Life in puppyland is moving along. We've had Darwin for a week now, a whole week! And he has grown during this time! It just seems weird that in one short week you can noticeably see that he has gotten larger and feel his weight increase. But I guess that's what puppies do, they grow up. I just hope he doesn't grow up too fast, because I wouldn't mind keeping him in this adorable, fuzzy state a little bit longer.
We definitely know each other a little better by now. Some routines have been established and I can read him better. Over this past week he has definitely started to search for eye contact more and I communicate with him much better. He seems to me like such an ideal starting point for a dog. He exhibits all the traits that I longed for in a dog, while still showing some more rambunctious puppy behavior. For example, he's rather hesitant to leave our property. When we're out at the front lawn relaxing (no fence there!) he just hangs out and plays but shows no indication of wanting to leave. He's curiously unfazed by someone walking by, and he might look with interest at a dog or cat passing by, however it's more likely he'll take a few steps back than rush towards the object in question.
So leaving the house is a little scary and these last couple of days we had a bit of a disagreement every time I wanted to take him out for a walk. He's doing a bit better now after patient nudging, but walking past the first few houses is still not his favorite thing. However, if we're walking somewhere else, even just a block away from the house then he walks with me more or less perfectly, on or off the leash. Then he's not that anxious. Yesterday I took him for a walk in a calm area and he was following me off the leash perfectly. Then a barking dog appeared on the other side of the street that was doing everything he could to get over to our side. Darwin on the other hand gave him one look and then just followed me blankly. Every time something like that happens, I marvel at his wonderful temperament and inherent want to follow.
However, I'm not saying he doesn't enjoy meeting other dogs, and that he isn't curious. So far, he has met a couple of neighborhood dogs and he has been great with them. Cautious and rather calm, but curious.
We took him to the driving range the other day and there he showed off his calm temperament perfectly. With loud balls swishing by every few seconds he was a little concerned at first, but after a minute or two he really didn't care much.
I have started training him a bit - the usual sit, down and stay so far and he's doing quite well (we're also working on crawl and roll!) For the first time ever I got clicker (a tool you touch to make a clicking sound every time you reward the dog for doing a trick among other things. You click before giving a treat and soon enough the dog will associate the click with reward, and it can be used alone for showing praise without the treat). I've seen people use clickers when training dogs and I was always amazed by the result; how effectively they can train and show immediate praise even from a distance. So, I thought it would be interesting to try. Well see how it works out.
Since we're all in dog mode here we have also been watching Cesar, The Dog Whisperer. Have you seen him? I think he's great. He's got such a holistic view of the dog's place in a pack, and setting the tone with a good energy. Before seeing his show (season 5, 6, 7 & 8 available at Hulu if you're interested!) I never quite realized that you shouldn't encourage nervous behavior by comforting a scared dog, or greeting an overly excited dog. In fact you should correct nervous or hyper behavior, and the dog will snap out of it. I think that's quite interesting, and it works. Darwin responds so well to a quick snap with the finger or Cesar's famous "tshh", whenever he starts whimpering a bit. He goes from anxious to calm, and all we did was to change his state of mind with a redirect.
I'm not saying he's always a little angel though. Sometimes he gets quite hyper, especially after playing too rough, and then it can be difficult to snap him out of it. At the same time, he's still a puppy and I don't want to be too harsh or controlling either, so I try to correct him sparingly when it actually counts. For example, we're doing some work in the backyard (more on that later - it's rather exciting!) and we need to establish where he's allowed to be and where he isn't - an invisible lines in other words, and he goes between accepting that boundry, and challenging it.
A few times we have become a little tired of him - dealing with him is a full time job! But even though he's been high maintenance at times and requires a lot of attention and energy, that's what puppies do. That's their nature. Overtime he'll calm down, and I'm sure he'll be the best dog ever.
We're off to such a good start, I just love his overall temperament. He's so good at this point when we give him food - he sits down, looks at whoever is feeding him in the eyes and waits for his food to be brought down. So calm. He's so cute in the morning, and he becomes very excited when he realizes that you're awake (and maybe he's been allowed up in the bed on a few occasions then… I really should stop letting him up there in the morning, but he's just so cute and hard to resist!) When we're out in the backyard or out on walks I'm starting to see how he searches for eye contact more and more, and what could be a better sign!
So there you have it, our first week. The first week of our adorable, sweet, demanding, precious, at times annoying and complete lovable puppy.