Sunday, February 13, 2011

Part IV - Learning

Back to the Nyxie story...Part IV

Each new day brought new experiences for Nyxie.  Watching a puppy take in the world with fresh eyes, evaluate each human event and convert it into "dog" is amazing.  Each morning, she would sit up, stretch into a lovely downward dog position, tongue curled in a wide open yawn.  Then the kisses started.  Kisses for us and then a shower of them for her sisters.  Nyxie was a reserved pup around people, but every day she became more and more attached.  She made fast friends with Arwen, who was more than willing to have a prodigy.  She schooled her in the morning routine of potty break, breakfast and snuggling.  And Nyxie took it all in, mesmerized by her big sister's wisdom.

When people would see Nyxie, they were stumped. 
"Is that a Lab puppy?"
We heard it all - Lab puppy, Lab mix, chow, wolf, etc.  When we told people that she was a German Shepherd Dog, they'd shake their heads,
"But she's not black and tan..."
Finally, we gave up and started telling people she was a rare breed - an Irish Hellhound.
Somehow, this seemed to satisfy the doubters...

Our 1st walk in bustling Portland was a disaster.  Of course, in retrospect this couldn't have been a worse situation in which to put a country pup.  It had to be absolutely terrifying to Nyxie  - cars, people of all shapes, sizes and colors, bikes, loud noises.  We cut it short after a tiny little girl got loose from her mother and came running at us to pet the cutest dog ever.  Nyxie hid behind me, barking from around my legs at this poor little girl. 


I sought the advice of my wonderful friend Jamie, a dog trainer in training.  She has a brilliant little Italian Greyhound, Vinnie, who can do a huge number of tricks.  They taught me how to teach Nyxie about our world.  I had some idea, as I'd immersed myself into dog training and behavior books for years, but this was my new baby - I was going to be shaping a brand new pup!  I had to do it right.   For her sake, I didn't want her to be fearful of our world.

Jaime worked in a dog boutique called Planet Dog where they held puppy socialization classes each weekend morning, under the watchful eye of the resident dog trainer.  Matt and I agreed this would be a wonderful idea for Baby Nyx.  The puppies were separated into 2 groups.  In the 1st group, there were
 the boisterous, knock you down to play puppies, "there's nothing that scares me" puppies.  The 2nd group was the milder mannered, timid, could play independently, shy puppies.  Nyxie was put in group 2.  We watched the Group 1 puppies zoom and pounce all over each other, leaping off of giant pillows that laid against the pen's edge.  Teeth gnashed, bodies rolled - it was a good time.  Group 2 was a bit more reserved.  The quieter puppies played, too, but more tentatively.  There was definitely more butt-sniffing and chewing of toys in this pen. 

We set Nyxie down and smiled.  How very sweet!  She sniffed around and investigated some other kiddos, played for a few minutes, then started hopping on her hind legs at us.  We stepped back so she could return to playtime and ignore us.  She lunged the gates of the pen.  She started lunging the gate walls with such vigor, that she actually knocked herself back and landed hard.  The gate was having trouble containing her and some of the other parents let out "oh's!" when she jumped.  The trainer told us to come pull out our puppy and give her a time out outdoors.  She suggested a bit of down time, maybe a potty break might help her calm down.  Ouch.  We were mortified. 

At home, Nyxie's positive reinforcement training showed fast results.  She could sit, stay, come, down, and give paw like a champ by 10 weeks.  With or without treats.  This kid was (and still is... usually) brilliant.  Her brain was constantly taking it all in.  She would watch and learn each new task, trick, and job in 2 to 3 trials.  Genius puppy.  I know, I know - I'm a bit biased.  To this day, I have yet to give her a task she can't learn.  Except how to "play well with others".  We knew this would be an ongoing trial.

One of my favorite lessons that Nyxie learned early on occurred during her Piranha Puppy stage.  She mouthed my hands as puppies love to do, and each time she did so, I let out a loud puppy yelp.  To this, she would stop biting and tilt her head, looking at me.  Hand biting stopped after a day or so.  Lesson learned.  Matt thought it was cute that she would nip and play bite.  Personally, I think he secretly felt silly yelping like a puppy.  To this day, she mouths his hands while playing.  If I place my hand over his, she licks the hands.  When I take it away, more bitey hands with him.  Genius Puppy loves her mama.  Genius Puppy has learned the most important lesson of all : Don't bite the hand of the Giver of All Good Things.


To be continued in Part V - Growing Up...      


  1. Can't wait for the rest of the story!! :)

    Jen and the Black Dog Crew

  2. okay we were ready for part two. Cute pictures
    Benny & Lily

  3. Such a stunning pup!

    She's like the missing Belgian link between a Malinois and a Groen!

    We khan't wait fur the next chapter!


  4. Nyxie was an adorable pup! She is so beautiful. Can't wait for the next chapter too!
    You're a very wonderful storyteller!!!

  5. What a beautiful girl. Love those long legs and ears. Did you ever go back to the puppy playtime? Irish Hellhound!! BOL

  6. We love hearing Nyxie's story.:)

    Teddy Bear

  7. She is just the cutest pup. Anxious to hear the next part of the story. Love It!

  8. Nyxie is BEAUTIFUL and sounds like she is very smart. Looking forward to hearing more about her growing up!!!

  9. That last photo is a heart-melter. What a cutie!

    Our dog K started out in the timid puppy group and ended up being a serious hell-raiser in the "nothing scares me group". Now, if only we'd had classes for all the stuff in real life that scares the heck out of her... We tried and tried and tried to help her not to be afraid of grates on sidewalks, stairs, cracks in decks... we succeeded on some but not others.

    But, I guess that the bottom line is that she's a happy grown up dog. That's most important.

    I absolutely love your story. Please keep telling it!!!!

  10. What a smarty! :) Looking forward to the next installment...

  11. Thanks for stopping by our blog! We are so glad that we discovered each other! Your story, thus far, is wonderful! And your furbabies very handsome.

  12. Nyxie is a real looker. She's so cute. Smart too. Tommy does that same cocking of the head when he's trying to figure something out. You're such a great mom. This may sound overblown but I think the world would be a better place if more people raised their dogs with the love and care you give Nyxie.


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