**Reader beware! This is an extremely long post... I've separated it by topic**
Kuma has been with us for only four days now and he is doing WONDERFUL! Well, as wonderful as we can expect a 9.5 week old puppy to be. He's unbelievably affectionate and loving and enjoys hanging out with his humans... but I think this will also lead to some separation anxiety issues. I wasn't able to take off from work this week, but do go home for 1.5 hours each day during lunch to feed him and play with him a bit. Fortunately, I've made arrangements to work from home for one day a week for the next 5-7 weeks. Bobby is off for four days; two at the end of this week and two at the beginning of next. Anyhow, I've got sevaral dillemmas and Bobby and I aren't quite sure how to go about handling it as neither of us have trained a puppy/dog and only have books & articles to teach us.
Separation anxiety or are we overly concerned?
Kuma is doing exceptionally well with his crate training. He sleeps through most of the night (we get about 5-6 hours straight) before we hear him moving around to go potty. When we put him in his crate while we eat and get things done around the house, he's fine for about five minutes, whines for another five minutes, then settles down and puts himself to sleep. Should we just let him whine or is there some correction that needs to be done so that he just sits tight? We "hush" him, and sometimes it works... but usually just for 30 seconds.
During the day when we leave for work, it's a different story. I'm normally the one who has to put him in the laundry room (with his crate, water bowl, pee pads and a couple select toys). He cries when he realizes I'm leaving... today I stood outside our front door listening to him cry for about ten minutes, then I couldn't take it and just went to work. I had to go back home about 45 minutes later because I forgot something and he was fast asleep. As someone else has suggested in the forums, I've tried to say "I'll be back"... I've also tried to leave him for just a little bit at a time (and increasing the amount of time) so he gets used to it. I never let him out of his area if he's still whining. He seems to be getting better with each day... It's definitely hard, but good to know that he does eventually pacify himself. Is it still too soon to try to help him with his separation issues - if not, what seems to be effective? I know, I know, that's a pretty broad question as each dog is different...
Here's our situation: we have an unfenced front yard (very beautiful grass, however) and a fenced backyard, but it's not finished. There are concrete sidewalks, a bit of foliage along the property line & fencing, and a large patch of solid dirt as the "backyard". Our landlord is going to be doing some renovating (who knows when) of the deck above the garage so there is a ladder and some lumber in the backyard off to the side. I've also seen a cat that likes to hang around in our backyard (don't know if it's belongs to someone or not). My concern with the front yard is that it's unfenced and parvo or other awful things could be lurking about. My concern with the back yard is that there's really no grass for Kuma to potty on (the idea of pottying on dirt kinda puts me off), the cat (can cats carry diseases that can be given to dogs?), and the building materials (while off to the side, can pose a problem).
We've been using potty pads, with some degree of success... Kuma just can't quite poop on his pads when we're home. He poops and pees on it 100 % when we're at work. He pees on it 90% of the time when we're home. Though, on the other hand, he poops on his pads only about 25% of the time when we're at home. Eventually I hope he can potty outside... but by using potty pads, are we teaching him bad habits to use the bathroom in the house? I mean, obviously we are... but with our situation, and Kuma not being fully vaccinated for another 3-4 weeks, does anyone have any suggestions (ie: are we being crazy by not taking him out to the backyard to begin with)?
Selecting a Trainer
We've been doing a lot of looking around Sacramento for training for Kuma. I've seen a few that have "private, in-home lessons" and offer 1-3 sessions for a set price, but of course there's a premium compared to group classes. That is very enticing because I'd like to get started with very basic things and doing them right the first time around. Obviously at his age group classes are not an option. Of course, group classes are more affordable... cost isn't so much a concern... but to consider nearly $400 for three private, in home lessons plus "unlimited" group classes... eh, I don't know. Also, to wait another 3-4 weeks for group classes would make me nutso. The private lessons, however, along with basic training, claim to assist with Kuma's issues (separation anxiety, house breaking, play biting, etc), which might be a little harder to get help with in a group setting. By the way, Kuma seems to understand sit just after three days! Yay for him!
Another thing besides wanting to get Kuma started early is the TYPE of training that we want to use. I've been doing reading on treat-based training versus non-treat based training. The latter claims to use "love, praise and technique" to train your dog such that treats are not used to lure the dog into listening. Treats are used, but seldomly and as a surprise. No violence, no yelling and no clickers or other training devices. The claim is that using treats to train tends to make your dog obey only when there's a treat at the end of listening. What if there is no treat to give? Also, it supposedly doesn't teach your dog to respect you as much. While I think that's a bit extreme - I think that dogs will listen even without treats... but it sounds like there's some validity to that type of training. Is this something that is common out there and if so, why aren't more people using it? I've seen one website that claims to do this type of training... but it looked shady to me which is why I'm questioning this method. I've found another trainer in Sacramento who appears to be quite popular, though I'm not too sure and would need a few references & more research. Any thoughts?
For those who made it through the whole thing - you're brave and not to mention, pretty darned awesome! Thanks in advance for any thoughts, comments, constructive criticisms and advice!
P.S. For those who can't tell, I'm a major worry-wart...
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