Puppy Training

Wow, two posts in two days. I think that’s a record for me.

I decided, since I wasn’t very good at doing this at the time, to try to summarize what I worked on with Ticket from the beginning on. Training Ticket has definitely shown me that I was very lucky with Trip, who just seems to *get* everything no matter how I teach it. Ticket has a ton of drive and enthusiasm, which in some ways makes her more difficult, but I’ll take it anyday. I have a dog (Shiner) where motivation was the constant focus, and for me it’s just not as fun, though he taught me more about training then any of my dogs.

Anyway, since Ticket is a year into her short life, and I’m very pleased with how she’s turned out, I thought I’d put together what we did. I realize that every puppy is different, which I see even more in the different issues that other puppies I’ve seen lately can have. You definitely have to take into account your breed’s (and individual dogs’) natural tendencies and spend more time working on some things then others. For instance, with my Shelties, I’ve never had a dog that had a “focus” issue when it was time to work. Sure, I work on focus, but I’ve never had to spend session after session just working on that one goal. I actually thought Ticket might be my first dog where I had a problem here, and spent more time I on it then I have in the past. She definitely gets more excited when a big, loud, fast dog is running nearby, but when we’re interacting, I have her attention.

I also think that we all have to decide what we are and aren’t willing to live with. Sure, in a perfect world, I’d have endless time to devote to perfecting every behavior until I had the perfect dog. But the reality is, I don’t have endless time, and if I don’t care that much about something, I’m not going to be motivated to train for it. For example, I have Shelties–they bark. I accept that, and I don’t expect my dogs to be silent when working. Likewise, there are a few things that I can’t stand and will do my darndest to fix/prevent in my dogs. Everyone will have different things, but for me a few are:

1. Any kind of aggression (never had any issues, but it’s non-negotiable)
2. Running away with the toy (REALLY makes it difficult to train with a toy)
3. Lack of a stay (been there, done that, won’t do it again)

So, back to what we did. Honestly, I spent weeks 6-16ish just playing, shaping, and letting Ticket be a puppy. All of that interaction builds the foundation of your working relationship, and puppies are little sponges that soak it all up. So, we…

1. Introduced clicker
2. Shaped first behavior–eye contact
3. Shaped other behaviors–I did a down first, because I wanted to see if I could make it a default behavior, and Tic definitely does it more then any of my other dogs. Then sit, a nose touch to hand, and spins to the right and left.
4. I introduced her release word early into some of these behaviors (ie sit, down). I think really understanding the release work is important later on in your stays and releases from contacts.

On the non-clicker side of things, I started playing tug with the puppies as soon as they’d hold onto a little piece of fleece. 5-6 weeks I imagine. Tugging is part of normal puppy play behavior, you just have to nurture it a bit to keep it. If you don’t practice it, it will go away (at least in some dogs). I also introduced the retrieve–super close with little, easy to carry things when they’re babies, to get the idea. Then up the ante. Throw the toy and race them to it, and tug. Throw the toy, and when they pick it up and turn, run in the opposite direction. Most pups will run after you with the toy. I also like the game where you have two identical toys–throw one, as they pick it up and bring it back, toss the second toy, while you pick up the first.

Will continue more later. I’ll leave you with my favorite books with good puppy info:

Bobby Anderson — Building Blocks for Performance
Susan Garrett — Shaping Success


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