You Give Me (Puppy) Fever!

I knew I was in trouble when I was staying up past midnight searching Border Collie breeder websites. It seemed like all my friends and students were getting puppies. They were adorable, silly, and gave me serious puppy fever.

During another late night cybersearch, I found my puppy, a stunning blue merle tricolor. Latte was part of the “Coffee” litter. All eight puppies were named after coffee drinks, which I can’t resist, either! When I saw her eight-week-old photos, and that cute split face like my late Catahoula, Desoto, I was in love.

I got her at 3.5 months of age, and she was even more beautiful and sweet than I imagined. She climbed right into my lap and cuddled up. I nicknamed her Lovebug in that instant!

Latte has now been home for two weeks. We have been taking our time regarding formal training, just getting to know each other and building a strong bond. She blends into our pack of four dogs quite well. The seniors have done a good job teaching her the rules of the house, and giving fair corrections when she gets obnoxious. To my great surprise, Latte is helping my other Border Collie, Magnum, learn to relax. That is no small feat!

So far, she knows her name, although I have more work to do when she is in a more exciting environment, or when she wants to herd Magnum. She also thinks of me as a Pez dispenser, always doling out treats or toys when she makes eye contact with me, comes when called, or offers to sit. I taught her down, and she offered peekaboo (sit between my legs), which I use as a start line for Magnum. I think she feels secure there.

Starting this week, we’re going to focus on these training games:

• Break – release word as permission to move (out of crate, through a door, etc.)
• It’s Yer Choice – work through four stages (closed fist, open hand, treat on floor, treats in open bowl)
• Go to Place – offer to sit on a dog bed or mat, remain there until released
• Two-Toy Game – she learns to play with whichever toy I offer
• Paw Rub – treat for touching and rubbing all four paws
• Open Wide – treat for inspecting her mouth, lightly brush her teeth with my finger

I better stop there. It’s tempting to do more because puppies are such sponges! Of course, they have short attention spans, so our training sessions will be very short, about 2-3 minutes. It’s easy to overface them with too much mental exercise.

We are going on as many field trips and doggie play dates as possible. I think it’s important that puppies meet a variety of people, especially kids if there are none in the home. She is fantastic with my four-year-old son, and they are drawn to each other. When he makes funny sound or runs around, Latte is attracted to the noise and unpredictable movement.

I love hearing my son giggle when they’re playing together. He says her name so cute: “Laaaatteeeee!” Sadly, I did have to ruin their fun by intervening when she was tugging his sock off. He thought it was hilarious! She has a taste for shoes, too, so it’s been a good reminder for all of us to pick up and put away anything we value.

I’m incredibly fortunate to have little Latte. She is exactly what we needed – a ray of sunshine as my two Dals, Darby and Jolie, are in their sunset years.

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