Puppy Dreams: The Education of Chowdah and Sandy Tate

Sunday, June 4, 2023




I love being a dog trainer.  I love to work with puppies and smell their puppy smell that lasts a short time.  I also love to work with adolescent dogs that act like teenagers that protest and fight you every step of the way.  I love to work with adult dogs that need some attention and patience.  I love to work with dogs that are easy to train and dogs that are a challenge.  It doesn't matter the breed, temperament, or personality; I love connecting with a dog and seeing him/her begin to bond and trust me.


My husband, Steve and I have had dogs (and cats, but we're talking about dogs here) throughout most of our 27 year marriage.  Many people might think that a dog trainer's dog is perfect and well-behaved all of the time; never having an accident in the house, never barking or growling when they shouldn't, and the trainer never struggles with anything and it's easy.  That is not the case; well, that's not my case.


Here Comes Chowdah!


On May 13, Steve and I got an eight week old Shepadoodle.  He's a cross between a German Shepherd and a Poodle.  Originally we planned to get a German Shepherd puppy, but we thought this mix would be a healthier dog.  After much debate, we named him Chowdah.


So here we are, with an eight week old puppy.  I had all of my plans for training; what I would do every day, how much progress we would make in a certain amount of time, how potty training would go, how he would be attached to my hip or in his kennel any time I couldn't keep an eye on him.  Seriously, I'm a dog trainer and I know what I'm doing so there wouldn't be issues, right?  HA!




The day Chowdah came home it all went out the window.  


I was hoping to start with some obedience training the first day.  Really, I should have known better.  Chowdah was nervous, tired, disoriented, and he had gotten car sick in his kennel on the way home.  Training-wise, the only thing that I accomplished that first day was getting Chowdah to pee outside twice.  


We are  big believers in kennel training so we have a kennel in our bedroom and a kennel next to our kitchen.  That first night we put Chowdah in the kennel in our bedroom when we went to bed.  I say bed instead of sleep because we didn't sleep much.  Chowdah cried on and off all night, keeping us awake.  When he did quiet down, he would eventually start up again.  I never knew if he was crying just to cry or crying because he had to pee so I would get up and take him outside.  


Within a couple of days Chowdah started to calm down and become more comfortable.  He began playing with the dog toys that we had out for him.  He started seeking us out and coming to us if he was uncomfortable.  He even started trying to play with our Dutch Shepherd, Jules who wasn't too sure that she liked this new ball of fur getting  in her face.  Instead of playing with Chowdah, Jules would seek refuge on her chair or in another room.  Chowdah met my brother-in-law's Shih Tzu, Truffles and tried to play with her too.  Truffles was a little more accommodating than Jules, but not much at first.  Truffles didn't like Chowdah getting in her face which was rather funny since it's exactly what she still does to Jules.  


Finally I was able to start some obedience training with Chowdah.  Within a few days we were able to start working on Focus (having Chowdah Focus on me when I ask him to), Touch (asking Chowdah to Touch my hand with his nose), and Leave It (asking Chowdah to Leave treats in my hand alone).


The obedience training is going well.  I try to do a few five to ten minute sessions with Chowdah a day.  If I miss a session or a day, when life gets in the way, I don't worry about it.  Unfortunately, training our puppy is not the only thing we need to accomplish each day.   


Handling Chowdah's potty training, puppy nipping, and chewing on forbidden items is where my problem is.  Yes, I know what to do to handle these things.   I've been teaching people how to handle their new puppy and their puppy's behavior for years, but I've been reminded of something very important since May 13, the day Chowdah entered our lives.  There is a big, huge, gigantic difference between knowing how and showing how in a one hour training session, than living it 24 hours a day.  I fully admit, I'm struggling and I'm tired.   For now, my floors have and will get peed and pooped on, my hands and arms have and will get little punctures from pin-prick puppy teeth, and some things have and will get chewed on that shouldn't.  That is why I'm writing this blog.  I want to let new puppy owners, experienced puppy owners, people with unruly adolescent dogs, people with stubborn dogs, any, and all dog owners who struggle with their furry friends,  that they aren't alone and it is hard.  We haven't had an eight week old puppy since 1998 and I had forgotten how hard it was.  


We have and will continue to lose some battles, but we will win the war.  In the end Chowdah will go to the bathroom outside, he will learn bite inhibition and stop putting his teeth on me, and he will chew his toys and bones instead of things that are off limits.  I know this because I also know that to help Chowdah be the dog that we want and know he can be, we cannot give up.  I also know that if we do our part, and are patient and consistant, that we will reach this goal together.


So, please join Chowdah and me on our learning adventure.  More to come soon.


Saturday, June 24. 2023


Two steps forward and one step backward.


That is how training Chowdah is going.  Obedience training is going well.  Chowdah has seven obedience cues that he does fairly well.  I will start working with him around distractions and I will start adding some distance to cues like Focus, Touch, and Leave It, so he will perform the cues when asked wherever he is.  Obedience cues are not my problem.


Potty training.  The dreaded potty training is definitely an issue.  This is one instance where two steps forward and one step backward pops up.  Chowdah will do really well for a day or two.  Sometimes he will actively try to let us know that he needs to go outside to go.  Sometimes when we are outside he will go on command.  Sometimes he will go a full day without any accidents in the house.  Then, I will turn my back for a few moments and find that Chowdah has crept up the stairs and peed and pooped in the loft.  Technically this is my fault.  I turned my back.  I wasn't watching him.  I should either tether him to my belt, tether him to a central spot, or I should put him in his kennel if I'm not watching him, but sometimes it's just going to be a moment or two and doing those things will take longer than the activity where I'm not watching him, so I don't.  Then we all pay the price.  Chowdah pays because he can tell that we're not pleased with him.  I (or Steve) pay because we have to clean up pee and poop.  My poor carpet pays because no matter how well you clean, even steam clean, it's just never the same.  I try to remind myself and Steve that there has been improvement and he is just 14 weeks old, which is very young, but sometimes that is difficult to remember.


Again, if we're not paying strict attention, sometimes Chowdah will find something to chew on that he shouldn't have.  As I'm writing this, I heard Steve yell "What are you doing?".  Chowdah had gotten into the downstairs bathroom and grabbed a roll of toilet paper and proceded to rip it up.  A few moments before, he had been sitting in the office with his sister Jules and me while I worked.  It can happen that quickly.  You turn your back and suddenly he's in trouble.


Chowdah's puppy nipping has gotten better, for the most part.  However, when he's overtired he becomes Devil Dog and nips anything and everytyhing, and it's not just little nips.  He will sink those pin-pricks into my calf, my side, my face, my hand...anything he can reach.  When he's in that overtired state, nothing works.  When he was smaller I would pick him up and cradle him like I would a baby to help calm him down and let him fall asleep.  Now that he's bigger (28.8 pounds according to the vet a few days ago), that is not so easy any more.  In fact, one of the last times I did that he fought and punched me in the eye with his paw hard enough to break blood vessels in my eyeball.  It took about a week and a half to heal.  Instead of the cradling, now I will either tether Chowdah or put him in his kennel.  I don't use the kennel as a punishment, but sometimes he just needs a time out (as do I) to calm down and take a break.


There have been and are some problems when it comes to training Chowdah.  However, the good absolutely is outweighing the bad. 


Chowdah has recently met his first toddler named Cam.  In the beginning he was a little unsure so he was cautious and very gentle.  Now he believes that he and Cam are littermates so Chowdah tries to play with him like a littermate, which is a little too rough, but as long as we continue to correct Chowdah when he's too much and continue to give him the experience with young children, he will be great with kids as he gets older.


Chowdah just got his last shots earlier this week which means that I can finally take him off our property for socializing.  Yesterdary my neice Emily and I took him to Walmart and Kahoots.  Besides throwing up in the car (4 times!) I was such a proud puppy mama!  He walked on the leash next to me with very little pulling.  When he did pull all I had to do was give a little tug on the leash with my fingers and he came right back to me.  We went through the pet aisles and we picked out a few toys and then bought a few towels that were on clearance to clean up the vomit in my car and to use as "car towels" for future Chowdah mishaps.  A few people asked to meet him and Chowdah calmly accepted friendly petting and he gave some kisses to his new friends.  


At Kahoots Chowdah had some stress.  I could tell because he wouldn't take any treats from me.  Not taking treats is often a sign of stress and Chowdah hasn't met a treat that he didn't like so I'm sure that was it.  There was no shaking or whining or anything else that could indicate stress, which indicated a mild case.  When we went back outside we sat in some shady grass in the parking lot area and just let Chowdah take everything in.  Skateboarders and pick-up trucks made Chowdah a little uneasy, but I was very pleased to see that he just sat and watched.  He didn't shake, he didn't whine, and he didn't try to run in the opposite direction.  After a few moments he even laid down in the grass.  Of course by then I'm sure he was exhausted.


A lot of this sounds a little too good to be true, but remember, I've been working with him in one way or another since the day we got him.  We've had several fully vaccinated, friendly dogs on our property for Chowdah to meet, as well as many different friends and family.  Chowdah is also at the age where he can accept new places, people, sights, sounds, and things fairly easily.  It is so important for Chowdah to be exposed to as many positive experiences as  possible in the next coming weeks so we'll be taking as many "field trips" as we can.


On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest, I think Steve and I as trainers are at a 7.5.  We're doing great, but there are a few things that we could probably do better.  However, we'll never be perfect and I might be a little too critical since I'm involved.  On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest, I think Chowdah's learning and adapting is at an 8.  Of course he's my puppy so again, I might be a little too critical because I'm involved.  Then there's Jules, Chowdah's sister.  On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest, I will give her a 9.5.  She has adapted so well and I am so proud of her.  She plays with Chowdah, she keeps an eye on him, and she corrects him (without hurting him) when and only when she needs to.  Chowdah is learning as much from her as he is from Steve and me.  That's my girl!


Our adventure continues and I hope that you'll continue to join us.  See you next time!