Growing Up – Arthur’s Adventures

You may have noticed that it has been some time since I posted an update on Arthur’s blog. What can I say, teenage dogs are not quite as straight forward as puppies! Arthur has been going through his teenage rebellion stage and in all honesty, its been HELL.

Anyone who has reached here in the past in relation to my reactive Whippet Marley will know that I’m all about honesty, so it would be a big fat whopping lie for me to say having a teenage dog has gone smoothly…and I’m fairly confident that anyone who has seen Arthur at classes of late will know totally that saying he has been angelic would know I’m telling porkies! I can now say without any hesitation that having a teenage dog has been more of a challenge for me than my 2 reactive dogs put together!

Hormones make our cute sweet little puppies turn into crazed little devils, this is the time when they are wired to take more risks, to spread their wings and fly. Arthur has taken this incredibly seriously, he is more like a Lemming than dog, throwing himself at anything and everything that could be AMAZING FUN. If a wall gets in the way or a gate, it’s no worries, just run at it and hope for the best.¬† Adolescence causes our dogs to become less consistent with progress, more all over the place. So how has Arthur been going through this developmental period? Let’s start from the start…

Arthur’s separation anxiety got worse. Much worse. His anxiety got worse and combined with no frustration tolerance and teen lower tolerance I found myself unable to leave the house alone without pure precision planning. Lots of exercise, training games, valerian drops and getting my coat on and bag out of view and flying out the door. Walking the others caused him to dig at the doors and SCREAM. Living with separation anxiety is a whole blog post in itself, you cannot escape it. It is always there, you have to plan your life around it.

Arthur’s recall has been iffy from the beginning, where most pups follow you offlead Arthur would happily plonk down and stay sat at the opposite end of the field. It didn’t matter would i attempted to engage him within those early weeks he just sat. So we lost valuable time there. He began tracking scents at a young age and racing off at high speed (think spaniel..not whippet, hes got a few identity issues it would seem!) This became combined with ANOTHER issue. Arthur started to become OBSESSED by other dogs. The grass is always greener springs to mind. I couldn’t wait to get a pup who wanted to be around dogs and people, but onlead (and off!) he began with another issue…He would lay down on sight of a dog and do a Collie Creep and stalk. Yep identity issues. He had it down to perfection and its such a focussed fixed stare no food, toy or games can get him out of it. I have to wait until dog passes, or says hello.

You are thinking, why not walk Arthur with Ollie. Ollie is a supremely well behaved older whippet of mine who is so laid back, with beautiful leadwork and recall. Why not? Arthur loves Ollie. LOVES Ollie. He decided to spend his days humping Ollie. Even when onlead, which I can assure anyone, is not easy to handle on a walk! Arthur was just so over enthused at Ollie joining him Ollie decided to start running home when I let him offlead once, even with Arthur onlead. This a dog who has never run from me a day in his life! Arthur was just high on life, this was an over excitement issue, not something that neutering would resolve.

So you are all waiting what super amazing tips have I got, how did I resolve all of these issues (or have I?!) I would love to sit here and type this wonderful magical programme that has cured Arthur of all these issues. A plan that works for every dog, you follow it and POOF your issues are gone. I know people who will convince others that such things exist… but I’ll let you in on my secret to adolescence. Just remember they aren’t doing it to spite you. Be patient, be consistent in your training. BREATHE.

A few months on from the beginning of Arthur’s adolescence, I can safely say he’s starting to become quite the pleasant little dog. His separation anxiety, it’s dwindling with every passing day, becoming less and less of an issue. Rarely does he become distressed now (a whole entire blog for another day though!) Humping Ollie? It still happens, but much rarer. If he does hump, he will respond to his cue “off” and go and settle on his mat instead. Other dogs are becoming less interesting again, its a work in progress but it’s going much more smoothly now his hormones seem to have settled. His frustration tolerance has increased naturally. He actually cares about working through Kongs now, and similar puzzles. Tasks which caused him to give up instantly only a few weeks ago. He has stopped pulling on the lead again, something he began not long ago. Settling and snoozing with the others is now preferable to tearing around the living room looking for mischief to get into.

I can see him, very slowly, maturing into a lovely young dog. One my other dogs enjoy being around rather than just tolerating. Yes, I’ve had to be constantly careful and supervising and put many hours in. But he will be worth it in the end…I am certain! Next job…nailing this recall!

Pups are hard work, teenage dogs even harder. The key is persistence, patience and not chopping and changing methods. It can feel tempting to throw away positive techniques to train your puppy, as they are firing off all sorts of new behaviours. But Arthur would have some severe issues if I hadn’t tackled this period of time with patience and positivity. If I had left him to howl and cry, he would simply learn that I will not help him, and it would have increased his stress levels likely leading him to more serious issues in other areas of his life. If I shouted at or physically corrected him for any of his behaviours I would be dealing with a handshy dog who was working to avoid various situations, instead, he is finally starting to WANT to engage with me.
It’s a hard time, but it will be infinitely worth it. So keep your eyes peeled for my practical tips to surviving adolescence!

Clingy Canine – Arthur’s Adventures

As soon as Arthur was brought home I was determined he would be crate trained. There are so many benefits to this including the potential for him to come to training sessions with me when he matured. I had various kongs and chews at the ready. A massive spanner was put in the works though, as I have previously mentioned, Arthur would not eat from Kong’s, he would not eat chews, and he really didn’t entertain food for the first few weeks. So how did crate training go?

It didn’t. Arthur had a crate at his breeder’s so I assumed he would have been ok, I attempted training in the daytime. This just didn’t happen, food wasn’t very interesting. I tried placing his meals in there, he ate and left promptly. I tried popping him in his crate with the door open when he was in a deep puppy sleep, he scooted straight out. He slept with his crate directly next to my bed at night with minimal interruptions but with random whimperings throughout the night once his bladder could manage it he joined me on the bed. I assume because he was used to spending every moment he could with his littermates and minimal input from the humans in his household at the breeders it was all a lot to take in, he was 12 weeks old which was a month older than the age i had wanted to bring a puppy home at.

 

Arthur cuddling with the grown ups

 

Arthur bonded fast with everyone, in his own fashion. To the point not being in the room with us caused hysterics. I do not believe in ignoring a distressed dog. There is science to suggest this does much harm and knocks a puppies self-confidence, particularly at a young age. This meant he spent most of his time with us, and I had to watch his every waking move to interrupt him dive bombing on my oldest whippet, or chewing up the skirting boards. Toys were not very interesting either. Plastic Bottles were at least of some interest, so many of those were given to him for entertainment.

A month or so into Arthur joining us, Marley (one of my older whippets) had to go on 6 weeks of complete rest- including no play with Arthur. Including no Arthur attaching himself to his neck. So we had to put up a gate to separate them unless sleeping. Arthur did not appreciate this, neither did Marley. Arthur’s anxiety about being separated¬†increased. There was much frustration, crying and an Arthur thinking he could chew up a metal gate (he probably could!) This was managed by increasing Arthur’s exercise and mental stimulation (sit for the plastic bottle went down well, odd little dog!)

Arthur curled up with Marley

The last 6 months have been a busy blur! But at some point, Arthur began to enjoy food and chews! I had begun leaving him with a dental stick which occupied him while I left. This helped stop him crying when I left. However, going upstairs was against the rules (Arthur’s rules!), walking the others were against the rules too. He didn’t spend time harassing me for attention, he got plenty of that so would happily settle when I was around, but he lacked any independence.

So Arthur is now almost 9 months old. Arthur will go in his crate when presented with the opportunity, but will not remain in it for long without food! Arthur cannot be left if I go in the back garden with one of the others for training. So where do we go from here? Well ignoring the issue isn’t an option, we have managed it until this point but unless we address it, it will always be managed not dealt with.

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You can see above some vague, wittering notes. These are to keep me motivated, I am very busy lately day to day. If a plan is not made, something does not get done. Having a plan prior to the session means we can see what works and what does not. Currently, we are building independence. This is NOT achieved by ignoring Arthur, this is NOT achieved by reducing exercise. This is achieved by allowing Arthur to feel that GOOD things happen when he is separate. Planning ahead I have several kongs in the fridge, a moderate level of difficulty. To keep him occupied and to challenge him enough to take his mind from me. Too easy? He does it and whines, too difficult? He quickly gives up. It must be full of high value treats, or he loses interest.

I put the toy down, on his mat that he enjoys settling on anyway, set the timer. And I leave the room, closing the gate behind me. I do nothing exciting, usually typing something up. I am out of sight, but the door is not closed, that is too much of a challenge currently. I have tended to work on this in an evening, when he is naturally more tired and likely to settle, setting him up to succeed. We are moving to morning times too. I will continue to increase time and then begin to start doing more with the others. If he begins to react, i have pushed him too far. Behaviour is always information! I hate to see it when trainers describe anxious dogs as bossy, Arthur is unhappy being alone. So he must learn it is a positive thing. Keep an eye on his blog to see how he progresses on this one! I have a feeling it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Settled in his crate