Monday, December 31, 2007
Sergi has lots of energy. At this stage in his growth and training, he is generally not allowed to access the house independently off-leash. On occasion, I will play with him inside (especially if it is raining or particularly cold out) but he is closely supervised. Yet, that has not stopped him from taking a detour while chasing a thrown ball to veer over to the Christmas tree, grab an ornament or two, and rip around the living room a couple of times, delighted with the illicit treasure in his mouth. He thinks that this is great fun. I do not. We're lucky sometimes the tree is still standing.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Part of the life of a CCI puppy is regular puppy school attendance. Soon after he came to live with me, I started taking Sergi to Kindergarten with contract trainer Mike Fowler. We go to class every two weeks, and sometimes will also go to an additional Cath Phillips class as an added bonus.
Sergi is a very bright and intelligent puppy. He learns his commands quickly and is eager to please. During his first class, Sergi behaved appropriately and did exceptionally well in the most important skill: Walking on a loose leash. He will work during the next couple of months on other commands like Sit, Down, Wait, Shake, Speak, Drop, Dress, Here, Kennel and Release. By the time he takes his final exam for Kindergarten he will be required to perform a 2-minute Sit-Stay with distractions and a 5-minute Down-Stay with distractions.
There is a lot of learning going on during a puppy's first six months and Sergi will learn all of these commands with little difficulty. More importantly, he will be schooled in all of the behavior qualities that will make him able to live side-by-side in peace and contentment with his forever partner: What items are appropriate for chewing; when to bark, when to be quiet; where and when to toilet; how to stay/sleep happily in a crate; how to greet strangers; how to be alone and stay out of mischief. These things will come more slowly and are the hardest of all to teach.
Being the bright and inquisitive dog that he is, Sergi has already demonstrated difficulty in shutting his brain off and relaxing. He is very busy, busy, busy, and constantly is eager to explore, taste, and jump on the world around him. His challenge ahead will be learning to control his energy and find a balance between play, work and rest.
One of the responsibilities of a puppy raiser is to take care of the basic medical needs of the pup. During the first couple of months, the pup needs to go to the vet for a series of vaccinations and well puppy exams. We all hope that doctor visits are limited to just those issues, but we are also prepared in case something else surfaces or goes wrong. It is important, during these visits, to make these trips pleasant and positive experiences so that the puppy will not develop fear or insecurity issues for future checkups.
Throughout the time we raise these puppies, and in particular during the days preceding vet appointments, we make a point of handling and examining the puppy's paws, teeth, gums and general body parts. Then, with a pocketful of treats, we go to into the doctor's office and show the pup what great fun it is to visit the vet.
Sergi did great during his first vet visit. He is so interested in treats, he didn't squirm or yelp when getting his shots and he was quiet and gentle as the vet poked and prodded him. Everyone in the office remarked on how extremely good-looking he is. As he matures, his boxy lab head is developing beautifully and his soft, sleek coat is taking on a gorgeous golden hue. Dr. Morgan looked him over carefully and pronounced him in great health. All in all, Sergi behaved perfectly and was everything we hope for as we watch our puppies grow.
As a veteran puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence, I constantly have to remind myself of one of the most important lessons we learn: Each puppy is very different from the last and it's a slippery slope to try to compare one to the other.
So it is as I start anew with my fifth puppy, Sergi, a remarkably handsome yellow male Labrador Retriever. Sergi shares the same mother as my last two pups – Toddy – and was born in Carmichael, California, on September 15, 2007. Sergi is second born (blue collar) in Toddy's fifth and last litter and spent his first eight weeks of life under the care, love and supervision of Breeder-Caretaker Extraordinaire Pam Flanagan. He was named in recognition of Ken Sergi, an amazing professional photographer, who is a familiar face at CCI graduations, events and fundraisers.
And thus we start our training and life challenges with a clean slate, trying not to compare this to the last or the one before that. And just as this pup greets each new experience with no preconceptions or notions, I strive to train him according to his specific needs and capabilities. And our journey begins....