Well, my name is Savannah Barker (no pun intended) and I am a first time pet owner. Yet for some reason My husband and I decided if we were going to do this we might as well go all out. So we will be the proud owners of two (hopefully) very smart puppies named Belle and Missy. Belle is a full-blooded 7 month old German Shepherd puppy her rescuer found on the side of the road in front of his house. We found him on craigslist. Missy is a 4 month old BorderCollie/German Shepherd mix. One of the adoption agents at the shelter she was at found us on craigslist and sent us the link to their page with Missy’s information. Let me explain, since my husband and I have been searching for an addition to our family on and off for 3 years we have been doing alot of looking in that time. We tried petfinder, local animal shelters, pet stores, bookoo, newspaper ads, ect. The thing that finally worked was craigslist but not in the traditional route. Sure at first I did what thousands of other users do. Simply log on and look for a puppy. But that didn’t work out so well. See some people were charging too much, alot of people didn’t have the breeds we were interested in, some lived too far away, or decided they wanted to keep the dog and many let a bunch of people apply for the dog and then seemingly randomly chose one. One owner even said we could have a siberian husky/timber wolf mix until we were in route to pick her up only to find our someone had beat us to her. Like some kind of cruel first come first serve basis. A rat race and a twisted joke. That was the last straw for me about a week or two ago. I was done. I broke down in tears after three years of looking and being disappointed for various reasons, I was done. After a few hours of being upset I picked myself up and made one final attempt to get the dog of my dreams. I posted my own ad on craigslist. I was selling myself. You see I posted an ad with a picture of my husband and I with the title “Loving couple wanting puppy”. I explained our long search and many heartaches and exactly which breeds were our favorites as well as which breeds we could not take due to the rules of the military installation we live on. I pleaded with the fellow craiglist-ians (new word?) that they would find it in their hearts to help us on our search for our new four-legged friends with whatever information they had or could find. At first I got a few emails reminding me that petfinder exists (duh!) and to check my local animal shelters (double duh) and the dangerous of dog breeders screwing people over and puppy mills selling to stores. SERIOUSLY? Do you need to state the obvious? But by the 2nd and 3rd day of having my ad on that website my email was flooded with responses about puppies from all breeds and personalities and colors and shapes and sizes! I was ecstatic! I know had almost and dog I could think of right at my finger tips. All we had to do was chose. The emails that stuck out the most were the man with Belle and a worker at an animal adoption agency with Missy. Not knowing if we would get either we applied for both. We assumed considering how flakey strangers had been on craigslist that we wouldn’t be bringing home Belle but the adoption clinic was making us jump through so many hoops with Missy and pay such a large amount that we didn’t know if we would get her either. Anxiously we waited. Come to find out we got a response from both people saying they would be honored to have such a wonderful family take their puppy home. How could we choose on over the other?! So we didn’t 🙂
Last night we picked up Missy. After 3 years of my husband and I talking about and searching for a puppy we found Missy (pictures later) a GORGEOUS BorderCollie/German Shepherd mix. Does that make her a Border Shepherd or a German Collie? Or does it make her a Border German?? You guys decide.
Anyways, Last night we met Missy for the first time and picked her up thanks to a “local” animal shelter about an hour and a half a way (with traffic). Her original name was Abby but since my husband and I personally know too many people with that name we felt it needed to be changed. It has been less than 24 hours since we picked her up last night (aprx 6 pm) and she already seems to be taking to her name as well as the word “sit”.
She doesn’t know any of the basic commands and is not potty trained so as a first time pet owner and now loving mother of a four-legged 4 month old I have my hands full. I am currently in between jobs so I have the whole day to teach her these things. I will be moving in a couple of months to another state so it feels pointless to start another job with the holidays coming up and a major move right around the corner. I miss making my own income though but thankfully I will have my hands full. I will be potty training and really just training two puppies at the same time. Agh!
I have never so much as owned a cat, snake, lizard or ant, let alone two puppies at the same time! I did try to sneak a lizard into the house once when I was 8 though. My dad didn’t like that. Turns out my older brother screams like a little girl. But back to the story.
We picked up 4 month old Missy last night from her foster home and she was SO excited to see us. Man that girl can jump!!!! She was running all over the place and playing with toys and licking and jumping. I was as excited as she was. I have been waiting my whole life for her, my first puppy! I was practically in tears as I tried to hug this energetic fur ball. She was perfect 🙂 When it came time to go and she was still doing laps around the room I asked her if she wanted to go home. Her ears perked up and she charged right at me! Tail a-wagging and tongue out of mouth of course 🙂
Then we got in the truck. This would be the longest ride this dog had ever had in her life and to top it all off it was with strangers she just met calling her a name she didn’t even know yet. Needless to say, she spent the entire ride with her head on my lap as my husband drove us home. She just looked up at me with those big brown eyes and all that energy was gone. Missy was so nervous!
Once she got home however she was back to her energetic self. She didn’t have a single accident or any kind of sickness on the ride home and went outside as soon as she got out. This was looking promising! Then we let her inside. she piddled on my brand new $300 area rug. Come on! Really?! She had a couple of accidents throughout the evening but this was to be expected being in a new home with strangers and no other dog around like she was used to. Tonight we will fix that when we go to pick up Belle 🙂
Since we got back so late we really only had time to take her out a little bit, work on the command “sit” with her as well as her name and have some play time. Within 30 mins she was able to sit. Within an hour she fully understood the hand signal as well as the word.
I decided to train her with the “guess method” as I like to call it. I will be using this training with all of her commands as I have found it to be extremely effective. It is positive motivation. I don’t know what the actual name of the training method is but for lack of a better term that’s how we will be referring to it from now on. The guess method is basically this. I will use a word cue as well as a hand signal with every command. Whenever possible I will use a hand signal that allows me to conceal a treat. I will do training in 5 minute or less periods multiple times throughout the day. Puppies have short attention spans so keeping it short and simple ensures success. repeating the process and staying consistent seems to help. The object of the guess method is this: With a treat concealed in my hand she doesn’t know if I really have one or not. She hopes I do but she doesn’t know. Sometimes I will, sometimes I wont. It becomes a guessing game. She knows the object of the game is to do what I want in order to get a reward. Sometimes the reward is treats, sometimes playing with her toy, sometimes its just lots of praise and attention. Some rewards work better with certain dogs than others do. Although she loves playing with her mossy oak squeaky toy during training she gets most motivated by treats. Still, I don’t always have a reward in my hand and It’s not always treats. This helps to ensure that I don’t get her in the habit of getting food every time she does something good. That’s one expensive habit.
So this method seemed to work last night with learning her name as well as learning to “sit”. I will continue to work on the “sit” cue today with her but with a twist. Today I will focus on her sitting for longer periods of time giving me a perfect transition into “stay”. I find it best to practice training indoors first then taking the training outdoors when it seems they have mastered the basics of that cue. outside is alot more distraction and scents and fun things to do making it harder to obey. If she does not have that good foundation before hand it will be extremely hard if not virtually impossible to train her while outside.
Last night ended with her meeting the neighbors three dogs. There are two puppies named Sweetpea and Shianne. They have an older dog named Zeus. Sweetpea is a black and tan coonhound, Shianne is a german shepherd, and Zeus is some kind of chihuahua mix. Iv never seen such a big chihuahua! They all got along extremely well, especially the puppies. They tackled each other and played and just had a great time. This is good news for me because my neighbor is often outside in the backyard with her dogs when I step outside. They have gotten to the point where they don’t need the leash and come when called. I hope to get to that point with Belle and Missy by the end of next month if not sooner. This will be extremely difficult. I have NO IDEA what I’m doing. For right now I’m just simply documenting from my own experience with what works and what doesn’t. Missy, my husband, and I ended the night with a movie and then bedtime. Missy doesn’t know the vocal cue “go to bed yet” or the fist closed on finger flick i plan on using as a hand signal. So it took a minute to get her into her crate. She did go in and out of it on her own multiple times that evening before bed though so we think she’s taken to it very well. However, when it came time for us to turn out the lights and go upstairs while she slept in her kennel in the living room…. that’s another story. She barked and whined and moved around in her cage. My little Missy was NOT having it. We stayed firm with her though. It was so tempting to have my little love bug sleeping in bed with me but that was one habit we did not want her or Belle to get into. Maybe she will sleep better tonight with a kennelmate. Still even with all of the fussing it only took two trips downstairs to get her to settle down. One by me and one by my husband. That is with the next door neighbors dogs and their next door neighbors dogs barking up a storm when we went to bed. So over all? I’m very proud of how she is doing and look forward to the training ahead. For right now? My angel has fallen back to sleep all sprawled out at my feet.
Tune in tomorrow to see how today, Day 1, turns out 🙂
This is Savannah Barker saying thanks for reading Doggie Daze 😉