New Dogs, Old Tricks

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Those who know me know that 6 weeks ago my family and I adopted/rescued two wonderful, adorable puppies. They were three weeks old at the time and could fit in the palm of my hand. (Side note: if possible, never separate puppies from their litter before seven weeks. In our case, neither the mama dog nor the owner could feed the pups – eight in all).

Two sleeping puppies
Awww... so cute and cuddly - but not for long!

They are nine weeks old now and the days of tiny cute and cudliness have long past. These 15 lb balls of energy are all over the place – running, jumping, barking, biting, and don’t let me forget “going.” Our older dog (14 years old to be precise) has given up dodging the puppies and generally stays pretty passive as they both frantically lick his face whenever they are let out.

I love my dogs, don’t get me wrong. The thing is, I am used to a dog who at least pretends (half the time) to care what I say. If I say “sit” he’ll think about it and eventually do it. If I pat my leg, he comes. Not so much with the young rascals.

I know they need training and between 8 weeks and 20 weeks is the ideal time for things like housebreaking and basic obedience. As a broke college student lessons from trained training professionals is a bit beyond my budget, so I’ve hit up the library and a used book store for some ideas (as well as good old Google).

I have a training book called Training Your Puppy in 5 Minutes (Positive Training).  I found mine at a used book store, but you can find it on Amazon for around $10. I love it. It has a ton of background information you need to get ready for a puppy (or used to the one you have) and really easy to follow instructions on basic obedience.

One of the things I have learned from this is that puppies need a schedule. We are crate training ours and it is going wonderfully. As opposed to my older dog – let’s call him B – who whines in his crate. B is not crate trained, so we don’t leave him in unless there is a special case. But I’m working on him slowly. Z and G (the puppies) whine for a bit in their crates, but then they both fall asleep. Ah, the wonders of puppyhood.

On the other hand, B can walk with a leash and harness and the puppies don’t even wear a collar. It is surprising how much I take for granted when it comes to dogs.

Puppy fighting leash
Puppies do not understand leashes. Mine fight the leash like this one does.

They have a schedule they follow and woe unto us if we don’t stick to it. Bissell has great cleaning products for removing pet stains – in case you’re wondering. They know (for the most part) to “go” outside, so it’s time to bump up the difficulty.

Today they practiced the simple command “sit.” I used the five-minute method from the training guide and it worked pretty well. I put all dogs in their crates and took them out one at a time for a little “play training” as it’s called. B was first and although he didn’t really understand what was happening he did his best. It was difficult for me to withhold the treat until he got it right, but I know that’s what needs to be done.

I had the most fun with the puppies. They were so happy to be out that they climbed all over me and chased the hand that held my stash of treats. Eventually they got the hang of following the treat they were offered and did well with “sit.” I’m going to keep working on that for a few days before moving on.

I have read that at 12 weeks they are able to process more.  By then I am guessing they will weigh close to 20 lbs, so I want to make sure they really understand some basic commands by the time they get too big to handle.

For all of you out there with new puppies, or old dogs who need training – I understand your pain. I am learning, however, that patience is more than a virtue – it’s a hard-won battle and not for the faint of heart. I remind myself every ten minutes that it will be worth it when I have the best behaved dogs in the neighborhood (well, I can dream can’t I?)