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The Phoebe Chronicles II: The Lass Has Landed

Training Dogs Magazine © 2002

Genabacab Quick Step, aka "Phoebe," now 15 weeks old, has been duly socialized to a multitude of experiences: cars and lorries, streets and fields, college students and elderly neighbors, and any other stimulating encounter Kay Laurence could produce for her and her littermates.

serious dog

Just two out-of-the-ordinary experiences await her. How will young Phoebe respond to nine hours alone in a crate on a jet 30,000 feet in the sky, only to land in place so far away that every smell and even the sounds will be new and different?

And how, after she arrives and pees a puddle the size of Lake Michigan, will she endure the loving attentions of a crowd of children, a variant of human she has never encountered?

Having learned since her first weeks that new and different means fun and rewarding - and with her built-in steady Genabacab temperament - Phoebe proves well prepared for anything from plane rides to two year olds.

Phoebe, still in her crate, is carried like an Indian princess into her new home. The crate is opened and Phoebe is enveloped in kisses and hugs. She seems to like it.

Clicker training and careful management keep her liking it. The next several weeks require constant surveillance. Not only do I watch the puppy for signals of a full bladder, but also for signs of stress. Like housetraining, the key to teaching a puppy to become a solid family dog is to stop accidents before they happen.

The first behavior I want to capture with clicks and treats is placid reactions to surprising events. A ball bounces near her head, and she jumps toward it, ears up, rather than away, tail down. Click. She watches calmly as a pack of ten-year-old boys storm through the front door flinging twenty-pound backpacks in random directions as they go. Click. While Phoebe dozes on the rug, my five-year-old son suddenly swoops her belly-side-up into his arms and kisses her on the nose. She kisses him back. Click. Now she is learning that the boisterous and unpredictable can be fun and rewarding.

And if Phoebe does appear fatigued and on her way to being stressed, it's time for the baby to go to bed. Frequent rest spells in her cozy crate with a bone to chew keep her ready for anything.

When she is full of energy and ready to play, appropriate amusement must be provided. A basket of tug toys keeps both puppy and a boy (two birds with one stone!) happy and busy for a few minutes. The resident guinea pigs, safely caged and oblivious to the ferocious beast at their borders, keep the puppy happily running in circles for an hour or more. A new best friend just her age, Lilly the poodle, lives around the corner, and frequent puppy play dates are arranged.

Phoebe is a working sheep dog, so work must be found. Clicker training sessions exercise her brain as we both learn fundamental freestyle moves. And, fortunately, Tidy Lawn U.S.A. has a terrible infestation of Canadian geese polluting its smooth green playing fields. Esme, our elderly collie, has been doing her best to chase them off. Now she has an apprentice, and Phoebe's deep-rooted herding instincts find a most satisfying outlet.

NEXT: How clicker training the puppy affects the humans in the household. And Esme has her say.

Learning About Dogs - ©2002 Learning About Dogs/reprinted here with permission.

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Gale Pryor is a writer and editor at Pen and Press, an editorial services and consulting company. Her writing credits include Parenting Magazine, Mothering Magazine, Teaching Dogs, National Public Radio, and two bestselling books.

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