2-minute dog trainer, Tempest week 1

My puppy has arrived. I realize puppies are a crap-shoot, but it’s great to be dealing with a blank slate instead of issues and problems created by a previous owner.  I’ve done a lot of dog rescue …

It’s great to have the deck stacked in my favor. I got pick of the litter, a completely new experience for me. My last puppy (Banner, born March 1996, died April 2010) was an unclaimed pup, the left-over pup in a litter, with iris coloboma, an eye birth defect often associated with merle-to-merle breeding.

My journey with “T” — JiJin’s Tempest — has already lasted 9+ weeks. My first contact with the breeder was 2 days before Tempest was born and I was offered pick of the litter when the pups were just 2-3 days old.

Choosing Tempest was exciting and agonizing. I made countless mental lists about the aspects of my other dogs I hoped to avoid with a new puppy (shyness, aggression, birth defects, structural issues, lack of confidence, etc.).

Pictures of the newborn puppies arrived within days of birth. There were 4 females (3 b/w, 1 tri) and 3 males (3 tri). My admiration of Bud’s Kory (a Keen pup, male, b/w) had me initially interested in the black/white pups — all female.

As the weeks progressed I saw only still pictures and, living 8 hours from the litter, I was limited to minimal visual information. When the puppies turned 4 weeks old I got to watch a 5-minute video.

I watched the video a dozen times the first few days. I listed the pros and cons of each puppy, watching each puppy for the length of the video, trying to get a sense of his or her personality.

I watched for toy drive and relationship with other dogs. I was especially interested in a pup that was not overly dominant (no bullies, please) and not overly submissive (no chickens, please).

I wanted a pup who could be playing with a toy, be challenged by a more dominant pup, withstand the challenge and keep the toy OR relinquish the toy and seek out other toys without being anxious.

It’s amazing what you can glean from 5 minutes of puppy video. Within a few days I’d come to admire a black tri female (FLY) and a black tri male (REX).

For the next 4 weeks I shared my opinions with the breeder and requested her evaluation. She agreed with my evaluations, as well as with my opinion that a “middle puppy” was a good obedience, rally, and agility prospect.

Bully puppies make great herding prospects but I don’t do herding, so I don’t need an “in your face” puppy who knows what he wants and takes it.

The death of Banner made me think more about the female, Fly. I reserved my final choice for the 8-week mark when Bud and I made the trip to Richmond and saw the puppies in person.

I walked up to the puppy play pen. All the pups were playing with toys and each other. Rex, my male pick, split away from the litter to come climb the pen wall nearest me. I asked Rex, “do you want to be a Houston dog?” He said, “heck yes!”

We brought Rex out of the pen and he was very interested in Bud and I. He let me pick him up, accepted being rolled on his back, and hung out with us.

We put Rex away and brought out Fly. She was skittish about my approach, had no interest in Bud, and had a bitch-fit when Kory walked up. She barked at him and darted towards him when he turned away. She barked and fled when he turned toward her.

We put Fly up and brought out Rex. I left the pup to go to my pile of evaluation junk (a metal scent article, a clicker, a whistle) and, when I picked up my stuff, he appeared between my feet looking at me as if to say, “hey, I thought I was your boy? You don’t plan to leave me again, do you?” <g>

I dragged my toys on the ground and Rex grabbed the aluminum dumbell on the cross bar and hung on.  I clicked the clicker and he looked up like “what was that?” and kept playing. I blew the whistle and got the same reaction.

I looked at Bud and said, “SOLD.  I think I have my puppy here.” I didn’t think twice about any of the other puppies. None of them had any interest in me, and the feeling was mutual.

So my blank slate puppy, formerly Rex, became JiJin’s Tempest (aka “T“) on May 10, 2010.

The deck is stacked in my favor with:  1) a puppy who is drawn to me,  2) a puppy who is clever and makes eye contact with me,  3) a training plan designed to develop a rewarding partnership,  4) the opportunity to be his first intense human experience,  5) the motivation on both our parts to work and succeed.

The first week of Tempest’s life I focused on establishing a routine for pottying, eating, sleeping, and playing.

It’s my belief that many behavior problems stem from a lack of routine in the puppy’s life. We get a puppy hoping our lives will be improved, then we just hope our lives won’t be changed over-much.

If we establish routines and get the puppy accustomed to them from the very first we make our lives easier and make the arrival of the puppy a mere speed bump in normal life.

Tempest has three confinement areas and he’s become comfortable napping in each of them. They’re located near where I sleep, near my desk, and in my truck. He’s surrounded by toys which are both chewable and safe.

He sleeps through the night, loves his 4 meals a day (I split his supper between 6 and 9 pm feedings), and has begun 2-min. training sessions with me at least once a day.

I’m learning to meet his exercise needs. I want to hit an optimal level of exercise and play that allows him to fall fast asleep for his afternoon nap, and again at bedtime. On the other hand I don’t want to overstimulate him, or exercise him when he really needs to rest, creating a puppy addicted to activity.

Three routines in particular are becoming part of our daily life:  1) I only open the crate or pen door when Tempest is sitting,  2) we do one meal a day hand-feeding, using the 2-min. protocol for attention and recall — “T!” eye contact, “click,” food,  3) we visit the agility building in the late evening to burn off all remaining energy.

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2 Responses to “2-minute dog trainer, Tempest week 1”

  1. Laurie Says:

    I’m so sorry to read about Banner and so happy you have a wonderful new pup!

    I wish everyone who ever got a puppy could read this. I have friends who will be getting their first puppy in a few weeks, and when I tell them all they need to do to raise a happy, healthy, problem-free family member, they look at me like I’m nuts. I have been called “The Housebreaking Nazi”. At the same time, they want a happy, well-mannered dog like Wilbur, not understanding the work and dedication it takes every day to make this happen.

  2. Teri Says:

    congratulations, Marsha! There’s nothing like a new puppy! My “new” boy is almost 18 months now, and I’m still loving the raising my puppy for agility thing. It’s awesome. Looking forward to reading about your journey with Tempest!

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