puppy at 7:30 am, noon, and 6:00 pm; the same times every day.
- ALWAYS reverse direction when the puppy pulls against the leash.
- Have a Nylabone handy to offer as a suitable replacement whenever the puppy tries to chew something he shouldn't. Say "Chew this!"
- Never allow play-biting. Squeal loudly if the puppy nibbles my fingers, or cradle him in a "sit" position between my legs and hold his mouth closed until he relaxes, no matter how long it takes, or give him a smart scruff correction and say, "No!"
- Never reinforce inappropriate behavior with attention (even negative attention, like yelling, is attention). Wait until the puppy is quiet to take him out of his crate. Wait until the puppy is not jumping up to pet him.
- Reward appropriate behavior with lots of praise!
INTEGRATE TRAINING THROUGHOUT OUR DAILY ACTIVITIES.
Repetition creates ritual.
- Start teaching the puppy to "sit and wait" at each mealtime.
- Put the puppy in a "sit" before going up or down any stairs.
- Don't let the puppy rush ahead of me through doorways.
- Take the puppy on frequent, short walks. (Remember? A tired puppy is a good puppy!)
- Save a few morsels of food from each meal to use as training treats. Practice name recognition often. Give the morsels as a reward.
- Read and follow the FLD puppy-manual we received with our new puppy.
- Attend puppy classes at Leader Dogs for the Blind.
- Call my puppy-counselor when I need advice.
- Share experiences with other puppy-raisers.
While it's amazing how quickly the puppy grows and learns, the first few weeks can seem like it will take forever before the puppy understands some basic rules:
- Chew this, not this.
- "Park" outside, not in here.
- Be quiet with four-on-the-floor before getting attention.
- "Sit and wait" for meals.
I must go easy on myself, and the puppy! Gradually, he will "get it."
Today is FLD Gus's third morning living with us. As I write this, he is curled up at my feet, sometimes with his chin resting on my foot, other times just anchoring his fuzzy back against my instep.
FLD Gus and I are bonding. I can do this again!