Saturday, June 25, 2011

Independent Play is good for a puppy!

Tired Puppy Kipling
We're still working on the "it's dinner time and I'm starving" tantrums, mostly done with the "the big dogs are out there and I'm stuck in here" tantrums and we haven't had a "I'm in a crate" tantrum since that first mostly sleepless night in Albany. What this mostly means is that a) Kipling is getting lots of short training sessions and is therefore mentally tired (at this point we're training with lots of play three-four times a day for 5-10 minute sessions); b) that he's getting the right amount of physical exercise and play (don't tell baby K - but this is 'training' too) and c) he's learning to entertain himself.

He is still keeping 'bird hours' though - up with the birds at about 4:30am and ready to crash about 9:30pm. Happily though since Wednesday AM he's waking up at 4:30, but entertaining himself until I come downstairs to start the day at about 5am. If only we could add a half hour or so to each end of his day I'd be a happy lady - oh to sleep until 5:30!!!

On Tuesday I posted a video of Kipling playing by himself in his ex-pen (reposted below). I received a couple of emails asking if I was concerned with Kipling happily playing by himself in the expen- was he an independent puppy? Was I worried about how independent he was? The short answer to that question is no - I'm not. I understand the concern, we all know that overly independent puppies are sometimes (perhaps often) not particularly biddable creatures. I agree with that statement...but I don't have that concern with Kipling - he is engaging, dynamic and confident - there are the keywords!

In contrast, what would we want our puppies to do in their time off? Certainly we can't have them with us 24x7 - nor should we (honestly). Puppies need to grow into themselves, not into 'us'. Moreover, we wouldn't wish for or choose for a performance pick a 9 week old puppy that is showing signs of separation anxiety or a puppy who was unable to self-settle at all: in a crate, in an ex-pen, on our laps, etc.
Tired puppy Teller and Q (a little over 4 years ago)

When that video was taken we were into the late afternoon. Kippie already had four or five treks outside to relieve himself, two short training sessions, two romp and play sessions outside, a scamper around the house with the big dogs and two long naps in his crate. At the time of the video he was due for another nap (and you can see a bit of that 'tired puppy' movement in the video) - but one of the things he needs to learn is how to settle himself. This is a skill I can't teach him - I can set him up for success - but that's where my influence ends. The act of me putting him into his crate gives him the answer in the same way a cookie on the nose is a lure. It's cheating him of the chance to problem solve for himself. If I always put him down for naps I'll probably always have to put him in his box for naps and that doesn't work for me. {GRIN}

Puppy Murphy settling (and sleeping) in his ex-pen.
Playing quietly, interacting with whatever toys I have in his ex-pen (and they're different every time I put him in there as I rotate out various toys and interactive stuff) is all part of learning to settle. His lesson, his job.

In other words, learning to play on his own and settle on his own does not reduce the value of playing with me, training with me and reinforcement from me - it's a separate skill. Now, if I head out to the frontyard for my two to three minute training and play session and see that Kippie would rather pull up blades of grass than play with me - that's a horse of a different color and something I might be concerned about for the long-term.

 

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