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The Alex Chronicles

Four Months Old!

We are now starting to count the time in months, and we are starting to notice some physical changes, our baby puppy isn’t a baby anymore. She’s gotten ‘leggy’ and less plump, and her soft puppy fur is starting to be replaced by adult fur running down the center of her back. I’m working hard to get all the ‘soft fur’ snuggles I can get in now before it all goes away! I’ve also noticed that her adult teeth are starting to come in, although I have yet to find any of her baby teeth on the floor of the training center, we have noticed blood on her play partners indicating the loss of a tooth during play.

Our training has shifted too, she has mostly mastered the basic behaviors of watch, touch, sit, down, wait, stay, go to mat, come and short leash walks in non-distracting areas. So, we are now increasing the criteria and practicing with increasing levels of distraction and difficulty. This includes learning how to ignore people as we are walking together on leash. As a very people oriented puppy this is very hard to do, but I learned my lesson with Winter, who to the very end would nearly yank me off my feet if someone walking by made eye contact with her. Not only was this annoying but occasionally became dangerous as it really didn’t matter if they were next to us or across the street! Now the difficulty is trying to get the people walking by us to ignore the puppy when we are in ‘training mode’. I realize it’s hard to resist a cute puppy, and I know that not everyone ‘gets it’ that I may actually be working with my puppy as we walk down a busy street, so I am generally pretty tolerant. That said, I have my limits. If people make eye contact with me first and ask, which will generally only occur when we are not really in training mode, I will generally allow it once the puppy is in a position to be successful. Those people who literally rush up, dive in and don’t bother to even look at me, often get a brief, somewhat curt but effective, ‘Excuse me, but I’m in the middle of a training session.’, as I take evasive maneuvers to avoid allowing any contact with the puppy whatsoever. I have also begun giving Alex the command, ‘Go say Hi!’ before allowing contact when someone does ask to pet. As a result, she is learning that there is a routine we go through, person approaches, she sits, person asks, I say yes and then release her to move toward the person for pets. That way, when I’m engaged in a conversation, and she’s not going to get pets, she has clear idea of what’s going on. When this does happen now, she is often content to lay down and wait for me to be done, although I suspect my tendency toward long-windedness has contributed to her desire to lay down.

Don’t let me give you the wrong impression, there are still plenty of times when she is a total terror on the leash! Jumping, biting at the leash, biting at my arms, clothing, etc. and I have the bite wounds to prove it.

Our biggest challenge is long outings and the biggest issue is the pulling – oh the pulling. Now here’s the real issue. When I take her for 5-10 minute short leash walks through town and we are in training mode she’s great, but when we do 2-3 hours of touring Boston, walking the waterfront, going to Boston Common’s, and walking along Newbury Street she’s a disaster much of the way. This is NOT her fault, it’s mine. I’m asking too much of her, too soon!

I want her to get used to being in the city so it’s an important part of what we do, but I can’t expect her to be attending to me for the entire time, and I can’t typically use a longer leash because of the crowded conditions, so I compromise. We try to walk from point A to point B for no more than 10 minutes at a time, rather than amble as we did with Winter in her senior years. When we get to point B, I try to find an area where she can sniff and wander aimlessly while I keep the leash as loose as possible. The Commons was great for this, when

we wanted to walk we got on the sidewalk and walked, when she needed a break there was always a squirrel, duck or person to say hi to.

I am off for a week to visit Dad, am already missing my girl, and know that when I come back I will be struck by the physical changes in her. While I’m away I plan to review my training plan and begin teaching some specific skills associated with the sport of Obedience. This girl is so smart I am going to have to keep her challenged!

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