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No silly words on a bandage will stop a determined wirehair from “Yes Chew.”

He’s hardly a puppy anymore at seven years old. In fact, in the eye of the pet food industry, Manny is now a “senior dog.” If he could read that, he’d resent it. Much like the splint and bandage he wrestled off his left foot last night.

Today’s Chronicle is about the patient, stoic wirehair from the same kennel as his protege’. His broken toe is what led to bringing home Flick, so thanks for that, Manny. While crippled up, he’s been an understanding and kind uncle – tolerating the yipping and crying every puppy uses to tell the world how miserable he is, the jumping up, the nervous energy when everyone else is chilling.

While recovering, he is amazingly, the opposite of stir crazy. Manny has, perhaps, been entertained enough by the antics of his apprentice to forget he couldn’t run and jump. He’s been content to watch the proceedings with interest, even what might be avuncular concern if I read his looks correctly. Only after six weeks did he start picking and worrying the clearly-labeled “No Chew” bandage last night, and when I added Bitter Yuk anti-chewing spray it may as well have been beef gravy. Within minutes much of the bandage was off. He’d had enough, and I can’t blame him.

Maybe it was Manny’s way of saying he was ready to run. Okay, walk carefully for a while and then run. Whatever else it was, it was his statement that enough was enough of that unnatural appendage that hindered his gait and looked silly, what with the logos all over it telling him what not to do.

I got the hint, Manny. Today we start getting us both back into shape without a bandage to slow us down.

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I’m not the first to say the only reason puppies live to dog-hood is they are so cute. In their own way, each is a hellion – for a moment here, a half hour there. Then, they do something so adorable – or just sit there cocking their head and gazing with those big wondrous eyes – and all is forgiven.

I went in with both eyes open, so am not griping, just making a statement. And for every felony or misdemeanor there are golden moments of pure delight with Flick. He is bolder in shallow water, he picks up pigeons and struts, he plays well with other pups and the nice older dog in class, is coming when called 80 percent of the time. It is a magical time and as so many trainers smarter than me have suggested, the prime time for learning all the good stuff.

There is only one puppyhood issued per dog, and a young skull full of mush is best shaped during these early days. I need immediate gratification, and on the basics with Flick I see results daily. It’s a good motivator.

And the puppy alarm clock didn’t ring until 6:07 a.m. this morning. Now that’s adorable.

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Plotting his next move.

I’m the first to admit to having no expertise when it comes to puppies. Flashes here and there from Manny’s early days seven years ago, insights from the many information sources I swear by, and once in a while a new-to-me revelation. In many cases, it all comes down to the old oil filter commercial: pay me now, or pay me later.

Planning ahead, making allowance for repetitive needs or challenges will reap dividends long into Flick’s adolescence. If your house has or recently had a new canine resident, maybe you can relate. If you’re hoping for one soon, maybe these tips will help you maintain your sanity.

Yes, puppies bite. A friend calls his pup a velociraptor and it’s an apt description of those razor blades they carry in their mouths disguised as “milk teeth.” (Who needs teeth for milk, anyway?) In addition to the vocal “ouch” strategy I am now armed with a chew toy at all times as a substitute for my hands and arms.

Early on, food is the great motivator. In another pocket is a bag full of treats. Teaching Flick “here” and his name is a day-long opportunity and smelly, tasty food helps.

Exercise is, and always will be, the best remedy for “disobedience,” however you define it. Safe outside walks, yardwork, training, will all wear the “bad dog” out of many puppies. But nothing works like a playmate. We are fortunate to have a five-year-old Corgi female that has glommed onto this little dog she can boss around (in good fun) until he outweighs her. Thank you Penny.

Many people will tell you the price of the puppy is the least of your expenses, and they are right. Efficiency and time-motion management are the key with Flick, so duplicates of some gear are to me, simply wise investments in my mental health. Two exercise pens in strategic locations, several crates scattered in good spots, innumerable toys and bowls all minimize searching when time is of the essence.

Speaking of toys (more on this later), the best toys fight back – they crunch, swing, flap, squeak, or pull. As noted, the best toy is a living, breathing dog but even Penny eventually gets tired of puppy play, so I’m constantly devising stuff that will safely entertain Flick when she needs a break.

I’m learning so much with Flick, building on what I learned with Manny, based on what I learned with Buddy, Yankee and Bill. Thanks to all of them.

Maybe another book is in order.

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The best puppy-sitter … auntie Penny, our Corgi.

The smart dog trainers say a pup’s best shot at learning is early in their life … and I’m a believer. Ronnie Smith, Ed Bailey, the Monks of New Skete, Larry Meuller all stress getting down to it the day pup comes home, when his brain is malleable, he is absorbing everything, and you can accomplish a lot of teaching that will pay off for a lifetime.

But it requires discipline. Our training is just as critical … from going out the moment Flick tells me he has to pee, to nipping hand-biting (so to speak) in the bud. But it’s not just the “NO” stuff, now is when we can lay a firm foundation for everything. Someone recently asked me what I could possibly do with my 9-week-old puppy that could help turn him into a hunting dog. In hopes it might help you, here is a partial list:

Don’t bite me – bite this instead; be still and quiet when I leave (for a couple minutes – I’ll be back, honest!); come when called; go this way when told; this is a bird – enjoy it (a dead one as of today); yield to the stakeout chain (the collar does the dirty work for me); water is fun (shallow, so far); your crate is your castle; learn doggie manners and play well with others (pups and our auntie Corgi, Penny); people are nice (meet a lot of them); mechanical things are not going to kill you (see lots of stuff); the veterinarian is your friend, so are my hands.

I’m sure I’ve left something out but in virtually every one of these areas, Flick has progressed by quantum leaps. In part, due to his DNA (incredible breeding) and in part because he is growing mentally and emotionally at warp-speed.

Now is the time to help him.

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I seldom crawl around in caves, or trek than 15 miles off the beaten track, even in pursuit of chukars. I don’t climb (real) mountains, nor sail the open seas. So technically, I’m not an adventurer, going where no man has gone before.

But Flick is the consummate explorer. Given the chance, he would take that first voyage to Mars. At nine weeks, he is bold and inquisitive, nose and eyes getting up close and personal with virtually everything new in his world (which is to say, everything in the world). Unlike pilots, where there are few old and bold ones, in a pup boldness within reason is an attribute. Flick’s is textbook: most discoveries are met with curiosity and a move closer, a sniff and a touch. The bigger, louder, stranger stuff is scrutinized from a distance … a first, tentative foray closer is followed by a distancing and further study. Then, Katie bar the door as he is probably heading for it again, hell-bent for election.

Which is why careful monitoring by a human is critical at this stage. The things that can cut, crush, poison, scare and irritate a wirehair puppy are myriad. Only we humans (theoretically) know what they are – he doesn’t, and won’t for quite a while, if ever.

But watching the little guy (and he is tiny) discover his world is a reminder of our own past, that time when everything was fresh and new. A squeak here, a bonk there … dazzling lights or a man with a beard, everything is exciting, intriguing and worth investigation. Flick’s top-ten list currently includes mouth-sized rocks for carrying, his packmates, other puppies, the owl toy that crinkles and squeaks, my hanging-bumper swing toy, anyplace he can’t go, anything he can’t have, anything that bleeds when bitten, and anything moving. But it is as they say, subject to change without notice.

I look at Flick’s actions as a reminder that we, too, can still keep our eyes wide open for discoveries. Just don’t bite that electrical cord.

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One baby step at a time.

Seasoned puppy raisers probably find much of this old hat, but around here there are discoveries every day (or night). As the saying goes, even the blind hog finds the occasional acorn, and in my constant search for sanity a few acorns have recently been found. Here are two, plus some recommendations.

  1. Sleeping through the night is much more likely if your pup eats a few hours prior to crate time, you take water away by about 7 p.m., and you wear the little demon out with a few laps in the evening. Then, as most parents probably learned the hard way, you keep the monster awake however you can, until absolute, positive bed time. So far, so good, but not taking bets yet.
  2. Flick has adjusted well to his new “pack” of big dogs and humans. But he still thinks we’re abandoning him when we leave the room. Leaving a big dog as babysitter helps, but not always and not for long. These days, it takes a few minutes (instead of instantaneously) before Flick comes to the realization he is all alone, so there is hope. As all the manuals state, it is a gradual transition from constant company to alone time. If only the space-time continuum would hurry up.

I vowed to raise this puppy “by the book.” Actually, several books. And a set of videos (thanks Mike D.). Many of you might already know I am now a disciple of Ronnie and Rick Smith (and Dad/Uncle Delmar). Their puppy development DVDs are very helpful, and while it is early, Flick already appears to be “joining up,” as they say, yielding to the collar/lead. More on this later.

The books are also helpful. I got into this business in part thanks to Larry Mueller, who for years authored the Gun Dogs column in Outdoor Life magazine. He looked at dogs differently than others, constantly questioning the status quo and wondering how dogs think. In my own small way, I’ve picked up his torch. Larry’s book Speed Train Your Own Bird Dog has many insights you won’t find elsewhere.

The other end of the literary spectrum is anchored by the Monks of New Skete. Their book, The Art of Raising a Puppy is a bit zen-like (in a good way) and provides a much different – and helpful perspective.

I’ll let you know if all this stuff works.

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Be careful what you wish for.

Humility comes in many forms, for both of us. For Flick, it’s being bowled over by an exuberant Lab puppy at kindergarten, or being small enough for me to pick up when he gets into mischief. But the sword cuts two ways.

My mis-step literally hurts the little guy when we’re running, fortunately not too often. Boy do I feel bad. There’s that at-wit’s-end feeling when nothing seems to stop his biting-whining-jumping up-pulling things down. “The look” from my lovely and tolerant spouse. Then, the botched command and reminder from our “teacher” that there are better ways to train than mine … I’ve been taken down a few pegs since Flick arrived.

The Buddha’s First Noble Truth is that life is suffering. He must have owned a wirehair puppy.

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