As many of you already know, we welcomed a new addition to our family last week. He is a 9.5 week old Smooth Collie, Romany's Best of My Love, call name Henley. Yes, that's an Eagles reference and yes, I am a big fan of that band, and Don Henley, of course ;)
I always try to practice what I preach, so that means we are in the throes of sleep deprivation, house training, bite inhibition work, and basic training. And that's just the work being put in by the adult dogs in our house! All kidding aside, puppies are a lot of work. Every time someone says they want a puppy, my response is always, "Are you sure you REALLY want a puppy?" Puppies are a challenge. Don't get me wrong, they are fun, but they are still a lot of work. Even if you are well prepared and you have well-socialized and helpful older dogs, there is a lot to do in order to come out the other side with a well-adjusted adult dog.
So, it's taken a week to get him to take his naps in his crate. While I will let him rest with the adult dogs on the dog beds scattered around our house, he needs to take those naps in his crate so that he will learn to be alone and not panic. Even more importantly, my adult dogs need those breaks from the puppy to recharge their batteries.
Surprisingly to me, it only took three days for him to learn to self-soothe following middle of the night bathroom breaks and not need to cuddle with me in bed to get settled enough to go back to sleep. Now, a week into our routine, he goes out and relieves himself in the middle of the night, and can be put right back into his crate to sleep again.
He's an insanely fast eater, something we discovered during his first meal with us on the road and he finished his dinner and then tried to take Ozzie's and Westley's as well. Being the good boys that they are, they backed away from their bowls to let him in, something my daughter and I stopped immediately. The next day, I bought him a slow feeder/puzzle bowl and now it takes him an appropriate amount of time to consume his meals. Even more importantly, he looks happy, moving around his bowl, nosing the moistened kibble. He doesn't get frustrated and he doesn't walk away from the task. This is a wonderful place for him to start on his journey to solving more complicated puzzles. For now, it'll be this puzzle feeder, a snuffle mat, some box work, and egg cartons. Next week, we'll start in with the beginner level puzzle toys from Nina Ottosson's puzzle line for Outward Hound.
We started leash work right when we picked him up from the breeder's home. I'm using a soft harness for him which I like to use with all the puppies I work with; this is more comfortable than a collar and safer as it doesn't pull on their necks when they slam on the breaks or charge forward. Plus, it doesn't interfere with proper shoulder development like no-pull harnesses do. He's too young to walk on walks with the big dogs, but he goes along anyway, being carried in a crossbody bag, and receiving treats for greeting neighbors and not struggling while being carried. It won't be long before he'll be too big to carry, but by that point, he'll have enough vaccines on board that he can do very short excursions with the big dogs. While the big dogs like to walk for 30-45 minutes, Henley's walks will be less than 10 minutes which is age-appropriate.
Because he is to be my next pet assisted therapy dog, filling the big shoes of his eldest brother and pet assisted therapy collie extraordinaire, Desi, I'm putting a lot of effort and focus on appropriate greetings with people (no jumping up, no mouthing, no barking) and getting out in public spaces frequented by people. So far, he's probably met over 100 new people of all ages, which is good. He's been to restaurants where he sits on my lap and people watches, learning not to climb on the table or dive onto my plate. He's been to a farmer's market where he rode around in a sherpa bag, head out taking it all in, and being greeted by market patrons. He's been to gas stations where there were noises like trucks and motorcycles. He's even been through his first thunderstorm with lightning when we drove through Redding and had to stop for gas and food. Totally unfazed and absolutely what I was looking for from this puppy. He was startled briefly when a train went by, rattling the building near where we were eating. He was eating at the time, so he stopped eating, flattened himself to the ground, and listened for a minute. He looked at the other dogs who were just fine, and he went back to eating, ignoring the train sounds. Perfect.
Like most puppies his age, Henley is mouthy. He's really mouthy when he's tired, but he's pretty mouthy other times as well. The older dogs do a significant amount of work on this front, letting him know when he's over the top with them and with us. No one, however, is as good at this as my daughter's smooth collie, Westley. Westley should get an award for his unflappable temperament with this puppy. He plays with Henley, redirecting him to toys when needed. He corrects him for over-the-top behavior, but never in a mean way. He steps in when he sees the humans struggling to walk because there is a puppy attached to their legs or shoes. Westley is a gem and I would not be able to do this without him. Ozzie you ask? Well Ozzie was over-indulged when he was a puppy as Desi let him get away with murder. Ozzie will play with the puppy, but Ozzie gets him riled up and they run around full tilt, barking and playing chase. That needs to be done in the yard, but there have been a couple of bouts of rousing chase in the house that had Westley and I both hollering, "Take that outside!" Desi has been awake more since the puppy arrived, and Henley is inherently gentle with him, sniffing Desi's face, snuggling him under his chin, and lots of play bows. He hasn't knocked Desi over and he gives him space to move around. Desi seems to be enjoying the extra treats that having a puppy around entails and he also seems to like watching the other dogs play with Henley, though he doesn't want to be directly involved. At almost 13 years of age, Desi has earned his freedom from puppy duty.
I've started working on cooperative care exercises with Henley, and this is where he's much more like Ozzie was as a puppy than he is like Westley or Desi. He didn't like having his ears cleaned and his nails trimmed, even though he had a lick mat and I was taking it slow, moving away with the mat when he backed off of it. He drew the line, however, at the bath. Initially he seemed to like being in the shower, but once thoroughly wet and lathered he'd had enough of me. Drying him off was easier with his short coat, but he was pretty frustrated with me, even growling a couple of times. Not goofy puppy grumbles, but real growls of aggravation. Again, I slowed it all down for him so that he could see the inherent rewards in cooperating in his necessary grooming. Fortunately, he was a good puppy for his first vet visit this week, so those cooperative care exercises are paying off already!
For those of you wondering what behaviors I've taught him already, here goes. He knows to "Go Potty!" when asked. He will sit, lay down, stand, and turn when asked. He's learning crawl. He knows drop it. We are working on his name and come still. He'd much prefer to follow the other dogs! Luckily, the name Henley sounds like Desi, Ozzie, and Westley, and they all come when called, so I have that going for me! I'm hoping to have him attend the puppy classes I'm currently teaching once his vet gives him the all clear to do so. He's also scheduled to do a tricks training demonstration with me for a Golden State Warriors dog days of summer event we are doing in July, so I've got to keep plugging away on the tricks training so he'll be able to entertain and delight the attendees of that event.
I'm certain you'll see Henley again here in my blog as he continues to grow and thrive. I'll continue to share his ups and downs in an effort to be transparent about just how much work raising a puppy truly is, even an exceptional puppy like Henley, that is, one with good breeding and a lovely temperament.
As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.