Raising a Dog to be a Proper Bed & Breakfast Assistant

We were spoiled by our old German Shephard "Addie". The guests all loved her. She was friendly to everyone but still knew how to be a guard dog and would protect Laurie when she went on her long walks on deserted beaches. It's difficult for a naturally protective shepherd to learn that the strangers who come into our home so quickly and for such short times are honored guests that she should welcome into her "pack" but she made the distinction and would still bark when someone was at the gate who wasn't supposed to be there. She was very "in tune" to our feelings. She was highly trained (having won obedience trials) and the dog that I had taken everywhere with me including on board the trading vessels I worked with before we opened our bed and breakfast. So she knew what work was all about and how to greet people respectfully and when a guest was a dog lover and she could bask in their attention happily; or when a guest that wasn't so much a dog person she knew how to be admired from a distance. Being a good bed and breakfast dog is a fairly hard job for a naturally protective pack animal.

Our new dog is also a shephard but this time we decided on a Belgian Malinois because they are just as smart and trainable as German Shepards but the breed is also known to have fewer hip problems and be longer lived. I had decided on a Malanois a couple of years ago but the recommended breeders that I could find were charging over a $1000 for the dogs and with shipping that would have been quit an investment so I was waiting for exactly the right puppy.

Laurie (my wife and the boss lady of our bed and breakfast) also knew how much I wanted a Belgian and she was looking around too and luckily found the perfect dog. The big Navy base here in Puerto Rico (the one that had the practice range on the island of Vieques) closed about four years ago under pressure from local activists and the K9 outfit on the base was breeding some Belgian Malinois for war dog training. These dogs had no AKC registration and were not part of an "official" military program so the relocating base personal had to find new homes for them. The bitch, which was the mother of our new puppy, ended up being given to a local base contractor and he raised her welp of puppies for sale. My wife found out about the puppies being for sale and suggested I go check them out. I was amazed to find out what incredible dogs they were. The bitch was a tremendous alpha dog that wouldn't let a stranger within ten feet of her. She, and the puppies, had perfect confirmation and I picked out the best female puppy in the litter feeling very lucky to get such an incredible dog on the island. Local breeders tend to specialize in smaller dogs.

We raised our puppy using the methods outlined by the Monks of New Skete. She stayed in a crate right by my bed and I took her everywhere I went on a leash (including to the docks of San Juan where I work as a ship's agent). She was always a big hit with the ship Captains and the stevedores. Gradually we taught Maya basic obedience training. Laurie went on long walks down our driveway (about a mile each way) and taught her to heel. Maya proved to be easy to train and had very good behavior. Even in her puppy phase she didn't wreck too many things and picked-up right away what was "her toys" and never to chew on U.S. Customs papers (except once). But Maya is an "alpha" dog so we have to keep after her behavior.

When new guests arrive, after check-in and complementary pina colada, I usually lead Maya out to great the guests. I tell Maya to sit while she is being petted and discipline her if she paws them or jumps up. Occasionally we get guests who don't like animals (or dogs anyway) and then it is harder. I have to train Maya to lie down and not molest those guests. Maya hasn't figured that out yet and keeps a very wary eye on the guests that don't want anything to do with her. My biggest worry is that she will growl or act menacing towards a guest that surprises her walking down a driveway or by coming in the property from our jungle paths. The training is coming along though and as she gets older she is learning to keep her territorial instincts in check.

I wanted to include a you tube video of what Maya does when someone gets near her food bowl but I decided that it was a little too scary. We are also working with her on that. I put a food bowl down and then tell her to sit and not touch it while I pick it up again. If she growls then she is told "no" and not given her food back until she sits quietly. This is fairly advanced training as most people know better than to touch a dog that is eating but just in case we want her to have perfect "nice" behavior in all situations. A good bed and breakfast dog is a special animal.