Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Once Upon A Time...

If you're reading this then you've already begun to join our journey of raising Chickpea, our 10 week old American Bulldog puppy. There is no hard and fast schedule that we will be sticking with to post stories about our progress, but every couple weeks is the goal. Really this is an open journal where we will share the joys (and sometimes frustration...) of trying to bring up a wonderful canine citizen.

We got Chickpea from a friend of a friend. Although they are not a breeder per-say, this was their second litter of pups with the same dame and stud. I know the owner of the stud and he also has one of the puppies from the previous litter, now a year and a half old. No health problems to speak of in the dame, stud or previous litter so we decided luck would be on our side.

This all began because of a Facebook post showing a picture of the new litter of puppies. I'm a Bulldog fan and even more so for the American style. They are taller, leaner, have longer muzzles and are athletic dogs. Admittedly I dove in headfirst as I always do with much trepidation from my wife Chris. Although she is a dog lover, she didn't feel we were ready and this was definitely more my decision. This leaves me feeling pretty guilty when training and care become frustration. I know my wife loves the dog, but as she works from home so the brunt of the daily schedule falls on her shoulders. I'm up every morning to walk, train and feed Chickpea, but the afternoons are long and difficult when you're balancing a workload and a puppy like Chris has to.

I'm looking to create a new career working with dogs over the next year. I am enrolled in a dog training academy and my goal is to be certified as a trainer by Spring 2017. I'm an avid reader and have several dog training and behavior books on the go. I have watched training videos from respected trainers such as Ian Dunbar, Michael Ellis and yes even the controversial Cesar Millan. Regardless of your personal opinions if you keep an open mind ever trainer will have something valid you can learn and add to your bag of training tricks.  I will be taking lots of volunteer opportunities to work with dogs, but Chickpea will be my greatest teacher.

So where are we now two weeks into our ownership? Still working out the kinks, but it's getting better everyday. We decided that crate training is the way to go for many reasons. Dogs are den animals and this is her safe place, her home. It's a place we can have Chickpea when we cannot devote 100% attention to her so that she can't get into any trouble while she is still learning the rules of the house. Dogs won't "go toilet" in their crate so it's also the best way to house train them. She is much better with her crate and definitely sees it as a safe place already.

Basic obedience is going well and Chickpea is learning to sit, down, stand and come when called. She has already learned her name too! Leash walking is another story all together. In hindsight, I feel this may have been my only mistake so far. I started her on the leash right away, but she wasn't ready to go far from home. We definitely needed to burn off some of that puppy energy to keep her from being destructive and playing just wasn't doing it. We have tried coaxing with treats, carrying her to the end of the block, a harness and just acting silly to get her to follow us. She continues to dig in her heals, reluctant to leave more that a few meters from our home. Once we are able to pull her gently down the block, she lets go, wags her tail and (more or less) happily follows. I'm currently working on just coaxing her half a block from home, then returning to repeat the process a dozen times to get her over this hurdle. I'll let you know what we find eventually works.

Chris will also be posting on this blog. She my add to this post or create her own, but the idea is that we would both have a forum to post our views and feelings on raising Chickpea. Personally, I would like to take dog training further than I ever have and be the best dog owner I can possibly be. I plan to not only become a dog trainer, but over the winter take her through several obedience classes. Once she has completed her second round of immunizations in two weeks we will begin taking her to a doggy daycare once a week to socialize her with all kinds of dogs. Although my vets would frown upon it, we have already begun socializing her with neighborhood dogs that are healthy and have their vaccinations. To us, the risk of poor socialization resulting in a anxious, aggressive or poorly behaved dog is greater than the risk of illness.

As this was our introductory blog post I knew I would be long winded, (as I tend to be, I write like I talk!), but future posts will be more concise. For now though,m I just try to remember patience is a virtue, double that when it comes to puppies.