Both of us, that is. Bear is nearly eight months old. I am training a dog for the first time. I’ve always had dogs around, but I’ve never had a puppy. We always had adult dogs. Looking at the positive side of things, could it be that my frustration with Bear’s lack of signaling, and his rambunctious chewing is merely a puppy thing?
Winter break is more challenging. The teenagers forage through the night, leaving dishes at nose-level for Bear. Wrappers lay on the ground. Jackets and bags are scattered throughout. It’s all I can do to not pull out the Glad bag, fill it up with teenager shrapnel, and drop off at Goodwill. First thing in the morning I do a sweep of the house, gathering remnants of first-world teenage life: mostly eaten bag of chips, half-full glass of chocolate milk, bowl of ice cream, spoon on floor, candy wrappers, slippers, fingernail polish, fingernail polish remover, roll of toilet paper (I hope for fingernail polish remover)
My dulled human senses overlook some gems. Bear follows me as I complete my sweep. He simply follows, occasionally grabbing at a particularly choice wrapper. What he is really doing is noting where all the un-mined gems remain after my initial sweep. After showing some interest in my breakfast, he quietly departs.
Bear’s poops are now filled with a potpourri of what the kids leave out and I do not gather on my initial sweep. It is difficult to not investigate what has been ingested, yet remains intact. Wrappers and Nerf bullets abound. Ritz cracker packaging and granola bar wrappers remain intact and would be able to be re-used if they weren’t torn apart.
Friday was a particularly active chew day for Bear. Declan and Maggie had a doctor’s appointment, so Bear was left with Fiona and her friend (both sleeping) when we left at one. We returned from the appointment to see Bear on the side yard, alone. Always playful and happy to see anyone, Bear bounded up to say hello.
“What is Bear doing outside?” I asked Fiona, barely containing my anger.
“I don’t know. He is so annoying.” She replied.
Having been gone for the past two hours, I chose not to engage in verbal combat. Back inside the house, though, Bear had consumed a straw basket in the living room, found my shoe and Dec’s shoe (still serviceable, but with some rubber chewed off), and apparently opened the door into our room, chewing up a gardening book and two boxes.
“You left the door to my room open?” I stated as a pseudo question to Fiona.
“No, Bear opened the door.” Fiona responded. Since when can Bear open a door? Quickly calculating the costs and benefits of engaging an enraged teenager into verbal combat, I chose to start picking up what remained of our possessions.
I simply responded with, “Wow, Bear is really learning a lot.”
But here is where my ignorance clouds my judgement. I am sure there are people who know how puppies develop, and come to think of it, I have been told by some of these people how puppies develop. But it doesn’t sink in when someone tells you about the different stages. It is too easy to simply nod at the explanation, agreeing with the expert that has gone through it themselves. And it is even easier to suggest improvements (either out loud or in your head). Why don’t you do this? Would it help if you did this?
There are people out there training dogs to do amazing things. I have watched a lot of their YouTube videos. They go through step by step directions how to train your dog to pick up their toys. Start by presenting something for your dog to grab. Then have them hold it for longer and longer periods of time. Then have the object on the floor, not in your hand. The number of steps depends on how involved the “trick” is. I’ve noticed that I am able to get Bear through the first one or two steps and then I hit a road block.
Similar to where we are at with the signaling of low-blood sugar, we get stuck on a preliminary task. Bear can put the object in his mouth, but he won’t hold it for any amount of time. When I withhold the click-treat, he quickly flops to the ground and begins playing with the object (I’ve been using a blood-glucose testing kit).
My new hope is that Bear and I are simply not at the optimal experience for this stuff, and that we will soon develop into something more.