You are Your Mothers Daughter. . . or Son

Warning: Do not continue reading if you are uncomfortable with gross anthropomorphism.

I raise dogs that are like me. I don’t know how, well I sorta do, but I make dogs that are their mothers daughter or sons. Maybe I raise dogs to be introverts like I am.

I’m doing it again with Calvin and play. He doesn’t love puppy play. He’s okay there, not hiding or afraid, but he doesn’t love it. As a puppy momma I feel the same way. As a trainer I enjoy puppy play. I’m in charge and that must satisfy the control freak in me. As a puppy mom I hate it. I get uncomfortable and nervous. It’s called puppy social for a reason and the word social and I? We aren’t on good terms.

Introverts are most comfortable with just a few people, or even just one. We don’t need a crowd to satisfy our social needs. In fact crowds are overwhelming. To me crowds are like watching 10 TV’s at once, all on different channels, all with the volume full blast. It’s input overload. Put me in a room with 10 families and 10 puppies and my head is absorbing way too much. That’s why introverts like smaller groups. My brain absorbs so much as once, it’s exhausting.

“It’s okay mom, I can be your snuggle puppy!”

It’s not that I don’t like people, I do! I find people fascinating. I love the capacity for showing human compassion we were created with. I love teaching. I love learning. But put me in a group that big and I can only handle it for a short period of time before I want to just shut down. Put me in a group that big with a puppy to protect and I go into overload even faster. That’s where the problem comes in, that’s where I make dogs that are their mothers daughter or sons.

When Maizey was a puppy I was reactive, to say the least. It was a very anxious time of my life and I was having regular panic attacks. None of that equipped me to help her. I know her genetics and my genetics are not a good match. We have a conflictedly parasitic/symbiotic relationship. If there were such a thing. While I’m convinced there are few people equipped to handle her I also know she would be much better off with a calmer person, especially when she was a puppy. Sometimes we do trigger each others anxiety, but we also take care of each other and I think I understand her in a lot ways other don’t and couldn’t.

By the time Magnus came along I was not so reactive and more settled into my introversion. I think it shows, when it comes to dogs he’s a lot like I am with people. He likes dogs, he’s okay with dogs, but he prefers one or two and in small doses.

I can see it happening with Calvin too. I like kids, I don’t have kids, but I like kids. I especially like to interact with one or two kids at a time. I don’t really like the loudness of kids, it goes back to that input overload thing. I prefer adults. He’s already like that with puppies. He doesn’t really like puppy play, but he really loves to play with grown up dogs. Today at puppy play he interacted a little. He doesn’t hide and he would really like to play with the big dogs, but he doesn’t really dive in there and enjoy himself. Then this afternoon this sweet blenheim, Cheeto, came in with his dad. Calvin loved him! LOVED him! They played until Cheeto was pretty sick of Calvin, but Calvin would have just kept on chasing! All Calvin’s work Aunties were so surprised. I told them, he’s his mothers son. He doesn’t like crowds, it takes him a minute to adjust to new environments and he does best one on one with grown ups. I was very similar as a kid.

“It’s okay mom! We can just play with you!”

I worry about it a bit. I don’t care so much of they are doggy introverts as long as, like Magnus, they have the skills to deal with being around dogs peacefully. Calvin is nothing like Maizey was and I bear little resemblance to the mom I was to her, so I’m not worried about him being reactive. I just hate to think I affect them with my stress. It’s a pointless thing to worry about. What I should, and am, more concerned with is giving them the skills to deal with me being their mom and them being their mothers children. But isn’t it crazy how in tune dogs are to us?

It’s their ability for compassion that I love so much, but also makes me worry about them. Maizey especially. It is just crazy how she reads me. I can be totally quiet on the outside, but she knows the instant I reach a certain level of internal anxiety. She comes and taps me and if I don’t calm myself down she insistently smothers me. I love it, but I hate for her to take on that self appointed job.

It will be interesting to see how Calvin grows. He’s certainly more people oriented than either of my other two. We’re working already on when you can say hi and when you can’t. However he turns out I’m proud of who he is already. I can’t help but be who I am and if that makes them a bit more reserved I guess we can deal with it. I don’t believe dogs need to play with other dogs to live fulfilled lives, but I do want them to be comfortable around other dogs. We’ll keep working on puppy play and who knows, maybe I’ll let one of his trainer Aunties take Calvin to play next time!

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Introducing Embee’s Stupendous Man aka My Calvin

On December 10, 2011 I left this comment on Embee Cavaliers, “So, here’s the million dollar question, does this mean Miss Molly’s going to be a momma?;) Sorry I have to ask cause I just love her so much, she is the most gorgeous black and tan I’ve ever seen! I always tease my husband I have to go to Canada for my next puppy.LOL”

I said it mostly in jest, never for a moment imagining Mary Beth’s answer would be, “If all goes well between now and the early next year Molly will have puppies in the spring. Her choice of course on when she wants to come into season. I’m in the process of trying to find her a suitable beau. . . If you ever come to Canada you are more than welcome to come visit and possibly bring something home with you. ;)

I’m so proud to introduce the fulfillment of that first conversation:

Embee’s Stupendous Man, my Calvin.

Photo curtesy of http://www.beyondthedogdish.com

From Mystic Moon’s Danika (Molly) x GCH. Rossbonny Rebus (Rebus)

I still get chills when I read that comment back. It’s a long ways for Mary Beth to place a puppy, especially from Molly’s first litter. I never dreamed she would entrust me with such a privilege. He was a dream in so many ways and at only 10 weeks is so far living up to that dream in every way.

So what made me want a Molly puppy? It’s hard to define why I love Molly so. For some people with some dogs there is an undefinable attachment. It was like for me that with Meeka I just knew she was mine and I’ve always felt a similar kinship for Molly. It’s more than that though that made me want a Molly puppy. She is the result of three generations of MRI testing and her pedigree is full of good hearts, eyes, hips, patella’s, wonderful temperaments and on and on and on. I should write all the glorious details of how amazing she is, as she and Mary Beth deserve, but all I want to write about is how fabulously stupendous her baby boy is!

I am totally in love. Like gaze lovingly, can’t get anything done ’cause all I want to do it squish and kiss and chase this puppy around in love. I didn’t expect it to be this way. I was all prepared for all the frustrating, full time work of puppyhood, but it hasn’t bothered me at all. It helps that Mary Beth had him practically house and crate trained when I picked him up. He has only had four accidents in a 7 days of being home. Okay, so two of them were on my bed and one was even right between my pillows at 11:00 PM, but even that just made me laugh. That’s how twitterpated I am.

He was wonderfully socialized before I ever came on the scene and that’s the other thing that made this puppy a dream. Buying a puppy from a good breeder is an amazing experience. (I’ll do a post on this one day soon too.) Calvin had met so many people, other dogs, been on many surfaces and in many locations in his home. He had amazing prenatal and early infant care. He was loved since the instant he existed and it shows.

He was the perfect match for our family and that’s the other benefit of going to a wonderful breeder. Mary Beth chose him for me before I ever met him, I trusted her and she was completely spot on in her choice. (Hmm. . . I see I have a list of posts to do to really do this subject justice.)

He is a confident, thinking, loving, friendly, happy, healthy boy puppy. Mary Beth told me, “I think his brain will fascinate you.” She was right. He’s a thinker. He goes into new situations and needs a second to sit back and take it in. Once he’s taken stock he starts wagging his tail and then dives right in. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch him. I can see the cogs turning and with only a week of socialization I can see him getting more confident in each new situation.

sleepy puppy in dads arms

We’ve been working on socialization, which you’ll remember Magnus taught me much about. I’m still quite proud of Magnus’ social puppy list and I plan on Calvin’s being just as complete. It’s a bit easier as I have the best boss and best team ever and he gets to go to work with me most days. His second day home I had a staff meeting and the Calling All Dogs summer BBQ so he got to meet a room full of dogs trainers and their families. It was a golden opportunity and he took it in stride.

I know you’re all dying to know how Maizey and Magnus are doing and the short version is very well! It took Maizey two weeks when Magnus came home to get to the point she is now with Calvin. Magnus is just amazing with him. They are playing so nicely together and Maizey sits back and watches. Within two days she was initiating play with calvin, as much as she knows how to anyway. I have to watch the boys as they get a bit rowdy, but today even when they had the wild zoomies she was trying to get in on the action. It will be fascinating to see how their relationships grow.

I have to give a HUGE, special thanks to Mehusbandy! Ryan has been wonderful. From late night potty trips to picking Calvin up from work for me to puppy sitting so I could get in much needed naps he has been right in the midst of it all. I don’t expect him to do all the crazy dog things I do, but he’s been more than wonderful to help out. He stayed home with the pups while I made the trip to Canada to pick up Calvin and he took such good care of them I think they barely missed me.

We’ve been home just 10 days now and we’re all still settling in. Tonight Maizey played with the boys for the first time, which made me so happy! Calvin’s sleeping through the night, eating well, learning something and teaching me something everyday. He has stolen our hearts.

I want to thank Mary Beth for letting us have him. I also want to thank Debbie for the gorgeous pictures she took of him and shared with me. Both are very kind, special people and it was my honor to meet them.

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Puppy Socialization Extremes

This post is in response to Crystal’s thoughtful post on Reactive Champion, Ian Dunbar Seminar: Don’t Waste Puppyhood! It is a great post and stimulated a wealth of great comments.

Early Socialization: Maizey
Since learning from the opposite experiences of Maizey and Magnus I value socialization. I also value balance.

For the first seven weeks of life Maizey was raised with her mom and litter, but I suspect with minimal structured socialization. From seven to nine weeks she was at the home of her mom’s breeder. She was exposed to kids, adults, dogs of all sizes and another litter of puppies just older than her, among other experiences.

But this “socialization” was not done with an eye to fear issues. I suspect many of her experiences were not positive ones. I feel genetics are at play with her, and being removed from her litter too soon also contributed to her issue’s.

After she became my girl I did my best, but was too uneducated to know how to socialize her according to her needs. Herein is one issue I have with the strict socialization rules. Every dog is different. Every dog needs to focus more in some areas of behavior than others. Based on what I know now, she needed much less stimulation, much more protection and much, much more positive reinforcement than I gave her.

Sadly, her puppy class did not help her development. There were too many big dogs, she was the smallest and most fearful. The play time had no structure, the other handlers were given almost no instruction on how to interrupt and redirect unwanted play behavior. There was not enough supervision. And certainly not enough attention to addressing her fear.

That being said, I want to say her instructor tried to give me skills and resources to teach positive reinforcement and I learned a lot from her about clicker training. I appreciate her help, but the class was not a good experience for Maizey.

Still, Maizey’s early people socialization must have taught her humans are the source of good things since she loves people. But her dog socialization was lacking, and poorly handled by her breeder, myself and her puppy class.

Early Socialization: Magnus
Magnus early socialization is the opposite of hers. He spent the first eight weeks in a Missouri puppy mill. He was kept in a small crate with his litter for the majority if not all of that time.

At eight weeks he was rescued and went to live in a kennel area of the rescue with several other small adult dogs. He was there for about 10 days before he became my boy. Since I have covered his socialization journey over the last seven weeks, I won’t go into that here.

What I will say is that he obviously had little to no human socialization for the first 8 weeks of life. When he came to live with me he did not know humans were relevant to him at all. He was not afraid, just not interested. He didn’t make eye contact. I spent at least the first three weeks lying flat on the ground, so my face was on his face level, hand feeding kibble, sometimes straight from my lips.

For him dogs are a different story. He begs to play with every dog he meets, big or small. He has wonderful puppy language. He knows dogs. Dogs are wonderful, humans are slowly becoming wonderful. Although thankfully he loves us now and eagerly makes eye contact.

Hopefully Kathie R’s experience will prove true for him. She says, “I’ve seen puppies come out of puppy mills having had no early socialization be fantastic, well-adjusted pets.”

So is socialization important? Absolutely. But it’s not just a free for all of throwing your dogs into a puppy class or flooding them with stimuli. Each one should have their needs considered. And no matter what their needs are the experiences must be positive.

The Dreaded 16 week “Pumpkin” Theory
In her comment Eliz said of Ian Dunbar: “It was the sense of inevitability of it all that got me. That idea that once puppy hood is over the dog could be static perhaps forever stuck.”

The level of emphasis placed on 12 weeks and 16 weeks as socialization deadlines seems unbalanced to me also. Not that the developmental periods of puppy-hood are not correct, but learning goes on forever.

Any of us who have rescued an older dog knowing nothing of their puppy experiences, but still watched them grow and change in behavioral issues, know that puppies don’t turn into pumpkins at 16 weeks. We have seen the changes that can be made after those ages have passed. Of course it may be harder, but it’s not hopeless.

True, humans or dogs can sometimes only get fixed to the proportion they are broken, but everyone can make some changes in behavior. Reframing negative experiences with positive associations is a big part of this. To present socialization as something that can only be done as puppies is simply discouraging.

In our puppy class I brought this up to the instructors. One said, “Did [Ian Dunbar's] stuff scare you?” I had to laugh because at first it kind of did! It can seem pretty extreme. Especially to those of us that want to do everything perfectly!

My Conclusions
Most trainers have something to offer that we can learn from. But I look for balance and practical application. If anything is presented in too harsh of extremes it is hard apply in real life. That is not to say we shouldn’t all have lofty goals, but it is also nice to have goals that are achievable.

So is socialization important? Absolutely! As is balance and achievable goals. And in the end all we can do is our best, based on the knowledge we have at the time. And isn’t that the loftiest goal of all?

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Puppy Socialization Deadlines

Magnus turned 16 weeks old today. So, according to some, the critical window for socialization is closed. I think of this as the “your puppy will turn into a pumpkin” school of thought.

Thankfully I didn’t wake up to a big round pumpkin this morning!

“I’m not a pumpkin! I’m just the color of pumpkin!”

Of course just because the critical window may be closing doesn’t mean his socialization stops. Instead it is even more vital that his new experiences stay positive. How to do this?

I asked our puppy class instructor and she suggested to up the value of treats. That got me thinking about other reinforcement skills. Along with treat value, reinforcement rate seems important. Also varying the type of reinforcement, for Magnus this mean lots of play time, tug, and toys. Who knows, I may have to take to carrying a stick in my pocket!

So we still have big plans ahead. But I did place the 16 weeks deadline on myself to see what we could accomplish according to the rule of twelves.

The results? You will have to check out his social puppy list to see everything we packed in, but in summary he:

  • Met 60 new people plus two occasions of crowds of 20 or more
  • Had 27 unique experiences or locations
  • Played with 28 puppies or safe adult dogs
  • Experienced 17 different surfaces
  • Played with 22 different objects
  • Exposed to 9 different fast-moving objects
  • Exposed to 24 different noises
  • Ate out of 18 different containers
  • Ate at 7 different locations

Overall I am very pleased with everything we accomplished in just seven weeks. The obvious areas of lack are the fast-moving objects and eating in different locations. Although if you count eating treats then he has eaten everywhere he has ever been!

Socialization is vital to our 4legged friends. Our puppy class instructor pointed out that everything else we want our dogs to learn can be learned after their socialization period ends. Obedience, manners, sports, and tricks are all things we spend a life time learning. Socialization also never ends, but the experiences our pups have in their formative weeks of life are an invaluable foundation for them to use for all those other skills.

This socialization has not only taught Magnus to be more confident and stable, it is teaching me a lot about Magnus. I get to see things he was scared of, things I thought he would be afraid of that he isn’t. I am learning about puppy language in play and how to protect Magnus from getting overwhelmed like Maizey did. He is teaching me so much!

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Shaping a Social Puppy

We all know puppy socialization is vital for a well balanced healthy 4legged friend.

PUPPY'S FIRST PEOPLE MEETING OF ALL COLORS, SHAPES & SIZES

The rule of thumb is anything you want your adult dog to be comfortable with he should be exposed to before 16 weeks of age. Many sources emphasize that age may even be as young as 12 weeks.

I’m hoping for the 16 weeks, I need the extra time!

The reason for the famed “16 weeks” rule is that at 5 months a puppy enters his second fear imprint period. So those precious weeks between bringing your puppy home at eight or nine weeks and the 16 week deadline are packed.

So what counts as socialization? Basically I think of it as “Puppy’s First’s”. And Almost everything is a first to nine week old like Magnus. First vet visit, first car ride, first plane ride, first visit to the park, first time in a collar or harness, first time on a leash, first time hearing a clicker. . .

PUPPY'S FIRST CARRIER AND AIRPLANE RIDE

Thinking in terms of “puppy’s first. . .” helps me be more aware of not only how many things in a day are a first, but also more aware of keeping that first experience positive.

PUPPY'S FIRST RUPERT

PUPPY'S FIRST BORDER COLLIE

Because that is really the key to socialization. If the experience isn’t a positive one the risk is there that your puppy will develop fear of that experience and carry that fear into adulthood. Maizey’s reactivity is a perfect example of that. She learned to be afraid of dogs in puppy class, and due to her surgeries falling in the middle of her second fear imprint period she is only now getting over that fear.

PUPPY'S FIRST HARNESS, LEASH, & DIRT SURFACE

The specifics on socialization should be tailored to each dog, Magnus for example needs much more socialization with humans than dogs, but Maizey was the opposite.

For an outline of basic socialization I used  Margaret Hughes Rule of Twelves. (shown here in PDF format)

I call Magnus list of socialization MY SOCIAL PUPPY. It includes the Rule of Twelves sections, but is customized to what Magnus needs to focus on. I would love to know what you all think of the list. It can be seen in PDF format by clicking on the MY SOCIAL PUPPY LINK

I am proud of how many fancy red check marks we already have since it is only seven days ago that I was sitting in the St. Louis airport just meeting Magnus. Some of our big achievements so far are the bonfire with about twenty of our friends and six big dogs, also a successful visit to our friendly neighborhood vet, and of course the progress between Maizey and Magnus.

Magnus has shown no fear so far. I hope that if we really focus on making him a social puppy he will grow into a confident 4legged friend!

So how did you handle socializing your puppies? For those of you with grown 4legged friends is there anything you wished they had more exposure too?

When you look at my list is there anything I am missing?

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