On Wednesday, I went and picked up Tango! Over the last few days I’ve had hilarious “new mommy” problems, and I’ve resorted to my dog training to get through them. We might as well talk about them here!
New Mommy Problems (NMPs) occur whether your dog is a puppy or an adult. If you haven’t had a new dog in a while, you’ll probably have NMPs! I’m going to use my recent experiences with Tango, but the same applies to puppies and dogs:
When first bringing Tango home, I wanted to show him to EVERYONE. This isn’t the wisest course of action. I knew that, but I couldn’t quite resist. By that evening he was chewing on my fingers in great imitation of his T. Rex ancestors, and I thought, “Jeez, I’m a little worried about his beakiness…” I put him to bed, and you know what? The next morning the problem was gone! Thus warned, I’ve been much better about putting him down for a nap, whether or not he seems tired. Young animals especially don’t seem tired when they are: they seem nippy, cranky, barky, screamy, hyper, etc. Let your baby sleep.
The second problem came about the next day. He was nibbling on things, but not eating to any great extent. (Of course, he was also sleeping a great deal. Hard to sleep and eat at the same time.) All the bird literature says, “A newly weaned baby bird could relapse. Don’t let them starve! If you have to, hand feed them.” I even brought home hand feeding formula, just in case.
To hand feed or not to hand feed? That was the question! Rather than get anxious about him eating, I once more used my dog knowledge. When I board dogs, they often are off their food for the first day. There’s my dogs to visit and smells to check out and new toys to play with — who has time for food?! In addition, I realized I had a resource and didn’t have to guess: the breeder, who’s sent home many baby birds before, and gone through this many times. So before I got too upset that Tango wasn’t eating, I texted the breeder (Bird Heaven Aviaries in Fresno, CA, and I HIGHLY recommend them!) and asked what might be up. Sure enough, the breeder said to give him a day, and worry about it if it continued. By that night, Tango had snarfed almost his entire bowl of food.
Another problem I had was my own thought process, the same one I’ve seen in many clients. It goes like this:
I need to play with him and his toys, so he knows how to play with them and that he can entertain himself. I need to eat with him, so he knows that the things I’m giving him are food and not toys, and he should eat them. I need to get him to stop beaking. I need to start work on communication. I need work on toweling (where you teach the bird to be calmly wrapped in a towel for emergency and vet purposes), and getting him used to sleeping in a small dog crate. I need to get him socialized and start taking short trips with him. I need to keep him handle-able now that the breeder gave him such a good start, including beak, under the wings, and toes for toenail clippings. I need to get a harness and harness train him. I need to get him potty trained, and start recall. Most of this needs to be done ASAP.
Imagine your work day. Now imagine trying to add ALL this to it. It’s a little daunting, isn’t it? I had to stop myself and look at things a little more realistically.
1. I need to eat with him, so he knows that the things I’m giving him are food and not toys, and he should eat them. and: I need to start work on communication.
Every morning, as I’m chopping his fruits and veggies, I label what we’re eating. “This is yam. Can you say yam? Would you like to try the yam?” Anything more complex than that can wait for a week, while he settles in. Greys learn language their entire lives. In the meantime, I’m doing minor communication training. At the same time I’m teaching him that this is food; I can take little nibbles of what I chop, and offer them to him, as well. That’s done.
2. I need to play with him and his toys, so he knows how to play with them and that he can entertain himself.
He already knows how to play with rawhide toys, his favorite. We’ve even played tug-of-war. I can start adding one toy for a few minutes in the evening, and very swiftly we’ll go through all the toys in his cage and he’ll know he can play with them. That isn’t a big deal. If I miss several nights, that’s okay.
3. I need to get him to stop beaking. and I need to keep him handle-able now that the breeder gave him such a good start, including beak, under the wings, and toes for toenail clippings.
Every time I pick him up — which is often — we work on beaking. It’s automatic because I don’t want him chomping down on me! He’s figuring it out quickly. As for keeping him handle-able, I like petting him. I play with his toes and tell him how adorable he is, and run my fingers under his wings. It does take me a quick thought: I should play with his toes and run my fingers under his wings. But then I do it once, and that’s all I need. I don’t want to drive him crazy with it, and it’s kinda fun. That’s being done as I hold and cuddle him: no problem!
4. I need to get him socialized and start taking short trips with him.
Like this is a hardship! Yesterday we visited with my mom and sister and Quin — that’s a lot of socializing! Today we had a vet trip and then went to the pet store where he got fawned over. It’s FUN to take a new animal places. I’ll have to keep it up as I go forward, but once a week is plenty, and it’s easy enough to invite over a neighbor for a few minutes, or go knock on a neighbor’s door. But a few minutes a couple times a week is PLENTY. I don’t need to kill myself doing this.
5. I need to get a harness and harness train him.
This is one of the few things I’ll need to set aside time for, rather than doing it as I can. I don’t have a harness yet, but I can wait a few days. Waiting a week isn’t going to set me way back. It’ll give him time to settle in, even. I don’t need to stress about this.
6. I need to get him potty trained,
Just like with puppies, this is going to happen in every day life. I don’t need to set aside time. This will happen as it happens, and I don’t have to think of this as something on my “to-do” list.
7. and start recall.
This I need to make a little time for, but not lots of time. When I notice him coming to me, I say, “Come, Tango!” Right now that’s all he needs, is to start grasping the idea. He’s having to learn so much that adding this other thing is kind of silly. We can even wait a few weeks, and by then he’ll know what his toys are and whatnot, so I can replace “play with toys” with “occasionally call him and lure him over.” Easy peasy!
8. I need work on toweling
I do need to set aside some time to do this, and it should be soon, but I can give him a few days to settle in and myself to get used to the schedule. It doesn’t have to be twenty minutes a night; it can be thirty seconds while we’re snuggling. To make it easier on myself, I’ll probably place a towel on the arm of the couch, so I can grab it easily when we’re there.
9. and getting him used to sleeping in a small dog crate.
This will require first putting the crate out where he can explore it, which I can do in the morning while we eat breakfast. It doesn’t have to be done right away or perfectly. It won’t take him long, either; he’s already been in it once, at the pet store, when I measured him. My sense of urgency is out of place, here.
NMPs further solved!
One of the big things I have to remember is to take things a day at a time, not to overwhelm myself, that I have help and more knowledge if I ask (in the form of the breeder), and that if I screw something up — I can always turn it around. This is a big, big things to remember. People who don’t get their puppies socialized during the crucial socializing months might have a little more work doing it when their dogs are older, but it isn’t the end of the world. It’s just a little extra time and patience. If I don’t have time for EVERYTHING now, then I’ll just know that I’ll do it later. If I mess something up now, then I know that I can undo it later. Deep breath! Being a New Mommy can be hard, but we can make it easier with a deep breath and the knowledge that everything can be fixed!
And by the way, here’s Tango. 😉