|Two out of Three Ain't Bad!|
#1: Laugh. It's quite impossible not to laugh when you've got a puppy and two rambunctious older sisters who now act like full-grown puppies. However, the laugh rule is there to remind myself to embrace the chaos and imperfection that is our home. Rules will be broken or forgotten or pretended to be forgotten but are really being broken; I will mess up a training exercise; accidents will happen even with the older gals; we will have some "getting to know you" inappropriate behaviors; and I will be woken up in the middle of the night by one small puppy crying and two large puppies thinking it's time to get up for the day. My philosophy? If you can find something to laugh at while cleaning up poo at 3 am, life is good.
#2: Find your Stress Relief. Having a puppy and adjusting to a 3-dog household can be stressful. Finding a way to relieve stress and frustration without yelling at the dogs is key to creating calm from all the chaos. What are my stress relievers? Making up silly names for Hurley (Bite Monster, Hurley Monster, Bitey McBitey, etc). I also sing to my dogs. Yup. No, I will not record this but you are most welcome to use your imagination. I sing to Hurley about not chewing up my shoes, Sadie about not pooping in the basement, Maggie about not destroying Hurley's toys. Fun fact: It's nearly impossible to yell at your dogs and sing to them at the same time.
#3: Reserve "No" for only the "emergency" situations. I really try hard not to say No to the dogs when their attention can simply be redirected but I also think it's got its place in the arsenal of commands. For instance, No is not appropriate to yell at Hurley when he's chewing on my shoe. I use an Uh Uh Uh or Leave It for these situations and redirect his attention, even if I have to redirect 10 times in a row. I use No when he is chewing on an electrical cord that is plugged in and he could electrocute himself. And I say it very loudly and strongly. I have to admit that I am somewhat more liberal with the No when it comes to the girls - probably because they should know not to do whatever they are doing but with Hurley now in the house, I am much more conscious of saying it. One reason why I try not to use No regularly is so that I can reserve it for emergency-type situations when I need an immediate cease and desist from the dogs; the other reason is that all the stress, frustration, fear, etc I might be feeling is communicated in my tone of voice when I am saying No. I feel that the Uh Uh Uh or Leave It comes out of my mouth with less emotion attached and therefore, is a better training tool in the end. Plus Leave It is the #1 most important command I have ever taught a dog, especially Maggie.
#4: Patience, Patience, Patience. Take deep breaths. Laugh. Sing. And at the end of the day, remember that it's my responsibility to show the dogs how I want them to behave as a three-some. Reminding myself of this fact helps me maintain a patient demeanor with them and refocuses my energy on how to accomplish what I want of them. And in those moments when I'm feeling impatient, can't find my laughter or sing a song, it helps that I have a great hubbie who will occupy the dog's attention while I give myself a time-out (usually in the form of a bath, which is one of the world's best stress relievers).
#5: Take lots of pictures (and not just for the blog). These puppy days will be gone soon and it's important to document and remember these early days before Hurley grows up to be a giant.
#6: Celebrate successes. Sing them far and wide. For instance, did you know that Hurley learned Sit (hand gesture and verbal command) in 3 sessions over 3 days? Or that he is almost there with Down and we've started on Stay? He actually Stayed while I backed up 5 steps, waited 5 seconds and then returned to treat and release him. That is an incredible attention span for an 11-week puppy and I am SO SO SO proud of him. He's one smart cookie! And Maggie has been fairly good (not perfect but improving) with sharing toys? This is HUGE in our house. And Sadie has the most incredible stay; it's even getting better now that Hurley is here. Now that we have three, she seems to understand that not every command I say is directed at her and when I'm working with Maggie or Hurley and have told her Down and Stay, she stays down.
Those are Sarah's Rules of Order - keeping myself in order so that I can be the best doggie-mom I can be.