Monday, April 15, 2013

The Krypto Chronicles: Day 1

We drove up to Lancaster Sunday morning to pick up Krypto from Utopia Boxers.  We'd already met him the previous weekend here in L.A., but that was in a much more chaotic environment with a lot of other dogs and the rest of the litter around.  This was the first we saw of him all on his lonesome, and right from the start he was just perfect.  He was playful and energetic and social and totally into my treats.  The only "downside" was, man, he did not like having a leash on him for the first time!  He bucked like a bronco in a rodeo, but I knew he'd calm down about it before too long.

(Tomorrow, I hope to put up video from his first two days.  Check back to see him expressing his disapproval of the leash.)

Anna of Utopia Boxers gave us a very thorough rundown of his diet, the vitamins he's taking, suggested supplements, and a whole booklet of advice and shopping sources.  While I've always been, and will continue to be, a proponent of rescue, I do have a greater appreciation of the value of a good breeder.  Anna had already worked to get Krypto acclimated to the clicker and, more importantly, started on crate training and some early socialization.

Soon, it was time to take Krypto on the hour long trip back to L.A. in his crate in our back seat.  Very quickly into the trip he decided to make it known he did not appreciate being separated in the back seat.  Man, those puppy howls and barks and whines really cut through!  

So, there's some different approaches in dealing with problem behavior like this.  The first and most important rule is that you can't acknowledge the dog when it is barking, howling or otherwise making a pest of itself, otherwise it will just learn that being obnoxious works.  Now, ideally, we would wait for the dog to be silent for two full minutes before turning around and saying hi to him in the crate - two minutes is the length of time it typically takes a dog to forget what it was doing.

However, it can take a frustrated dog a LONG time to give up crying long enough to be quiet for two minutes, and when those yelps and whines are cutting into your head like a dentist's drill, five minutes can feel like an hour.  So, instead, we set a much more modest goal of just 10 seconds of quiet.  Even so, it took ten minutes of us completely ignoring him before we got those 10 blissful seconds of quiet, at which point I instantly turned around and let him out of his crate to come sit on my lap.  But, wow, those were a hard ten minutes!

A little while later, we put him back in his crate and we went into Round 2, which was a repeat of Round 1: 10 minutes of crying until we got about 15 seconds of quiet and let him out.  But the third time showed real improvement; five minutes of crying before we got 20 seconds of quiet.  And by the fourth time, we got 30 seconds of quiet after only two minutes of whining.  Progress! 

We had two vet appointments set up for Krypto that day.  The first was with a orthopedic surgeon who diagnosed our dog Derby's various dysplasias.  Boxers are prone to hip dysplasia, and we wanted that checked out.  He passed Krypto with flying colors.  Yes!

The second appointment was with our normal vet.  By this point Krypto was falling asleep on his feet from the huge day he was having.  Watch for hilarious video tomorrow.  Another clean bill of health.

Finally, we got him home.  Now, there's a lot of things that you should have before bringing a puppy home that first day (I'll cover this tomorrow), and Molly and I had all of them, except for the most important thing you should have: a good night's sleep.  We'd been up late the night before and were both exhausted.  Molly got a nap first while I watched over him, and then she spelled me while I crashed.  Thank god for teamwork.

We set up a potty patch for the superdog in our backyard and he took to it right away.  The only accident happened while I was asleep - Krypto started to poop in the living room.  Molly tried to interrupt him and scooped him up and ran him outside to the potty patch - and was rewarded with a handful of puppy poop for her efforts.  And then he didn't even finish going!  About half an hour later, though, she took him back outside and he pooped where he was supposed to.

He whined a bit whenever put in the crate, but just for a few minutes and for shorter periods each time.  We made sure to scatter treats in his crate and gave him a peanut-butter stuffed bone when he was in there, and to put him in when we were still hanging out in the room with him, so that he didn't associate the crate with being abandoned.  We also had a penned off area in our living room set up so we could put him someplace he could move around while we could still keep an eye on him. 

The rest of the time, we kept him on leash and attached to us.  This is something I tell all of my housetraining clients - the only way to keep track of your puppy at the level you need to during housetraining is to have it physically connected to you.  And almost every single one of my clients tries to shortcut it at some point, letting the dog run around unleashed for a little bit - and every time they end up with a little puddle when it was out of sight for just five seconds!

The day ended up with him in his crate in our bedroom.  We'd cut off his access to water about an hour before and took him out to pee just before bedtime.  He cried for a little bit but we were strong and then he crashed after just a few minutes.  He did wake us up at 12:30am and again at 3am needing to go out - there's a difference between a puppy's "Pay attention to me!" whines and "I need to pee!" whines, but it can't be described in words; you just have to hear it. 

In any case, I expect him to better the next night.  Before the end of the week, I expect him to be sleeping through the night.  But in the meantime, I'm making sure that I have slippers, a treat pouch and a robe ready for those midnight trips out to the potty patch!

Next up:  Krypto's first foray into the great wide world, and a new puppy owner's required shopping list.  Also: videos!

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