Bringing a puppy home is an exciting time. Don't let the stresses of house-breaking, socializing and training overshadow these special months. Enjoy this time and build a foundation for obedience early on.
I’m Andrea Wilson and I’m a cat person… I’ve always been a cat person and I’ll always be a cat person…
But in June of 2012, when my friend and I started going for long walks along the POCO Trail every day, we met many, many dogs. Eventually, we started looking at each other and saying, “We need a dog.” It seemed almost shameful to waste all that potential dog-walking time when some poor pup was stuck in a shelter somewhere, maybe even sitting on death’s row.
I had some serious reservations about owning a dog, though. As I said, I’m a cat person. I had a cat who’d never met a dog before, I had never owned a dog on my own, I live in a 700sf apartment, I didn’t want to drag my butt outside at 6 AM and 10 PM for that first and last pee of the day. The long morning walk I was already doing, but it was more like 9 AM, not 6 AM. I had never trained a dog, so I’d need to find the right training program. Did I want to be going to dog obedience classes in the rain and the cold? Would I even like going to dog classes?
Despite all my misgivings, the idea had been hatched… and it wouldn’t go back in its shell! So, I started to do some research. I looked online for training programs. I read a lot of articles. I borrowed dog books from the library and watched every episode of “The Dog Whisperer” on DVD.
As the days went by, my misgivings started to fall away one by one…
I live in a ground floor apartment with a large paved patio. I discovered that probably any dog would use the patio as a potty place without much fuss, since it’s “outdoors,” as far as a dog is concerned. So, the early morning and late night pees would likely not be an issue after all.
The cat would have to “deal with it.” Having had dogs and cats together when I was growing up, I had no doubt that, with the right dog, he’d come around over time.
I found a dog training method that suited me perfectly. I chose Sit Happens because I liked the concept of “immediate results.” I figured, with a rescue dog, I might really need that. I also loved watching the videos on the Web site. The dogs were well-trained… and happy, to boot!
And finally, my family said they would fill in as dog sitters whenever needed, so I even had a support system in place.
Then the process of finding the right dog started. Here were my criteria:
– small, but with “substance,” not a tiny, fragile teacup dog
– no special grooming requirements
– no health issues
– 1-3 years old
– preferably female
– cute, appealing
– no major behaviour problems
– good with cats and kids
– reasonably calm
I began looking for rescue dogs locally. There was one in Washington state, but it got adopted. There was one on Vancouver Island, but connecting with the foster family was complicated. One dog wasn’t good with cats, one wasn’t good with kids OR cats, another one had expensive medical needs… and so it went: too big, too small, too hairy.
Then, on September 8, 2012, my friend and I were walking past Dogtown in downtown Port Coquitlam. Suddenly she stopped and said, “There’s your dog!” and pointed to a poster on the door. It was from Last Chance Animal Rescue Society. The photo was of a small, brown dog with one ear up and one ear down. It was love at first sight. I wanted that dog! Her name was Lucy. It said she was a Chihuahua Cross, but she looked very substantial, not a tiny, fragile dog at all. Perfect! I copied down the phone number and headed home to see if she was still available. [Note: Lucy turned out to have no Chihuahua in her at all after getting her DNA tested!]
I learned that Lucy had been rescued by a shelter in California. They had contacted several non-kill rescue organizations in the US and Canada. Kristina from Last Chance Animal Rescue Society was one of the people who had gone to meet the truck from California.
She was the last to finish loading the dogs she’d agreed to accept, all the other cars were gone. Suddenly, the truck driver came over and said, “Hey, there’s still a dog on the truck. What am I supposed to do with it?” Kristina’s car was already fully-loaded with dogs, but her kind and gentle heart got the better of her and she said, “Okay, I’ll take her.” And that was Lucy!
There’s a lot more to the story, of course, but on September 16, after I had passed all the adoption criteria, Lucy arrived for our “meet and greet”… and never left! [By the way, just because you live in an apartment doesn’t mean you won’t be able to adopt a dog. If you work at home or have an active lifestyle or can afford a dog walker or doggy daycare, you’re a great candidate. No backyard needed!]
Three days later, I emailed Jeff at Sit Happens and we arranged for Lucy’s first private lesson. Meanwhile I met two women at the dog park whose dogs were in the Sit Happens program. Their praise of the training program convinced me that I’d made the right decision!
I definitely wanted what Sit Happens offers: immediate results. I had no idea how to train a dog and I needed Lucy whipped into shape quickly! I wanted her to walk nicely on the leash, and I wanted her to behave well no matter where I took her. I wanted our life together to start right now, not in months… not even in weeks. I felt it would be a terrible shame to miss even one minute of the good times I knew were ahead for Lucy and I! And those good times could only happen with a well-behaved pup!
And Lucy was not well-behaved at this point. Yes, she ignored the cat and loved people, but she jumped up on little kids, pulled hard on the leash, lunged crazily after squirrels and didn’t know any commands other than “sit.” Since she didn’t know “stay,” “sit” wasn’t very useful!
After Lucy’s first lesson with Jeff, she stopped pulling on the leash and lunging after squirrels. Whoohoo!
On our second lesson, she learned the “place” command which has become a great favourite of mine because I can put Lucy on a spot anywhere and she will stay there. A dog bed, a quilt, a mat, a towel, a chair, a bench, a rock, a step… anything that she can discern as different from the surrounding area. So at people’s homes, she will stay wherever I put her. This way she makes the perfect house guest and everyone comments on how well-trained she is!
On our final private lesson we learned how to heel. Lucy got it within a few minutes… even faster than I did! By this time Lucy had already stopped jumping up on people, would drop a toy on command, played fetch (something she didn’t understand when she first arrived!) and had stopped guarding her food.
When our private lessons were over, Lucy and I started going to the Sit Happens outdoor group classes. There are usually three a week to choose from and we can go to as many, or as few, as we want for the rest of Lucy’s life! This is a big financial benefit and a wonderful comfort to me.
After Lucy’s second outdoor class she was already able to do everything off-leash. I suspect she could have done it after her first lesson! She ignored all the other dogs and just focused on me and what I was telling her.
While going to dog class in the wet and the cold isn’t always what I want to do, it’s always wonderful to be with a group of people who love dogs and want the very best for them. Watching Lucy perform flawlessly, hearing praise like “That was textbook perfect!” from Marilyn or “Such a smart girl!” from Jurgen, and seeing Lucy’s joy when she sees Jeff just warms my heart. Yep, rain or shine, I love dog class… and so does Lucy!
– come (I use it for both “come to me” and “heel”)
– off (“stop jumping up,” “drop what’s in your mouth,” “don’t touch that kitty toy,” “get off the couch,” etc.)
– free (releases her from stay).
If she never learned anything else, we’d have every situation covered with just these few commands. And it took her minutes to learn each one perfectly.
However, she also understands “go pee,” which is what I tell her first thing every morning and last thing every night when I let her out on the patio. And she understands “no,” too. It means, “Sorry, you can’t get on my lap right now.” If ever a dog could look forlorn, it’s when Lucy hears that word!
The Sit Happens training has forged a strong bond between Lucy and me. People say, “Wow, she’s really focused on you.” Yes, she is. I’m her master, her parent, her leader. She doesn’t run things, I do! She depends on me for food, for exercise, for affection, for protection, for security… and I give her all that in return for her obedience. And she thrives on that!
She always knows what she’s supposed to do and often she does it even before I tell her. She sits automatically before we leave the apartment, she goes to her place before she gets fed. When I have her off-leash, she often puts herself in heel when she sees another dog, because that’s what I usually do! Lucy knows exactly what she is, and isn’t, allowed to do, so her life is virtually stress-free. And because she’s such a well-behaved little girl, every single day she gets to do things she loves to do… and go places she loves to go. Imagine Lucy sitting on a chair outside Starbucks, waiting patiently for me to get my White Chocolate Mocha. Is she bored? Nope! Everyone who goes by pets her and talks to her… and, boy, does she love that!
I tell everyone about Sit Happens because I want other people and their dogs to have a great experience, too! No more pulling, no lunging, no growling, no barking, no jumping up, no nipping and chasing, no piddling in the house, no chewing the furniture, no more bad or unruly behaviour of any kind. Which will mean more walks, more car rides, more parks, more friends, more fun! Everywhere you go, people will stop and admire your dog and comment on how well-behaved she is. Aren’t these some of the reasons you wanted a dog in the first place? Companionship isn’t just about snuggling on the couch, not if your dog has eaten half the couch already!
Thank you, Jeff, Marilyn and Jurgen from Sit Happens for helping make Lucy the best dog ever! She has changed my life. Yes, I’m still a cat person, but now I say to people, “I may not be a dog person, but I’m THIS dog’s person!”