Proactive Preparation for New Experiences
Recently, I adopted a new dog, and he is a delight. VagaBond 007 is about two years old, 12 lbs., and looks like a rat terrier/chihuahua mix. I didn't get much behavioral history about him before adopting, including his behavior around cats.
Less than three weeks after adopting him, I had plans to visit friends for a weekend, and they have two cats. Though I'd hoped to arrange a controlled cat test prior to this trip, it just wasn't in the cards. So I wanted to be as prepared as possible in order to minimize stress during our actual visit.
An important tip for new dog owners:
Always think ahead about training needs and work on them
proactively rather than just hoping for the best.
In today's blog, I'd like to share details about some of the training and preparation done during Bond's first few weeks with me. Not only was it important foundation training for living in the Dare household, it also helped to create a successful weekend visit.
ITEMS I BROUGHT ON THE TRIP:
Crate, and a section of exercise pen
Leash and harness
Treat pouch and plenty of treats
Toys and chewies
Pre-stuffed and frozen food puzzles
A really cute nudel pudel named Bond
CRATE TRAINING -- I immediately began exposing Bond to short bouts in the crate, including when I was home but not in the same room as him. Thankfully, he wasn't too resistant to crate time, especially with plush bedding for his comfort and food puzzles to keep him content. The goal was to prepare him for calm/quiet crating in a separate room at my friends' house in case he turned out to be a big jerk around their cats.
ABILITY TO FOCUS ON ME IN THE FACE OF DISTRACTIONS -- every time we were outside, I monitored his response to prey (mostly birds, squirrels and chipmunks). At each sighting, I'd call his name and generously reinforce him with tasty treats for turning away from the prey. I was thankful to see he was able to do this with relative ease, appearing not to have an overly intense desire to chase prey.
TETHERING INSIDE -- Bond needed to learn how to accept being tethered near me when inside. Not only does this keep a newly adopted dog out of undesired mischief (which he wanted to dabble in regularly), it would also be a way to prevent him from any cat-chasing success. I needed to be sure he could settle quietly near me, including not chewing on the tether. Comfy bedding, food puzzles, and chewies helped us reach this goal quickly.
RESPECT FOR GATES -- I planned to take along a 4-panel section of an exercise pen to block the stairway in order to keep him downstairs at the friends' house, while giving the cats the option of peaceful living upstairs. So I tested this barrier at my home first to be sure he'd be respectful of it. Thankfully he was (unlike WildeBean who easily scales such nonsense).
So how did our visit actually go? Thankfully, really well! When Bond first saw the cats, his focus on them wasn't too intense, and I was reliably able to get his attention back on me. He fairly quickly graduated from me holding his leash to being allowed to drag the leash, and then finally he was allowed off leash after he showed us he wasn't going to chase the cats. It certainly helped that the cats were slinky tip-toers rather than runners! It was also beneficial that WildeBean role-modeled good behavior, since she has a healthy respect for cats and doesn't chase them.
Now for our next project: addressing his yodelly interest in the two foster rats who just joined us this week!
Virginia Dare is a certified dog trainer & behavior counselor with decades of experience. Her business offers live video consultations anywhere in the US for training and behavior help, along with pre- and post-arrival counseling for new puppies.
She also provides in-home, private lessons and behavior consultations in northern Fairfield and Westchester counties, western New Haven county, Putnam and southern Dutchess counties.
Please visit www.NorthStarCanines.com/services to learn more, or contact me at 804.784.0120