It's another Dog Agility Blogger Event today, and while I'm a little late at getting this post written, I couldn't pass up a chance to talk about my favorite subject ever -- Puppies! I'll admit now that I haven't had a chance to give much thought to what I'll actually write about; nor have I had a chance to visit the other blogs yet, so I can't steal their ideas. Hence, I shall just ramble on and see what comes out. Please visit the blogs belonging to people who have no doubt put a little more thought into their posts than I have by clicking here.
I love puppies. Not everyone shares my feelings and that's cool -- The thousands of adult dogs in shelters and rescues across the nation REALLY appreciate that there are a lot of people out there that find puppies to be too much work. And truthfully, after bringing Kizzy into our house at about 20 months of age there are certainly advantages. She came potty trained -- sweet! She was able to "hold it" for 10 hours while I was at work. Bonus! And once I actually got around to training her we were able to get to the "fun stuff" right away without waiting for her body to finish growing (granted, I'm not sure if THAT is the best plan of action, but it is what it is).
That said, there is just something so rewarding about puppy raising. I am one of the weird people who likes taking them outside every 30-60 minutes to prevent accidents in the house (although somehow I always seem to end up with winter puppies...). I don't mind getting up twice per night and actually set an alarm when they are super small so that I'm not relying on them to wake me up (and risk an accident). I run a very consistent house here, so everyone that comes through here learns the drill pretty quickly and falls in line with the routine.
I have let some things go over the years. Back when I got Luke, for example, I had a "no dogs on the furniture rule." He was about three years old before I started to let him up on the bed with me. When Kaiser came along my rule was, "You spend the first year sleeping in a crate." Secret made it a few months. lol The fosters did all stay in crates at night, though, because I know that ending up on my bed is the kiss of death (hence why Kizzy is still here!).
I had all sorts of crazy expectations about my first border collie and as such, I think Secret had an unfair amount of pressure placed on her as a puppy. I had SUCH high hopes and pretty much set out to teach her every trick I'd ever seen on the internet. Like blowing bubbles:
Secret was an absolutely brilliant puppy, which only ended up making me push for more. Looking back, I would have done things differently with Secret. I would have put less pressure on her to learn so much so soon and instead just played more. We had a "working" relationship in those early days, but I was never the one she wanted to play with. She always valued one-on-one time with Luke & Kaiser more than she did with me. I'm quite certain this was due to all of the pressure I put on her in our training sessions. That video above is a fine example -- I went WAY too long in that session. Way too long. Lesson learned.
My goal for the next puppy, whenever that may be, is to lay off the pressure. Knowing my personality type I know this will be difficult, but it's my goal. My next puppy doesn't need to know a million and one tricks (Kizzy knows, ahem, zero tricks...). I don't want my next puppy to be so serious all of the time and will instead focusing on playing and just hanging out together more. Many of Secret's early struggles are likely genetic (especially considering that her brother is so very similar), but I still feel that I could have done things a lot differently to make life more FUN for her early on.
I'm so glad I started this blog when I adopted Secret. It's been a really great way to track everything that I've done with her over the years -- things I would do again, things I would change, things that worked, things that didn't. I would encourage everyone to track their puppy's first couple of years (at least) because it's a fantastic learning opportunity and provides wonderful memories. I had Secret's first two years printed into books and those will be treasured forever!
While I consider myself an excellent puppy raiser who is great at teaching things like nail clipping, grooming, sit, down, etc., I'll leave the tips of "how to raise the next agility superstar" to other bloggers. I see videos of dogs who are fast, confident and focused at their first trials and often wonder how they do it. Granted, most of them likely do not live in an agility wasteland and are able to train in many environments. Kaiser & Secret both struggled at the start of their trial careers and now Kizzy has her own set of challenges (granted, that is less of a surprise...). We keep plugging away, though, because the payoff is so very rewarding. When Secret was first starting out I never dreamed she'd get a NATCH, so anything is possible. That's the sort of thing I tell myself as Kizzy runs out of the ring. Ha!!
I miss being able to foster puppies. It was so convenient when I could take the dogs to work with me, but now it's just not fair to expect them to sit in a crate 10-11 hours a day while I'm gone. Maybe one day things will change, but until then I have to settle for stolen puppy kisses from puppies at trials. :o)