An unexpected litter, Puppy Expectations

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Expectations and Doggie Vader 1You won’t believe it if I tell you about it.  I know a man with two dogs.   We shall refer to him as Darth Vader and you will know why shortly.  His dogs love him and he loves his dogs.  Apparently he was raised on a farm and among the work done on a farm, he claims that when kittens or puppies were born and unwanted, they would simply drown them…with no remorse. (I know tons of people born on farms that know nothing of the sort)  Yes, yes, I can sense the pit in your stomach while reading this.  Put the phone down to the cops! I had the same experience when I first heard.  It stirs up that part of you that wants to immediately punch the crap out of him and make him suffer and beg for mercy.  It brings up ugliness in my tummy.  How could anyone in any right mind do something so wrong?  Ugh! I’m not here to judge and partake in citizens’ arrests.  Ok, ok. So, Darth Vader refused to get his dogs spayed/neutered and just to make this situation even more perfect he has a female and male.  Well guess what? They par-tay, get a little crazy, get drunk on rawhides and next thing, wake up next to each other smoking cigs with puppies growing in her tummy.  One day I received a call from Darth Vader and he said she was preggo again. I had previously asked for his next litter, knowing full well they would be put to death.  He had said no. Well, he thought about it and said he would let me raise them and find homes, but I had to go to his house every day to take care, clean up after them and raise them for adoption.  They are messy and a lot of work, especially as they got older. I said yes as long as he got the female spayed afterwards. We had an agreement! I was nervous and scared. I wanted to make sure I did the best I could.

Expectations and Doggie Vader 2After getting the call that they were born and breathing, YAH, I went the next day to meet them. Kill me of happiness! I was floored by their fragility, yet strength to survive based on pure instinct.  Plus the mom was A-MAZING.  For the next 8 weeks, almost daily I went there and took care of them.  I watched them take their first steps, feel the grass for the first time, walk stairs, eat real dog food, play with a toy.  It ended up being one of the MOST enjoyable, breathtaking, and educational events in my life.  I literally sat there with my dog training books and read through each week of their growth, learning what was best for them to experience at each stage and understanding how their minds were developing.  Like bookwork, they would start to open their eyes when the book said, began leaving their den when the book said, walking, licking, dreaming, peeing, pooping, playing, crying, exploring, defying, showing love, craving affection…etc. The best was watching the mom begin to correct bad behaviors. That is a story for another blog.  I felt really thankful to the people in the book who put all this information together in an educational way.  It allowed me to have a manual to refer to and understand the EXPECTATIONS of their age.  This brings me to the point of this blog today:

EXPECTATION: noun 1. The Act of Expecting  2. Eager Anticipation  3. Prospects, especially of success or gain 4. Something looked forward to, whether feared or hoped for. 5. An attitude of expectancy or hope.

Expectations and Doggie Vader 3We have to be careful what expectations we put on our puppy/adult dog. Remember, they only know what we teach them to know, when they are capable of learning at that level. You can’t take a child and expect them to make the right choices without guiding them.  (Think of the stupidity in telling a 1 year old how dumb they are for not knowing how to shower themselves and dress themselves yet…) It’s called good, responsible, thoughtful parenting and it’s the same for dogs! For some reason, though, I see quite a number of people whoexpect their dog to know better. They like to think their dogs purposely do the wrong things, even though the owner never taught them WHAT the RIGHT things are.  We have all been guilty of this and Im not here to call you out. I heard Oprah say once (close your ears if you hate Oprah) “when you know better, you do better.” That’s all I’m saying.

Let’s take an example. *Incomplete house training is the leading cause given by dog owners for relinquishing their dogs to animal shelters.*

The majority of household elimination problems can be prevented with appropriate and effective house-training efforts begun at an early age. Darth Vader’s puppies didn’t come out of their mom knowing that going on the floor isn’t acceptable.  For the first weeks of their lives puppies are able to pee/poo wherever they want in the whelping area. Their mom first licked them to stimulate them to go potty and then cleaned up after them. Then she ate that poop out of their butts (gross! Just had a visual of adult humans doing that….let’s appreciate our differences in this case) They eliminated whenever they felt the need, anywhere that happened (think little kids with diapers on-I want to pee pee, I go pee pee. I want to poo poo-I go poo poo and let everyone watch me do it). They aren’t even capable of holding it yet!  These puppies get to an age where they leave their litter and next thing, they are in YOUR house.  You have such expectations for your new cutie patootie. They will be your best friend, your kid’s protector, the envy of your neighbors. They will walk perfect and not bark at people and play nice and not be food aggressive.  Next thing you know, that cute little cuddly thing stops and poops on your floor and then walks over to the carpet and pees.  Some people get angry!  Would you yell at your baby for not having a diaper on and peeing on the ground? No, you put them in situations to succeed like putting a diaper back on them until they are ready for the potty.  You even give them books on how cool the potty is.  For puppies, you learn about dog training techniques like crate training and how it can benefit housetraining and even separation anxiety…etc.  You teach them what is appropriate and not. You have patience with them and try different things. Dogs and people are not that different actually.

Now think of your expectations for your puppy/dog. Visualize what you expect from them. Now be honest with yourself and ask *have I even taught them how to do this?* If your dog pulls on the leash all the time and you find yourself getting pulled like a sled dog, have you taught your dog what a *heel* is? If you expect your dog not to go crazy when the doorbell rings, have you taught them any other behavior to link the tone of the doorbell? If you expect your dog not to jump up on new people, have you shown them what an appropriate greeting is and then reinforced it a hundred times? If you expect your dog to not be aggressive with meeting new dogs, do you ever work on socialization with your dog? If you expect your dog not to be distracted by everything and anything, have you ever worked on focus exercises with them?  Is your definition of dog training 20 minutes a day or have you made it a lifestyle?

I challenge you to think about any frustrations you feel with your puppy/dog and how your expectations are linked to that frustration.  Do they even know what you expect?! This is where I come in!  I can show you HOW to TEACH your dog what the expectation is.  When doggie knows better they do better.  If you don’t show them what your expectation is, you can’t exactly get mad at them for not performing to your standard. Go re-read the above definition again. It should be clear by this time that an expectation can only be realized when the people involved know what it is first. (*Bobby why did you fail your history test?*   *Mom! I don’t even take history but they tested me on it!* Doesn’t make sense does it?)

Expectations and Doggie Vader 4To wrap this long-winded blog post up: Those puppies are all in the BEST homes I could find. They are loved, adored, actually and have real families. I get pictures all the time of their progress and if any of them are reading this, I’m sure you are in some challenging puppy times. Remember to always link your expectations to knowing how dogs learn, then teaching them EXACTLY what you want, then reinforcing those behaviors.  Once your puppy/dog KNOWS the behaviors you taught him, then you can EXPECT them to do it and reinforce appropriately.  Above all, you know what is the best part of the puppy story, Darth Vader had his female mommy dog spayed. I’ll never lose sleep again thinking of puppies not given the chance to fill our lives with love.  It was the best deal I ever made with anyone, EVER.