Saturday, August 22, 2009

Puppy Raising Now - 20 years later

Now that I have survived (and enjoyed) my 20th Fun Day, I thought I would do some more reflecting on my puppy raising experiences. Poppy is still in season - hopefully coming home on Wednesday or Thursday (since we leave for a family weekend at Sea Ranch on Friday through Sunday, then leave Monday for a week at the Sullivan family coast house. I really don't want her to stay at GDB an extra week (nor do I want to be away from her for an extra week!)

Puppy raising is a totally different experience in 2009 than it was in 1989. Puppies can no longer stay home alone while the whole family is at home/work/play. Puppies have way more expectations upon them and way fewer toy and food options. No more free for all toys, no more raw meat for skinny GSDs or cottage cheese and raw eggs for all. The changes have their merits. I like the dogs we are turning out now, their behavior and their successes. The overall program seems less personal these days. There are few staff members that I would consider "friends." I think that goes for many puppy groups as well. We come to a meeting, get started and get out of there. Now, it is something to get through. The group I grew up in shared life together. Some of the people from back then have turned in to life long friends. It makes me sad to see groups that come and don't talk to each other, don't know about each others lives outside of the dog circle. As a leader, I have tried to foster those relationships, but I don't think I've been as successful as I would like to be.

On the dog front, I think my relationship with my dogs are totally different. As much as I loved my first dogs, I don't really consider what we had as a relationship. I didn't do anything to try to train them from their perspective. I expected them to adapt to whatever was in me. Over the years I have learned that there is NO dog training without a relationship between dog and handler. To be the most successful trainer I can be, I need to figure out how the dog's brain works and change MY habits and techniques to fit within that dog's frame of mind. I need to figure how what motivates each dog and the best way to teach that dog. I really try to focus on the dog part of the relationship and doing my best to work with that particular dog. I would love to be able to go back and raise my first 5 puppies again. Knowing what I know now, I wonder how differently they would have turned out. 3 of the 5 were medical career changes, so the ultimate outcomes would not have changed. But, I wonder how different their personalities and habits would have been. And the two GSDs... Oh my! I really wonder how differently they would have turned out. If only!

As a leader, I have tried to help teach my raisers how to do this as well. Sometimes, it means ME taking their dog and doing the figuring out part, then helping them implement the ideas I've come up with. But, more important that being perfect dog handlers is for the kids to feel successful and have fun raising their puppies. Though it is important, overall, for the dogs to be successful, I feel like it is more important for the kids to feel like they are doing a good job and being successful. I hope that I help my kids to feel that (and I call all of the raiser my "kids" the 9 year olds an the retired couples - they are all my "kids" when talking about puppy raisers.)

My reasons for raising are different now as well. Or maybe my understanding of why and what I am doing. Now, I look at my job as one that is ultimately to make the life easier of whoever ends up with the puppy. If I am able to socialize a puppy to the point where they are capable of handling anything that life can throw at them - public situations, transportation, home situations - I am improving the life of someone beyond what the dog itself is doing in guiding them or doing other work for them. If I focus on obedience and make sure that the dog's behavior is appropriate, it is one less battle that will need to be taken on with the training staff and the future partner of the dog. Beyond that, I have a more complete idea of everything that the dogs will do in the future. I think that gives me a better idea of what I should be doing and the whys of it all.

It has been a great ride! I am looking forward to whats to come. Especially getting to see this face again. She can be a ton of work, but we miss Poppy!!

Happy Puppy Raising!


Cabana's Puppy Raiser said...

Funny and sweet that you see us all as your "kids"! I love our puppy group folks (it was part of the reason we decided to try puppy raising), but I think we're all so restricted by time. People just don't have as much of it as they used to somehow.

You wonder how your first dogs would have turned out if you could raise them now. I wonder how different Cabana would be if I knew what I know now eight months ago! (Does that make sense?)

Ally, Teddy and Kira said...

Thanks for sharing your reflections! I know when we first started raising our club was involved in each other's lives like when you first started (although ours was only five years ago) but quickly switched over to a don't share, don't tell policy even about the dogs. The local club went from raising the pups together and sharing expertise to everyone raises their own puppy and don't ask questions about the others. I wish the local leader tried as hard as you, I'd help!

I too wish I'd known what I know now while raising Iverson. At least his every two hour relieving never would have happened and have to be fixed! :-D

Kim, Bethany and the girls.. said...

Oh wow, I LOVED your post. Especially since I started raising in September of '89, right around the same time. My post would have even more ups and downs than yours but SO similar in so many ways and now we are both leader.

Bethany and "Tandy"