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The three big mistakes we made with our new puppy.

The three big mistakes we made with our new puppy.
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When we first knew we were getting a new puppy, I was so excited.  We’d lost our little Buster a couple months earlier and the void he left was enormous.  I was desperate for some warm and furry puppy cuddles.

I started watching YouTube videos (there are a ton of great resources out there) and I was determined I was going to train Finny seamlessly and do everything right, the way the experts said to do it.


There were a couple of decisions we had to make early on, and our choices for good or bad have definitely impacted our raising of Finnegan.
The first choice was clicker training. To click or not to click.
I have a terrible habit of making up nicknames for our dogs, so much so that we’re not sure if Buster ever knew that Buster was his name.  He was called Bunny, Bun Bun, Bun Son, and a million other variations.  Before we brought Finny home I had to vow to Russ that Finnegan’s name was Finnegan and that I could get away with calling him Finny, but that was it…we wanted him to know his name.


So, given he knows his name (first accomplishment) and that it’s a positive experience (treat or petting reward) when he comes when called, it should all be that easy right?  


Well, I’ve learned the hard way that CONSISTENCY is the key to all training success or failure, and Russ and I are really having to work in this department.


The pros of clicker training, when we were weighing it:

  1. It’s directly associated. As soon as the dog does what you want you click.  It’s easy for the dog to associate the click with the behavior as it happens immediately.
  2. It’s consistent.  No delay, and no change of word or tone.  Russ and I would both be clicking the same, no difference, no confusion for Finny.
The con, really just one, but we rated it high:

  1. The need for a clicker.  We wanted Finny to learn phrases so that we could use them anywhere, anytime.  We were concerned that if we opted for the clicker, it would be difficult in future to switch over just to words, and that we’d always have to have a clicker on us each, and anyone else that might want to reinforce Finny’s behaviour (like guests, or his grandparents) would need clickers too. I’m sure if I did more research, I could have found a workaround or advice for transitioning, or maybe it’s not even an issue once they’re trained, but for this reason, we opted not to use a clicker.


Was this the right decision? I don’t know.  Finny definitely knows when he’s doing something right.  He’ll pee on his pee pad to get a treat 100% of the time, and he enthusiastically comes whenever I call him, so I think what we’re doing is working.  What we’re struggling with is the negative stuff, because we don’t want to use punishment to train, but I’ll get to that down below.
The second choice we made was to let him sleep with us.
Most doxie parents I’ve encountered are very very opinionated on this, one way or the other.  Our choice basically came down to my own desire to cuddle him at night, feel his furry warm little body. Now again, was this the right choice?  I don’t know.  I certainly enjoy him sharing my pillow, but it probably would have made our crate training go more smoothly if we’d started it at night on day one.  

What we did seriously wrong, without even realizing...

Finny is super cuddly. My dreams come true! He follows me around the house, sits on one of us whenever he can, sleeps with his head on my pillow at night, and is always within view, watching us. I thought this was wonderful, and failed to recognize this as a red flag.  


According to what I’ve read on puppy behavior sites, puppies start by being really dependent and then get braver and explore more on their own.  Finny did this as well, so I thought everything was normal. What I didn’t realize, because I worked from home and barely left him the first month was that he was a bit too attached, and when it did come time for me to leave him he’d already developed separation anxiety.    
Lesson one learned too late - puppies need to know that you come and go, early on.
We should have crated trained Finny right away to be alone for short periods (I’m afraid to leave him alone uncrated in case he gets into something unforeseen and hurts himself).  


Inadvertently we’ve created a crying, barking scared dog, whenever I have to leave for an hour to get groceries.  It’s so bad Finny wants to come in the shower with me, and screams and barks if I don’t let him. My overindulgence has created this problem, and now it’s much harder to fix then if we’d started off on the right foot.
Lesson Two - Not being consistent enough with the potty training.
I’ve read so many different techniques on this, I really thought it would be easy if I just did what I'd read.  The trick is, to pick a method and stick with it, but I was improvising as I went, and I have extra work ahead of me now as a result.


The first method I tried and didn’t have luck with - Tying your puppy to you with a leash, so you could see if he needed to go potty and take him right away.  What I found was Finny was always with me anyway, and he never sniffs first, just lets it fly. He’ll wake up from a nap and pee right on his blanket, go get a snack, look right at me and pee, and I couldn’t react fast enough to grab him and rush him to a pee pad.


The second method I read about but didn’t try - Crate training him overnight (so they don’t potty in their bed) and then taking him out right before bed and right away in the morning and then variations of this during the day.  I have a hesitation re crates.  I only want to use one when Finny is left alone for short timeframes, not overnight, not for hours on end, so I didn’t think there was any way to really incorporate this into our plan.  If however, we had have opted to have him sleep in a crate from the beginning, he’d probably be completely house-trained by now, so another one of those “did we make the right decision” questions.


The third method I tried and failed at, that I’m now doing a revised version of - taking your pup out a 45 min-1 hour intervals.  Finny has always been a sporadic pee-er, so much so that we had a vet visit to rule out any health problems.  He’ll go three-four hours at night, or during the day when he’s snoozing, and then he might pee three or four times in an hour if he’s active.  The 45 minutes wasn’t cutting it.  We took him to the vet, to rule out a bladder infection, and found out he has struvite crystals in his urine, which means he needs even more water, so this technique wasn’t working either.   


One thing Finny is doing great with is peeing on demand, on a pee pad. Even if he’s just peed, if I take him into the bathroom, put him on the pee pad and say “pee pee” he’ll squeak out a little tinkle for his treat.  We have pee pee treats, in the bathroom, it’s the only time he gets them.  So I have to build on this.  From today onwards, I have a timer set, every twenty minutes we are going to the pee pad. I’m going to alternate his normal pee treats with salmon jerky to really make things interesting for him. I’ll keep you posted on how this works out.


Side note, the weather here is really cold and windy and we live in a condo.  Finny gets plenty of outdoor time, and he'll pee when he’s out there, but with the frequency of his pees, it wasn’t a viable option to take him out for everyone, especially in the middle of the night, hence the pee pads.  I’m hoping once I can get the frequency down we can get rid of the pads and he can just go outside.  Work in progress!
And our last big lesson learned is that we didn't set consistent boundaries.
That consistency word again!  Both of us agreed we wanted to use positive reinforcement with Finny.  I guess I was naive thinking that if we rewarded his positive behavior the negative stuff would just work itself away, as he’d only want to do things that he got reinforcement for.  It took a lot of patience to teach him to nibble gently when playing rather than his ferocious jaws-like attacks we’d been suffering. We managed, with positive reinforcement when he was being nice, and we’d yelp and stop play when he was being too bitey.  I’m glad we did it this way, as he’s a very happy playful little puppy.   The other side of this though, is we haven’t been consistent with the use of the word NO, or Stop.  When we say them to him now he continues what he’s doing, with no reaction.  As a result, we’re not in control, and he’s developing some not nice dominant behaviors like trying to hump his momma’s arm while she’s typing on her laptop.


A friend gave me a wonderful piece of advice that worked for her.  She recommended the use of a metal coffee travel mug, with coins in it.  Her dog was barking at the TV all the time, now she just brings out the cup and she stops.  I don’t know if this is the best long-term solution, but it definitely gets Finny’s attention when nothing else will.  I’m going to be doing further research on how to address these things, so I’ll post updates when I have some.

So to summarize, if we had it to do over again…

Crate train, or confine him to a safe area for short durations at least from day two.
Day one is just unrealistic, with all that new puppy loving to accomplish. Go in and out, let the puppy know you come and go and that you’ll come back and he’s safe without you there.
A Pee plan that works, and stick to it! 
 Because Finny knows to go on his pee pads I’ve been giving him too much freedom, and we’re still having too many accidents.  Now, I’m having to restrict his freedom (confined to the room I’m in, or attached with a leash) and setting 20-minute timers.  I’m hoping within a couple of weeks to work to 40 minutes intervals.


Another mistake I’ve made but wasn’t big enough I figured to make the list, is free feeding during the day.  He gets breaky and dinner, but he has kibble to snack on throughout the day.  His vet said he’s a perfect weight so I keep doing it, but a by-product of it is you don’t get the “have to poop within 20-30 minutes of eating” schedule that you do with regular meals. So we get some sneaky poops here and there, but I’m hoping the new restriction/pee schedule plan will conquer that as well.  
Be the alpha dog, right from the beginning! 
Cesar is probably right when he says not to let your dog sleep on you etc, or he’ll think he’s the dominant one..I don’t know a doxie parent that can resist them, but maybe it’s our fault that the dachshund breed is characterized as being stubborn, grumpy, and hard to train.  Finny is sitting on me as we speak, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but overall I’ve got some retraining to do now for both of us. The dominance thing is huge.  It contributes to the separation anxiety problem and can cause a lot of stress for the dog if left untreated. I’ll keep you posted how we’re making out, wish me luck!


Wishing you much doxie goodness, 
Joanna

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