So, as I drove away with Pete, I formulated a plan for bringing a potential 8-pound unhousebroken chainsaw into our busy household!
My first priority was giving Pete a long, proper “Leadership Walk“. When introducing a new dog to your household, it is imperative to walk him or her in a calm, follower mode for a long, long walk, including any dogs from the household that will be its new pack members, and ideally, your human family members too. When you get back to the house, walk calmly inside, people first and your doggy pack following. This is what I did with Pete, then I walked all around the house with him on leash, correcting any moves toward marking, toward chasing the cats, or snapping at people. The most important safety rule I made very VERY clear to my three kids and husband too: You can feed Pete treats but do NOT try to pet him!
He stayed either in a crate or leashed to me until bed time that night.
Bed time was difficult, because like many tiny dogs Pete was not used to sleeping alone in a crate. Since my intent was to retrain him for a new home, I wanted to teach him this skill so he’d be a more flexible companion, suitable for many types of new owners. Also, the insecure type of dog benefits from learning self-esteem – that he can do things on his own, without clinging to their chosen person! (And, that includes the skill of sleeping alone, in a crate.) I put the crate inches from my head next to my bed and he fussed quietly (sometimes not so quietly) until about 2 a.m. when he finally surrendered. I started by leaving his leash on for corrections through the wire sides, but that quickly stopped working. I tried making a “sssh” noise, but that worked very little. He needed to be forced to “calm”. So, I opened the door when he’d start whining and stressing, and poke him in the ribs, causing him to curl head and hip toward me, sinking into the wooly blankets I’d tucked in there. I pointed at him and loomed over him sternly saying “No.” quietly but firmly, not moving an inch until he surrendered and lay down. This worked quite well finally! The next day he practiced staying in the crate quietly with the same correction, and by the afternoon, he was doing great. That second night was very quiet.
Pete detests losing sight of me. He cries loudly even if I go outside for a few seconds to grab something out of the freezer, so I consistently open the door, point at him and say “No!”. Because he is a really responsive, sensitive guy, this has helped a lot. A tougher dog would likely need a squirt from a squirt gun, or a leash correction, or a forced lie-down and settle command, but…that tougher sort of dog usually does not fall apart when their human disappears for seconds either!
I had very recently worked with some clients on their problem with marking in the house by their male, long-hair Chihuahua, and had written this post on housebreaking, and leg-lifting in the house, afterward, so I had some ideas fresh in my mind for helping Pete with the marking issues. Mostly the solution isn’t terribly clever, it just comes down to: Supervision. Supervision, and correction in the act. Correction means giving him a tap on his side and sending him away from the area with a gesture, and a stern posture. I am lucky with Pete in that he’s extraordinarily sensitive to any kind of correction. Within a day and a half of extreme supervision (leashed to me for the first day, then following his every move for the second two days…) he’d given up thinking about marking.
Part of breaking the dog’s urge to mark the house is calming the dog too. Marking is a sign of insecurity and excitement, both which are high when a dog joins a new household with five people, three indoor cats and three indoor dogs! As with so many behavior problems, the Leadership Walk was the most powerful my first priority Pete’s first priority in his rehab.
This is getting long, so I’ll talk in my next post about the most interesting and challenging part of Pete’s rehab – teaching him to never, ever use his teeth on people.