Sunday, May 12, 2019

Puppy Training 101

Let's get something clear right from the start. I am not any kind of professional puppy trainer. That is for sure! I am just feeling the need to get down on paper some of the things that I have learned (the hard way) so far about training puppies. There is no one specific right way! 

Here is the myth: as a new owner of a goldendoodle I believed that it was my responsibility to train her. This is so wrong on so many levels. Whatever breed of puppy that you choose, you need to know the characteristics of that particular dog. Let me explain to you that every puppy has their own special kind of intelligence, I know. I have had some very intelligent dogs. The thing about doodles is their level of intelligence mixed with their personalities puts them in a total different category. Our little one has shown us that on one level her nickname should be Miss Prissy, because that is what she does when she walks around us. It is sort of a sashay. Then again she could also be nicknamed Miss Piggy. She most definitely is one we will need to watch on how much food is given to her. She will eat hers and then her brother's bowl. He is more of a slow eater, grazing through the day usually some at noonish and again at 5. I have actually had to hold his bowl up for him to eat or else Maggie will be in it.

This category can be your worst nightmare if you do not read up on doodles and what to expect. From the moment that they decide to bond with you, they have a cunning plan on how best to train you. And get this? They don't even have a powerpoint presentation. Doods have it all worked out in their amazing minds. As the owner, you need all the knowledge that you can get your hands on to read to stay one step ahead. (If you are lucky!)

This blog is more or less sharing with you what I have learned on how to help your doodle train you so that you and your family can have a happy home.

You must have chosen a goldendoodle because like me, I fell in love with their teddy bear looks, their soft silky coat, wagging tails and soulful eyes. Who can resist? What you may not know is that these furbabies have distinctive behavior patterns that are hard-wired into their brains that make them very different.

Once you bring your puppy home, you will soon find out some of their special behaviors. In my opinion, the crate for house training is crucial. You really need to be able to give 2 -3 weeks of non-stop supervising and writing in a journal. We found a crate bedding that is anti-chew resistant. We know this from our older doodle. He chewed through every bed we ever purchased until I researched this company called  K-9 Ballistics. Never has he, nor our newest puppy, attempted to chew on it. Therefore making it safe to leave them overnight in the crate and knowing that they will not chew it up and ingest the stuffing. 

Our two have their own crates and Davis does not quite fit into Maggie's. As you can see, she just climbs on top of him. Where there is a will, there is a way.

As you can see in the second picture, they have their own crates, but many times Davis tries to take a nap on the cool hardwood floor and Maggie uses him as her table to chew on her bully stick.

If a blanket from their breeder is given to you, then use it in the crate too. Maggie actually has the red one from when Davis was a puppy in her crate. Helps with separation anxiety and if you have the right size crate, they will not want to soil it. Works like magic. Limit food after 5 and then only small amounts of water available if needed up till 8. Our bedtime is 10 so out the puppies go (one at a time to avoid distraction from one another at this stage) 

to do their last business of the night before taking them in and gently saying, "Go home." We point to their crates and in they go. It is not a punishment. In fact, their doors are left open during the day and they can roam in and out as freely as they wish. 

The usual alarm clock, Maggie Mae who is now 3 months old, starts with some gentle whimpers. One of us hears her and out she goes immediately. It is rather urgent usually, so don't waste time. We use jingle/tinkle bells on the doors in the day but for this case, it is out the door softly repeating, "Let's go out to the potty." Like clockwork, she takes care of business.

It is at this time that the new journal page begins. Date at the top of the page, put in the time and write # 1 or # 2 or both! It is also important to write feeding times, play times and napping times in between. We actually set a timer of 15 minutes and take her to the jingle bells, ring them and say to her that we are going out to potty. She needs to hear a comforting and loving voice. Communication is the key. As the day continues, every 15 minutes, the timer will go off and if she is not napping, eating or involved in heavy duty playtime, we ring the jingle bells and say to her that it is time to go potty. After a few days of writing in the journal, you will begin to see a pattern of when to expect # 1 and # 2, along with when she will be napping.

Now that she has been with us in our home for 4 weeks we are seeing that her bladder is getting larger to hold it longer and we are making it 30 minutes to an hour before having the need to go out. We are home with her and still set the timer for 15 minutes but usually end up canceling it due to the fact that she can go longer between trips.

In the beginning, we did have a few accidents. They were all because we were not paying attention to her signals. She is still learning to ring the bells. There are times that she does and other times she just goes to the gate or the door and sits. If we don't pay attention then we have, "Clean up on aisle 4!" to take care of. So always have paper towels, and swiffter mop with disinfectant spray on hand.

 Lucky for us, she has us trained to be on the look out. She even has her older doodle brother that has seen her at the gate, neither one of us noticing so he just rings the bells for her to get our attention. Now that is smart! Potty training is being consistent and using a happy voice with the same praises and rewards. It also helps to limit her access to spaces where you can't supervise. If you can't supervise, then she needs to be crated. 

Maggie learned by Day 2 that after she goes out to potty, if she goes to the special drawer and sits still, that magically, she will be given a small treat. Her brother taught her that one. Everything that he does, she does. If we say Davis sit, he does and she watches and then does the very same thing. One of Davis' games is ring around the rosy. He gets something that he should not have and he goes around the island in the kitchen or a breakfast table and just taunts us to chase him. Doodles love this game. Biggest mistake? Play it with him. It helps to have another person in the house to head him off. It also helps to teach the command to drop it. Usually, he does. 

Training to sit, shake, down and stay are fairly easy. Maggie just watches Davis. The trick that we are facing is the cheekiness in their personalities of not coming when called. This is a behavior that we are currently working on. When in puppy school, Davis was the star of the class when it came to this command. Get him home and outside when something caught his attention and he develops selective hearing. Maggie does the same thing. It is a little tough on the ego when you realize that you are not the center of their universe.

Then, there is something called "zoomies" with goldendoodles. Suddenly your precious little puppy seems to be possessed; running wildly at top speed and looking at you with wild eyes. At first, I actually thought that our dog was having a wild seizure. It is a perfectly normal behavior, noted especially in goldendoodles that can last 5 - 10 minutes. It is a way to get out built up energy. Also, it is a time for you to check if your doodle is getting enough exercise.

Moderate exercise is the best way to handle goldendoodles because of their ligaments and fragile joints that can lead to aggravating hip or elbow dysplasia later in life. This works out fine with us. No joggers here. In fact, if you see me running, you should start running too because it means something is chasing me.

One last item that I would like to bring up is due to the long legs of standard goldendoodles, they are excellent at counter surfing. In other words, whatever is left out on the counter top is fair game to them. Whether it is a plate of food or tea towels and napkins. There are ways to avoid this. Apparently, they actually sell counter shockers. This is the last approach that I would take. I did hear about stacking muffin trays and setting a trap whereas your doodle pulls on the tea towel and the stack of muffin trays fall the ground with a loud clang. I tried that once. It scared him. He learned not to go near that trap again. Problem was that I would have to set the traps every 12 inches across the kitchen counters. That wasn't going to happen. So our older doodle has us trained to not ever, ever put food out on the counter tops and to have all tea towels out of reach. 

I can say that two doodles are better than one. They thoroughly entertain one another. Sometimes, I believe that Maggie Mae thinks that her brother is just her own private giant toy. He puts up with it. The socialization skills that he learned at Walnut Grove Doggie Day Care helps him know the limits when playing with a smaller dog. He is a kind and gentle dog and once he has had enough of Maggie, he simply wraps his big front leg around her in a hug, as if to say, "Let's just chill out for a moment."

They are inseparable and we can't imagine our lives without the two of them.

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