Derby’s First Days Without His Brothers
Our babies started a new life they have been preparing for! One by one the boys left to continue adventures with their loving new owners (more on that in another post). All except Derby.
Derby continues learning to be a perfectly behaved pet. His potty training is going fantastic. We had no single mistake in 6 days!!! The key is a schedule that sets Derby up for success. He sleeps in his crate overnight and waits relaxed and quiet when I walk into the dog room to let him out in the morning at exactly the same time.
As soon as he gets outside he pees and then I let him walk around and sniff as much and as long as he wants. Because he loves playing in the yard I would not bring him back home right after relieving his bladder, as this might create an association of his fun time being cut short right after he pees. I want the potty business to happen immediately and not being impeded by any other concerns.
Exactly one hour after breakfast we go out again and this time our potty outing includes a bathroom need number 1 and 2. Again, I do not rush back after the “business” is done, and this way Derby has no reason to hold off relieving himself in anticipation of an outing coming to an end. Once we return I set my phone timer for exactly 2 hours. The phone aids my faulty memory in keeping exact time for another potty break. At this point Derby’s little bladder is never expected to hold longer than 2 hours. In practical terms it means that Derby goes to work with me, and if I ever need to go out in the evening he is left home with someone to let him out every 2 hours, and one hour after a meal.
The way a behavioral pattern in formed is a behavior being repeated. First, a small neural connection is formed, but with repetitions the connection becomes a pathway, and eventually a neural “highway”. That is one side of forming a desired behavioral pattern of going potty outside: repetitions of success of going potty in the desired place. The other side of the process is to NOT form any memory for bladder relief inside the house. A single mistake avoided is an undesirable pattern not given a chance to form a neural pathway. Prevention of undesired behavior is as important as repetitions of desired behavior. Like in everything else in the very young dog’s life, smart environment management is crucial.
I should also add that for potty training I use verbal praise and petting only, no treats. Many canine behaviorists caution against food rewards used during potty training as this might create a pattern of asking for a potty break not when really needed but to earn a treat.
Derby rides in the doggy car seat to work with me, happily! Once we park he walks on a loose leash, even on streets new to him, over metal grates, with cars and trucks passing by, people walking, large dogs approaching, a train going by a block away. Loose leash training is an important aspect of getting ready for life of good communication between us. Here is a short video of Derby’s beautiful loose leash walking and not hesitating going over a large metal grate (years ago my first Norwich would always pancake in front of any metal grate).
Training loose leash walking of a 12-week old puppy takes literally minutes. Allowing for a bad behavior of leash pulling to form and then re-teaching loose leash walking can take weeks. Not addressing this important skill will cost a lot more than a few minutes devoted to it when training is a breeze between week 10 and 14 in puppy’s life. To communicate effectively what is expected of the puppy, as with all other behaviors, setting for success is the ticket. A few key points are:
- Put aside time to do leash training. When you truly need to get someplace and you walk a puppy on leash without previous training, you are making a mistake of allowing inevitable pulling, and therefore forming that bad pattern.
- Never allow any tension to be felt while on leash. Grab the leash 2-3 feet from the puppy and let it gently slip through your fingers as the puppy walks ahead of you and call the puppy towards you whenever he gets close to the end of the leash. If the puppy does not come to you immediately when called, go back to recall training. Solid recall should be taught before training leash walking.
- Reward loose leash walking. Praise is enough for my dogs but some puppies form better understanding when rewarded with treats. Never lure a puppy with a treat though, as this takes his attention away from learning leash walking.
Once Derby gets into my office his setup is similar to the one he’s familiar with at our home. His “space” is a x-pen with a crate, toys, water bowl, chews. He can observe the world from the safety of his space and he has everything there to occupy himself. He also knows that he never needs to demand attention because he is always getting plenty of it organically throughout the day. When he wants to ask for something he automatically is “manding”, which to any observer just looks like a puppy sitting politely.
If you followed this blog and you thought how crazy it was to devote the time I did teaching my puppies various age-specific protocols, let me assure you the dividends I’m claiming now make all the effort of puppy protocols seem so minimal in comparison. I have a potty trained 13 week old pup that I can trust to take to work and know that he will be a perfectly behaved angel the entire time. He will be all energy when I direct my attention on him and engage him, but will be all relaxed when I’m occupied with something else.
Fun and Games
We continue doing “fun” things too, whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it’s a behavior that might come in handy, sometimes it’s just something silly and only to have fun communicating with each other. Today I put an empty sleeve of an iPad on the floor and used a clicker to communicate to Derby that I wanted him to sit on it. He got it within seconds. It was very cool to be able to put the sleeve anywhere and Derby would run there to sit on it, even with distractions, and with my other dogs milling about. Who knows, this might come in handy one day. For now, what fun getting Derby to look up at me with one ear up, cute butt on an iPad sleeve!