Or... Alpha Lessons That Can Drive Your Neighbors Up The Wall.
by Esther Ekman
Several months back a horse ranch friend of mine called, telling me that she had lost her cattle dog, "Old Girl", to cancer and that a friend who had a Maggie/Fred daughter had agreed to breed Lucy so she would have the possibility of getting a bitch puppy to replace Maggie. She was asking for a stud recommendation. I told her about the stud dog we were going to use on a grand daughter. They decided to use the same stud. (That guy Murphy is always getting his nose where it isn't appreciated. The ranch bitch took and our show bitch didn't.)
The night the litter was born should have been "A Dark and Stormy Night", actually it wasn't, but a couple of tragic events will always be associated with that litter. One of the events is personal to Lucy's owner and will stay as such. The other was that although she had 3 girls and 4 boys all doing well, within the next couple of days they lost the two blue bitches. (My friend has her Ruby pup to replace her old girl, is doing great and is well loved in spite of her red color.)
A mistake that a lot of people make in dog bedding (Especially in the barn etc.) is to use wood shavings or wood chips for bedding. Do not do it. They lost one of the pups on the second day because she got chips in her throat and choked. The other girl was lost from an abscess possibly caused by a splinter. Both of the "lost" girls probably nursed on the bottom teats. (Many bitches will lay down on the same side when nursing.) The wood sticks to the wet/sticky skin and the pups will suck the wood into their mouth.
I made that same bedding mistake when we moved here and I had my kennel house built. Each run has an inside, open topped dog house. Since it was winter, wet and muddy, I figured the dogs needed something other than a blanket. I filled each box with a foot of wood shavings. I almost lost two of my dogs. Both had the habit of keeping and chewing their bones in their box, rather than the open area of the inside part of the run. Both had ingested wood chips that had gotten stuck in their digestive systems. Never again. Now I put loose straw in every winter and it works just fine.
Straw is a better bedding for box stalls. It may stick to the bitch, but the pups don't suck it into their systems and it can be passed even if the pups ingest some. It may seem that it gets wetter, faster, but it just shows more and the portion where the bitch lays should be changed each day anyway. (If not all.)
For whelping boxes, new (unopened) newspapers and a blanket is the usual bedding. (Unopened newspapers are sterile because of the heat used in printing, but the ink will stain a light coat.) Some use the fake sheepskin throws or pads. They are nice and soft, but check the tag to see if they can be bleached. White cotton sheets work well also. White cotton towels are OK, but the pups can get hung up in the loops of the fabric. (Before use, a 1 bleach to 5 parts water will kill parvo virus etc.) with double raise. (Urine and chlorine forms a poisonous gas.) Just make sure the pups do not get stuck underneath or wrapped in the blanket. Some bitches will tear up the newspapers, you can pre-tear the paper in long strips.
Oh, make sure you regularly clip the puppies nails, otherwise they can get caught in the fabric and rip a nail or pull a muscle trying to free themselves.
Back to the "Dark and Stormy Night", because the litter was done as a favor, the timing wasn't the best, as Lucy's owners had some time ago planned a long vacation.
My roommate Candyce had decided that one of the blue males was too good to go to a ranch home and she brought him home a week or so ago. Bo Diddley is great, laid back, responsive and quite sensible for a pup and he has been getting on well with all the older dogs.
They had one male pup not sold, but didn't want to saddle their house sitter with a small pup, nor did they want to isolate the pup from the two adults, keeping him in the barn and having the ranch caretaker take the responsibility. So guess who said "sure we can do that?...."
When I had checked out the litter, there was no doubt that this peculiar pup was the alpha male. (As I have said, that is the one that will take a strong owner and is one of the reasons they are being very careful where the pup is placed.)
So Candyce went down one evening and bought Tuffy home for his stay here. That first night we crated him in the bathroom. He woke us up at 4:30 AM with a demanding glass breaking screeching. (Seems that they get up much earlier on the ranch than we do here.) He didn't really have to potty, he just decided it was time to get up and decided to tell the world about it. (ACD's can have the most horrid high pitched voices in dogdom.)
The first day on the deck with Bo, Tuffy tried to beat up him and tried to intimidate one of the older girls that is loose on the deck with the pups. Later that evening when all get out for a run and dinner, he thought he could buffalo the other girls and my older male. The girls would have none of it, my old male would have none of it. He was confused at first because as is usual with most ACD moms, Lucy was very lenient with him and let him be aggressive until the other pups yelled.
The other girls are in kennel runs on the deck. That first couple of days Tuffy figured since they were locked up and couldn't get a hold of him, that it was fun to fence fight, barking and making a general nuisance of himself. Was he surprised in the evening when the girls were now loose and he barked at them. His nose was twisted many a time that evening. Taking a pup's muzzle in their mouth and twisting is how an older dog will correct bad behavior.
As long as the pup keeps a submission position, either crawling on all fours or upside down with their belly showing, that is as far as it gets, but if the pup shows any aggression or tries to put themselves on the same level with the older dog, the correction can be tougher with the older dog forcing the pup to ground and standing over them.
My correction for the barking on the deck was three part. First I tried the water hose treatment, but found out that both pups are water dogs and loved getting sprayed. (ACD's come in two types, those who hate water and will do anything to avoid getting spray corrections. Second are the water sprites that will spend hours playing in the lawn sprinkler or jumping into their water dishes.) Second was the shake can correction. (You take small metal juice cans filling them about 3/4 full of pea gravel, taping the top closed.) This worked better, you throw them near the pup when they bark. (Make sure you don't hit the dog.) The cans make a lot of noise and startles them enough that they pay attention to your voice. Number three, of course, is your voice corrections. A sharp, growling "no" or "quit" or "stop that" does work, but it took awhile because he hadn't been taught "no" in any other context.
He also was in for a surprise when the pups were fed lunch. He figured he'd just eat both bowls. I would have none of that. He is more polite now. He is learning "wait" both at the gate and with his food. He is better with the gate than the food, but he is coming around. I still have to stay with them because Bo eats slower and they will fight over the food. Which is the start of a lot fight troubles with dogs. Make sure they get the idea that they have to stick with their bowl only. It is a hard lesson to learn because you are going against instinct that is telling them to get all they can by being dominate.
The second morning was a repeat of morning one. Only this time my neighbor called complaining about the noise and the hour. (Even though we both have 10 acres, the houses are about 300 feet from each other. Not smart.) My neighbor isn't a dog person at all and doesn't appreciate any dog noise, especially at that hour. She also called later when the pups were fence fighting and again when I was feeding the kennel dogs and the girls thought the pups were a good excuse to bark and carry on.
The next night we covered his crate with a blanket, so he couldn't see any skylight in the morning. It worked, he stayed quiet until 6:30 AM when the house gets going. We did that every night for a week or so, until the new time habit took hold.
Some people say to use a radio or ticking clock to keep a new puppy company at night, but his case wasn't that he was lonely, he had been crated at night at home. It was his time habit. Dogs are creatures of habit and I can't stress that fact enough. If you give in to a pup's demands, he/she will do the same thing at the same time again and again and again. Demands are different than the whining a pup may do because they can't hold their bladder for eight hours. You can let them out to potty, stretching the length of time until they can sleep the night.
The three weeks or so that Tuffy will be staying with us will be the best thing for his future owners. It's a pain, but actually fun training him to be more polite, less aggressive and less demanding. His extended family is turning him into quite a lovely little boy.
Due to the dogs versus neighbors, it did make me chuckle the other day when I had to call them to tell them that their renter's rooster was on top of the deck kennels harassing the dogs and making them bark. Such is life in the woods....
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