A day in the life with Spencer the American Pit Bull Terrier puppy. Spencer's fourth week—13 weeks old, 25 pounds, 15 1/4 inches from the ground to the highest point of the shoulders (the withers).
3 months old.
Spence is getting better about not chasing cats, however he will still do it if he is in a frisky mood and we are not out there to say "leave it." I used to have to put a lot more effort into getting him to leave them alone, now a simple verbal command or one body block without words will do the trick. If Spence is outside and we hear him start to bark we know it is time to go tell that pup to leave it! The fact that the cats are still here and will walk by him, and stick around after Spence starts to chase and gets corrected by us, means the cats sense he means no real harm. If the pup had other intentions besides just playing a game, believe me, the cats would know it and they would not stick around on the porch so close to him. I just need a few more of those cats to swat him good to help teach him!
Spence walks up to a computer chair and starts to chew on the height adjuster handle. "Atttt!" Spence looks up at me and walks away.
Later I catch that pup starting to gnaw on the side of the plant pot! "Attttt!" Spence, take this bone instead.
Spencer was resting in the dog bed when suddenly he got up and ran to the kitchen. A few seconds later he returned with a paper towel and started to chew it up. Spence, where did you get that paper towel? And don't you see that bone right there on your bed? Bones are for chewing, not paper towels! "Drop it!" I take the paper towel and hand him his bone.
Spencer! I left my flip-flop outside with you for what, five minutes and you chew it all up! Look I know you like the smell of feed but PLEASE, do you not see the bone behind you!? "Leave it!"
I am pretty sure Amie did not put her flip-flop in your dog bed. Bite marks in it; just what I suspected. "Leave it!" Here, take this bone instead.
Score on the Flip-Flop Chewing
I left my favorite pair of flip-flops in the middle of the floor. After a bit Spence got up from his dog bed and started to smell them. He almost walked away but turned back and smelled them some more. As soon as I saw his mouth start to open, "HEY!" Spence jumped and left the shoes. That was the first time I caught him in the act of wanting to chew up a shoe.
Still no more crate accidents since the first day we took Spence home and he has not gone to the bathroom inside the house since last week (knock on wood). It's been really hot and humid outside and the pup has figured out that if he pees outside he gets to come inside the house. He still cannot be trusted inside like an older dog. He has to be taken out right after he eats and watched for signs that he has to go such as circling, walking to the door or sniffing around. We take him out every couple of hours regardless unless he is sleeping. When he wakes he has to be taken right outside.
I don't think I knocked on that wood hard enough. Spencer went to the door and no one noticed. He pooped right on the throw rug at the front door. That was the first time he had pooped inside besides the first night in his crate. We decided to buy a new rug for the front door since he had also peed on it. We cleaned it, however I am thinking the smell was still lingering. Glad it was only a small rug that is easily and cheaply replaced.
Well I sure did jinx myself by thinking how well Spence was potty training. I had to run out for a bit and told the kids to watch the puppy while I was gone. I came home to this in the middle of the living room floor.
Twice Spencer walked over to my computer and stared at the lights. The first time I didn't say anything to him since he just looked and walked away. The second time he seemed a little too curious and I told him to leave it. I was afraid he would later decide my computer was a toy of his. Spence walked away from it. I'll have to keep my eye on that. Can't continue to write Spence updates if the pup chews up the computer!
Practicing to Wait at the Door
Amie practices having Spence wait at the door before going outsidea; a good safety skill not to have your dog bolt just because the door is open. Bruno is an old pro at not bolting and waits with Spence.
I walked Spence outside to pee. Suddenly he started to run and that is when I realized the birds were right in front of him! I was too far away to do any kind of body block but started to run toward him, "Hey! Hey! Rrrrrrrrrrr!!!" Spence fell back and I backed off right away to let him know that was all I wanted—for him to stop chasing. Spence decides to pee instead. I find that if I growl at him he responds very well. :)
A tired dog is a good dog
I have found that nothing tires out a dog the way a pack walk, where all dogs are heeling on the leash, does. Spencer gets a walk every morning and another at night, and often another in the afternoon (sometimes more). We do different types of walks with him, from heeling on a leash to heeling without a leash, to hikes in the woods allowing him to hunt around off leash with Bruno. On the walks where he hunts around with Bruno in the open woods he covers a lot of ground and does a lot of running and using his nose. When we return from these walks he is tired, however his mind is very stimulated and he is not quite ready to sleep. Bruno and Spence often play after we return. Their minds are reeling with excitement.
On the walks where all dogs are leashed, the length of time we exercise is the same, however the dogs are walking, not running. They are following. They are not allowed to walk in front of the person holding the leash and we keep all dogs that are walking with us calm when passing other dogs. Teach them to ignore and just keep walking. We cover less ground in the same amount of time. When we return from one of these types of walks all dogs immediately go to sleep. There is no excited playing. The dogs are beat and just want to sleep.
It sounds odd and if anyone would have told me this ten years ago I am not so sure I would have believed them. But, it's true. When you walk a dog with leadership, make them heel on a leash, keeping them calm and following you, it mentally drains the dog so that all they want to do is sleep when they return. Perfect for those who work or are gone during the day. I am mostly home with Spence, however on days I must leave him or days when he is going to go for a long car ride, we make sure the morning walk is a real pack walk. It ensures that he is happy to be home sleeping in his crate while I am gone or relaxed in the car. Spence gets pack walked where he is heeling at least once a day. Sometimes that pack walk is at night rather than in the morning depending on our plans for the day. If I know we have an hour-and-a-half leashed pack walk planned with friends that same night I might hike with him instead so he has enough energy for the night pack walk. As he gets older I will not have to worry about saving some energy for our night walks with friends and their dogs. I have a feeling I will be putting a back pack on him to slow him down. :)
Dogs that go for walks on leashes where they walk in front and lead their humans, sniffing around where they please, return physically tired, but not mentally tired.
"Drop it" Command
At 13 weeks Spence is starting to respond to the “drop it” command. He was out in the yard and I noticed he had something in his mouth. I walked over to him and said, "drop it." The pup actually spit it out onto the ground and waited to see what I was going to do next. I bent down and picked up what he had. Of course it was a piece of poop! Spence started to wag his tail in circles. I don't know if it was his own poop, Bruno's or the cats’, but I suppose poop is poop. Yuck!
Oh my gosh, Spence, now what do you have?!
"Drop it!" Oh my gosh, it's a smashed, dried-up dead toad. Double Yuck! The things I have to touch because of you. Give me that!
Chasing the Birds
I was outside with Spence. The guineas were out there as well. One second Spence was following me and the next he was in hot pursuit of a bird! "Hey!" My words were going to do nothing this time; Spence was in the zone. I ran at him, however I was not going to catch up this time, but Spence was at a pace where he just might catch the bird. I got as close as I could to Spence and did the only thing I could think of, I tossed Bruno's Illusion collar, which I was holding, at him. SCORE! It hit him in the side. I had not thrown it hard, just enough to touch him and get his attention. Spence came to a skidding stop. I walked toward him leaning forward until he showed signs of giving it up by sitting down, lowering his head and relaxing. I then backed off to let him know that was all I wanted. We were out there for the next hour with the birds and Spence only looked at them and back at me. He is starting to understand that chasing them is off limits. This battle of the birds is not over yet, however.
Trip to Emergency Vet
I realized Spencer was not feeling well when he would not eat his dinner. He also had no desire to chew on a brand new chewy; so unlike him. Earlier in the day he had gotten a hold of another dead, rotting frog and had swallowed it! I had looked in his mouth to try and get it, but it was gone and his mouth smelled like a rotting carcass. YUCK! Now that he was not feeling well I was worried about the frogs’ bones inside his stomach. Spence was very tired but he didn't want to lie down and was whining and started to shake. It was late at night so we took him to the ER vet just to make sure. Belly x-rays came back normal. When the vet tech was returning him to the room after getting his x-rays she positioned herself behind Spence, trying to get him to go back into the room ahead of her. Spence stopped at the entranceway, not wanting to walk into the room before her. I was pretty impressed with the pup. Even with an upset stomach he remembered his manners.
Spence had a couple of episodes of diarrhea at the vet which made me think of a rotting frog in the way it smelled! Double Yuck! He was given IV fluids under his skin to prevent dehydration and sent home with some meds.
It's 2:00 a.m. and Spence is sleeping in the dog bed next to Bruno. The dog bed allows him to keep his upper half elevated because of the high sides, whereas his crate forces him to lie flat; something he is not comfortable doing. I am thinking about shoving that big dog bed into his crate to see if I can't get at least a couple hours of sleep. Can't let a pup with diarrhea out of his crate, but do not want him to have to lie flat if it hurts.
Nope, the dog bed would not fit. Instead I got an old child-sized sleeping bag and folded it so it was raised on the edges which allowed Spence to raise himself a bit. Apparently it was enough because he went right back to sleep. I set the video monitor up pointing at him so I can easily see if he is OK. 2:30 a.m., goodnight, all.
Spence was up at 7:00 a.m. as usual, and is back to his old self. No more diarrhea, no more throwing up so far today; he is playing with Bruno and even started barking at a cat. Yep, back to his old self. Spence, PLEASE stop eating dead things, poop and whatever disgusting thing your nose can find off the ground!
I started to prepare the dogs’ breakfast. Bruno as usual walked away and lay down waiting. Spencer sat down and watched. After a bit he got impatient and whined, "Shhhh!" We did this a couple of more times before he stopped. I could not give him his food bowl until he stopped whining. He needs to learn patience and manners. You do not beg for food. You wait. Waiting is a good mental exercise for any dog.
I opened the front door to let Spence out. Spence went to the left to the dog bed and I was about to close the door and go back inside when I noticed that after he sat down something really had his attention. He was staring off to the right. I turned to the right and saw what he was looking at—one of our peahens. He was allowed to look, however I waited to see if he would react in any other way. A few seconds later Spence started to move toward it. This one was easy. I was in between Spence and the bird. I stepped forward and body blocked him. He moved to the right, I moved to the right. He looked up at me and I gave him one of my disapproving looks. Spence's body went from stiff and alert to relaxed, but still curious. This told me that he understood what I was saying. I was saying to leave the bird alone.
The peahen moved off of the porch. Since Spence was not in an excited state where he looked like he still wanted the bird—his tail was not up, and he was not holding his head high and proud—I allowed Spence to calmly watch her leave. I'll definitely have to keep an eye on Spence and the birds.
Preparing for the Fourth of July
The morning of the Fourth of July I made sure our morning walk was a real pack walk where every dog was heeling on a leash in order to tire them out to the fullest, both mentally and physically. The more tired they are, the better they will be able to handle all of the booms they will hear throughout the day.
I paused at every gateway to give Spence a chance to try and butt in front. No go; the pup seemed to have his manners in order.
Spence was stopping while on the leash quite a bit in the beginning of the walk. He kept looking back toward the direction we came from, a few times stopping and looking around like he was not so sure. Each time I gave him a second, then encouraged him to keep moving, giving him a small tug. That worked well. At one point I decided to test him. We were in a safe area and I waited for him to stop walking. When he did I dropped his leash and kept going. "Hey wait for me!" Spence ran to catch up to his pack. I picked up his leash and kept going. After a bit Spence got into the zone of walking and stopped stopping.
After Spence got into the zone of walking without stopping I worked on his issue of licking at the other dogs in the pack during the walk. I had corrected him many times before for this behavior as the older dogs do not appreciate having their mouths licked up while they walk. Today a simple small tug and later just a "Hey!" stopped him and kept him walking. When he was first learning how to walk on a leash I had let this behavior slide as it was getting Spence walking, however he now understands what a collar and leash are and he understands that the pack walks together while on them.
When we got back to the main trail leading to home the pup was exhausted, but we still had to make it home and being tired was the point of the whole walk. It was a safe area and I unsnapped the pup’s leash to allow him to follow. Spence would fall behind a bit then speed it up to catch up. It was easier for him than staying at a steady leash pace. I will be taking them out again for a walk in the afternoon so they are good and tired for tonight.
Reactions to the Fireworks
Spencer seemed to not care less about the fireworks. We were careful not to give him any affection, just in case. Had he started to feel unsure and we petted him, we would have been telling him that unsure is the way we wanted him to be. However a dog is feeling at the time you give it affection is what it thinks you want it to feel. What dogs need during times of fear is a stronger minded being to feed from. Someone they can see as taking over the pack to ensure their survival. Not someone who justifies their fears.
Bruno, on the other hand, crawled inside Spencer's small crate and stayed there for the night.
I unknowingly made a mistake with Bruno the Boxer when he was 2 1/2 months old. We were at an amusement park and a short thunderstorm hit. We all went for cover and Bruno had run under a bench. I had pulled him out and held him. People around us were petting him and talking sweet to him. At that very young age Bruno was told, yes, be afraid of thunder; that is how we want you to feel. From that point forward he was afraid of thunderstorms. I had not realized until years later reading over his 12-week-old blog page why he was so afraid and the issue had seemed to slowly get worse. It’s most likely because from time to time people would laugh at his storm and firework reaction, which was also a form of affection. The dog feels you happy and takes it as you being happy about how it feels. He was also outside when we set off some of our own fireworks once and some guests gave him love. After that he was a mess for a while, running up the steps if we were not home, trying to get into someone's bedroom, when he knows we do not even allow him up the steps. He was trying to get where our scents were the strongest. Bruno would shake something awful and start to drool.
As soon as I put the entire picture together about what caused Bruno's fear, I also put together the picture of how to work on fixing it. During storms we started taking him out on the porch, not talking to him, but ignoring him and trying to feel as strong inside as we could to show him we were not afraid of the storm.
I did not find out until after the fact and would not have allowed it, but Amie had once decided to work with him by taking him jogging in a thunderstorm. Her plan was to drain his energy and at the same time let him feel how she was not afraid. That actually helped a great deal and Bruno stopped running up the steps while we were not home and a storm hit. We continue to take him out on the porch with us during a storm from time to time and Bruno no longer shakes during storms or fireworks, but he does seek out one of the family members and lies down next to them. He also started going inside Spencer's crate, which was his old crate. We are careful not to talk or laugh at him, pet him or give him any kind of affection; only leadership when he is unsure and he seems to be improving all of the time.
Raising a Puppy: Spencer the Pit Bull