My preference is to teach the puppy body awareness and coordination on the flat first. Once the dog can obtain the correct position on the flat, then I add unstable FitPAWS equipment such as rocker boards, peanuts, Fitbones, and paw pods that improve proper weight distribution while keeping the body in alignment. I suggest putting the donut holder under the wobble board which allows it to jiggle but not to rock. When the dog has well developed muscles and bones (at about age 12 months) then add sustained exercises on wobble boards and balance discs.
Little liver-nose boy is growing up fast, very fast! I looked at the calendar last night and realized he’s only 11 weeks old, not the 12 I’ve been counting in my head.
I’m in desperate catch-up mode because we lost two weeks of our socialization window while we were in FL. Granted, it’s not like he was in a stasis box during that time. He got socialized with a mini poodle, a Schipperke, several strange adult Ridgebacks, and so on.
But, since we’ve come home from Florida, Pike has had the following experiences:
- All nails done by Dremel. We started introducing the Dremel before we left, and did his nails when we came back. He struggled a little at the beginning but settled down right away when he realized I was going to stuff him with treats every time the Dremel touched a nail.
- Pet store visit. He met probably 10 adults and 4 children, plus a Labrador/Weimaraner mix puppy, and an adult Boston Terrier.
- Wearing clothes. We bought him a Christmas sweater.
- Walking on leash. We started this before going to Florida, and he doesn’t have the whole thing figured out yet, but we’re getting there.
- Introduction to clicker training. We’ve done two 20-rep sessions of nose target to palm of hand.
- FitPaws Giant Balance Disk. It’s not inflated yet, so we just clicked for putting paws on the giant blue circle. He’s supremely unconcerned by this.
- Two sessions on the grooming table learning to stack. And by learning to stack, I mean “eating treats as fast as I can feed them so he learns to be comfortable on the table.”
- Canaan Dogs: we took a trip out to see Auntie Amy and he got to meet Camber, Atri, and Ian. He immediately started playing with Ian, and took a growled “be polite to me, dumb puppy” correction from Camber with aplomb.
I think this will bring his socialization count up to around 50-60 adults (in all shapes, sizes, colors, hats, glasses, winter coats, canes, and so-forth), probably 5-10 kids, and a reasonable number of non-Ridgeback dogs. I could wish for more dog/dog socialization, but we’ll be starting handling class and a puppy obedience class soon, which will get us caught up rapidly.
We bought him a royal blue puppy martingale, but the red Christmas sweater looks so good on him that I haven’t decided yet whether or not red or blue will be “his” color. (Jackson has tan/gold/black, Clover is pink/black, and Loki is green/gold/black.)
Since I’m home with a cold (THANKS NATHAN), I thought I’d take a few moments to update you on how Pike (or, as he’s most commonly referred to in our house: tiniest dog) is doing.
The tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) version is: fabulously, all things considered.
- Housebreaking hasn’t been entirely errorless, but he’s making great progress anyway. He can take himself up and down the stairs from the backdoor, and he’s starting to pee as soon as his little feet hit the dirt. There have been zero pooping accidents inside.
- He still sleeps with us at night, and has an overnight bladder capacity of about 4 hours. So, Nathan gets up once, and I get up once. That’s not too onerous.
- He and Loki are best buds. In the space of the last 24 hours they’ve gone from Loki trying to figure out how to play with Pike, to wrestling with each other and with toys.
- Crate training is currently a mixed bag. His crate is next to my desk, and if I crate him he grudgingly goes to sleep pretty quickly. If I crate him and walk away, he screams like a banshee until he cries it out and gives up. He has self-crated for a nap (with the door open to the crate) one time.
- Jackson and Clover aren’t thrilled about the puppy, but they aren’t avoiding him either. Clover has let him chew on her legs, and Jackson was trying to make overtures of playing this morning.
We have had a little bit of illness. Around 24 hours after he came home, he woke up from a nap with his entire face all puffy and swollen. This happened after normal veterinary hours (of course!) so I took him to the ER vet, where he got a dipenhydramine (Benadryl) injection. The causative agent is unknown. That was followed the next night by the start of a case of kennel cough. When I picked up my phone to email Marsa, I found out his sister also was affected — but then I talked to a friend (who had been in contact with one of her friends), and we all compared notes. All of us were together in Springfield, so the likeliest cause is that our grown up dogs picked up the bug in Springfield, but being adults, their immune systems fought it off … but the puppies with their immature immune system caught it from the big dogs.
So far Pike’s symptoms have been extremely mild. I have a prescription for antibiotics from my vet just in case he takes a turn for the worse, but he hasn’t even run a fever or slowed down yet.
This morning he got his first introduction to formal operant conditioning (clicker training) and his nails done by Dremel for the first time. He fought me for exactly as long as it took for him to understand that if he doesn’t pull back his food when I touch his nails with the Dremel, he would get a piece of turkey. Then, when he understood how to turn on the turkey dispenser, we got all four paws done in record time.
The big dogs were extremely dismayed that the tiniest dog got a treat for every single nail, because they’ve all been put on one-treat–per-finished-paw.
In socialization, he’s been introduced to:
- Around 25 people, including adult men and women of all body sizes and ages, men with and without beards, people wearing hats, coats, and glasses
- Around 10 adult dogs
- His veterinarian (who did things like taking his temperature and getting him microchipped) and the ER vet
- Getting a bath
- Getting his nails done
- Listening to the vacuum cleaner run in another room
- Several car trips
- A visit to our Tuesday night Dungeons and Dragons group
- Busy Boston city streets and traffic
- Dishwashers and washing machines
And, finally — liver nosed Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a reputation for being more “wild” than their black nosed counterparts. I can’t say whether or not that’s true, but … last night, Pike knocked over the wooden gate we use to block off the bottom of the stairs. All my dogs have done it as least once or twice before, and usually that’s all it takes to teach them to respect the gate. The noise and the clatter is scary, and we don’t even have to pressure mount the gate because they’ll give it a wide berth wherever we put it.
Well, after he knocked it over, Pike walked across the gate like it was no big thing at all.
I’m still considering what that will mean for the future.
I drove down to New Jersey today with Marsa, and picked up Pike and his sister Kylie. Pike will be staying with Marsa for a few days for socialization, and he will come home with us this weekend.
Little red boy has some substance.
The featured image on this post is a very badly exposed puppy molar that Loki shed a few days ago. Sorry that the tooth isn’t even in focus but … hey, my kitchen counters look lovely, right? Right?
I knew when he shed the tooth because the white belly band on Jackson’s red house coat had a lot of blood on it after they were wrestling. Nate found the tooth afterward. Usually they get swallowed, but this one he spit out.
Teething brings with it a lot of pain and annoyance for a puppy; the loose tooth hurts, the swollen gums ache, there’s a lot of inflammation and all this adds up to tell the puppy instinctively that he needs to stay close to home for a few days. In other words, it’s closely correlated with the timing of a fear period.
During a fear period, a puppy may suddenly start showing a fearful response to new stimuli, but also to things he was previously fine with! We knew when Loki’s first fear period started because one day, out of the blue, he was suddenly afraid of the fire hydrant across the street from our house. He had no issues with the hydrant previously, so the sudden fearful reaction clued us in to what was happening. A few treats for looking at the hydrant from a distance and then approaching it on his own terms and in his own time, and the fearfulness passed uneventfully and the hydrant is back to being a non-event for him.
This time, it was attending handling class that clued me in to what was going on. We got to class last night, made a single turn around the ring, and he was pressed against me and shivering. I might have been tempted to think he was cold, because we are in the middle of a bitter cold snap right now, but I took a moment to connect the loss of the tooth with the fearful behavior, and immediately walked him out of the training ring. Fortunately a friend who works at the training center offered to let Loki play with her whippet for a few minutes in an empty ring so he didn’t develop a negative association with the building and environment. We also took our time leaving, and spent a few minutes just standing around feeding him liver treats. I expect that next Wednesday he’ll be back to being his normal happy bouncy self at handling class.
It’s important to remember that during a fear period, anything your puppy encounters that leaves him with a negative impression will continue to be something he’s afraid of for the rest of his life. If, for instance, a man in a baseball cap swoops down on him and scares him and you take no action to immediately retrain men in baseball caps as a positive stimuli, then for the rest of his life he’ll probably be a bit leery of men in baseball caps. So play it safe, keep all his experiences very positive (no vet visits unless you’re just going for a wellness check and socialization drop in!), and wait for the period to pass before resuming your normal activities.
Loki was so good, so early, that I assumed this meant that he would be as easy to housebreak as his big brother Jackson was.
This assumption was … a critical mistake. Somehow this whole housebreaking train has gone completely off the rails this week.
Yesterday I cleaned up poop in my house three times. Three times, you guys. Apparently I am also a slow learner and the first two times were not enough to convince me that maybe the puppy needed a little closer supervision.
So … we went back to basics. When I begin house training a puppy, we play a game I like to call “Puppy in a Box” which is basically Ian Dunbar’s errorless house training process, sans indoor potty area because I think it’s stupid to ever teach your dog that it is okay to use the bathroom inside the house when what I really want is for him to use the bathroom outside the house.
When playing Puppy in a Box, the rules are these:
- At the top of every hour, the puppy goes outside. If he pees when you take him outside, he has earned 30 minutes of freedom outside the box, but you (the owner) must keep your eyes on him at all times during those thirty minutes. If for any reason you need to take your eyes off of him, he goes back into the box until you can pay attention to him again. You can’t just let him play in the same room with you while you watch TV, you have to actually watch him. You can’t just let him gambol in the kitchen while you cook, you have to actually watch him.
- If the puppy spends his 30 minutes playing, then he has to go back outside and pee again at the 30 minute mark. If he pees when you take him outside, he gets to spend another 30 minutes outside the box.
- If he spends his 30 minutes napping, then when he wakes up (being allowed to sleep as long as he needs because puppies need a LOT of sleep), he goes outside to pee. If he pees, he gets to stay outside the box until the nearest 30 minute interval, and then you take him outside again.
- If at any time the puppy does NOT pee when you take him outside, then he stays in the box with toys, a chew, whatever he needs to be entertained, until the top of the next hour. The only way he can stay out of the box is to go pee when you take him out.
- If the puppy has a housebreaking accident inside the house, roll up a newspaper or magazine and then hit yourself with it on the head three times while repeating, “I didn’t watch the puppy. I didn’t watch the puppy. I didn’t watch the puppy.” Then return the puppy to the box so you can clean up the accident without him tracking it all over the house, and at the top of the next hour, take the puppy outside to pee.
The goal here is for the puppy to earn as much time outside the box (his crate) as possible. It’s your job as the owner to help him be successful at earning that time. Any time he has to spend inside the crate is your fault, because you didn’t watch him and catch the signs that would tell you he is looking for a place to pee or poop.
Speaking of poop, broadly speaking most puppies will poop within 3-5 minutes of eating, most of the time. So after mealtimes, get him outside and keep him outside until he poops — or until it becomes obvious that he doesn’t physically need to poop yet. Now you have a choice: you can grant him freedom for 30 minutes while watching him like a hawk in case the urge strikes him (as long as he did go pee while you were outside), or you can put him back in the box for 30 minutes and then try again. Both choices are valid.
By teaching housebreaking this way, the puppy is learning three things: to prefer to eliminate outside; to self-soothe and self-entertain inside his crate (if you are crate training and religiously adhering to the commandment that The Puppy Is Never Released From the Crate While He Is Making Noise, Ever; and to use the bathroom as soon as he gets outside (because his trips outside are more or less timed for when he would naturally have to go anyway.
As the puppy gets older, you gradually increase the intervals of time for him to go outside and to stay outside the box.
So, after cleaning up poop for the third time (seriously, Rachel, what the eff?), I started my timer and spent the rest of the day playing Puppy in a Box. It meant that not a lot else got done around the house — the rules say I have to watch him like a hawk — but we had zero accidents for the rest of the day. Annoying, but necessary until Little Man understands that the whole house is a poop free zone, not just his crate.