Patience with the puppy PLEASE.

 

Gomez on the rock

 

 

How I stopped worrying and learned to Love training the puppy…

 

Puppies are cute. Puppies are funny. Then it changes, puppies bite. Puppies chew….you get the idea.

 

As a dog trainer, and a damned good one at that, I had an interesting project this year. A very good client of mine hired me to find a certain type of puppy for them which I did. The only problem was that the puppy was going to be available 2 days after this client was leaving on vacation for three months. No problem, we agreed, I would keep this little guy and train and raise him like he was my own until they get back from vacation. This is DEFINITELY something I would do if I could afford it myself. I mean, someone else potty training your puppy for you! Crate training! Oh yeah, sign me up NOW! Here is the check.

 

I’ve raised puppies before and I’ve board and trained dogs many times, but this long term board and train of a brand new puppy is something a bit….shall we say, different, it’s neither fish nor fowl. He’s a puppy and he’s living with me as my personal puppy but he isn’t mine. I can’t give him all the leeway he needs to learn things in a timefrarme without a deadline….right?

 

The connundrum for me as a trainer is that I know this puppy has to be “ready” for his owner when they arrive back in town. He MUST master certain skills and display certain abilities by the day I turn him over to his owner. The problem is, that he is a PUPPY and learns things at his own rate. He’s smart, no question. He learns things fast fast fast, no question. But I’ve had a constant fear that he “won’t be ready” in time to go home. We have a program, a path, a plan, but still….the clock is ticking.

 

Then, just this week, I realized something. This puppy is what he is. He’s not perfect yet (though he’s better than your puppy I pretty much guarantee you), he doesn’t perform 100% in chaotic situations yet (no dog does ever), and he still chews on shoes if you leave them on the floor in front of him (every puppy will). He’s a puppy. A very well trained, obedient, and well socialized, confident puppy but just a puppy and will absolutely still be one the day I turn him over to his owner.

 

While fretting out loud about the situation the other day my wife reminded me to deliver a note with this puppy when I turn him over. The note she said should be:

 

“This is a puppy. If you leave shoes out on the floor he will eat them, and if you play with him for to long before taking him outside to pee, he WILL have an accident in the house.”

 

That pretty much sums it up. This puppy will heel of leash, come when called quite readily, sit and stay for a reasonable amount of time, go to his place and into his kennel on command, jump up and get off of things on command, back away from something when you tell him to, high five, shake, roll over, play dead, fist bump, retrieve, leave it, and wait on command, wipe his whiskers after he drinks water automatically, but he’s still a puppy and he damned sure will chew up your Manolos if you leave them on the floor in front of him.

 

I’ve loved this project, and am supremely grateful I’ve gotten paid to raise and train this puppy. Ownership by proxy I suppose one might call it. This is the sort of long term project I would like to do move of in the future. My only worry is how to make people understand that despite the hundreds, or dare I say thousand(s) of hours I spent training him, he’s still a puppy and not a machine. He’s going to eat something valuable at some point. I’m just glad he didn’t go for my wife’s Manolos while he was with us.

 

Seizure dog and the unknown.

I’m checking my phone every few minutes in hopes that some sort of message will come in from the breeder or the vet or any of the specialist that we consulted about my dog Super. He started having seizures over the weekend. Bad ones, really really bad ones and he’s gone downhill from there.

In the midst of his first major seizure we were so horrified that my wife went over to pet him and try to calm him. He didn’t know what he was doing but he turned and bit her very very badly. The seizure lasted for a little over five minutes and took another five minutes or so for him to actually settle down enough to approach. It was horrible.

In all of the vet visits and doctor consultation since then nobody can find a single thing wrong with him. We have no clue what’s going on with him. And this is really hard for me. I’m accustomed to being able to get to the bottom of things, to fix things, to fix dog behavior. But this one looks like it’s going to be a problem.

Everything from the vets comes back perfectly normal, his history from the breeder comes back perfectly fine back over 30 years. So nothing is leading us to what’s causing this. In the meantime I’m watching him degrade. He starting to stumble, he’s less interested in anything that he was interested in before. He has minor tremmors all the time now.

When you spend so much time with a dog invest so much effort into them, and love them so much, it’s really hard to see this. I’ve lost old dogs before, one even very recently. But seeing a young puppy, just turned two years old go through this it’s very hard on this dog trainer.

Super, despite all this going on, still wags his tail when we approach, still wants to be petted, but is not nearly so interested in chasing squirrels watching for birds. I cross my fingers that the next time I look at my phone my that will email me and tell me he’s found answer and that Super will be okay.

So, despite the cathartic tone of this little posting, I want to say to all Fidelio clients out there, take your dog out for a walk on this beautiful day, you never know what’s going to happen next and you want that pup to have fine memories of a beautiful walk with you.

867 dog training lessons in 2013!

At the end of every year I run some reports from my systems that we use to find out exactly how many lessons and whatnot I did for the previous year. 2013 was sort of a banner year.

In total last year I did 867 lessons. That comes out to about 2.5 lessons every single day of the year and that is just the lessons that I did, it doesn’t include board and train or any of the sessions that Lisa did for the company. That is a lot of dog training! When you look at something like that, and the experience that comes from working with that many clients and that many dogs every year, it makes you realize what you’re paying for. Most of the other dog trainers out there do this business as a hobby, that’s not the case here at Fidelio. This is what we do all day every day, and it’s what we’ve done all day every day for the past 14 years.

The past year has also brought pretty dramatic changes in Austin. I heard recently that Austin is the fastest-growing city in America at this point, and I can certainly tell that from the amount of traffic that were seeing. In the last 14 years I can honestly say that I have never been late to an appointment because of traffic until 2013. Things of changed traffic has gotten far more complicated to deal with, and it’s got much more difficult for us to predict how long it will take to get from one client to another. This is painful for me, because as most of you know I have always been on time to appointments in the past. Unfortunately I’ve had to resort to the tactic that most service people deal with, in that I will always call you if traffic is a problem and I am forced to be late. I apologize to any of those clients in the future that may have this happen to them, but it looks like traffic like this is going to be a fact of life in Austin from now on.

The good news is, that we still come to you. You do not have to pile your dog in the car and fight afternoon traffic to get to some group class with a bunch of other yapping and ill behaved dogs. We come to you and we work in the area of your neighborhood that’s important for your dog to behave. Part of what you pay for is that convenience. We fight the traffic for you while you get dinner ready for the kids, get rested up, and prepare for your training lesson with your dog.

So, in closing, I like to thank all of my clients for everything they did last year. Thank you for each and every one of those 867 lessons that I worked with you on, and thank you for the time and attention you gave me during them. We appreciate you more than you know.

 

Steve Haynes

Austin dog trainer

Fidelio Dog Works

What Dog Trainers do when they have to actually work on the business

When you have a business like Fidelio, there are always always always a myriad of things that need to be accomplished. Most of those cannot be done while I sit in the car driving between clients as I do most of the day, and they cannot be done when I arrive home and have to become daddy and deal with the needs of my small children as soon as I walk in the door.

This past year I had a major project to do for the business that dealt with backend systems. There was no way I was going to find time to do it on an average day, and there was no way I was going to actually get it done if I had to stay at home in my house. In January 2013 I started investigating  co-working spaces. I had a client that I respected greatly who recommended Link co–working on Anderson Lane in Austin. I visited, and immediately became a member there and began work. I set my schedule up so that I would have a few hours each week to go into Link and deal with the project outside of my regular training schedule. This proved far more effective and productive than I ever imagined.

Not only did Link provide me with I could focus on the work in hand, it also allowed me to meet experts in areas of development that I desperately needed and that would have been much more difficult to find otherwise. I ended up hiring a web developer from Link to redo my entire website, I also ended up hiring a search engine person to help with some work on my website was a member of Link.

In short I just don’t think it would’ve been possible for me to get this project done as efficiently or in his timely fashion as I did without the use of the co-working space. If any of you guys work from home, and are finding it difficult if not impossible to focus on the tasks at hand with all of the other things that working at home entails, I would highly suggest you take a look at Link.

As my project has come to fruition and completed, I will unfortunately have to roll back to spending more time in the car running between clients. After all, that’s what this project was designed to increase, more clients, happier clients, and more efficient workday for me.

So in short, I’d like to thank Link very much for all the help they provided in the past year and I’ll miss seeing my friends that I made there each week.

 

 

Dog breeds and how we’ve changed them in the last century

Before and after 100 years of selective breeding

Before and after 100 years of selective breeding

I spent quite a bit of time on the phone the last few weeks being interviewed about different dog breeds and what the dog breeding trends are that I see in my day-to-day practice. There’s a lengthy article in the Associated Press, one in the London Times, and a few other places that I’ve been quoted in lately. I find this area of different dog breeds utterly fascinating.

Anytime the subject of dog breeds comes up it elicits great energies from all sectors. After the recent couple of articles I got an enormous amount of hate mail from people around the world comparing me to Dr. Mengle . All of this for just discussing a new hybrid of dog pet is coming on the market. I don’t advocate getting a dog from a breeder versus rescuing a dog at all. All I want for my clients is that they get the best dog for their lifestyle and one that is stable and adds to their life rather than creating enormous amounts of work for them.

With all that being said, my wife pointed out an interesting article she ran across this week. It takes a look at historic pictures of different dog breeds over a century and highlights the changes to those breeds that we have created. If you look at the article the two most striking ones are the German Shepherd in the St. Bernard. Those dogs were both much rangier with far less pronounced angularity than the current breeds. This is just an extreme example of what we’ve done with two different breeds in the last hundred years.

The problems I run into in a day-to-day work as a dog trainer, is that breeders are generally focusing only on the physical appearance of the dog rather than breeding for behavior and personality. This is certainly not the case in every instance, but I see a lot and it worries me. It’s one of the reasons that I spend significant amount of time with my clients helping them pick a reliable breeder with puppies that have stable personalities, and also work with rescue organizations to find dogs with stable personalities.

In any case, take a look at the article I think most of you will find it quite interesting. And it’s great fodder for thought in how we engineer our dogs to look the way that we think they should.

 

Steve Haynes

Austin dog trainer

Fidelio Dog Works