Co-parenting is hard!

Holy shit, that stuff is hard, and hard is a euphemism for impossible!  So we’ve decided to go back to the original plan: Hadley will mainly be Tom’s responsibility – he is his dog, and the more I do with Hadley, the less Tom gets to do. So while I will still keep Hadley company when Tom is at work, take him on walks and fun outings with the rest of the crew, and love him just as much as Phoebe and Fanta, all other training and mental stimulation will be Tom’s job. And of course, we’ll keep working together to solve the potentially obsessive floor-digging riddle and help Hadley become as happy and OCD-free as he can be.

Up until now, I ended up doing most training. I’ve spent a lot of time with Hadley during the day, since I mostly work from home. This way, I got to know him well – probably better than Tom, who has an office he goes to every day. I saw what Hadley needed and provided it for him: desensitizing and counter-conditioning to scary stuff, getting him used to various challenging environments (city, public transport), socializing him with dogs and children and people in wheelchairs, providing him with enrichment, shaping games and walks.

When Tom got home at night, a content puppy was waiting for him, ready to have some cuddles with his dinner and then fall asleep. For the most part, Tom didn’t need to worry about training, mental stimulation, or exercise, since I had already taken care of this. Consequently, he worried about other things that nobody else was taking care of instead, like work and finishing his phd. However, Tom still got to call the shots as far as Hadley was concerned – after all, Hadley is his dog. And this turned out to be more and more frustrating for me: because I was investing a lot of time and effort in raising Hadley, he felt more and more like “my” dog. I was doing more with him than I had ever planned on doing, but did not get to raise him the way I would if he had been “my” puppy.

Now that Hadley is an adolescent, he has started needing more activities to engage his BC smartness, so my investment grew even further – and to a point where I got angry at Tom and felt like he “ruined” my cues when he was using them differently than I was. This clearly wasn’t working: Hadley was turning into my dog, which was frustrating for Tom, and I felt that I had somehow ended up with all of the responsibility without getting to do things my way. Luckily, in contrast to other species, the human animal can reflect on its actions. We decided to change what we were doing, because the current approach hasn’t really been working for us. Clearly defining our jobs regarding Hadley has already made things easier and gotten rid of conflicts, and has brought Tom and Hadley closer together, and it has also taken the frustrating parts out of our relationship again. I’m really relieved – Tom’s my favorite person and sharing a life with him feels different than any past relationships. I want us to be happy together and kiss at red lights when we’re riding in a car together rather than fight about how to raise a puppy!

When it comes to dogs, it turns out, we have different ideas and approaches, and I don’t think we’ll be training together anytime soon. That’s okay, it just means that it has to be clear who is responsible for what.

It is nice to see that Hadley is now really turning into Tom’s dog, and in the 7 or so days that Tom has been spending more time training, walking and playing with him, I think they’ve already grown closer. After all, that’s what it should be like to have a four-legged best buddy. That’s what it’s like for me with Phoebe and Fanta, and I want Tom to have the same kind of relationship with Hadley.

Right now, the two of them are taking their first 1-on-1 lesson at AHA. I hope they’re having fun – I’m not the right kind of trainer for the two of them, but I’m glad that Tom found someone to help him out with BC adolescence related things, and help him train. Maybe he’ll even find his own community of dog people there and get into agility once Hadley is old enough.

While I’m glad we talked about this and decided that I would take a step back, training-wise, it also makes me a little sad that there won’t be any more fun shaping session with the little black-and-white rascal. I’ve done a lot with him these last months. Not as much as I would have done if I had brought him in to raise him as my puppy – I want my next puppy to be a performance puppy and would place a higher focus on teaching engagement and focus in any environment from an early age, and I’d do a lot more shaping, balance and body awareness exercises, and introduce him to group classes while still a puppy … But Hadley and I still did a lot together. I socialized him to dogs, children and people in wheelchairs and on skateboards and scooters, introduced him to city sounds and riding public transportation, got him used to wearing a muzzle and husbandry training … I shaped lots of tiny little throw-away behaviors, just to teach him to offer behaviors and be creative … I made sure we rode the car for a few minutes every day so he’d get more comfortable in it … I crate-trained him and made sure to reinforce calm behavior throughout the day in those early puppy days, and worked on Dr. Overall’s relaxation protocol … I did lots of food puzzles and fun recall training, and reinforced voluntary attention and good choices on walks, and worked on Hadley’s leash reactivity … Well, you know: basic puppy stuff and then some.

So on the one hand, I’m happier now that I don’t feel frustrated anymore – Tom is taking the responsibility for his puppy that initially, I had somehow ended up with. But I’m sad at the same time, since it was fun to have a puppy to train! Oh, so much fun! But that’s okay – I know that some day, there will be another puppy – the one I’ve been thinking about for about a year. I hadn’t decided what breed she would be yet. Border Collie was one possibility – I’ve been keeping an eye on the Firehillborders, and particularly on Uschi’s Border Collies von der Saußbachklause ever since I met Tina’s red merle girl Anny, and on Lene Simonsen’s beautiful and talented BCs. Another option was a Kelpie, or perhaps a working-line Aussie … Or maybe something completely different. We’ll see – once Hadley is a little older and I have a bigger house. For now, I have time to focus on Phoebe again. We’ll give agility another chance: while the group classes weren’t for us, Phoebe and I will be taking private lessons with Angelika Heitmann in February. We can’t wait 🙂

I’m going to stop documenting  Hadley’s and my training adventures, since they are about to end. So you’ll be reading more about Phoebe and Fanta again. In any case, here’s a few more glimpses at the things the little rascal and I did together in his first 3 months with us. A few newer videos, and some older ones I hadn’t uploaded before. I think I did a nice job helping Hadley have a good start as a city dog, and overcome his various fears. But now it really is Tom’s turn!

FDSA Performance Fundamentals with Deb Jones and Judy Keller at Bronze, Weeks 2 & 3:

More settle on your mat training at a department store:

Working on off-leash encounters with dogs:


Recall training via Premack Principle – using leaves as reinforcer, and using playing with other dogs as reinforcer.

Shaping “Head Down”:

A session of the relaxation protocol (Day 2):

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