When I last checked in about my new puppy, Blue, he was starting to feel quite comfortable here with us, and I was starting to feel quite uncomfortable with my state of “conscious incompetence” in stepping into my role as the “alpha” of our little tribe.
Fortunately, the book came, (you might remember I ordered one specific to Herding dogs) and I found my training collar, which turned out to be in a little used storage bin in the basement. Unfortunately, the book was assuming that I already knew (or remembered) how to teach the basics, like “sit”, “down”, “heel” etc. Although Blue and I both mastered “sit”, I couldn’t remember how to teach “down” or “heel” so I checked out another book at the library to refresh my memory. When I have treats in my hand, Blue remembers quite readily. Without them, his memory is a little rusty, especially when I request a “down” on the uncomfortable asphalt road.
The first book was great at helping me understand how dogs (especially Heelers) learn, and that just because they seem to have mastered a skill in one place, it doesn’t automatically transfer to another place. (For example, it could be that he just doesn’t understand that when he is on the asphalt road the command “down” is the same as the command “down” when he is on the carpet at home. I understand this. I also understand that it’s uncomfortable to “down” on asphalt, and that he gives me the look that says, “surely you don’t really mean you want me to lie down right here?”)
All in all, the training is going much better for both of us now that I have started to remember my “alpha cues” … (feeding time, going in and out any door, petting time). I simply make him sit first before he gets what he wants. I still forget sometimes, but I seem to be holding the “Alpha” title, at least for the moment.
The best news is that Blue’s socialization has improved significantly! On Father’s Day, I took him with me to my parents, where 13 of the 24 of us Halbergs were gathered to celebrate. I explained to the six kids that they needed to mostly ignore him except when given the okay by me to feed him treats or see if he’d let them pet him. The adults had the same rules, although I knew they were unlikely to initiate the attention. Blue was a little unsettled at the beginning and again later when the majority of us were gathered in one spot. He was very jumpy and nervous, but he displayed no aggressive behavior.
He is also more relaxed when I take him on trails and beach access with plenty of people. I’ve introduced him to bicyclists, and allowed him to be “off-leash” on some of the least traveled trails.
Anytime he encounters something new for the first time his initial response is to simply stop and look. He met the 102 animals at my sister’s farm with curiosity, but didn’t seem to want to chase them … even when she let the 36 chickens out of their overnight hutch.
I’ve been crate training him, meaning that he gets put in his crate at night and if I am gone during the day. I crate trained my earlier dogs, and it is a fantastic practice. Dogs are den animals, so they really don’t mind having their own space. I can transport the crate when I visit other locations, so he can still have “his” safe space to hang out, and it limits his ability to get into things he shouldn’t and allows me to get a good night’s sleep.
Plus, the added benefit of his bedtime crating is that the cat (Katniss) has started roaming around the house in the evenings again, and even felt comfortable enough to sleep with me last night (with Blue in his crate beside the bed.)
Ahhh. The training is far from over, but we’ve made it through the first month.
As my dad always says, “Onward and upward.”