Gracie, Grace, Monster Dog, Psycho, Crazy-Face, Crazy Mofo and our favorite, She-Devil. Gracie may have a lot of well-deserved nick names, but I couldn’t imagine life without her now.
I grew up with a dog (Nala!) and I couldn’t wait until Kevin and I adopted one. When I saw Gracie’s face on the Animal Rescue of Carroll’s website, I couldn’t even handle the cuteness.
I’m no professional dog trainer by any means, but we work on training Gracie constantly so I thought I’d share a few of our ideas.
First and foremost, please adopt your future dog. There are SO many dogs who need a loving home. (If you have a second, check out Stray Rescue – they do some amazing stuff for stray dogs in STL.) I know a lot of people think you can’t get puppies when you adopt, but we were just patient and looked daily. Gracie happened to come at the right time!
Anyways, when you first inquire about adopting a puppy, you’ll have to fill out an application. Then, you may have a conversation with the adoption shelter and even a home visit. These people have taken care of many rescued dogs and they want to guarantee they are going to a loving and safe home.
With Gracie, we filled out an application and we even had to put down a reference! (Thanks, Kristina – you rocked that interview.) We got a call a few days later saying Grace was ours!
Another awesome thing about rescues, is that they will most likely come spayed or neutered. Gracie had her first round of shots and she was spayed AND microchipped. Now that’s awesome (and it saved us a ton of money).
We picked Gracie up from the shelter and as soon as they put me in her arms, my heart melted. It was pretty much the best weekend ever since the Cards won the World Series the night before.
First vet visit
We scheduled a vet visit for Gracie right away to make sure she was all checked out. A few things they’ll go over:
- physical (check fur, teeth, nose, ears, etc.)
- food intake
- shots (by this time, Grace was due for her boosters)
We decided to crate-train Grace. We crate-trained Nala and I think it teaches them a lot about who is in charge at home (well, that’s what every book I read said). We found a big crate with a divider on Craigslist for pretty cheap. We definitely wanted to get a big crate with a divider so she could grow into it, rather than having to buy a couple to fit her until she is full-grown. A divider is really important because dogs will think they can go potty in one corner of the crate, but still have their “home” on the other side. With a divider, Gracie only had so much room, so she didn’t want to go potty in her bed. Would you want to do that? Yuck.
The first night at home was SO hard. She cried for about 15 minutes when we put her in her crate, but it felt like hours. I was nearly in tears and it took every ounce of my being not to go get her and bring her in bed. Thankfully, Kevin is the “mean guy” and told me to let her stay. At first, I tried talking to her, but it only made it worse. Once we began ignoring her, the cries stopped. It’s hard, but don’t give in! It will be worth it in the future – I promise.
Now when we want her to go in her crate, we just say, “Gracie crate!” and when she goes in, we click and she gets a “special treat” (a part of a bone). She knows she gets rewarded when she goes in her crate, so she doesn’t mind going now.
I highly, HIGHLY, recommend training with a clicker. They’re $4 or $5 at PetSmart and it works like magic. Whenever you give your dog a command and they do it, click and give a treat. Also say things like, “good girl!” It works, I’m telling you.
For obvious reasons, the first thing we wanted to work on was potty training. We have two doors to our backyard, so we picked one to be consistent. Whenever we took her out, we brought her to that door and when she went potty, we clicked (see above) and praised her like a proud parent of a kid who got a 36 on the ACT.
After about a week of taking her out on our own and just a couple accidents (two or three maybe?), she was pretty much potty trained. It took a lot of patience because sometimes she wouldn’t go outside, but if she wouldn’t go after about five minutes, we would bring her in, wait 15 or 20 minutes and try again. Time consuming – yes – but it works. Now, she sits by the door whenever she has to go!
Sit, Stay, Shake, Etc.
Every trick we taught Gracie, she learned using a clicker. Brendan, my little brother, is the dog whisperer and taught her to shake when she was just a baby after about 10 minutes of working with her. He rocks.
We would work with Gracie for about 10 or 15 minutes every night on one trick. We started with sit. We would push her bottom down and hold the clicker and treat above her nose. As soon as she sat, we clicked, gave her the treat and praised her.
Stay was a little more tricky because she would be too excited to sit still, but after a few nights of patience and working with her, she finally knows stay! We used the same techniques as above. Kevin would gently hold her back and I would place a treat a few inches in front of her. We would say, “stay, stay, stay” over and over again. When she stayed for a few minutes without Kevin holding her back, we told her to go get it.
Now we’re having problems with the following:
- Walking. She tugs and pulls so bad. We actually just purchased a harness for walking, but it’s too big. (PetSmart only sells medium and large – medium is too small, large is too big. Go figure. We’ll just wait for her to gain a few more lbs.)
- Barking. She looooves to bark for attention and both Kevin and I can’t stand the barking. We have read about a spray bottle, can of pennies, ignoring her, yelling at her and pretty much anything under the moon. Lately we’ve been saying, “quiet!” and using the clicker when she is. We’ll see how that works. Stay tuned.
- Jumping. When she was a baby, we loved when she jumped on us. Now that she’s 35 lbs, it sucks. We’re using the clicker and she’s slowly learning, but it’s taking longer than we want.
So there ya have it! I’m telling you, having a dog – especially a puppy – is really time consuming, but completely rewarding!
And if you have any tips/tricks that worked with training, leave a comment! We’re always learning.