Often folks who are expecting a baby realize the family dog isn’t under adequate control. Keeping in mind that safety trumps every other concern, I want to tell you about a few of my favorite precautions that keep the new baby safe and allow the dog to understand what his boundaries are around this smelly, screaming creature.
One of my favorite dog training activities is helping friends with newborn and very young puppies. For a number of years, pioneers such as Ian Dunbar and Carmen Battaglia have taught us about developmentally appropriate mental and social stimulation. We now have several widely accepted procedures for stimulating neuronal development for our puppies, so that they have every opportunity to become first-rate companions and performance partners.
Some years ago I heard Gail Fisher give a fact-filled talk on puppy development at an IAABC conference. Fortunately I took notes. I was reviewing my puppy materials recently as I work with my own new puppy BIlly, and I came across a neat formula for enrichment between eight and sixteen weeks. Gail described FOUR E’s OF ENRICHMENT: explore, encounter, examine, experience. .
Every time we dog people get a new puppy, we say, “ This time I’ll really do it right!” Inevitably we don’t do a perfect job of puppy raising. There is more and more good information available to help us, but still we fall short of perfection. We live in an 1. imperfect world. But as I plan to take on my next new puppy, I’ve come up with a helpful way of thinking that you may also find useful.
You don't want your guests to say your dog is obnoxious, but nobody likes being jumped on by somebody else's dog. If your company gets assaulted by your dog, they won't want to come back to see you again. Plus they'll think you're not a very good host.
Whether you are bringing a baby home or celebrating holidays, there are times that you have a lot of company in and out of your house. Some you expect, some you don't. If you know such a time is coming up, help your dog be ready to stay safe and out of trouble.
I don't think it's just a change of heart or culture that has our dogs sitting on our couches and sleeping in our beds with us.
When I was a little girl in the 50's, our dogs lived outside. My brother observes that there is always a scratching dog in every family picture taken outside. I remember my mother trying to give flea baths to dogs out in the backyard.
Anybody who has worked with me knows I am fanatical about come when called. I encourage clients to look for ways to strengthen this behavior every day. Here's an eye contact game to try.
- First, in an area with minimal distraction, you are going to acknowledge the dog every time he turns and looks at you. You are not in any kind of formal situation. You have not said his name or asked for attention: he has offered it on his own.
- Use a clicker to mark the behavior if you are comfortable using one. If you don't use a clicker, say your YAY or YES or GOOD word just as the dog looks at you to check in. Remember to deliver the cookie AFTER the click. You are not luring the behavior--you are capturing behavior the dog initiates on his own.
- Now graduate to the outdoors. The dog will go farther away from you, and you will be ready for him to look back to see if you are coming, or just glance to see where you are. When he does, click or say your word, and then let him come to you for his cookie.
If the dog assumes you might be ready to play this game any time, he will be ready to offer you his attention. As you know, once you have his attention, you have the dog!
Prominent horse trainer Pat Parelli gives a succinct formula for creating a brilliant working relationship with your horse. He tells us that confidence leads to curiosity, curiosity leads to responsiveness, and responsiveness leads to partnership. This is just as true of dogs as it is of horses.
I am a fan of Ray Coppinger's theory of domestication that names flight distance as the determining factor of natural selection for the dog. Briefly, Coppinger says that when humans began to live in group settlements (anthropologists disagree on whether this was 15 or 30 thousand years ago--that is not my subject here), they began to generate group trash piles. Food scraps and other types of waste drew the attention of local wolves.
We are all concerned about the rise of tickborne illnesses in both people and dogs. I want to make sure you know of a very effective and inexpensive addition to your pest control plans.