Coco is 4 months old and our whole family has fallen in love with her. She is cuddly, playful, and is learning a lot! She sleeps all night, no accidents in many weeks and has adapted so well into our family. We are going away on vacation for 2 weeks in early November. This has been a trip in the works for over a year and I won’t be able to take her with us. We are going to miss her so much and I feel so anxious about leaving her.
We have found a WONDERFUL positive trainer that does a train and board program at her house. The trainer and I see eye to eye in all things so I am really thrilled to have found her and trust her completely. She has one dog of her own and Coco will be the only other dog there. The trainer’s program is 3 weeks long. Here are my questions/worries:
1. When we decided to get a puppy, I did consider the timing of our vacation, but thought maybe it was an OK time in that she is still a flexible puppy and it would be a good training adventure for her. Now I am worried she will miss us and regress when she comes back to us. Have any of your puppies regressed after coming home? I know she will learn a ton so maybe it’s an irrational thought.
2. Should we leave her for the full 3 weeks or pick her up as soon as we get home? I know Coco will learn a lot at the program since she will be with a kind professional trainer. Logically, I want her to stay and get the most out of it (especially since she would have already been there for 2 weeks), but emotionally I think we will miss her.
3. Will she forget us if we are gone for that long? Will she think we are abandoning her? This thought is what breaks my heart the most. Not sure if they have these complex feelings and thoughts. The trainer welcomes short visits after 10-14 days so we are happy about that.
4. The other dog she has is a very kind, energetic and curious collie. The trainer says that he is very gentle around small dogs. Coco typically starts off scared of all dogs and trembles - especially bigger ones. After 15 mins she warms up and starts sniffing them. I think this will be a good socialization experience for her. Anything we should worry about?
5. Any tips from others on how to prepare her? Anyone else done something similar? Your stories are helpful.
When it comes time to actually drop her off, I know I have to be cheerful and excited for her since she will key off how we are feeling. It’s just going to be SO HARD.
When we had just one dog, Kodi used to stay with a trainer-friend while we were away. He wasn't there for training, just to board, but he LOVED being with her and her dogs. I'm sure some "incidental training" went on, but there was no purposeful or paid-for training. As long as he stayed with her, he loved going there... and he was also overjoyed when I came to take him home.
I am SURE she won't forget you, and I'm also sure she won't think you "abandoned" her. She may take a day or two to adapt when you first drop her off... or she may not.
As far as the other dog is concerned, as long as the trainer is sure the larger dog will be gentle with her, and plans to supervise their time together (any good trainer would) I think it's a WONDERFUL opportunity for her to learn that some big dogs are really pretty nice to be around!
I, personally, wouldn't leave my dog with a trainer "just for training", because IMO, training is better for the dog and its human together. They BOTH need to learn. For her to get some extra training while you are away, especially since she's so young? It can't possibly hurt. When I got Panda, I knew I needed to go to Europe for 10 days, about a month after I got her. She went back to stay with her breeder while I was gone, and the breeder (who also trains with my obedience trainer) just continued the same things we were working on while I was gone.
If I DID send my dog out for training, I would NOT "go for short visits" and leave without taking my dog home with me. I think THAT would be very confusing for the dog. In dog-terms, she doesn't understand the difference between 1o days and 21 days AT ALL. They both register as "a long time". But "visiting" will register as "they keep leaving me over and over... maybe this is where I belong now?"
But whatever the trainer is working on with her, is there some follow-through, where she coaches you through learning to get the same behaviors she has taught? Otherwise, I don't think it would be very useful.
I think it is unlikely that she will have any long-term regression from being away, whether it is "formal training" or just casual work on "household manners" while you are away. I WOULD watch her more carefully in terms of potty training for the first week or two after she's back home, because those skills, at her age, are not totally ingrained anyway. But with a few reminders, you will get her back on track.
Sometimes the "right" puppy comes at the "wrong" (or at least a CHALLENGING!) time. But dogs are adaptable, and I don't think a two week vacation during her puppyhood will have any lasting negative impact on her life as a whole!