Ok, so I go upstairs to get a nice soothing hot shower and within seconds of closing the bathroom door and turning on the water I hear the distinct sounds of a wild energetic 35 lb 4 month old german shepherd puppy thumping and banging around downstairs. This is accompanied by the sounds of kids saying Quentin “stop!” “drop it” “come here!” I throw on clothes and enter the hallway frustrated that not even a shower is safe without chaos! As I scream downstairs in utter frustration saying “what is going on” I also try to breathe and remember that I am a perfectionist when it comes to “MY” puppy. Sometimes knowing too much is really a curse to those around you.
As it turns out my husband had asked one of our older kids to take Quentin outside. Not a bad request and one that should go smoothly if done as we have instructed.
1. Wait for Q to sit before opening crate
2. Have toy in hand to offer to occupy his puppy teeth
3. Put leash on before letting him leave crate
4. Wait for Q to sit and make eye contact to be released from crate
Well what happened was this….Quentin darted out of his crate and began zooming all about the living room picking things up and tossing them about having a grand ol time. The cat was also on the scene baiting Q and so a great chase took place. This is a big No no as i never allow chase in the house, but never with the cat in general. The kids (who have not practiced enough with him) are calling out cues that Quentin does not associate with them. He has not practiced them with these people so…..what works for Mom does not work for all. I calmly remind the kids of the “tools for success” on top of his crate. In this container there are the following:
2. Lickity stik
3. Treat pouch
4. toys to mouth
These are all neat and tidy in a container so that Quentin is unable to pull them into the crate and destroy them…yep…been there…done that! LOL
I remind them of the “tools” and how Q knows to sit to be released from his crate for his leash to be CALMLY put on. But then I need to remind myself that I have practiced and I am the main caretaker. This is my puppy and I have worked with him consistently from the moment he was in our care. This does not mean that the others don’t work or play with him. They do, but honestly kids move on quickly and have other things to do that appeal to them more than playing recall games etc with Mom and the pup. I have required them to participate some and have explained that if they want Quentin to behave for them the way he does with me then they need to do the work and build the bond. Dogs that only work with one member of the household easily become confused due to inconsistencies.
Another issue is that the kids see what he does with me and assume he will do the same for them Not so. If they have not practiced the cues and had success and rewarded Q then they can not expect that he will follow them the way he does me. This is a frustrating aspect for me as a dog behavior consultant who wants the best for her pup. I know that each opportunity he is allowed to practice unwanted behavior is possibly going to take double the work to undo. But as a Mom, I can only expect so much from my teenagers and preteens and NOTHING from my toddler. So, I am learning how to balance what they are willing to do and what they need to do. I have to allow them to develop their relationship with Quentin in their own way too. The beauty of this is that dogs do know what works for different people. Talking to my kids about what they would like their relationship with Q to look like is important. Then I can begin to help them achieve their goals one at a time. Forcing them to do things MY way never works and pushes them away from this wonderful pup. So, i am learning how to balance and allow and let go. Quentn is a fantastic pup despite and maybe because of all of the differences. So…..will it not still drive me nuts when I see the kids doing something I know Q knows well with me but they have not practiced with him….no but I am trying to let go a bit more and enjoy helping them learn how to build the relationship they choose with our new puppy.
This opportunity has helped me to really relate to so many of the families I see who struggle with their dogs and kids. Parent expectations of kids involvement needs to be a discussed and re evaluated process. How much you include your kids and in what activities is all to be decided as a family so that the pup can succeed and the kids participate willingly. We have set up guidelines for Quentin and when I see that they are not being followed then it is time to sit down all together and re evaluate them. Why are they not working and where do we go from here.
Just like raising kids, raising puppies has stages and phases along with ups and downs. It is a life long commitment and the rewards are great. Remembering that you too are learning as your pup grows and being open to the process is the best gift you can give your pup. I hope I never stop learning!
So, include your kids the way that is safe, and rewarding for both they and your pup. Allow the different bonds to develop and guide them towards the individual family members interests. Each kid may have a different level of interest in the participation of the training. Listen and guide the interactions based on each individual keeping in mind your puppies success too.
Most of all…Keep learning and trying new fun ways to engage your pup and ENJOY!
For more great info take advantage of APDT’s Train your dog month