Doing her business outside
“Did Cassidy just ring the bell?” Mike asked, jumping up from his Lazyboy. He clipped the leash on her collar and she led him out into the side yard. It was the second time she had nose-bumped the got-to-go bell that day. I have a hard time believing that she made the connection after just a week. But she went outside and did her business immediately in both instances. Even that – the “going” as soon as we’d taken her out part – has been a big improvement over days one, two, and three, when we’d have to wait, and wait – in the dark, in the rain, in the creepy morning dim – for her to go to the bathroom. (I’ve never before had a dog that didn’t pee the minute I took her out.) That said, Cassidy has only had one accident during the past week, which is pretty good for a six-month-old pup who has never before lived in a house.
While outside Cassidy is learning the boundary of our electric fence. Eventually, she we will have access to a doggie door and be able to go out whenever she pleases. This will make our lives easier too, but we can’t allow her that freedom until we teach her how to avoid getting shocked. We are still a few weeks a way from that goal.
Learning the rules
The past week has been about Cassidy getting comfortable with us and the surroundings, and about her learning the house rules. She has been doing great with all of that. She seems to catch on quickly, and what she learns sticks. After her attempts to climb on the furniture were discouraged once or twice, she no longer jumps on the futon. On her first day with us she came up on the dinner table during our meal. Mike and I each had opportunity to nudge her off. She has since taken to staying on her dog bed while we’re eating. She responds consistently and immediately to verbal reproaches like, “leave it,” “no,” or “uh-uh.” She helps herself to toys and scatters them both upstairs and down, but this is a far better alternative to snatching socks, shoes, and gnawing on table legs. (Cassidy has been caught in each of these acts.) She did manage to eat through one of our rug. This happened while she was locked inside her crate and the rug was outside- if you can believe that. I also keep finding her with tissues and toilet paper rolls that she’s been pulling from the bathroom garbages. Note to self: keep bathroom doors closed.
Cassidy and the pack
She and Ripple have really hit it off. Cassidy snatches toys right out of the powerful dog’s mouth, and Ripple lets her. Cassidy follows her around the house, and Ripple seems to like leading her. Cassidy tries to chew on her jowls and…well Ripple is less tolerant of that one. On our walks the two of them bounce around so much together that several times their leashes have gotten tangled (we’re using a 50 foot one for Ripple and a retractable for Cassidy) and I had the hardest time unravelling them.
Out of all of us, the cats have been the most put out by this first week with Cassidy. The pooch does listen when we tell her not to chase them, and seems to be chasing them less and less in the house, even without the cue. Still, the cats are curious, but wary of her. When she encroaches upon them, they puff up pretty big and come out with interesting noises ( hissing, growling, and this deep-to- high pitch rolling sound that reminds me of a background effect from old horror films.) But they are also allowing her to get close enough to sniff them. (Cassidy has received a bite on the nose from BamBam during at least one of these interactions.) In recent days the cats have been venturing out to spend time with us, and Pebbles (the braver of the two) has resumed his pre-Cassidy practice of curling up near the wood burning stove with his buddy, Ripple.
Mealtimes are always a concern, because in the past we’ve had some heart-stopping dog fights surrounding food. So, we maintain a chow-time ritual with which Cassidy is becoming familiar. She has learned to sit. (Yes! She learned “sit” on the second day and now does it upon command. We have also been teaching her to sit as an alternative to jumping on us.) Then she and Ripple wait for their food bowls to be put down. This practice preempts fights brought on by the bouncy anticipation of being fed. Either Mike or I supervise mealtimes, and will do so for a few weeks. On several occasions Cassidy has left her bowl and attempted to venture over to Ripple’s. We hang around in the room with them to discourage that kind of thing, which would result in a scuffle. Once they’re finished (or they move away from their food for a time) the bowls get put away. So, they’re not available for grazing throughout the day, and the possibility of altercations over the remaining morsels diminishes. That’s one way we keep peace.
We devote ten minutes to training the dogs after dinner. It seems that Ripple looks forward to “work time.” It was during these session that she’s learned some fun tricks. She also gets to show off her basic skills. But training two dogs that are working on different levels can be challenging. So, we crate Cassidy while working with Ripple and put Ripple on a down-stay when teaching Cassidy. This works well, and Cassidy is doing great duringour sessions.
Our first teaching moments were devoted to early recall (the most important command, in my opinion.) Recall is simply having Cassidy come when she’s called. For the early training, we say, “Cassidy” and then immediately give her a treat. This pairs her name with good things. We are also trying not to use her name when during reproach – a hard habit to break. This bad habit of ours has given Ripple problems with recall. While it feels natural to blurt out, “Cassidy, leave it!” this could create a punishing association with her name. Cassidy responds just as well if we say, “Leave it,” without using her name. And if we use her name only in conjunction with treats and praise, it increases the likelihood that she’ll come when we call her.
We also introduced her to clicker training, which is a tool we use for teaching our dogs. I’ll write more about clicker training in two weeks, but I think Cassidy is going to do well with it.
Sunday: How we are teaching Cassidy to ring the bell.
Cassidy’s Journey has moved