Thursday, January 11, 2007

Pupdate #4 (Parent Orientation)

Did you happen to hear a small pop from somewhere on the East Coast at about 8:30 last night? That was my head exploding.

Seriously, I had no idea there was so much advice to give about puppies. And it's all contradictory! New parents (of babies, I mean) have my profoundest sympathy. If I'm overwhelmed by the conflicting directives of dog training, I only need to think about how many different schools of parenting there are. No wonder so many people screw it up!

For example, there is the adage "A tired dog is a good dog;" i.e., you're supposed to give your dog a good workout in the morning to wear him out and make training easier. Cesar Millan, dog guru du jour, concurs, as do the teachers of the obedience class. So, okay, I should exercise Linus. Except... I live in a one-bedroom apartment and I have no yard. So I have to walk him. As I mentioned before, he's doing pretty well; however, he exhibits definite signs of Sled Dog Syndrome (constantly pulling ahead). It's normal for three-month-old puppies. However, I received dire warnings from the instructors last night that in taking him for walks before he's been fully leash trained, I might just be teaching him to pull constantly. So...yeah. You tell me.

It would probably be easier if I didn't care so much and worry so much, but I do. I fret that a seemingly trivial mistake at this crucial time will either scar him for life or turn him into an uncontrollable beast with Jaws of Steel. I want him to be friendly, mannerly and well-adjusted--not just for my sake, but for his. A well-adjusted dog is better equipped socially and just plain happier.

I don't think I'll ever have children. I might die of terminal anxiety.

However, to inspire myself, I've made a to-do list for me and him. As follows:
Behaviors we need to change:
  • Chasing the cats. Big no-no. He's just trying to play right now (and so is one of the cats, which certainly doesn't help!); but that might now always be the case. And another cat might misinterpret his invitation. I use a combination of deterrent (the Mighty Spray Bottle), redirection (Linus, come here! Sit!), and reward (Good boy! Treat! Wouldn't you rather be with me than a cranky ol' cat?)
  • Mouthing. On the good advice of one of the instructors, I have tried keeping my hand still when he takes it in his mouth. He immediately loses interest.
  • Nipping at pants legs. Only does it when he's at his most excited and wants me to play with him. I am trying standing still and ignoring him, as this is an attention-seeking behavior. If it persists or worsens, I'll... think of something else.
  • Grabbing the leash in his mouth. Does it when he's out-of-control hyper or mad at the leash; i.e., thinks he is being restrained too much. This happens every time we do the "Umbilical Cord" exercise, in which you wear the leash around your waist and attach your dog to you literally at the hip. It's supposed to promote bonding and make you the center of their attention, and it's a homework assignment for class. I'm trying to find some nontoxic deer repellant, as the Bitter Cherry spray didn't work AT ALL. We'll see.
First steps:
  • I have bought a clicker and trained him to associate it with food, so that every time he hears it he knows he'll get something good. (Done on the advice of many, including pit bull specialists and the inimitable Ms. Kinsale)
  • He leaves the cats alone voluntarily about half the time; another quarter of the time, I catch him before he acts.
  • We are beginning to establish a rhythm to our days. Thank God (and I mean that in all sincerity), Linus settles down after the requisite two hours of after-dinner mania.
Enough talk! Here is a picture, taken in the old sweater days, of Linus being cute. I know that's what you really came for!

More on the way, as I just got my first digital camera. And there's a great tongue shot as soon as I can get my last roll of film processed.

1 comment:

Bookwormom said...

I've no advice to offer except to say that my SIL has raised pit bulls for years & they all turned out to be gentle, friendly, playful dogs who were quite well trained. I'm sure Linus will be the same.

I think the motivation of the owner has a huge impact on the behavior of the dog & you obviously want the best for him. Other than that- he's still really little & eventually he'll calm down.