I thought that by picking the sweet puppy who gave us kisses and didn’t bark we were hitting the puppy jackpot.
I thought that he’d sit quietly on a bed next to me while I worked happily chewing a bone. That he’d be our faithful companion and woo everyone with his cute looks and clever tricks.
But as Mr. Lively famously said two days in, “I think we’re going to need to grow.” (Another famous Mr. Lively quote: “I think I wanted a dog, not a puppy.”) We are going to need to learn how to guide this little guy and help him become the good pup and dog he has the potential to be.
I’ve got to admit, it’s been a tough five days. I haven’t slept more than four hours straight since last Friday. I’ve spent 20+ hours with him each day and every simple task I complete is ten times more laborious and exhausting with him.
If having a puppy is anything like having a baby, I’ve got enough birth control for the next few years.
The first three days were the worst in terms of mouthing, chewing, crate training, and potty training.
And on my first run spent away from him, I had a heart to heart with myself. I had to admit that he wasn’t perfectly behaved, not even kinda well behaved. He really was kind of a jerk sometimes (namely when he was tired, needed to go out, hungry, thirsty, or playing really hard). I knew he’s a puppy and that he’ll grow out of it soon enough. But I also felt unprepared with how to guide him into becoming the good dog I so desperately hope he becomes. I didn’t have the knowledge and resources to cope with the biting and chewing.
So I resolved to be proactive about the situation. Just because I read a few puppy books ahead of time didn’t mean that I suddenly knew it all. I promptly began schooling myself again on other techniques and alternatives.
Fortunately I discovered Teacher’s Pet by Victoria Stilwell and I devoured her short videos intently (Franklin did too, he was fascinated by the dogs on the screen).
Instead of waiting for good behavior to surface from copious “good boys” I got the clicker out and started training that day. Within a few hours he learned “sit,” “[lay] down,” and “kisses.” I also put a toy on a string in order to play with him when he’s really riled up and mouthy without getting bit in the process.
For chewing we tried Bitter Cherry, but he liked the scent so we got a spray bottle with water to help curb intense chewing. I’m also going to try Tabasco on the cable cords near my desk to discourage chewing there too.
Already two training days in we are noticing a pretty substantial difference in his demeanor. He’s getting accustomed to his schedule, he’s more familiar with being alone in his crate with a treat toy, and the training commands with the clicker are working extremely well.
We still have a fair amount of chewing and mouthing to conquer but it’s more manageable with these new tools. The most important being coffee and patience for me and a stuffed ducky on a string for him.
Despite my exhaustion I’m also trying to capture the little moments like taking the steps to welcome Daddy home while half-falling down the stairs, his first ice cube, and his confusion about what “shake” really means.
He’s only going to be five pounds for a short while. And though he can be a little jerk sometimes, he will outgrow the puppy habits and his little harness. I gotta appreciate the cute moments as well as curb the less desirable habits.
I’m glad I shouldered the intentional responsibility to grow as a human for the sake and well-being of our dog.
It’s a work in progress, but we’re all doing pretty good so far.
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