We are now at almost 2 months since bringing Bruce home and we have finally entered the post-remorse phase, that I like to call, "Into the Groove".
Bruce is getting used to our routine and our day-to-day schedule. He's into the swing of things, he's moving and grooving, and he is no longer trying to mark on everything in the house - thank goodness. He is getting more comfortable with Jade's size difference. Him and Freddie are playing well together & he's learning new skills. He's a smart boy.
We leave for vacation this week and as I doing a walk through with our amazing pet sitter recently, I was explaining the couple of cues that Bruce knows and is currently still learning. As I was thinking through what we have been focusing on, I figured it would be a good opportunity to share with you what I have been prioritizing for training in these first 2 months together.
The Top 5 Training Skills I Prioritized
After the initial phase of simply helping Bruce feel safe and welcomed, here are the training cues and skills I have focused on first, and why:
1. Reward Marker: this is a word or sound you make to let your dog know they are going to get a reward. I use "yes" a lot in my videos and content, some use a training clicker, or you can use whatever other word/sound you prefer. Since I am Puerto Rican and Bruce is a Chihuahua from Mexico, I decided to teach him a separate reward marker from Jade and Freddie and make it be in Spanish. For Bruce, I use "Si" which is Spanish for "yes"! If he lies down, "Si!" and a treat. If he is quiet as a guest enters the house, "Si!" and a treat - and so on. This not only helps you communicate more clearly with your dog long term, but it is a very simple thing that your dog can learn that means good things are coming and you now have a tool that is going to make training easier. I'm enjoying some of the other skills I plan on putting Spanish words to. I'll keep you posted on our progress!
2. Name Recognition: This ones pretty self-explanatory, but I place this skills towards the top of the list because a dog who looks at you when they hear their name - or better yet, come to engage with you when they hear their name, is going to be a game changer! I'm happy to report that Bruce truly knows his name at this point. He's a smart boy, but we have also worked hard on this. I essentially wore my treat pouch throughout the day and would randomly just say his name in a happy tone, immediately followed by a small food reward. I suggest starting this training in a quiet room in the house and working your way up to distractions, then outside, then while out on-the-go. Consistency with rewards (whether that be food, treats, engaging in play, etc.) is crucial. Your dog needs to first learn that when they hear their name, they almost always get rewarded (good things happen). Worry about that first, before we focus on "fading out the rewards". You'll thank yourself later. Trust me. 😊 P.S. this is also a gift when you have more than 1 dog. It's great knowing they understand who I am talking to.
3. Training with the Crate & Soft Playpen: I try to ensure all of my dogs are crate trained and comfortable inside of a playpen, gated area, etc. Management like this is something I utilize on a daily basis for one reason or another. Even if it's for short periods of time, I wanted to make sure Bruce felt good in his crate. So he got rewarded every time he went inside it. I kept a small treat jar filled above his crate so I had rewards handy each time. I normally use his dry food for this, but you can use whatever you this is appropriate or use something more high value, if needed.
4. Place/Settling/Lying Down/Not Running Around Like a Lunatic (Anything Close to This): We worked on place/settle training on the mat in the kitchen, on a small dog bed, and when on the couch. Bruce and I have something in common, we have a hard time sitting still. 😂
5. Potty Training: Although the rescue said he was potty-trained, most dogs will need some time to adjust on this once they get into a new environment. Bruce definitely had a few accidents, especially within the first couple of weeks. So I followed my Potty Training Guide as if he was an 8 week old puppy. He hasn't had an accident in a couple of weeks or so. I've given him some more freedom around the house, but I still watch him closely.
We have also been training in other areas like walking, hand targeting, body handling, etc. These 5 are just what I felt was best to work on and prioritize over others. Everyone's priorities will be different depending on their dog, their lifestyle, and their situation.
I am really feeling the bond continue to strengthen with Bruce, especially after only less than 2 months. The other night, he fell asleep cuddling with me and Freddie on the couch, and I heard his first nice, big, loud, sigh of relief. It was his first big deep breath in and out since we got him. I teared up as I looked down at him sleeping on my lap and I fell in love with him all over again.
So first we had the honeymoon period, then the remorse period, and now we have reached the in the groove period. It's easy to overwhelm ourselves and feel like we have to train our dogs on literally everything right away, but keep things simple for yourself and for your dog.
Remember, what gets rewarded gets repeated!
Talk care and talk soon. :)