A day in the life with Spencer the American Pit Bull Terrier puppy. Spencer's sixth week—15 weeks old, 31 pounds, 16 1/4 inches from the ground to the highest point of the shoulders (the withers).
About 3 1/2 months old.
First Trip to the Dog Park
Spencer's first experience at a dog park started out a little rough. The first dog he met immediately attacked him, growling and pinning him to the ground even before we made it into the play area. The dog had somehow gotten through the second gate as we were just entering the park. Behind me, Amie had told Bruno to "leave it" to prevent him from joining in to protect Spence while I pulled the dog who was as big as Bruno off of Spencer and kept it cornered until the owner came over and put a leash on her dog. She then spoke to her dog in a sweet tone, telling him he was a bad dog. The human words had the right idea, however the tone in the voice was saying, "Good Dog." It was too sweet-sounding and there was no authority in it. Therefore the dog that attacked was just told he was a good boy for attacking.
Spencer was a bit shaken up and I knew that I could not pick him up or talk to him until he relaxed and got over his experience, otherwise I would have created instability in the way Spencer deals with other dogs. The attacking dog left the dog park. We stayed and I was hoping another more stable dog would show up so Spencer didn't associate this place with attacking dogs.
Soon after, a Husky showed up. This dog had no interest in attacking other dogs so long as the other dogs did as he wished. He guarded the water fountain bowl and his ball, growling and bearing his teeth if Bruno or Spencer came near. The owner laughed at the behavior. As soon as we realized this, we told Spencer and Bruno to "Leave it" and they both listened and kept their distance from the protective dog. Since Bruno and Spencer left the dog alone there were no dog fights.
The Husky was playing ball with his owner. A few times Bruno tried to join in on the play, however we told him to "Leave it" to prevent any issues between the dogs. Spencer just watched.
After the Husky left, a Goldendoodle came in. This dog played rough which was right up Bruno's alley. When dogs play rough Bruno is able to play rough back. Spencer, on the other hand, being so small was not able to handle the dog all-out pummeling him. Spence would get down and a few times yelped. We had to start body-blocking the Goldendoodle from Spencer, but could not pick Spence up or talk sweet to him since he was very unsure about the dog.
Spencer started hiding behind us. I didn't want his dog park experience to end with him hiding from the other dogs or it may have made him insecure. He had to learn to deal and also learn that he would be protected by his pack leaders. I knew I could not pick Spencer up or it would have been the beginning of some future issue; to pick up an unsure puppy and coddle it.
Dragging him out by his collar would have made him even more unsure. He had to come out on his own. I could not leave the dog park until he did and was hoping to get him over it before the Goldendoodle left the park. I put a leash on Spencer and he started to walk with me, heeling. Spence was very unsure about walking around on the leash while the other dog was running around. He would stop walking and I would kneel down and Spence would come to me. I would then get up and walk more, snapping my fingers in front of him to keep him walking. I was careful not to talk sweet to him. When the Goldendoodle came running over, I blocked him from jumping on Spencer.
The owners of the Goldendoodle offered to have their dog lie down to let Spence meet him. This worked great.
Spencer went over and smelled the Goldendoodle and his tail came out from between his legs. Then I noticed Spencer watching Bruno play with the dog and Spencer's tail started to wag. Excellent, we were making progress with Spencer.
Spencer decided to join in. The owners of the Goldendoodle body-blocked their dog when they could tell he was coming over to pounce on Spence and we worked together to keep the play toward Spencer at a level the pup could handle. Spencer started opening up and playing.
A little while later, a Rottweiler showed up. Spencer was not sure at first but soon started to play with the dogs again. I wanted to end on a good note and decided it was time to leave while Spence was in a good frame of mind. There were several instances where we could have created issues for Spencer that may have stayed with him into adulthood. For example, picking him up in order to protect him, petting or talking sweet to him while he was unsure, being worried or scared or dragging him out from his hiding place rather than letting him walk out on his own. At the same time we had to show him that we would protect him. Prior to this trip to the dog park all of Spencer’s other dog encounters were with the balanced dogs we pack walk with a few times a week, and dogs barking from behind a fence.
Just like his big brother Bruno, Spencer is showing signs that he will make an excellent watch and guard dog when he gets older. It was night and Spencer heard something outside and started to bark. Spencer has seen Bruno bark at things outside to alert us. This is a behavior that we have not tried to stop, as we want our dogs to tell us when they think something is not right. Bruno will bark and growl to alert us of something outside and we can tell him to stop barking but remain alert, or stop barking and relax and lie down. We can also tell him to keep barking. Bruno watches us for direction and is always ready to do what he thinks we want him to do.
Recently Bruno was walking off leash in our woods with my husband and he spotted a couple of men walking toward them. Bruno let out a little growl to alert my husband that someone he was not so sure about was coming. It is rare that Bruno will react in a manner such as that when he sees strangers. Usually everyone is immediately his friend. Therefore when he does we know to not dismiss his senses too quickly. My husband told him to be quiet and heel next to him but stay alert. This communication was through body language and small sounds. Bruno did just that; he heeled quietly with no leash. Had my husband wanted Bruno to bark but stay with him, he could have done that too. If he wanted Bruno to totally relax, he could have told him that too.
People often ask me if they keep their dog submissive and under them in the pack order if their dog still protect them if the time ever arises. One can never train or raise the guard dog out of a dog, however you can train and raise the dog in such a way that the dog looks to you for direction and commands. In a pack even the lowest ranking members of the pack come forward and protect the pack leader should something threaten them. The best guard dogs are those that see the owners as above them and look to them for direction.
I can now say "cage" and Spencer will get up and walk into his crate. I taught him this by saying "cage" every time I led him into his crate.
At this age Spencer is still peeing often. Bruno, on the other hand, holds it a lot longer. Sometimes I wonder where Spence gets all that pee. He is not marking when he is peeing because he is squatting and peeing until he is down to drips. Not long after he goes it seems he has to go again. Therefore we make sure we take him out often.
OK Spence, the driveway is better than the porch, however I really would prefer the grass. I do not ever correct him if he already starts going outside just because it is in the wrong place, as I do not want to confuse him. I am going to have to start watching him after he eats rather than just putting him outside so I can guide him to the grass and teach him that is where I want him to go.
Spence, pooping on the welcome mat is not really a nice welcome to visitors. To get him to poop off of the porch someone needs to walk him to the grass. Got to work on getting the entire family to follow him out.
Spencer yipped in his crate at 4:00 a.m. I got up to let him out and instead of walking straight to the door he got a drink of water and then walked to the door. Once he walked out the front door he got another drink from the porch water. I walked him to the grass as usual and he peed, but not very much came out. We walked back inside and Spencer headed to the dog beds. Oh no, little buddy, I don't think so. It's 4:00 a.m. which means I am going back to bed. "Cage." Spence walked to the kitchen toward his cage and stopped to get another drink. Seems the little guy woke up thirsty.
Spence went right back to sleep after he walked into his crate. He later woke up at 6:00 a.m. as usual. Spence gets up every morning between 5:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. He has yet to sleep past 7:00 a.m. Guess he does not know I am a night owl, not a morning person. The things we owners do for those puppies!
The times when I take Spencer outside to do his business and I know he would rather be inside the house, for example when it is raining or extremely hot and humid outside, as soon as he goes to the bathroom I turn and walk back to the house to let him know that was all I wanted him to do and he gets to come inside after he's done. This came in very handy the day it was pouring rain and we needed him to pee before going out for a bit. At first Spencer tried to hide under the tractor, but I called him out and tried to walk around as normal even though I was getting soaking wet, as if it were any other day walking out to pee. Spence soon looked over at me and squatted, as if he was testing me out to see if that was why we were out there. As soon as he was finished I turned to the house without speaking. Body language works much better than human words. Spence ran to the porch very happy with himself. Good puppy!
Um, Spencer, just a second ago that sock was inside my boot. "Leave it!" I am flattered that you like the smell of my feet, but here, take this bone instead.
Spence! What's in your mouth now? I could tell this one was not going to get dropped from my "Drop it" command. I opened his mouth and pulled it out. Oh gross! It's a frog head. Spence, you are going to give yourself worms again. Cut that out!
I looked over and Spence was licking something in the grass. It looked like a stick, but when I used my foot to dig it up a bit I discovered it was really some smelly old bones from some kind of animal. I could smell it, so I can only imagine how strong it was for him.
Oh, great! We were out on a pack walk and stopped for a water break. As all of the dogs were getting their turn to drink Spence was sitting nicely. Suddenly he starts pulling toward something; a big no-no. "Hey!" and I give him a tug back with a hand signal to sit down again and that is when I noticed what he was pulling toward—a cigarette butt. NO!!! Don't take after Bruno and try and clean up the earth by eating everyone's butts off of the ground! "Leave it!" I sure hope this was a one-time thing.
Oh boy, Spence you outgrew this crate, too. When you lie on your side your head touches the front of the crate and your back end touches the back.
I bring in the next size up crate from the barn. This is much better. Spence has some room to stretch out. I don't want it too large or he may decide to go to the bathroom in one end and sleep in the other. This is the perfect size, for a little while anyway. Bruno will be pleased the next time he decides to go into Spence's crate.
The Right Size Chewy
After Spencer got the chewed soft end of the bully stick stuck down his throat I started looking for something larger. I was able to find bully sticks twice as thick. Spence does much better with the larger size. I still do not put them in his crate at night just in case, but do give them to him during the day while I am here to monitor. This pup’s strong jaw needs something strong to chew on.
Learning How Not to React
While out on one of our off-leash, “run around the woods and find the scent of small animals” hikes we reached a trail that bordered along a field of horses. This time all ten or so horses were right up against the fence. This startled Spence and he let out a little growl. "Hey! No! Rrrrrr!" Spence looked at me and back at the horses. I gave him one of my “I mean it” looks. "Leave it!" Spence moved on realizing I did not approve of his reaction.
The kids had some people over to swim. Spencer just loved all of the teenagers. Everyone was petting him and like a good boy, Spence was not jumping on anyone. At one point in the night someone close by lit off a firecracker. Spence turned in the direction the noise came from and was very unsure about what he just heard. I had to tell all of the kids not to pet him while he was upset in any way or it would have made him even more upset the next time he heard a loud noise like that. I didn't talk to him or touch him. I just sat next to him waiting for him to work it out in his own mind.
At one point it looked like Spence had moved on and was not worried about the noise, so I tested him and silently handed him a bully stick to chew on. Nope, he would not take it and his eyes immediately darted back toward the direction he had heard the noise. He was still not ready to be talked to or petted. However he is feeling when he is petted or talked sweet to is reinforcing his feelings, and I did not want anyone to tell him they agreed with him being afraid.
Five minutes later I tried again. This time he took the stick, lay down and started to chew. Spence had moved on in his mind and could now get loved on once again.
Silly Bruno, that's not your crate. It was time for bed and Spence was tired. He had gone to his crate to go to sleep. Only there was no room for him. Bruno, buddy, time to come out. Sorry boy, but it's not big enough for the both of you.
I called Bruno out and Spence did the cutest thing. He sniffed the blanket right where Bruno was lying and plopped down where Bruno's scent was the strongest. I think Bruno gives him a sense of security. I handed him the bone to chew but he just lay on top of it and went to sleep. Goodnight, Spencer.