Puppy Primer, Part Two

In the middle of the night last night, it dawned on me that before I give out advice about raising puppies, I need to establish some credibility. And of course, I also thought of several more tips. I offer the following true-life story as evidence of my dog-whispering ability. How’s that for an intro?

We got new carpet in all the bedrooms today. The work that went into getting ready for installation made me appreciate the old carpet for lasting as long as it did. Getting ready for new carpet isn’t something I want to do very often. The garage is piled high and some of it ain’t coming back in.

Because we moved things around–including the kennels–the dogs were on high alert this morning. When the installation team pulled into the driveway, I told the dogs to kennel up. They were confused by the new location of the kennels, but re-oriented themselves in short order. By the time the doorbell rang, they were both too busy consuming the treat they get for kenneling up to bark.

TIP: Dogs are treat whores. Just say “treat” around here and the excitement level leaps exponentially until the promised delicacy is delivered. “Good dogs get treats” is significantly more successful than “come” at launching our dogs in the right direction. They do hear what you say…the trick is getting them to do what you want. The solution is almost always some kind of treat.

A couple of hours after the carpet installers got to work, I opened up the crates and said, “backdoor.” Both dogs tore off like the house was on fire. “Frontdoor” produces the same result, but in a different direction. They ran around the backyard for maybe fifteen minutes before we went back inside.  I put them on the couch and sat down to get some work done. They jockeyed for a spot as close to me as they could get for a minute or two and then settled down.

The dogs sat quietly on the couch beside me. Members of the team walked by us dozens of times and were in and out the front door every few minutes. Toodles got a little growly a couple of times, but I just made my “no” noise and she settled back down.

TIP: No is not enough. A loud “No!” means somebody is about to get in trouble. Our dogs freeze when they hear it. We only use the word in extreme circumstances. That creates the need for at least two more ways to say no that don’t involve using the “N” word. A staccato “ah,ah,ah” from me means “you better not” and was enough to keep Toodles from barking at the carpet guys. It also kept both dogs on the couch when they acted like they had other ideas.  Finally, you’ll want something for training purposes that let’s the dog know they’re good dogs but doing it wrong (coupled, of course, with treats for when they do it right). I don’t have one of these because Toodles is so perfect she never really needed it…and we spent very little time training.

We got off the couch once during the carpet installation for another trip outside. Again, all I had to do was say “backdoor” and it was a fait accompli. If additional speed toward the door is desired, adding “cat” or “squirrel” works wonders. The downside of using “cat” is the way Tico perks his ears up when we’re visiting friends and they mention their cat. We keep our fingers crossed that any cats in the vicinity stay out of sight.

The dogs stayed quiet while the team vacuumed the new carpet and returned all the furniture to the newly carpeted rooms. It was killing them, too. They kept looking at me as they squirmed, making little whiney noises that mean “pretty please with sugar on top!” Tico trembled with pure excitement, just waiting for his opportunity to meet our house guests. Toodles wanted to make sure they didn’t steal anything. She’s a tad dramatic. My partner says she gets it from me.

The gig was up when the team leader wanted to show me our newly installed carpet. Tico practically leaped into his arms. When he didn’t get any “no” noises, Toodles jumped down from the couch. She wanted to say hello, but couldn’t decide if he was a serial killer or not, so she just ran wide circles around him until they left.

Our little dogs made me proud today and it’s because they were brought up well.  I have my partner to thank for showing me what they needed. He’s the reason Tico is such a pleasant dog to be around. Ignoring him when I did is a big part of the reason Toodles is the way she is. I’ve always said he was the smart one.

He taught me more about being a good puppy daddy than I can squeeze into two blog posts. I’m keeping my list of tips to share and add to it as I remember others. You’ll be hearing more about how to raise puppies here on…

My Glass House