I love to learn and when confronted with a new, interesting subject I jump in with all my heart. I get absorbed in the subject matter. So we have a new Labrador retriever puppy and I was looking for the “Perfect Puppy“. Here are a few thoughts and observations on the matter.
I started weeks before we got her by reading the new book by Cesar Millan “How to Raise the Perfect Puppy”. I watch the “Dog Whisperer” often and am always amazed at how easily he gains command over the dogs that have issues featured on his show. I realize that he is not a trainer and billed as a “dog behaviorist”. Most of the dogs featured on the show have issues (don’t we all) and I think more than just the average dog. Amazing how he can solve the problem in a half hour. I can appreciate how his techniques are spawned from watching adult dogs deal with pups and other dogs. The techniques seem to have a natural feel to them. I tried his advice, some worked some didn’t. I think you have to evaluate the individual dog and be armed with knowledge from many sources rather than just following one person’s advice.
At about two weeks after picking up our new pup we start to go through the biting phase of development. Now we have a Labrador retriever puppy and like most Labs she is mouthy. However she increasingly was tearing the skin on my hands and arms as I tried the recommended techniques. Striving for that “perfect puppy” I put everything into breaking her of this and the more I tried the worse it gets. I came to realization, after remembering one of our last dogs when she was a pup fifteen years ago was acting exactly the same. Hmmmm, could it be ME and not the dogs? Very likely I thought and started working on changing my ‘energy’ although I really don’t understand that part of it completely yet. A little esoteric when you are trying to get a ten week old puppy that has clamped down hard on you arm off of you. It’s hard to stay calm when your flesh is being ripped by little needle teeth. I was even wondering whether we had some aggression issues starting.
A couple of days ago I sat down discouraged that little head way was being made training a Labrador puppy and my arms looked , to quote a friend of mine, like I was a junkie (tiny teeth marks all over my hands and arms). In comes my wife who incidentally does not have all these marks all over her, has not read the book and does no training with the pup. She observes me and asks what is wrong. I mutter over my thoughts and she, brilliantly says “Don’t try too hard or you will miss out on all the fun”. Bam that hit me between the eyes like someone just connected with a thrown brick. I was so intent on the “perfect puppy” I was missing out on her growing up. They grow so quickly, almost daily I can see the physical changes. She was right I, as usual, was so serious about training to perfection that I was not having much fun. Heck that’s the whole reason we keep these critters around so we can all enjoy life and each other.
So I abandoned all the heavy training and have just been enjoying my new girls company. Guess what, she has mellowed out on the biting. If she starts I just quite playing with her and ignore her for a bit. I am still working on training as there are commands that I want her to have down for safety reasons. I am mixing techniques from several experts (Monks of New Skete, Barbara Woodhouse, even that lovely Victoria on the Animal Planet). My corrections are gentle and confident. I no longer care about having the perfect puppy and maybe that’s where the energy stuff comes in to play. I do not want a dog that thinks they are the leader either. This is not the case, she’s just a little puppy exploring everything she can sink those teeth into.
In thinking back I never really wanted the “perfect puppy”. I enjoy them being a bit of a rascal and as long as they are not in danger a little misbehaving is good for all of us. As long as she, and my wife, are training me correctly we will all get along just fine. And guess what there is such a thing as a “perfect puppy”, it’s the one I’m with now.