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Chad Warmenhoven (Support Technician)

Prepping Pandemic Puppers

Written on May 6, 2020 by Chad Warmenhoven
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What is going on

UPDATE: 5/28/2020

Covid-19 has contributed to a lot of changes in our personal lives, economy, work, and recreation. One thing that hasn’t changed: There are still a lot of pets available in the Animal Shelters, and many of them are not getting the attention, training, exercise, or interactions they need and are likely used to receiving. Most of the shelters are allowing fosters with established foster homes but I don’t know of many that are releasing adoptions. This means they are still accepting new animal drop offs (animals coming in) but none going out. This presents quite a crowding problem so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to keep fostering just like normal. How we foster may have changed but our desire to help the needy animals will never change.

What it's all about

We don’t use any structured, labeled, or licensed training modules so this article will not go into detail on every tactic we use to train, we are not professionals and instead just found a pattern that we feel works well. Our families have been training animals for as long as I can remember so I’ve basically just absorbed that knowledge and generated my own techniques over the years. The key to it all?

  • CONSISTENCY

That can be challenging during this pandemic but every interaction is a training opportunity. When you’re fostering an animal, especially a young pup, you need to constantly be teaching the exact same behaviors no matter the situation. Consistency. They are looking to you for guidance, just as a child would, but you may not have this animal it’s whole life like you would a child so you can’t take it slow and just keep ‘correcting’ over the years. Instead, you need to train good behaviors and attitudes, early and quickly, that will better hold no matter who the owner is.

Fostering

In the past we have fostered a number of older dogs, younger puppies, older cats and kittens. Helping them find homes and frequently providing palliative/medical care. My wife worked for years as a vet-technician at numerous animal hospitals before studying to become an accountant (super different right? I thought so too) so we are regularly tasked with the injured or medically needy fosters.

Our obvious favorites are kittens. Where we live there are a LOT of kittens come summer-time and most of them are feral, captured usually without their mothers having been lost or abandoned and generally need bi-hourly feedings of warm milk substitute. It’s wild. They are so incredibly tiny and cute, it makes it all worth it.

Just a few of our recent fosters. Hard to get work done after returning from lunch to find your chair...occupied.

Our current foster

Moose is a major lover and attention seeker. He needs a lot of training and has an insane amount of energy but is very sweet, calms down nicely and absolutely loves attention. When we first met Moose at the shelter he was overly bouncy, barked frequently, would bite your hands gently out of excitement, could NOT stop pulling/lunging on the lead and did not know how to go for a walk at all. He also couldn’t settle down even with treats, attention, ignoring, or praise/punishment. That took a lot of positive reinforcement, treats, structured walks and play, in order to train that out of him. Moose chewed and shredded anything in sight including his fancy shelter bed and passport, our fault for leaving it out. Initially he gobbled food down far too quickly for the large dog he is, risking Gastric Dilation which is terrible and happens frequently in large chested dogs like Moose. Many of these behaviors have been corrected or at the very least reduced.

His journey

He was picked up as a young puppy in Texas, tied to a stop sign, emaciated and dehydrated but very happy to see his rescuer. He was moved around to different shelters (I don’t know exactly where) and he ended up in our little corner of the world. At this point he is about a year old and has lived his entire life in small kennels within humane societies or animal shelters. A number of people applied to adopt him but it was determined they were not the right fit. He was adopted for about a month but unfortunately was returned and has even had a few in home test runs that were unsuccessful.

Due to these failed attempts our local shelter is working very hard to find the perfect fit so he doesn't have to bounce around again.

That was when we met him

We immediately recognized a very good dog buried under a lack of training, overjoy for attention, structureless life, and abandonment fatigue. We started visiting the shelter walking him daily using a HALTI a few miles at a time, making sure the focus was on training, not play. At the end of the walk we would enter into the large dog run and provide significant exercise and play. Mostly in an effort to wear him out.

When Covid-19 struck, we were suddenly unable to visit any animals at the shelter including Moose. This meant we had to sacrifice walks, training, and all interaction with him. A dog in need of constant stimulation and training of course would not do well with little to none of either. So, we asked the shelter if we could foster. As this was not our first foster from them, they were happy to oblige.

Current status

Here we are, about 6 weeks later, and Moose is a completely different dog. He is dramatically calmer, knows his name, obeys a litany of commands, eats from a puzzle bowl but doesn’t gobble as quickly, and loves his twice daily walks (or bike rides) heeling nicely by our side pulling only when overly excited but he’s working on that. He loves running around the property, is able to return at the call of his name or whistle and adores our other dogs.

He has now (mostly) mastered the following commands

  • Sit
  • Bow (looks like a front leg stretch)
  • Down
  • Come
  • Hold
  • Go
  • Heel
  • Leave it
  • Back off
  • Load up
  • Speak

He does great with the cats, playing with the ones that want to and leaving the older one alone. He has no food aggression, is learning his boundaries (both personal space and property/area based), promptly listens to commands, sits by the door when he needs to make use of the ‘facilities’ and is getting better about greeting people/animals. This is one we haven’t been able to practice much unfortunately due to the pandemic and limited outside contact, but we still work on it as much as we can.

Working from home full time provides the opportunity to constantly be with an animal that needs more than the average attention. For the most part, all Moose needs is a command, treat, or chew toy and his bed then he is occupied for hours but it’s really nice to be here to reinforce the good behavior and keep him focused on learning new skills. While most of my day is spent in front of the computer (with him within earshot), WFH affords me the opportunity to let him out for quick on-leash and off-leash training sessions and positive interactions with the other animals and visitors (delivery guy mostly).

We are eternally grateful to Puget for providing me the opportunity to stay on and continue contributing to the company in a positive way and especially grateful during this terrible pandemic. I am continuously impressed by the decisions our management team has made (and asks us to contribute to) and not just during this crisis but everything I’ve seen over the years here. I love working with Puget and love working with my animals so being able to effectively balance both is hugely important to me. I make every effort to provide significant value in the hopes that I will be able to spend many more years with Puget Systems. My animals are eternally grateful as well! Thank you for reading, I hope these images and stories brighten your quarantine! I am writing an in depth blog about the other (permanent) members of our family so watch for that coming soon.

And just because this is amazing every time I see it. The Bald Eagles LOVE to hang out and watch me fish in the mornings, well, occasionally they will swoop down and pickup a trout before I can catch it! You win this round nature, well played.

Stay safe out there everyone!!