Here she is! This is Pearl, our 8 week old (this Wednesday) Australian Cattle Dog (ACD), also commonly called a Queensland Heeler or Blue Heeler. Whatever you want to call her, I love her. She is so good. She is still a puppy, and I need to remember that. For example, she had one night where she was WOUND UP and nipping and chewing... and she bite into an already sore and chewed up hand and I pushed her away. She came back at me growling and snarling and chomping for more. I thought, "Oh NO! Here is that aggressive Heeler attitude I've read so much about." I pinned her down, told her no, and it was over with in about 5 seconds. She hasn't done it since, and she knows "No." Awesome. She was feisty the other night again, and Ryan reminded me that it is just puppy play. ACD's are really mouthy dogs anyway, and I'm not used to that. Our German Shorthairs were not like that at all, and George the Great Pyrenees isn't at all interested in using his mouth, unless it is to eat. So, this whole chewing and nipping thing is new to me. I don't like it. But, I have a plan, have been following that plan, and I see success already. I'll be glad in a year from now when everything is rock solid, but for now, here are my thoughts so far:
- Did I say I love this puppy? She came home at 6 weeks, which is young. Apparently, 7-8 weeks is the norm, so puppies learn bite inhibition. Since we are her new litter, she is learning it from us. And honestly, she mostly just chews on me. She really loves the kids, and tends not to nip them (much). I figure it's because I took the place of her mom. The first week and a half was all about loving her, and getting her used to the new surroundings, people, and places. A couple of day ago we started real puppy stuff.
- I put a collar on her the first day, gradually building up time. I take it off of her at night while she's in her crate. She loves her crate. She took to it the first day. I leave the door open during the day and that is her refuge. She stays in it all night with no problems. (Oh how happy I am that we only had a couple of rough nights. So happy.) I've also had a light weight leash on her. We live in the country with no yard or fences for miles. I don't want to lose her in the bushes, so the leash is on when I take her out to go potty. Her job is to grow up and be my running buddy. We are easing into this with short walks on the leash.
- Two or three times a day I spend about 5 minutes "training" her. She is technically always in training, since she is in the house and the car with me, but we do official obedience training with little bits of cheddar cheese. This is how I taught her her name. I would say "Pearl" and wait until she made eye contact. Then I would give her a little teeny bit of cheese. It took a day. She also knows "sit," and is learning "down." She learns very quickly.
- Bite inhibition: she is learning to have a soft mouth. My hands and ankles can't survive if she doesn't. I am happy to report that she is learning! For the first week I thought, "What the heck? It's like I brought Jaws home!" I don't expect a perfect puppy right away, and the fact that I can see progress already is so encouraging. I grew up with yard dogs, and who knows? Maybe they could have been smart, too if they had been worked with. Having kids has helped me a lot in my patience and desire to train. If she chomps on my skin anywhere, or my clothes, I "yelp" like a dog (sometimes not hard to do! OUCH!) and she stops. It's taken a couple of days, but today she did her thing, I yelped, stared at her, and she came back to my hand and licked it. See? Progress.
- People either LOVE or HATE her breed. I've met more people who love them, probably because of where I live. (Country, cowboys, western stuff, mountains, cows, horses...). My goal with Pearl is to have her so well mannered that you don't know she is there unless I want her to show you she is. I am her "mom" and that is the first step. I have read tons, and tons, and TONS of training information, because this breed (like all breeds) has some negative characteristics (namely smart, which is a double edged sword, tenacious, and mouthy, all great characteristics of a cow dog). Training George as best as I could at the time (his negatives: he's huge, stubborn, and an independent thinker) was good practice. I think if you do your homework and know what to expect, you won't be caught off guard and have a "horrible" dog experience. That's what I've learned, anyway.
- We wake up in the morning, and she eats while the kids get dressed for school. She has begun to lose interest in nipping the kids feet while they are getting dressed...too bad. There goes my entertainment! Just kidding. They leave, then we (Pearl and myself) go feed the cats and take a walk. Either very short around the big house, or longer (3/4 miles, our short track) if she's extra jazzed. Then she naps for a couple of hours. She has two speeds, and is getting a third: her first speeds are 90MPH or asleep. She is growing into a hanging out speed, where she is happy to chew on a toy by my feet.
- The next four weeks should be fun: the progress!
- I will mention this now, as it is animal related: I can not wait to get goats and chickens! Just can't wait. Maybe this fall. I'm crossing my fingers!