"Not My Dog": Tales from Puppy Raising

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Words to live by

Continuing with Murphy's exposure to all sorts of daily life, I brought him with me into our guest bathroom this morning to practice a quiet sit while I "got busy", as we euphemistically instruct the pups when it's time for them to ... um ... well ... you're getting the idea, I hope.

This is our downstairs bath, the one that's roughly about 4 x6 feet, the size of a walk-in closet. (The master bath is currently ripped up, but that is a whole other story.)

I thought I'd been reasonably prudent by removing the wastecan. Not much else in there as a distraction. Then I hear a fervent growl and hiss coming from behind the shower curtain.

For whatever reason, Socks -- who is still NOT fond of Murph -- had been hanging out in the tub, and he was not pleased to be locked in a 4x6 foot room with a Lab. Heck, I'm not sure any of us were at that point.

Socks snarled and growled. Murphy's ears shot up and he had what could only be described as a look of astonishment. I clamped onto the leash and finished my mission one-handed in a most expeditious manner so that I could fling open the door and move Murphy one way while Socks fled.

But, Murphy sat and STAYED while Socks snarled and hissed only two feet away. That, my friends, is progress, even though this whole episode was probably over in a minute.

Now I'm off to find Socks, who needs a pill, adding insult to the horror.

I think the moral here is, never assume that there isn't a cat hiding behind the shower curtain.

Or something like that.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Upping the cuteness factor

The littlest GEB "trainer" and his charge .... Andrew takes very seriously the idea of making Murphy mind. It's cute to watch. (And like any older sibling, he also is happy to rat Murphy out if the pup is doing something while my back is turned...)

Several folks have asked "What about Andrew?" in reference to the prospect of Murphy leaving us. (Usually in a tone that suggests we're ripping the boy's heart out.) It's more complicated than that. More on the boy/dog dynamic in an upcoming post, but for now, they both need to be fed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rules of winter puppy walking

1) Labs have no traction on ice.

2) Puppies will pull on the leash just as you encounter a slight downhill slope that is pure ice under the snow.

3) Gravity works.

My back and ego may be bruised, but less so since another GEB raiser tells me that the same thing happened to her on the same day.
Two lessons: Walking around the yard may be boring, but it's safer than the unplowed private road. And this is why I keep the leash around my wrist, so that said puppy stays with me rather than bolting to god knows where. At least he came to lick my face.

Friday, January 13, 2006

No comment needed

Murphy is getting a PhD in cats. (Still much wariness among the cats, but Squeegee has sniffed his nose while the pup was being restrained in a headlock.)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Woo hoo!!!

We did it!
More to come later, but the eval went incredibly well. Murphy got quite excited when we got to the site, but settled down quickly and did great during the eval for Bessie. She purportedly said that Murphy was doing well and that I was doing a good job for a first-time raiser.
This was such a boost of confidence when we needed it.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

And in the meantime, some perspective...

At least I'm spending all this time on the dog for something worthwhile ... as opposed to a recent article in the NY Times about people teaching their dogs to dance:

Fetch! Roll Over! Heel! Now, Let's Dance!
By MIREYA NAVARRO (NYT) 1772 wordsPublished: December 18, 2005

GRETCHEN MAVROVOUNIOTIS considered the theme songs from ''Ghostbusters'' and ''Footloose'' before settling on ''Can't Stop the Music'' by the Village People. The disco beat, she said, is the best for her dance partner, since it best shows off his forward weave and counterclockwise turns.
''What I like,'' she said, ''is fast-paced music to keep up his enthusiasm, so he doesn't get bored and just plod along. I also look for music where you have transitions, where you can put in some of the flashier moves, like back up, turn around and back through my legs.''
Ms. Mavrovouniotis, you see, dances with her dog. In the world of canine sports and shows, what is formally known as freestyle dancing does not rise to the level of performance usually sanctioned by the American Kennel Club, which regards freestyle as entertainment.

A better day and divine (?) intervention

Another day and much less stress.
Had a great training session with Nina, who taught me a couple tricks to curb the leash grabbing, etc. And they're working.
I wish I had Nina's gift of making you feel like whatever it is, it will get better. (It turns out she is a chaplain associate at the hospital, which seems fitting.)
We capped the session by letting Murphy romp with Frannie, another GEB pup, and Sal, Nina's GEB released dog. I was proud of the little guy -- he held his own with dogs twice his size. He was a tired pup later in the day.
We're also getting less barking /fussing now that he's in a bigger crate.
So we head into tomorrow's evals in a much calmer mood.
And thanks to Bob, who took Andrew out this morning to give me a few hours' time, I even finally finished Jon Katz's "The Dogs of Bedlam Farm," which I'd begun the day before Murphy's arrival.
Report to come from the eval tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Can we really do this?

Maybe it's the fact that Murphy's first GEB eval is Friday and I'm quite nervous about it, but I'm fairly on edge about the dog this week.
I am a worrying perfectionist, which is a fairly deadly combination.
And of course, I'm a mother and an editor/manager --- two jobs where you're never going to achieve perfection and there's a lot of stress.
Add dog trainer to that list.
What I keep trying to tell myself about Murphy is along the lines of a favorite Anna Quindlen essay that was of great comfort to me when Andrew was a baby. She talks about how when she first had a child, she believed raising a child was a true-false test: You were right or you weren't. Then she ulitmately realized that it was an essay test.
I try to keep that in mind, but I find myself thinking too much probably about what's not working or what I think I'm not doing right. I worry that he's in the crate too much. He still grabs the leash from me (he doesn't do that w/ Bob). He still play-bites when you correct on the leash. He's still pulling when you walk him sometimes.
Of course, I should remember what is working. He's doing great with sits and downs are improving. He stays like a statue while we get his meals ready. He knows he's not supposed to grab the leash and more quickly abandons it after trying; I keep hoping that this means we're nearing the end and further persistence on my part will cure his attempts.
I've noticed I usually worry the most in the morning when I'm trying to squeeze in his first trip outside, feeding and a quick walk before Andrew wakes up.... so that's another behavior pattern. If it were Murphy, I'd try to anticipate and correct.
So, well, tomorrow is another day. Today, I'm going to focus that he was out of the crate for an hour before I put him back in while I made Andrew's breakfast. We're going to take him along when we go to get puppy nail clippers, and hopefully I'll still have time to make cookies with Andrew with our new dinosaur cookie cutters before I go to work. Maybe Bob can do another walk or longline play w/ Murph if Andrew naps.
Just keep plugging, day by day.