Thursday, April 18, 2013

Krypto Chronicles: Days 2-4

So here's some puppy-raising advice I haven't seen mentioned in any of the books: "Try not to have a cold on the week you bring your puppy home."  Ugh.

I won't lie: taking care of a puppy is hard.  Not physically; the actual physical work you need to do is very minimal.  But the mental toll is exhausting: any time Krypto is out of his crate or not outside, I need to be continuously aware of what he's doing.  I keep him tethered to me at almost all times, a strategy I suggest to all of my puppy clients, and which too few of them do - at least until the first housetraining accidents happen ("But I was just in the other room for ten seconds!").  But as my wife found out, that alone isn't enough.

Tethered! You ain't goin' nowhere, pup!

She had Krypto with her at work yesterday and had hold of his leash while she was standing in the hall talking to a coworker.  She looked down, and there little Krypto was, taking a pee on the company floor.   Later, while walking him out for a potty break, she was stopped by another coworker who had a few questions.  She looked down, and he was squatting to poop!  (Luckily, it's a very dog-friendly and forgiving company, and Krypto's puppy cuteness compensates for a few cleanups.)

I've been managing to keep up with his training and socialization and housetraining, while at the same time deal with feeling like my head is a water balloon full of chum-water.  But something had to give, and the blogging got moved to the bottom of the list.  So that's my excuse for the late post, and I'm sticking to it.

Housetraining is going well - I've managed to get Krypto out to his potty patch on a regular basis to avoid most accidents in the house.  On Day 2 there was once where he decided to just hop up onto Derby's bed and instantly start peeing, but I snatched him up with a "Ah! Ah! Ah!" and got him outside.  And then another incident where he started to go on the carpet in the dining room, but I caught that one, too.  Since then, there's been no more attempts to go in the house.  And no pooping attempts since that first day.

For now, I'm content to just get him outside often enough to keep him from going inside.  But next week I'll have to start spacing those out - I need to catch him in the act of trying to inside a few times so that he can learn that's a bad thing.  I'll never yell at him, but my startled "Ah! Ah!" and quickly scooping him up and running him outside is enough of a mild aversive that he'll want to avoid that.  Of course, I need to give many more opportunities to potty outside properly and be rewarded, but past experience has taught me that that alone isn't enough to teach him to hold it.

There's one challenging aspect to potty training Krypto: most puppies need to poop right after waking up and within 10-30 minutes after eating a full meal.  Krypto does neither.  His time period seems to be more like about an hour after waking, and withing 2-3 hours after a meal.  Which makes it much more difficult to regulate and requires a closer eye be kept on him since I can't predict when he'll need to go.  I compensate with a lot of trips to the potty patch where he does nothing.

But there's time.  Housetraining takes anywhere from two weeks to a month, and it's better for your sanity if you assume a month.

One cute moment is when he very deliberately ran to the back door to go to the potty - and ran right into the sliding glass door.

Crate Training
I realized that I left out an important detail in my Day 1 blog.  Krypto was whining in his crate at the start of the night, and as I mentioned, we were short on sleep, so I used a technique that I do not recommend to all puppy owners.  I covered the crate (which was next to the bed on my side) with a blanket so that all of his visuals were blocked, and then, when he whined, I thumped the top of the crate hard.  A few seconds later, he whined again, more hesitantly, and I thumped it again. He didn't whine after that.

This is a technique that I would never recommend for a dog that showed any signs of timidity or was easily frightened.  But Krypto had none of those signs - he was a happy, confident dog who didn't startle easily and when he was, he recovered very quickly.  Even so, if he had continued to try to whine after a third thump on the crate, I would have stopped.  If a punishment doesn't work by the third try, you should discontinue it - you'll either inure the dog to the punishment or just freak him out more than he already was.  As with any punishment based technique, used with caution.

The second night my cold was hitting full force and Molly was on Krypto night patrol.  He decided to whine several times that night and Molly opted to play it safe each time and take him out.  He peed each time, but I actually feel that his whines were more of the "attention-seeking" kind and not his lower-pitched "I have to GO" kind.  But safe is safe.

Last night we cut off his water a full two hours before bedtime (we'd just done an hour previously), and I did a crate-thump at the start of the night again, and he slept through the night without a peep!

This is the single most important part of raising a puppy.  Everything else can be put off if you want.  You can potty train a dog at any point in it's life.  Ditto for crate training, or teaching them manners, or to sit, or not guard food.  But a dog's socialization period starts closing off at 12 weeks of age and by 16 weeks it is done done done.  After that point, overcoming behavior problems caused by poor socialization is a major endeavor that can take anywhere from weeks to years.

Simply put, I have four weeks to expose Krypto, in a positive way, to everything. And I mean everything.  Every kind of person - every race, every age, gender, height, weight.  All kinds of clothing (long dresses, uniforms, hats, sunglasses).  Hairstyles (bald, long hair, dreadlocks, afros).  Homeless people.  Traffic of all kinds.  Sounds (loud engines, radios, honking horns, obnoxiously loud Harley Davidsons, even more obnoxious deep bass thumping car radios).  Barking dogs.  Dogs of all shapes walking by.  Different surfaces (sand, grates, gravel, rocks, grass, linoleum, metal).  Other animals (cats, horses, goats, squirrels).  And everything else (brooms, air blowers, blowing bags in the wind, skateboards, shopping carts, carousels).

The list is infinite.  Obviously, I can't expose Krypto to literally everything.  But if I expose him to, say 1000 new things and they're all positive and fun, then eventually he'll get to the point where when he encounters the 1001st new thing after his socialization period has ended, his automatic response won't be fear but instead will be curiousity.

And it it takes that much work to make that happen because of one simple fact: in the wild, curiosity about new things is not a survival trait.  The natural state of any animal when faced with the unknown is fear.  It's the same for dogs as for wolves as for lions as for us.  And it takes real work to overcome that natural instinct.

Next: Socializing Krypto.

No comments:

Post a Comment