Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hats, scarves, and mittens, oh my!

It was bitter cold yesterday. With 40 mph winds it wasn't conducive to spending much time outdoors! I had the day off, so Melissa and I did a few errands.

Our first stop was the bank. No need to use the drive thru.... not when I have a puppy to socialize. Out of the car Melissa comes, she stays nicely at my side as we walk across the parking lot. Voices....coming thru the intercom at the drive thru. Melissa hesitates for a second, and then continues on with a silly Borzoi grin on her face.

We enter the bank and Melissa stops. She has been inside before, but this time someone was sitting in a chair adorned in a hat, bundled in a coat and wearing boots! The person leaned towards Melissa. I doubt Melissa could see a face! From a dog's perspective this can be mighty odd, for a pup who has not seen something like this it can be a bit scary. I immediately began talking to the person. Ok, I've been known to start conversations with anyone about anything if I think it will help my dog. The person answered me, and just hearing a voice Melissa got her wiggly body and Borzoi grin on. Melissa immediately approached for pats and scratches. A lesson in different looking people? Objects that look scary that turn out to be ok? It sure was!! Another page in Melissa's chapter on maintaining her confidence around new and different looking objects.

Next stop, a local pet store, not only to buy some treats for Melissa, but to expose her to even more sights and sounds. You guessed it...more hats, scarves and mittens, but this time they were moving. Children bundled up against the cold wind dressed in snow pants and heavy jackets, adorned with hats and mittens offered another great opportunity for another learning experience for Melissa. Many of the children wanted to pet her. I was very impressed with one of the parents who took the child's hat off and said 'now the puppy can see who you are'. It is something about our eyes and mouth that dogs focus on. If a puppy can't see them, they approach hesitantly. Dress the person or child up in a heavy coat with swishing sounding snow pants, a hat,a scarf, and add mittens and a puppy is surely going to take a second look.

Several of the children wanted to pet Melissa. She was not all wiggly, but standing calmly still sizing up the situation. So I asked the children if they could help me train Melissa to take a treat politely. They all obliged...and they more they talked the more comfortable Melissa became...and a bit too interested in scarves with fringes! Each child held their palm upward and I placed a treat into their hands. I told them to stand very still, that it was important that Melissa come to them when she was ready. One child, then the next, Melissa walked towards each to take the treats. This gave Melissa a nice association with being close to children bundled up in cold weather gear. We repeated giving treats and Melissa was now eagerly going to one child to the next. Another good experience for puppy Melissa; when the children left to go, she wanted to follow them and did a play bow and toss of her head....a sure sign she was comfortable with hats, scarves and mittens!

Melissa is being exposed to a variety of sights and sounds and continues to develop into a happy outgoing girl. She just turned 4 months of age a few days ago. Is her socialization over? Not by a long shot. I will continue to expose her to new and different sights so she develops into her full potential. The prime socialization period is over, but puppies still need to experience new and different things several times a week in a variety of settings well into young adulthood. Follow along on Melissa's adventures as we enter a New Year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Puppy Melissa's First Christmas

It's been a busy few weeks, but the 3-day Christmas weekend has finally arrived. Having a puppy around the Holidays takes a bit of planning on our part. My priority has been finding ways to give Melissa enough physical exercise. Luckily the temps have risen to just above freezing, making the snow soft enough for the dogs to run through. Melissa had a good work-out this morning with her Lab friend Lucy and is now sleeping soundly.

Puppies are curious, all gift wrapping material and presents have been confined to a room that is off limits to Melissa. Baby gates come in handy in managing Melissa's whereabouts.

Chocolate and Poinsettias are poisonous to dogs, if at any time you suspect your dog has ingested a toxic item please call the Poison Hot-line 888 426-4435

Holidays mean an over abundance of food. We humans might be able to handle the fancy appetizers, the eggnog, candy and desserts, but our dog's digestive system is not made to handle such items. Although pleading eyes may tell you otherwise. Keep to your dog's regular diet as much as possible; her digestive system will appreciate it.

There is so much to do this time of year! Our dogs do not understand what all the commotion is about. Take the time to give lots of physical exercise before you visit with guests. Your dog will then be ready to curl up with a new bone or a stuffed interactive toy stuffed with something extra special for the time your dog is home alone or you are busy with company. Use crates, x-pens or baby gates as needed, keep your dog safe from running out an open front door.

It's time to put the glaze on our two day project: a chocolate hazelnut torte. Paul is making the chocolate shavings as I type. You guessed it, the kitchen is off limits to the dogs while we prepare the dessert.

Melissa will have another run through the woods and another play session with Lab Lucy before we visit with friends. The two are evenly matched when it comes to playing. They run, they chase, they wrestle. More about appropriate playmates in a future blog.

Have a safe and happy Holiday weekend.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Puppy Melissa and Heavy Machinery

I am sure you are wondering what raising a puppy has to do with heavy machinery! I took advantage of a front loader parked as another opportunity to continue Melissa's socialization. It had been parked for some time, the engine was cool so I allowed her to explore around it and on it.

She approached it confidently, hesitated for just a moment before putting all 4 feet on the metal loading section. In order for her to feel even more comfortable around this large piece of equipment, I placed a few treats on it. This made for a nice association: new object/surface = food = something pleasant. It provided a new surface for her to walk on, and a new smell to sniff: diesel. Just another chapter in Melissa's world of being exposed to as many things as possible so she continues to develop into a stable confident dog.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Puppy Melissa Goes Visiting

The Holiday Season is upon us! Time with family and friends, travel, baking and gift wrapping. Melissa is included in most of these activities but when I cannot keep an eye on her she spends time in her x-pen with a good size bone. Some people prefer to use a crate, but Melissa is already a big girl and I have the space to set up the ex-pen for her, and it gives her lots of room to play and stretch out. The majority of times Melissa is included in our activities, her socialization continues!

I have been scheduling students such that in between appointments Melissa and I have been visiting and taking in some different sights. She actually met something she was not sure of this week. A Lab statue! While visiting with my good friends Nancy and Bob, Melissa was invited into the house. And there it was....the yellow Lab statue on the hearth eyes staring at Melissa. She approached cautiously. I let her advance at her own pace. I touched the statue, Melissa came closer. In time, Melissa moved close enough to take a sniff. Not real....and she moved away to check out the huge toy basket on the other side of the room. Seeing and investigating something new is all part of socializing puppy Melissa.

Bob had never met Melissa. A new person for Melissa to meet! I was proud of my 16 week old puppy who sat politely and did not jump! We've been practicing. Melissa's reward for sitting nicely was having Bob talk to her and rub her all over. Had Melissa jumped up, Bob would have moved away and waited for Melissa to sat once more. There is no need to ever yell at our dogs. Yelling or pushing doesn't give our dogs any information. Melissa learns by being rewarded for any behavior we want repeated. Her reward in this case was the attention she got from Bob.

She also got to visit with Nancy and Bob's 12 year old Lab Sara. Sara is one of those bomb proof dogs who gets along with every dog she meets. I knew Melissa was safe with Sara. We kept Sara safe also.
A senior dog does not need a 44# puppy walking across her body and causing pain to old joints and muscles. We monitored where and how Melissa placed her feet. When Melissa wanted to play a bit too rough by pouncing on Sara, we redirected her to one of Sara's many toys.

Melissa settled down for a chew while we chatted. Another good experience for Melissa in her chapter of socialization. Melissa is learning that no matter where we go she can settle and lay at my feet.

Sara has a huge toy basket!! She is one lucky girl. Toys for all seasons, Sara loves to carry a toy around. She even visits the vets with a favorite toy. WOW...Melissa was so excited she walked into the basket. So many choices. My favorite was the yellow Easter peep...that really peeps.

It was a busy day for Melissa, she even got to practice stairs that lead up to Nancy and Bob's house. She checked off many of her 'to do' items on her socialization list, while I got to visit with some long time friends. Thanks Nancy and Bob, it was a fun visit!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Puppies and Winter

Here in the Northeast, a week ago we had 50 degree temps, a very mild December. Two days later we had our first snow fall. Four days later we had 8 inches of snow fall and the temps spiraled downward. Today it is sunny, mid-20s but with the wind it feels much colder.

Puppy Melissa has a dense plush coat. She is a Borzoi, but despite her heritage I take caution in the winter with my dogs, especially young pups. I avoid walking her anyplace where salt has been spread. If I am unable to avoid salted areas, I make sure she walks thru some fresh clean snow before she is put back in my car, and when she comes in the house I rinse off her feet. Salt can burn, it can irritate. I do not leave Melissa outdoors for extended periods of time. I dry her coat off when she comes indoors. Snow melts, her coat is saturated with water within a few minutes of entering the house, I do not want a young puppy to get chilled.

Fresh fallen snow is soft, she runs through it, she rolls in it, she tries to catch the snow flakes. She attempts to play with her outdoor toys but most of them are frozen! This makes it hard on her mouth due to her teething. The best toy I have found is the Hol-ee Roller Ball. http://www.jbpet.com/Hol-ee-Roller-Ball,1813.html Our Hol-ee Roller Balls stays outdoors 24/7, they last about 4 to 5 years with a good amount of tugging. It has become one of Melissa's favorite toys. She rolls it, she carries it, she tosses it. Great exercise!

I play games with Melissa, she also has an imaginary 'friend' in the woods that she chases and stalks. I have yet to see this 'friend' but watching her play, she surely does act like she is playing with someone! I find appropriate dog friends for Melissa to play with. There is nothing like a good run and tug with another dog to burn off energy while developing muscle which is so important for a growing puppy.

I am cautious of Melissa's developing joints. I do not allow her to run on ice or any other slippery surface. She also has plenty of time to rest/sleep, which is very important for growing puppies. Once she is tired from playing outdoors, she is ready for a nap. We are still supervising her every move indoors, she is just 15 weeks old and we have a lot to teach her about manners in the house. Until she knows what is, and what is not, appropriate we are monitor her whereabouts at all times. And yes we do allow our dogs on the furniture!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Puppy Socialization continues

Although the Holiday Season is upon us, I am still taking the time to expose Melissa to new places, people and objects. She is only 14 weeks old, she is still in the prime time to socialize and expose her to many things. Here are a few things Melissa did this past week:

1) Went to Saratoga and met a very good friend of mine; along with one of those colorful race horse statues that grace the streets.

2) Met some carolers and was greeted by a man playing a guitar.

3) Walked by a moving bus. Gosh those things are noisy, but Melissa took in all in stride.

4) Walked into the bank and met even more people.

5) Was exposed to the trash can rolling down the drive way.

6) Heard gun shots in the distance.

7) Met two Poodles, a mini named Dash, and a standard named Kodi.

8) Met a stranger with a hat and wearing glasses, along with about two dozen other people and children.

9) Put her feet in the cold water at a pond.

10)Went for many car rides.

11)Met people wearing rain coats who leaned over her to pet her.

12)Had people wearing gloves pet her.

13)Walked over grates in the road.
14) She met a few indoor cats at a friend's home.

Melissa continues to be learn new skills. She can target to my hand, is able to respond to her name with mild distractions, waits to be released from her crate and to go through a doorway. Whether she will need to wait on the start line for agility, to stand still while she is being groomed or while being examined by the vet, the skills she learns now will benefit her for a lifetime. By exposing her to the big and noisy world now, I am setting her up to be at ease with whatever comes her way in the future.