Two weeks in …

Blue has been a member of our family for two wBlue rotten wood 06.04.16 framedeeks 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 whBlue 06.04.16 frameden 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-Competence-Spectrumthe “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.

Kristin

 

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New beginnings …

On this New Moon I’m kicking off my new blog, announcing the beginning of my new business branding, (from KIC Coaching & Healing to The Dream Hatchery, more on that later) and officially starting my new challenge … to turn my recently adopted six-month old Heeler / Australian Shepherd / “who-knows-what-else” mix into a well-behaved member of my family.  (I will also be learning WordPress, so you will see my formatting improve along with my “alpha leadership” …)

I’ll start by introducing the puppy.  Blue 05.25.16 cropped & framed

Three weeks ago, as I was returning from my walk on the nearby beach, I saw a sign posted at Angel Crest Farms, “Farm Puppies”.

“Farm puppies?!”  I flipped a U-ey and went back to investigate.
The owner of the puppies informed me that the pups were now six months old.  “Wha?  How long has that sign been up?”  “Six months,” she replied.  Hmmm.  I wondered how I could drive past the place nearly everyday for six months and not see a sign for puppies.  I could miss a sign for fresh dirt maybe, or fresh cut flowers perhaps, but puppies???  I guess I am more ready now than I was six months ago, even though I have been threatening to get a new puppy this year. Anyway, she arranged to bring two of the male puppies to meet me the following day, also informing me that one of the puppies, (the one she felt was best for me considering I needed him to fit in with our 14 year old Labradoodle mix and our cat) had the markings of a butterfly on his back.  Hmmmm.  Universe?  Are you conspiring on my behalf?

Long story short, I couldn’t take the pup right away because I had to be out of town for a full day later in the week, so I took her number and said I’d think about it.  Meanwhile, I did some research on Australian Cattle Dogs, and asked around.  You need to be prepared to step into the role of the Alpha completely, said all the research.  Fear and doubt came crowding in … am I ready for this?  Do I have what it takes?  I’ve raised well-behaved, wonderful dogs in the past, but it has been ten years since I last had a puppy and none of them required a lot of work to train.  Also, my partner is fishing in Alaska, and I wanted to make sure he approved as well.  “Uh oh,” was his first response when I texted him a photo of the two pups.  His biggest concern was for Hank, as was mine.  Our original plan was to wait until Hank was gone, but Hank continues to be quite healthy, he’s just deaf and can no longer accompany me on trail runs or walks.

Finally after hemming and hawing for a couple more days, I decided to give the puppy a trial.  If Hank hated him, I just couldn’t do it.  And if he passed the Hank test, but harassed the cat, I still couldn’t.  Ironically, stepping into the Alpha role and stretching out of my leadership comfort zone (I prefer Hank and Blue 05.30.16 small framedcollaborative partnerships so I can stay under the radar) is aligned with the other growth edges in my life this year, so I knew that was another “sign from the Universe” to help me stretch and grow.

Hank accepted him right away.

The cat wouldn’t even deign to come out of her hidey-hole for four days.  Finally I had a conversation with her.  (I do this.  All the time.)  “Katniss,” I said.  “That puppy is just a baby.  If you tell him you’re the boss, you get to be the boss.  But if you hide out down here and don’t even show your face, you’ll never even know.”

Katniss 2016I did some introductions while the pup was in his crate and completely under my control, and by the end of the 5th day, Katniss strolled out the front door past him with her tail in the air.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  (And replayed The Stray Cat Strut in my head that entire day with a smile on my face.) We’ll get there.  All of us.  It’s just a matter of time.

Welcome to the family, Blue!