Saturday, May 18, 2013

Meet Apple: Terrier in training.

Two weeks ago, my son and his little dog, Apple re-joined our household.   Apple is a 2 year old American Toy Terrier/Boston Terrier mix.  She has the boundless energy of a young pup and the intelligence and stubbornness of a terrier all wrapped in a 7 pound body.   Raised in an apartment, she hasn’t had much opportunity to go for walks, see a variety of dogs and people.   That means Apple had some leash aggression and house training problems.

She growled at people and other dogs that passed by her.  She peed and pooped in corners of the house.  She didn’t know how to walk on a leash without pulling and had developed a cough because she constantly pulled against her collar.  She didn’t come when she was called.  She didn’t know how to stay or settle in one place unless she was crated. 

It was time for her to learn how to fit in with Jilly, Terra and the world at large.   

Training.  It’s so necessary and so easy to let it slide when life hands you other challenges, especially with a small dog.  But…and I say this in a tough love way…it’s even more important to train your dog to have good manners for their comfort as well as yours.  Big or small, dogs need to know what is expected of them in the world.  And it’s your job as a dog owner (much like parenting) to teach them socially acceptable behaviors.  Ok, I could go on and on about the importance of training and the lack of it in most dogs I see around me.  It may seem overwhelming to train your dog but it’s not. 

Just like life, you take it one step, one command at a time.

Where to start?  With what Apple already knew how to do: sit and go to her crate.  When Apple sat for me, she got a treat.  When Apple went to her crate, she got a treat.  When Apple peed and pooped outside, she got a treat.  

The biggest challenge here wasn’t basic potty training, it was dealing with anxiety.  What I observed (ok, people another hint: watch your dog, when they’re upset or anxious they will act out.)  was that when I was sitting or working in one spot, Apple was calm.  When I was moving around the house, cooking or cleaning, Apple was running around panting.  Eventually during these times, she would poop in a corner.  

Here’s how I dealt with this problem. 
First, Apple went outside to go potty at the same times each day.  When she went potty outside, she got a treat.  Second, I crated Apple or kept her with me in one room or area during transition times to give her a sense of security.  After a week or so, she started to anticipate the schedule and I could tell she was calming down.  Then, after I put her out to go potty, I let her be out of her crate for a short time during transitions.   Now, she poops outside in the morning and lies in her bed during transition times.  Accidents are fewer and farther between. 

The first new command I added was UP.  With a treat in hand, I said, “UP” and picked Apple up.  Then, she got a treat.  It didn’t take her long to figure it out.   Apple is very smart.  And it helps that she loves treats and wants to please.  

Why did I teach her UP?  This is strictly a small dog command.  What it does is let the little dog know that you are going to pick them up, so they don’t startle or squirm in your arms.  It’s safety command, too.  With a little dog, there are times when you are going to have to pick them up quickly to keep them out of harm’s way.    When Apple hears me say it, she now jumps up a little into my arms. 

Next, training task: walks to the park on her new Gentle Leader collar.

Ok, this took some getting used to for her.  Like most dogs, she tried to get it off her muzzle at first.  But, I told her to ‘leave it’ and kept walking.  When she started calmly walking with it, she got a treat.  It took her about two blocks the first day, one block the next, then half a block.  Now she jumps ‘up’ into my arms, I put on her Gentle Leader and off we go to the park.  She loves her morning walks!

Next training task: Learning to pass people and other dogs without growling, pulling or fussing.

It took two and a half weeks.  With a combination of correction when Apple growled and praise when Apple walked by sweetly, she is now walking along with no problems.  Apple greeted an Airedale Terrier yesterday with a wag of the tail and a kiss on the nose!  Success!

Yes, it’s work.  But when it works, everyone can relax and enjoy life so much more! 
That’s the real benefit of training.  Apple isn’t a terrified terrier who snaps and growls but a happy puppy. 



Melody Cleary said...

Very cool, Susan - what a lucky dog1!! Melody

Susan Gallacher-Turner and Mike Turner said...

She's a sweet at heart. Now with the new training, everyone will see it too!

Susan Gallacher-Turner and Mike Turner said...

She's a sweet at heart. Now with the new training, everyone will see it too!