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.