14 July 2014

Introducing Our Greyhound Puppy

Puppy Love

So, in case you've missed it, our greyhound gang has a new member... Ava.
Ava's first day

Ava is a pure-bred greyhound puppy who was the result of an accidental mating in racing kennels.  I found out about her, purely by chance, through facebook and my friend, Jenny, who runs the South Lakes branch of the Retired Greyhound Trust.  Jenny posted about some greyhound pups looking for a home and within minutes of her posting, I was on the phone enquiring about the puppies.  This all happened on Thursday 5 June and before I knew it, my name was down as a potential owner...

...however, firstly I needed to convince hubby and secondly, I wanted to make sure that the puppy (she wasn't named at that point) wasn't a nervous wreck and petrified of life in general. On the Friday, I casually mentioned about the availability of a greyhound puppy and I fully expected hubby to say a firm 'no, we're not ready.'  Sometimes, however, fate can play a funny old role and instead of 'no', the answer was 'yes, let's go and see her'  and so the scene was set.

Ava's first car journey
After several phone calls to Jenny and the then nameless pup's racing owner, we arranged to go and see her on Sunday 8th June. Stevie and Jasper joined us, as we made our way across the Pennines to meet the potential new member of our gang.

 One of the reasons I was so keen to meet her was because she was already 13 weeks old.  Most puppies (especially those destined to be pets) leave their dam at around 8 weeks old and it's generally accepted that the critical period for socialisation and habituation is between 8-12 weeks of age.  After this period, the window starts to shut...

Thankfully, the little black bundle of greyhound legginess we encountered wasn't fazed by me, hubby or Steve & Jasper.  She took food from me, tried to solicit play (albeit unsuccessfully) from Jasper & Stevie and seemed pretty responsive.  Her fate was sealed.  She was coming home with us, then and there. Paper work was signed and we left with a slightly wriggly, extremely cute puppy.

The journey home resulted in me and hubby agreeing on her name - Ava - and talking about how we were going to manage things back at home.  All the time this was going on Ava slept - remaining completely unaware of the new life she was about to embark on.

Stevie hums it & Ava sings it!

Puppy power - growing fast & gaining fans

Fast forward 5 weeks and our puppy isn't looking quite so puppy-ish.  Ava's growing at an amazing rate of knots and seems to steal the hearts of everyone she meets.  

In the UK, you don't tend to see many greyhound puppies (most are born and remain within the racing industry until they retire), so she certainly gets her fair share of attention.

Getting it right - an education all-round

Perhaps, more importantly, these past 5 weeks have highlighted to me just what hard work having a puppy is - especially if you want to get things right. 

It can be so easy to mess things up (albeit unwittingly) and, in doing so, create problems for the future.  I want to make sure that this doesn't happen for Ava and that she gets the best shot at having a happy, healthy and balanced life where nothing really fazes her. 

My memories of Mina are still very clear - she came to me with established problem behaviours, many of which could have probably been avoided had she had the 'right start' in life.  

I do not want Ava to experience the fears that drove Mina to react to other dogs.  I do not want her to have the fears that Jasper has - making him freeze in his tracks when he's afraid and I don't want her to feel like Stevie, who shakes, salivates and runs to hide when he hears loud noises, crashes and bangs and fireworks. 
Jasper & Ava cosy up

Like many trainers and behaviourists, I spend a lot of my time working with dogs that have behaviour problems - often borne out of a lack of early socialisation and the use of inappropriate and/or harsh training techniques.  Most can be avoided if we give our puppies the right start in life. We need to educate our puppies how to live in our world and educate ourselves on how to achieve this.

Ava is being educated and guided by me all the time. I manage her environment so she can't learn unwanted behaviours (I'll share details of this in another blog post), I make sure that her learning is positive and if she's worried or scared, I give her the space, distance and reduction in intensity that she needs - along with comfort and food reinforcers.  I tell her 'yes' not 'no.'  If she is behaving in a way I don't want her to, I'll interrupt the behaviour and divert her to another behaviour that I want to see.

Say 'goodbye' to a tidy house - puppy toys rule!
I provide her with outlets for her needs (our house looks like a bomb has hit it) - plenty of toys, chews, appropriate exercise - and I provide her with love and security.

I'll be sharing our adventures and the lessons we learn over the coming weeks and months and hope you'll join us...

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