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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Do Dog Trainers Get Frustrated?

Lately, this cute adorable little fuzzy white puppy has been frustrating me!  I know, just look how adorable he is, right?  Yes, this was the adorable-ness that came into my life several months ago.  

And, puppy-hood is a lot of work for us humans!  Housetraining, puppy proofing the house, sleepless nights, constant supervision, not to mention socialization and starting to teach good manners, and on and on ... Truthfully, it can be exhausting - yes, even for us professional dog trainers!  

But when the puppies are so tiny and cute, it is easy to be motivated to keep going.  They also still sleep a lot at this stage, which provides short windows in which we can get things done or nap ourselves.  

At some point, our brilliant little puppies become quite charming and relatively well-behaved and we think we've done an excellent job raising them.  We might even pat ourselves on the back a bit.  Or breathe a sigh of relief.  

Now enter adolescence ... 

Oh, still adorable, right?  Yes he is.  And he still reminds me to laugh quite a bit out of each day.  But I am also shaking my head at times in frustration.  This is a tough stage to get through sometimes - that teenage stage.  Puppies get BUSY!!  Even busier than they were before!  And they hardly ever sleep anymore - what happened to all the naps?  Large breed puppies are getting close to their adult size, but they are still far from adulthood.  They are just huge puppies!  

So many people give up on their puppies at around 6 months of age.  I see this a lot in the shelter and rescue world.  It is a tough time.  It's pretty normal (even for us dog trainers!) to be frustrated.  Puppies are rowdy and seem to come up with behaviors overnight that you thought were either non-existent or were no longer an issue.  

Oh, 6 month old puppies are still endearing and cuddly and playful and smart.  They are learning so very fast that it's hard to keep up with them - and it's either stuff we want them to learn, or stuff that we don't.  

Vinny's challenging behaviors right now?  Well, when I'm out of the room, he pulls up the bathroom rug and shakes it until it's dead, then dragging it to the middle of the bedroom floor to display his kill for all to see.  He is back to mouthing hands and arms with a passion, and is back to being overstimulated by touch, grooming and handling.  He is actively teething right now so his chewing behaviors have increased a lot - but for the most part he limits this to toys and bones. Although he has a strange attraction to chewing on my computer chair!  He is trying to jump up on me and others when he had been sweetly sitting.  He discovered he likes rolls of toilet paper.  And as the weather is getting cooler, he has discovered my jacket that hangs just right so he can grab it in his mouth as we walk along.  

Now, most days, I am able to laugh to myself at his antics - I mean, after all, he is only a teenager once, right?  As a dog trainer, I know that this phase will pass and he will settle into a calmer, more reliable adult.  I know that the most important thing for me to do right now is to manage Vinny's environment and to set him up for success whenever I can.  I know to maintain consistency and gentleness in my relating to him, and to not allow frustration to take hold.  

But it is truly a full-time job to keep him entertained appropriately, to give him things to do to keep his mind and body busy, and to keep my patience and sense of humor.   There are times when I do get frustrated.  So, what do I do when frustration begins to creep in?

Take a break!  Too much togetherness can increase frustration.  It becomes a never-ending cycle of overstimulated puppy and frustrated person.  Put puppy in a puppy-safe area with every toy and bone you can find, including food puzzle toys that are safe to leave with him unsupervised.  Frozen stuffed Kongs and hollow bones are great for teething puppies and can keep them busy for quite a while.   After a break, you will both be in a better frame of mind and will be ready to play and have some fun!    

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