Welcome to raising a puppy with a trainer! This is the first puppy I've had in a while that's actually mine, and I wanted to share our journey with all of you. Full transparency, this puppy, Goose, is a little older. He joined us at 5 months old, which is a little older than most puppies come home, and really leans us closer to adolescence. But we're rolling with it. I have no real plans for Goose other than being a good canine citizen who can go to places like parks, dog friendly stores, dog friendly patios, camping and is a good family member. We might try a few sports, but I don't have any plans for him to be a majorly competitive dog. That means our focuses will be very similar to what the average puppy owner is looking to work on, and hopefully means that sharing all of this will be helpful for all of you!
For this first week, my main focus was to help Goose settle into his new home, feel safe, and make sure he is fitting in with our family. We have a lot of time to teach obedience skills like sit and down, but we only have a short amount of time to set the foundation of expectations and to start our relationship off on the right foot.
The first step was introducing him to everyone, and honestly for us this time that was a very easy step! Piper and Adelaide, Goose's new big sisters, are both very used to having new dogs in and out of the house as they spend so much of their time helping me with Board & Train and Puppy School students. They greeted him and accepted him quickly, and Goose was happy to make new friends right off the bat! The video to the side here is from their first day together!
The cat is taking a little more time to get used to. He's a very grumpy old man (at 14 he has the right to be) and takes a little longer to warm up to new arrivals. Watson (the cat) has a safe space in our basement and spent most of the first week just hanging out down there. Goose is very curious about him and definitely wants to play. Unfortunately this has so far resulted in him just barking at Watson while Watson hisses and swipes. Definitely something for us to work on to help their relationship along!
We did make a big mistake his first week home. On day 3 we decided to go for a family walk to the park around the corner, and I thought it would be fun to bring Goose along. It did not go well. Keep in mind, he just went through a HUGE life change! He went from life on the farm that he had known for his entire 5 months with his family and sister, to a new house with new humans and new dogs and a weird hissy orange thing. He had gone from a quiet farm life to a fairly urban suburban area with a good amount of traffic. It was very scary for him. He was very clearly nervous of the cars going past us, and it resulted in a little bit of pulling away from the street. When he saw some dogs he got a little more nervous and did some barking. On and off throughout the walk he wasn't able to take treats, which tells me that at certain times he was very overwhelmed. The biggest scare came once we got to the playground. At first he was happy to sit and watch and eat food, but then someone got on the swings! Boy was that scary. We ended up moving into the field next to the playground for some sniffy time instead.
At the end of the walk I was feeling very discouraged. There were clearly some holes in his early socialization, and going into this I had really not wanted a project dog. I had wanted an easy going, happy-go-lucky little man. A "himbo" is how I kept describing it to everyone. And a nervous dog who yells at everything is definitely not a "himbo". I came home from that walk and looked at the breeder contract, to see what I needed to do to return him. Pure transparency here. I sat with that experience for a couple of days and discussed it with other trainers. It became clear to me pretty quickly that I had entirely set him up to fail. My bad.
So a few days later we took this walk. We didn't go far, just up and down my street, and we took it slow. (The video is sped up). I let him watch when he needed to, marked and treated for him checking in with me and for watching things without yelling at them. If he did yell, I also treated then. When he yells, it is definitely a startle response and alert. Treating during this emotional response interrupted his thought process and allowed him to then continue to watch the thing, and continue taking treats, without continuing to yell. If he was able to look at things and look away, even if it wasn't at me, I also treated that. After our walk we hung out on my front porch and he was able to do his first training session, offering some sits!
To the average person it probably all looks very boring and low impact. Like we're walking around and I'm feeding him for nothing. And I'm sure there's the though of "she should be training x, y, z!". But this is the most important part. Him feeling comfortable and confident in the world. I can teach a 10 year old dog to sit easily. Hell, I've taught a 10 year old dog to limp on cue! Obedience skills and tricks can come at any time, but this is the key time to really focus on his confidence and responses to the world. And to be honest, I don't need him to have fancy obedience skills. Is it fun? Sure! Will we probably work on those skills at some point? Absoultely. But are they necessary for us? No. Just like they aren't for most average pet owners.
Goose is also a bit of a whirlwind of a puppy, like most of them are, especially in the evenings! He very much likes to steal things and chew on inappropriate items. This is a very normal puppy problem, but it doesn't make it any less infuriating when he ignores all of the chews on the ground to go for the toddler toys or plastic bags. So, we've made a compromise! He gets to shred our recycling before it goes in the bin. At the end of the training session video above you'll get to enjoy a nice short clip of him shredding one of our boxes. That's what a happy puppy looks like!
That's all the big news from week one! We also did some general treating throughout the week for nice behaviors (hanging out calmly next to the table while we eat, coming inside when we called him, responding to his name, etc.) but those were the big strokes. Next week (this week) we'll get into some more serious training before we take a week off while I'm out of town!
Have questions about Goose's journey? Reach out! Always feel free to email me at email@example.com.