Sunday, February 1, 2015
The problem tends to be a lack of interest in us, a lack of engagement, and owners pushing the pups into too much distraction, expecting the pup to be right on point with the owner, without laying any good ground work.
As with all dog training, we need to start with as little distraction as possible, and build the pup up from there. Yes, it is extremely important to get your puppies out and socialized with many new places, people and things. However, to expect your pup not to pull you in these socialization situations, to listen intently to your every word, and to put you above all else in the environment, is setting yourself and your pup up for failure if you haven't done the ground work.
And what is ground work, you might ask? Ground work is the intial stages of training to teach your pup that you are something interesting, you are something rewarding, and you are fun. It doesn't have to start with sit, down and stay. You can start with simple steps of teaching your pup their name and attention, and meal time is the perfect time for this. Utilizing LOTS of movement, rewarding attention with food, being fun and rewarding name response are great ways of teaching your pup to interact and engage with you. You can work on such things as following a lure to circle around, luring simple sits and downs, luring the pup onto pillows, teaching the pup to follow you and stay focused. Make your releases fun, rewarding and attention grabbing. Capturing attention and rewarding is key in gaining a dog who wants to pay attention to you, rather than you having to beg them to.
When you see your pup start to click at home, you can start moving your training around so that the pup understands that it's good to pay attention to you where ever they are. If you started in the kitchen, move your work to the living room or basement. If weather permits, the backyard works well for a next step up. When you see that you've got your pups focus in the backyard, you can try the front sidewalk, the park at a distance from activities etc.
Typically this type of training is limited to simple and quick training sessions, but it can also be VERY useful in real life, distracting situations with young puppies. It helps to teach and reinforce that you are better than the dog across the road, you are more fun than the bunny that just ran in front of them, you are more engaging than the neighbour down the street and you are more exciting than the gum on the sidewalk.
With young puppies, namely those under the age of 18 weeks, training should be lots of fun, and very rewarding in order to keep them coming back for more, and the oppostunity to engage your pup is just that. It also allows for a great introduction to simple obedience commands, the process of luring and/or shaping and starts the relationship off on the right foot. It can be started as soon as your pup is comfortably settled in your home, and can be utilized throughout your dogs life.
Remember, keep it fun, keep moving and keep it rewarding and your pup will be begging you for more!