Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Puppy

This Saturday, the last jolly crewmate launched on her own good ship. Miss Trudy has changed her identity to Pearl, and will be assisting Linda in life and dog training, herding a flock of derpdogs, and, I suspect, achieving a great deal else and forging some new paths in the lives of her people, starting out from her command post under the Christmas tree. Her long-anticipated permanent home is a gift to her new family and to her.
Ordering her minions.
Nobody should have to wait around for the show to start.* I'll let puppies go as early as eight weeks, but think there are some real advantages to hanging around a week or two longer for more littermate lessons and Mom time. Anyone who has to fly in a crate needs to grow out until he's eleven or twelve weeks old, well clear of any primary fear imprint window. Free-range farm-puppydom plus regular field trips build lifelong resilience.

After that point, there is no point. Puppy is just being obstructed from her mission. She needs to be connecting to her people, learning her work, adjusting to her reality and helping to create it.

We chose Charlotte for our reality when she was ten weeks old and volunteered for SAR duties. We ask a lot of our SAR partners beyond the full-time job of finding people and telling us about it.

Charlie will need to conduct herself in public in a way that brings credit to her team -- well-mannered and friendly, ready to take on PR and agency relations. She will help me with client dogs and foster dogs and present herself well to their owners. She'll have duties towards the livestock and poultry, both managing and protecting them. She'll live in a pack of strong personalities. She'll go on hikes and bike rides and skiing, host summer parties, and snuggle away the winter nights.

If she acquits herself well at all of the above, and she enjoys good health, she'll be the mother of the next generation.

Like I said, a lot.

And much of it wasn't happening.

Charlie was progressing well with her SAR training. She's the second pup who we've started as a trailing dog, and this is going well, as it did for her mother. Despite being a generally goofy, dorky puppy-puppy, she brings a shockingly mature professionalism and focus to each task.

It was also clear that she really, really enjoyed being the baby on training days, the only puppy among the big dogs and the Special Snowflake.

Like her sister, she was pig-ignorant about obedience as such. She came when called, though not as consistently or with the commitment that I'd like. Knew how to sit for her dinner and when asked, had just learned to down, could walk on a leash, and was mostly ignorant of any concept of "stay." Unlike her sister, she showed zero interest in the hoofstock, had excessive caution of the electric fences, and hung back during chores. She thought Trudy had it covered.

We were still using the gates meant to control baby puppies and foster heathens to manage the two of them for housebreaking and mischief. This impeded our own movements through the house, prevented them from mastering the art of the dog door, and tended to isolate Crazy Uncle Moe from the rest of the family. Since Moe cannot handle being cornered by baby dogs who are still exercising their puppy licenses, and reliably intercepting two heedless monsters is beyond my powers,  he was not integrated with the pests except on walks. So pests they remained.

In the four days since she became an only puppy, all of Charlie's latent oursness has emerged at once.

The gates are open. She is truly free-range. Uncle Moe is fine with it.

On Sunday I sold eight wethers, requiring the most stock handling we've done in her lifetime. Charlie marched into the shed and tried to help us load them.

She has stopped torturing our overly-indulgent cat.

She has taken her place in the Big Bed.

I call, and I get a puppy. Right away. With imperfectly-engineered brakes, so it's best to be prepared before calling.

She is remarkably adept at distinguishing dog toys from the general clutter.

When it's quiet, she is not up to no good. She's usually following the family tradition of slipping in silently behind me.

Fact is, we got a puppy for Christmas.

*Beats a really crappy show that starts on time, though. Like maybe a double feature of Twilight and Eraserhead. Yeah, I'll just wait.


  1. Well, durn. Ya mean even >you< CAN'T raise two puppies simultaneously and have them develop fully into their genetic promise??

    Who knew? In the future, I will direct those **cautious** enough to ask me about the wisdom of two pups (especially littermates) right to this blog.

    Thank you, Heather. Thank you so very much.

    1. At 4 1/2 months we haven't done any damage -- witness how quickly both puppies are accelerating into their own.

      But I cannot express How. Much. Work. it is after the age of 12 weeks to just keep them developmentally normal. There is *no way* to optimize. A pup I'm raising is optimized when she's spending *all* her time with me, less the necessary alone time (at least 3x a week for several hours, crated in the house while I'm away or out in a kennel) that a pup needs in order to learn not to be neurotic when alone.

      But to prevent littermate co-dependent feral stupid puppy syndrome, the pups must be separated at night and about half the day or more.

      So they can't both be with me all the time.

      Don't try to raise two pups to adulthood together.

      Just. Don't.

      Any breeder who tries to sell you two puppies, *do not buy one puppy from that person.*

      And if you are buying or adopting an older pup who has been with his littermates after the age of 12 weeks, better find out what the breeder or owner or foster person has been doing to insure he develops normally.

      Too many stories of five, six, ten-month-old pups, unsold, often "grown out" as show prospects and found lacking, and they have been rotting in a kennel or a barn all that time, learning nothing that will help them be pets or working partners, and plenty that will impede them from ever reaching that goal.

  2. Ya know, she somehow reminds me of her grandma. It'll be fun to hear of her exploits.

  3. Thanks for another great lesson in dog rearing.

  4. Love the happy dog face with the Santa hat! A good friend of mine wanted to get two livestock guardian puppies from the same litter- and these would be their first dogs...either in decades, or ever in their life. Luckily, the breeder of the puppies is a friend, and while at first she didn't think it would be a problem, I managed to convince her it would not be right for the circumstances, then convinced the puppy-buying friend that it wouldn't be right either.

    It was the information that I've read in past posts of yours that helped gel my previous thoughts on not keeping littermates, and helped me convince both parties that one puppy (for many reasons) would be plenty for the time being.


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