Friday, July 30, 2010

The Gemstones Are Growing Up

You may have noticed on the Puppy Cam that the whelping box is gone. Coral, Opal, Aqua, Topaz, Taz, Amber and Diamond have moved on to a much larger space. Crystal enclosed part of the room, so the puppies have lots of space but aren't able to get into mischief.

The puppies have lots of new surfaces and objects to walk on and explore, including a wooden board, an aluminum pie tin and a big red ball. Not only do these new objects stimulate their minds, but they also get the puppies used to encountering new things in their environment. These puppies may become service dogs, and they'll need to take changes in the environment in stride. For example, a balance dog must be able to walk calmly over drainage grates. If the dog were to swerve to avoid the grate, he may injure his partner, who is using him for balance.

The pups are also learning crate behavior. It's important for the dogs to be calm and quiet in their crate. There will be times when a service dog needs to be crated, and they need to stay calm and not get stressed. When we first start crate training the puppies, we fill the crates with soft blankets and toys. We also put open crates in their whelping box or area. The puppies are free to come and go in the crate as they please, and sometimes they even go in to curl up for a nap. When the puppies are three weeks old, we start closing them in the crate with at least one littermate. After three to five minutes, we open the door and let them out again. Overall, we want to make sure the puppies learn to associate the crate with good things, so it becomes a place where they can relax.

Some of the Gemstones puppies like the crate more than others. Most of the puppies want to jump right out and start playing again. But not Taz! In the short time he was in the crate with the door closed, he curled up and went to sleep. Crystal just left him there with the door open. He woke up in a little bit and wandered out of the crate. However, he just looked around, and then went into the neighboring crate to sleep again!

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