Blue has been a member of our family for two weeks and two days now. I have to say he is adjusting well. Too well. To be honest, he was easier when he was scared of everything except me. He stuck close to the house, kept me in his sight, and tried very hard to please me. He still does. Except when he doesn’t want to. Sigh. Now he gets bored –Hank won’t play with him — and finds things to amuse himself with. Like pieces of wood. From the deck. Or the house. Or a planter. … Or somewhere!! (Yes, I give him chew toys!! He likes these other things better.)
We will get there. When I got him, he’d never worn a collar. And he didn’t like it. But by the end of the evening (four – six hours after his arrival) he let me put a leash on him. I also don’t think he’d ever been away from his home or away from his siblings. His social anxiety was pretty bad. They call it fear aggression … towards people, not dogs. So one of my first and most important jobs has been to socialize him. Once I discovered he loves water, I started taking him to the closest beach, which almost always has people. The article I read on curing social anxiety in Heelers said to give him lots of treats so that he associates good things instead of bad things with the experience. I tried that, but he was too scared to eat. Another thing he really likes is pets from me. So when he gets too scared (usually when people are walking towards him) I squat down beside him and pet him. Then I get back up and we keep going. Sometimes we’ll talk to the people if they are friendly and sympathetic, but nobody gets to reach towards him or try to pet him. When we get to the beach, he gets to swim / splash, and he loves it!! This part of our project seems to be going well. Today I brought him to my parents place on the lake, and he only growled once even though there were five new people right around him, and others nearby. Unfortunately, when he did growl, this time it seemed to be a protective growl … him protecting me from my mom’s reaching fingers.
I’m afraid that might be a sign I’m failing at Alpha.
Honestly, I keep forgetting. I forget to make him sit and wait for me when I open the door (this is big in dog-hierarchy apparently). I forget that I’m supposed to make him do stuff for me (like sit) before I pet him (when he comes seeking it from me.) I forget that I’m supposed to ignore him (rather than push him away and say no) when he’s jumping up to get my attention. (Hank is giving me lessons on this one. He is an excellent puppy ignorer!!)
But Blue is very smart, and has already mastered “sit”, “come” (both the command and the whistle), “kennel” (except lately “kennel” has been only when he wants to, which hasn’t been often.) Today at the lake I even taught him to play fetch with a ball. “Get it.” “Bring it.” And even “Drop it,” which is more than Hank will do. (Hank was trained NOT to drop anything … he grew up in Alaska, and Justin’s rationale was that if Hank held onto a stick, it could then be used to pull him or Justin out of the ice. Great idea. Not so great for playing ball.)
As for me, I am in the “consciously incompetent” phase of my Alpha training, and it’s uncomfortable. I know that it is up to me to socialize and train this puppy. And I know that I need to figure out the right way to teach him. So … I did what I always do when I need to learn something quickly: I ordered a book. “Teach Your Herding Breed to be a Great Companion Dog.” It should be here next week. Also, I can’t find my training collar, which I know would help us both pay attention, and make it easier to spend 15 minutes / day completely focused on training. I’ll keep looking.