|Posted on August 25, 2012 at 7:10 PM|
By time Dave gets home from work, I have the frazzled face of a new parent who hasn't slept through the night or had a minute of "me" time all day. It's one of the most stressful and joyous times in my life. We have a new puppy in the house and I've been running after her all day. Keeping a watchful eye on all of her activities, feeding her, grooming her, training her and by the time Dave walks in the door I am ready to turn the parenting over to him.
Adding a new family member to the house has been a little stressful especially since we don't speak the same language. And, since I'm not a female dog, I can't carry her around by the scruff of the neck and keep her clean with my tongue. The goal isn't to teach our puppy how to be a dog; she's already an expert at that. The goal is to teach our puppy how to be a member of our family.
Every interaction and experience that Halle has in these most formative weeks of her development is a learning experience for her. These lessons, both good and bad will last a life time, so I have to be very vigilent she learns the things that I want her to learn. I have been watching our older dog, Tucker, interact with her. He can be playful with her when he's feeling frisky but when he's done, he tells her in no uncertain terms that enough is enough. Over the past few weeks I have watched her learn to read his body language and respect what he has to say. Tucker is a loveable lug with a new leadership role. Dave says it looks like the inmates are running the asylum. It seems to be working though. We've noticed a lot less reprimanding on Tucker's part and a little less pushiness from Halle. An old dog can teach a young dog a few lessons in life.
Another reluctant teacher has been our cat,Syd. It's never been his desire to raise a puppy. In fact, he's made it quite clear to all of us that
this "thing" is a nuisance and needs to be scratched from the face of the earth...literally. Since Halle doesn't speak cat, she misreads his communication signals. Everything about his body language tells her, "Let’s play". He raises his wagging tail to say, "Back off". She reads that as an open invitation to play. He lifts his paw with the intention to swipe and she naturally thinks a raised paw means he's not a threat and, you guessed it, wants to play. She is finding him to be quite the conundrum. One morning as he was laying on a comfy dog bed in the family room she approached, paused, ran from the room and came back with a stuffed animal. She laid it at his feet and got down as low as she could with her chin on her paws and told him in dog language, "I'm friendly. Let's play". He looked away indignantly and continued on with his nap. She's coming to realize that to get along in this world she has to learn to read canine, human and feline body language. Life in her new home isn't quite as simple as she originally thought it might be.
No one can go out into public with a golden retriever puppy and not get mobbed by everyone walking down the street. People stop traffic in their cars to get a closer look at her major cuteness. According to Steve Dale of Pet World Radio, "we're simply hard-wired to be attracted to the little creatures. After all, their large foreheads and big, round eyes are reminiscent of human babies. Clearly, we're predisposed to care for babies. "We're a nurturing species. We need to be,"agrees animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell. "Our babies require a great deal of care for many years. When we see these cues, we can't help but respond with a rush of a hormone called oxytocin. We generalize our feelings to other species -- including dogs. Believe it or not, that generalization in scientific parlance is called the "aw" factor. We respond with lots of smiles, a softer and higher voice, and we tend to actually say "aw."
It's wonderful socialization for my puppy to have all of these humans on an "oxytocin high" want to interact with her. But, I am finding it to be a blessing and a curse. Yes, of course, I want to expose my little one to as many different people as I can during this important socialization period in her life. But well-meaning humans can inadvertently teach my puppy a very bad habit of jumping on people and being rewarded with sweet talk, kisses, and belly rubs. So, I am turning the tables. When people ask if they can pet my puppy, I ask, "Would you like to help train my puppy"? I explain that right now while the oxytocin is flowing, a jumping puppy is just about the cutest thing in the world. But, in six months when she's 50 pounds and can't control herself, no one is going to be giggling and laughing anymore. I've found that most people will do just about anything to pet a puppy, so they are more than willing to be Halle's teachers.
It certainly does take a village to raise a puppy, but the most important teachers in Halle's life are her family. We are teaching her how to be polite, like waiting at the door to go outside,sitting politely to be petted, walking on a loose leash and pottying outside. Although it's a little daunting at times and can be physically and mentally exhausting, raising her to become a good citizen is our gift to her. Puppies that are nurtured, properly socialized and have good manners become dogs that other humans want to be around. I never want to see the day when people cross the street to get away from my unruly dog. I want people to be just as excited to see two year old Halle as they are to see nine week old Halle. So if you see me and Halle strolling along in the "village" be sure to take a few minutes to help me raise my puppy right and ask her to sit so you can give her a rub under the chin.
Train on! Sniff on!
Susie & Halle
Certified Professional Dog Trainer-KA #2102473
National Association of Canine Scent Work Associate Nose Work Instructor
Canine Life and Social Skills Instructor #650449
Canine Life and Social Skills Evaluator #E750153
AKC Canine Good Citizenship Evaluator #51179
TAGteach Primary Certification
Licensed "Be a Tree" Presenter
Member of Association of Pet Dog Trainers #76263
Member of the Pet Professional Guild
Tamra-Sunshine's Grateful Red 1996-2011 CGC, CD, CDX, UCD, UCDX, Delta Society Pet Partner
Tucker-Sunshine's Mr. Tambourine Man, CGC, NW1