Puppy 101

Is it possible to begin nodding off while showering, or when working at a desk typing on a computer, or while sitting in a hard plastic chair in a cold garage? I would have said no, but after this past week, all three have happened. Anyone who has ever brought home a furry bundle of joy may relate to this state I’m in, we’re in. Sheer exhaustion. No matter how prepared a dog owner may be, or how much experience one may have, each little being is unique and offers their new family a whole new world.

Me hiking with Bagel and Lox

If you read my last post, you know we welcomed a 6-month-old beagle into our home recently. Before picking him up from the farm where he lived, I was reminiscing about our former dogs. Our first beagle, Bagel came to us from a local breeder in the Southern California area in the mid-1980s. I remembered how we bought him a Dogloo, a plastic dog house in the shape of an igloo and set it up in our backyard. We were sure he was going to sleep in it quietly every night. Ha! Not long after, he was sleeping in his bed in our bedroom. Bagel was our most travelled dog as he accompanied us on seven moves. His favorite activity was hiking, so after he passed on we made the trek to Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge area of Oregon to sprinkle his ashes in one of his favorite places. Lox, our second pup came to us via Texas. She was our jet setter dog. Her first flight was from Dallas to Los Angeles. Though having lived on a ranch before coming to us, she settled in nicely, once Bagel showed her the way. Her last flight was to London when we relocated there in the mid-2000s. She lived out her last two years in the “mother land” and we never tired of the Brits referring to her as “brilliant”!

Robert hiking with Capers and Kashi

Capers was waiting for us when we returned to the states in 2011. We adopted him from a breeder in Wrightwood, California only two days after we landed. People frequently said he belonged in movies, a handsome and most chill beagle. We referred to him as the perimeter pup. He rarely joined in the action but rather hung around observing dogs and people alike. Kashi came along two years later from the Wrightwood breeder again. The smallest and most adorable of our pups. Just looking at her made us smile. She bonded with Capers immediately and although he wasn’t so keen on other dogs, he was always loving to her. So with this trip down Memory Lane in my mind, we made the trip to bring Kippers home. Only days later did I realize I was focused only on the good stuff, the amusing things, not all the ups and downs, trials and tribulations, and gains and setbacks that made those fond memories possible.

Now Kippers, cute and sweet as ever, is unlike our other four dogs. His challenges, that is “our” challenges, center around a lack of skills. Never having been indoors, never having been in a crate or car, and having little interaction with people threw us for a loop. He hadn’t ever worn a collar, been on a leash or eaten from his own dog bowl. We took it for granted that he’d come equipped with these basic experiences. Our surprise turned into frustration, and for me tears, as it soon became apparent the usual training we planned to start with would have to take a back seat until he let us touch him. And that wouldn’t happen until we established some trust. Immediately, we had to change our mindset and expectations. And I had to stop comparing Kippers to our previous pups. Once our new reality set in, we then took the next step and that was to reach out for help. With so many issues, we needed to sort out what to do first and how to do it right away.

From my journal: February 18, 2023 Newbury Park, California

“What a God-send…thank goodness she came to our house yesterday afternoon…Kippers barked and growled much of the 2 ½ hours while she was here…we have a lot of work ahead.”

Only eight hours into our training, we’ve already learned so much. However, this learning is really about remembering. We have to remember that each pup is an individual with their own personality, motivations, and experiences. We have to remember that positive reinforcement, appropriate rewards, consistency, patience, love, and making interaction fun provides the safety, security and structure for learning to occur. And we have to remember all the time and effort we put in now will pay off. It will help us succeed in raising a well-adjusted, well-behaved, and a well-loved member of our family.

Shhh…puppy at rest!

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