Back to Puppies…

I incorporate some of NILIF (Nothing in Life is Free) into living with a puppy–I think it helps really build that relationship. I’m not talking about keeping your puppy in some kind of sterile bubble away from any possible interesting stimulus except you, but just some basic concepts. I don’t give out cookies for looking cute–gotta earn it. If your puppy can’t be supervised 100%, the best place for them is in their crate (this is for their own safety as well). I know some people won’t let their puppy play with their other dogs. I definitely keep an eye on this, because I don’t want my puppy to prefer the other dogs to me, but Ticket spent plenty of time loose and interacting with all my other dogs.

When I first brought Trip home as a puppy, she was playing with Mardi within 5 minutes of being home. I did at times separate them and put one or the other up so that Mardi wasn’t the coolest thing to baby Trip, but once I started interacting and working with puppy Trip, it really was no longer an issue, so it wasn’t something I had to be very diligent about.

With Ticket, I was even more worried, because she was going to be living with Trip, her MOM. That’s a whole different obstacle to overcome. And Trip was a much better mom then I thought she’d be–she actually a little TOO tolerant of their antics. Trip and Ticket still play everyday, chasing each other around in proper Sheltie fashion. But, luckily for me, Trip is also my biggest weapon here. Trip is MY girl through and through, and she will drop Ticket in a hot second every time if I ask her. That definitely made an impression on Ticket. I still would separate them occasionally, if nothing else but to give Trip a break, but the problem I imagined never materialized. Now, if you have a puppy that is ignoring playing with you in favor of running off to play with your other dog, then you definitely need to do some managing of the situation so that your puppy can see how much more fun YOU are.

Anyway, back to YOUR puppy. You’ve worked with your puppy, and she likes to tug and play with you, she’s starting to retrieve, and she’s learned some basics–ie sit/down. You’ve spent the last few weeks working on playing and being the center of her world. Time to introduce some self-control. Before you get that toy you want SO bad, you have to do something. It can be anything at first–eye contact works great. Look away from the toy at you, “ok” (release word), get the toy. Sits and downs too. One of my favorite parts of Susan Garrett’s Shaping Success is all the games–get it, read it, live it! And get her Crate Games DVD too–another great puppy resource!

So when my puppy is tugging enthusiastically, I up the distractions. I want her to be able to tug around other dogs, around agility, etc. So, we slowly started introducing that as well. As a young dog, I would have Ticket near the ring at an agility trial, just working on tugging, release/self-control, tug again. Starting out as far away as necessary, and working up to next to ringside. At 6 months old Ticket was tugging ringside at AKC Nationals–pretty darn distracting. At any indication that it was too much and I started to lose her attention, we backed off the distractions a bit, and worked back up to it. Again, I benefited from a puppy who was always pretty focused and toy-motivated, so it was a pretty rapid process for us.

Along the lines of self-control, I want my puppy to be able to readily switch back and forth between toys and food. This is something I struggled with when Trip was young–we’d be working great with toys, but once the food came out, she didn’t want the toys anymore. I put a lot of work into being able to use both with Trip, but knowing that potential pitfall ahead of time let me plan on working on it with Ticket before it became a problem. From Day 1, I was switching back and forth between toys and food with Ticket. If she held out for food, I started to find that toy REALLY interesting, which peeved her off to no end–didn’t I know that was HER toy? She’s able to eat a cookie, then grab the toy, switching back and forth without hesitation. Very useful when it comes to training.

We’re getting closer to actually thinking about agility…! 🙂


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