Raising a Puppy: Mia the Blue-Nose American Bully Pit—12 weeks old
A day in the life with Mia the American Bully (Bully Pit) puppy. Mia's sixth week—12 weeks old, 19 pounds, 12 3/4 inches from the ground to the highest point of the shoulders (the withers).
12 weeks old (3 months)
Trip to the Mountains
Mia goes on a winter trip to the mountains. Just like at home, her favorite spot to be is in front of the fireplace.
One of the first things I did when we arrived was make Mia walk to the front door and outside on her own without a food distraction to show her where to potty. We were gone for three days and the entire time, Mia asked to go outside when she had to go to the bathroom. She had no accidents inside the cabin. Showing her where to go without using any type of reward other than verbal praise kept her brain only on the task at hand, which helped her make the connection as to what exactly was expected of her.
The porch was ice and snow covered and a handful of times Mia did pee on the porch instead of walking down the steps to the yard. I did not tell her no; I only encouraged her to walk further down to the yard with verbal praise. At one point, when I had let all three dogs outside to potty, Mia began to squat on the porch as Bruno and Spencer trotted on by her and down the steps. Mia immediately darted off after them without peeing and instead peed in the yard like her big brothers. Good girl, Mia! I will find out later if it is a mistake to not tell her no when she potties on the porch. I feel at this stage of training the risk of confusing her is high when it comes to teaching her the difference between a snow-covered porch that is outside the house vs. a snow-covered yard. Especially when you consider it is freezing cold, and in her mind she would like to get it done as fast as she can and get back into the warm fireplace.
The kids wanted to go to the park to go sledding. Mia is not ready for free roam of the cabin so rather than leave her in her crate for a few hours we bring her along for the socialization.
Mia walks around for a while, but it's too cold for the pup so I put her in my jacket where she watches the kids sled and eventually takes a nap.
Mia out on the walk with her brothers before we head out to dinner.
Mia out in the snow with her brothers, brrrrr, it's cold out here.
Oh yes, the fireplace. This is the place to be. Mia raises her head up as she smells the warm air.
Mia gets very happy when she sees little kids. She loves running around with them no matter how loud they get. She usually has a toy in her mouth, "Playtime!" These little humans are fun!" We are teaching Mia the rules of play. For example, you can play with the kids, but you cannot jump all over them and puppy bite on them as if they are another dog.
Bruno the Peacekeeper
Spencer and Mia were playing. Just as I thought to myself, OK that's getting out of hand, I better go calm them down (Mia is relentless)...BOOM! Bruno suddenly jumped right into the middle of it like a brick wall. Even from across the room I felt his energy. He looked from side to side at both Spencer and then back at Mia as if to say, "Enough!" Then he turned his concentration only on Mia. I sat there amazed. He spent the next minute alpha rolling Mia to her belly. Wow, good boy, Bruno. That confirms that Mia was the troublemaker. Had Spencer been the one, Bruno would have concentrated on him. I walked over and gave Bruno a hand, calming Mia down and Bruno licked my face up.
"Hey mom, are you done feeding all those other animals? We want to go inside where it's warm."
Mia is starting to understand what the walks are all about. Not a brawl session where we jump, pounce and bite all over the other dogs, but a time to explore new areas and travel with the pack. She learns to respectfully walk beside Spencer and Bruno with her tail wagging. She's realizing how fun and relaxing it is.
Mia learns to sit pretty for a group shot.
After the walk, Mia cuddles with Bruno inside the van. Time to head home.
Unsure About the Barn
Mia had never been in the upper barn before. She was very unsure about crossing the line into the first room. She would take a step inside then jump back as if the floor bit her. I called her with some sweet talk, but she just yipped at me and danced around. "Mia, come on Mimi!"
"Yip!!" Dance, dance
"Come on Mi!" I patted the floor like a drum. "MiMiMiMi!"
She stepped inside with one paw and jumped backwards. "Yip" Dance, dance
You crazy puppy, it's just the barn. I tried a few more times. Nope, she was not going in. She started to head toward the house. "Mia, come! Wait. Come back here!"
Mia turned around and sat down at the entrance, but she was not coming in.
I walked into the barn and looked for food. Surely there's food. The kids are always hanging out in here.
Yes! A sealed bag of animal crackers. This should do it. The pup loves food.
I waved the cookie in front of her nose. "FOOD!!! I got to get me some of that!!!" Mia ran into the barn like she had never been unsure. Good girl. Sit for another piece of a cookie.
OK, OK, Bruno and Spencer. You can have a cookie, too.
It is little times such as this that owners unknowingly create behavior issues in a dog. Had I just picked her up and carried her inside, giving her soothing words without allowing her to physically, on her own, see that there was nothing to be afraid of, I could have instilled a fear and/or insecurity that may have stuck with her for years, if not her entire life. She has to walk the walk on her own to really understand there is nothing to be afraid of. I could have gotten a leash and slowly allowed her to step in and adjust without pulling her, however food was much easier. It took her mind off of what she was unsure about and she crossed the line. When she realized nothing bad happened after she crossed, she started cautiously sniffing around. After a short bit she was over it.
Often times a dog that does develop behavior issues from these types of early situations are labeled as once abused. The owners give them even more babied love and they never do get over it. The poor dogs are labeled and stuck in that state of mind for the rest of their lives because the humans keep them there. It is best not to let your dog get into that state to begin with, but if it does, remember it is always possible to pull them out of it.
Yuppy Puppy Treat Machine
Mia practices using the Yuppy Puppy Treat Machine. Watch the concentration on her face as she thinks about what makes the food come out at the bottom. Do you see the gears spinning in her head? "Hmmmmm, if I just paw it this way. Hey, where is the food? Wait, let me try that again. FOOD!"
Mia had just finished eating breakfast and walked away from her food bowl. I picked up her dish and walked into the living room to check on her. Nope, not in front of the fireplace. Not in her crate. Not in the dog beds. Oh, there she is, sitting at the front door staring at the doorknob. "Baby-Mi, do you have to go outside? Good girl."
Mia came up with this new game to occupy herself. It's called Stink Bug Pouncing. I looked over when I heard a "Yip!" and saw her playfully pounce on something. Mia, what are you doing? Oh no, it's a stink bug! You're going to stink the house up. Give me that thing. I picked the stink bug up with a paper towel. It was still alive. I flicked it out into the snow. Just as I sat down at my desk, Mia was pouncing on something else. Another live stink bug! Mia, again? Give me that one, too. As I worked on getting rid of the second stink bug Mia was nosing around looking for a third.
Lou from Dazzling Bullies Kennels came to visit Mia. He is an excellent breeder who truly cares about where his dogs end up. He's been working with Pit Bulls for the past 20 years and is very experienced in natural dog behavior. His energy was calm and confident and Mia calmed right down when he handled her. She rolled onto her belly and relaxed for a belly rub. He tested her while she was playing with Bruno and Spencer to make sure she knew the difference between human skin and another dog at play. She passed. She avoided human skin.
When Mia started puppy biting him I noticed he had done something that immediately stopped her without upsetting her. I asked him what he just did and he said instead of pulling back away from her he simply put his finger further into her mouth and to the backside where there were no teeth as her back molars are not in yet. It was uncomfortable; Mia wanted the hand out of her mouth. As a result she stopped putting his hand in her mouth. No more puppy bites. I tried the same technique and sure enough, it worked. The next day when I petted Mia's head she didn't open her mouth to bite on me.
Lou explained that when you pull away from a dog you often create a response where the dog goes forward toward you. It is a game to them, but it can also result in a puppy bite that hurts and if the dog does that same thing when it is older it can be mistaken for aggression. He said that other breeds can mess up and accidently hurt someone, but Pit Bulls cannot afford to mess up. If a Pit Bull messes up it is all downhill from there. Even if it was an accident. Because of the breed discrimination it is important to teach your Pit Bull to respect hands and understand the difference between human skin from other dogs and objects. Unlike every other breed, this people-loving dog is not allowed to make a mistake.
Mia is high energy, relentless and does not give up or stop easily. She can out-play both Bruno and Spencer every single session. At some point the older dogs want to stop and she's not finished playing yet. Lou explained at exactly what point Mia should be stopped. As soon as the other dog walks away from her she needs to be told, “Game over.” Something so simple, yet something I had not been paying attention to.
He also showed me how to teach her to stack (a show dog stance) in case we ever want to show her. Just watching how he calmly and confidently handled her was awesome. Mia had great respect for him.
Setting Mia up for the stack and getting her used to being handled
Mia relaxed for him and did a great job, especially considering it was her first time. When handlers are calm, it calms the dogs.
By the time he left I had learned so much. That is the thing about dogs, there is always more to learn.
Wave for Food
"You gonna share some of that food?" Mia, paw.... Good girl.
I heard a scraping sound. I looked up to see Mia gnawing on the cabinet. "Hey, NO!!!"
"Who, me? Oops, guess that's not a toy, huh?"
Mia! You are not allowed to jump on your brother while he is sleeping!