Raising a Puppy: The Tenth Week in his New Home—Spencer the Blue-Nose Brindle Pit Bull
A day in the life with Spencer the American Pit Bull Terrier puppy. Spencer's tenth week—19 weeks old, 44 pounds, 18 1/2 inches from the ground to the highest point of the shoulders (the withers).
About 4 months.
Spencer with Big Brother Bruno
Spencer with his big brother Bruno. Spencer continues to be attached to Bruno, following him around and mimicking what Bruno does. It's a good thing Bruno is a well-behaved dog.
Comparison: Spencer and Bruno both at 19 weeks old. Both weigh 44 pounds. However Bruno is two inches taller than Spencer at the same age. So far it seems like Spencer is going to be just as heavy as Bruno but a bit shorter and stockier. Only time will tell. Thank goodness Bruno grew into those ears! Bruno the Boxer at 19 weeks old.
Riding in Back of Car
I had Spencer ride in the front of the car at the foot of the passenger side for as long as I could to prevent him from peeing inside the van, as I recall a certain big brother doing when he was 5 1/2 months old. Spencer just seems really uncomfortable riding up front and for the last week I have been putting him in the back with Bruno. My fingers are crossed that he keeps his pee to himself while in the car!
Oh my gosh, tell me it's not so. Bruno the Boxer has an unusually large tongue. It's huge and this picture does not even show it justice compared to how it is when he really lets it hang out. See the pup? I hope it's just this picture, but his tongue is looking awful long here. These two dogs are not blood related at all. Bruno is a purebred Boxer and Spencer is a purebred American Pitbull Terrier. What are the chances I have two huge-tongued dogs now? At least Spencer does not seem to be a licker!
It's been so hot this summer that I have to make it a point to give the dogs a good walk in the early morning and at night, and save the very short walk for during the day. Once around the block in the hot sun and it was time to head back. The heat of the day was just too much for them. Good thing Amie took them jogging in the morning before the heat set in.
Gathering the pack up for a walk. We stop at the goat field to pick up the Great Pyrenees. Sweet-Pea the black goat bucks the gate with her head, her warning to Bruno and Spencer that she is not to be messed with.
While out on one of our walks the pack spots a flock of geese. Bruno the Boxer, Tundra, and Tacoma the Great Pyrenees easily all ignore them. I have to remind Spencer a couple of times to "leave it" as he seems a little too interested in the birds. He listens well and I stop to challenge the pack just a little further by allowing them to watch the flock walk across the grass and then fly away.
Calming his Mind
I had gone out of town for a few days, leaving Spence home in good hands with family members. He got plenty of exercise, however it was all off-leash hikes. No leashed pack walks. To top it off the days were very hot and humid. The night I returned I could see Spence had a lot of energy during a time when he is usually very tired. I had the kids take him for a nighttime off-leash walk in the fields where he ran and played with Bruno. When they returned I put Spence in his crate as usual. Instead of plopping down and going to sleep like he always does he yipped. I took him outside to make sure he didn't have to go to the bathroom. He peed and I waited long enough to make sure he didn't have to poop.
I put him back into his crate. The pup yipped again. So unlike him.
I lay in bed listening to him yip realizing he had never gone that long without a walk where he heels on a leash. I had two choices: either let him yip himself to sleep knowing his mind was not calm, or get out of bed and take him for a real walk where he was heeling beside me.
I decided for the latter, got out of bed, got dressed and snapped on the leashes. I took Spence and Bruno for a leashed walk at 10:30 p.m. It was night but it was still hot and humid. When we returned 40 minutes later I had sweat dripping from my nose, but I also had a tired, content puppy that just wanted to go to sleep.
The Skate Park
While out on a walk with all four dogs I passed a skate park with a handful of teenage boys riding their skateboards. Something about the noise of the skateboards rolling across the ground and the crash as they came back down onto the pavement after a jump freaked Spencer out. His eyes were wide, his tail was tucked between his legs and he stared at the rolling, crashing creatures. His first reaction was to bolt, to get out of there. I quickly realized the plan for the walk was no longer to finish at the other end of the woods, but to get Spencer over the fear of the skate park. I stopped the puppy from bolting. Besides not wanting that to be his reaction to fear, bolting while on a leash is really bad manners. I blocked him and had him sit down. Spence watched the creatures roll back and forth. We then practiced walking past the park. Over and over again we circled around. I had to resist the urge to reach down and scratch him behind his ears. The pup needed leadership, not affection. Petting him at that time would have been telling him good boy for being afraid and very well could have been the beginning of a life-long fear of skateboards. I was grateful that the teens did not call over and ask me any questions or try and talk to the dogs. Now was not the time to talk to the pup. I had to be careful not to give him any affection or reinforce in any way that I agreed with his fear. I walked all around the area, not allowing Spence to bolt and asking him to heel until I saw that his tail had moved from being tucked tightly between his legs to his normal relaxed position. That was my cue that I could now move on and leave the park area.
Tacoma the Great Pyrenees used to be afraid of that same skate park and I had done the same thing with her; walked her past the park often, giving her leadership, not affection. She is no longer afraid and was a very good girl as we showed Spencer that a skateboard was nothing he should be afraid of. We'll have to walk past that skate park a lot in the next month or so to get him to completely realize he has nothing to fear.
The Skate Park: Day 2
We walked back to the skate park the next day. Today, however we walked the long way to get to the park so Spence would be a little tired out when he got there. Less energy to put into his fear.
Approaching the park Spence was torn between his keen interest in the flock of geese ahead of him and...
…the dreaded noises of the skate park to his left.
We walked right up to the park. Spence was afraid and very unsure. See how his tail is tucked between his legs and his ears are tightly pinned to his head? A sure sign of insecurity and/or fear.
He was tense. He just wanted to leave the park area. However unlike the day before he did not bolt, but he was still not happy about being there.
See his tail and how tense he is standing? Still afraid. I sat down not talking to him and just let him get used to the skaters. I was very grateful none of the teens came to pet him. Now was not a good time. I decided to walk him around the park a few times. Walking helps dogs release their energy and fears and move forward in their minds if you just keep them moving.
Spence is starting to loosen up a bit. I stopped and let him take in the sounds again. He turned his back to the skaters. See his ears? They are no longer pinned.
Spence is not as tense. His ears are not pinned and his tail is not tucked so tightly. It is relaxed and just hanging, a normal position for him when he is relaxed and not excited at all. His mouth is open, another sign of relaxation.
Spence sits down with his back to the skaters. Excellent.
Spence starts looking around at other things, back still to the skaters. His ears and mouth are relaxed. There is no longer fear in his eyes.
Someone makes a loud noise behind him and he looks, but he seems to be just looking and no longer afraid like he was.
Spence turns back and relaxes his mouth. His back is to the skaters. He is looking at something else besides them. We walk around the park again.
Spence now looks even better. See his tail? It's not tucked, but someone had just banged a board making a loud crashing sound and he pinned his ears. We walk some more…
…and he relaxes his ears. I walk him around the park again. He walks with a relaxed motion, his tail carried middle-of-the-road, his ears perked. He started to realize this place was not so scary after all.
Spence decides to start smelling the ground, finding something more interesting than the skaters. Yes! Spence started moving past his fear just in the nick of time because two little girls came over to pet him. Had the kids come over when he was acting afraid I would have had to tell the kids not to pet or talk to him. Giving him any type of affection, be it talking, petting or even laughing would have been like saying good boy for being afraid. Luckily they came after he started to move on, which was a very good distraction for him. Good boy for moving on, Spence. The kids actually helped him totally forget the skateboarders. They petted him and talked to him. I had to remind Spence of his manners a few times. No jumping, no pulling and to sit like a good boy while he is being petted. He LOVES little kids.
I'll have to still take him back to the skate park again and again until he can walk up for the first time without being afraid from the start. Socialization and not feeding into any of his fears is very important. I could never communicate to him not to be afraid of skateboarders without bringing him to the skateboarders and let him face his fears and realize on his own that everything was OK.
Spencer was playing with his rope toy with one of the kids when we noticed there was blood on the toy. I looked in his mouth and saw that he had just lost a tooth. We found the tooth on the living room floor. His puppy teeth are falling out and his adult teeth are on their way in.
It happened again! I was sitting in the same room when the pup just tilted his head back and started chewing on this handmade stereo cabinet that was passed down in the family. Chewing on that handle right above his head! "Aattttt!!!!" He stops immediately and just looks at me. Who me? You talking to me?
Yes you. Spence, I am talking to you. Take this bully stick and chew on that instead. Keep your little teeth off of the furniture!
What is with you and feet? That's MY sock you have there under your paw pup. Give me that.
"Hey! NO!" Spence, you cannot chew on my sneaker!
No sooner did I put my sneaker back did he walk over and think about taking it again, "Aaaatttt!"
Spence lay down and gave me one of those “I'm too cute to be doing anything wrong” looks.