Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thursday training tips: Give her time

How early is too early for training our dogs? I made the mistake of waiting too long to train one of my dogs, so naturally I want to avoid that mistake with delightful 8-month-old Peaches. But is there such a thing as “too early” for her?

I especially started thinking about this when I saw a photographer’s advertisement for dog portraits for the holidays. “Dog must have a reliable sit or down / stay.” Peaches knows how to sit, she learned “down” this week, and she will sometimes stay.

Collie Rosie is helping Peaches learn her sit/stay.

I am reading The Puppy Primer (Second Edition), by Patricia B. McConnell and Brenda Scidmore. It is keeping me realistic about what I should strive for, and what can be accomplished without breaking a puppy’s spirit.
“Asking a puppy to sit still without getting up while distracted is like asking a toddler to sit quietly while all of his friends are running around in the same room. However, teaching a solid stay is actually not hard, if you have realistic expectations and approach it as a game that your puppy can’t lose. Young dogs need time and maturity to develop the emotional control needed to stay in place when distracted, but you can start now and create the foundation of a solid stay that will eventually do you and your dog proud.”  
And again they stress, “Asking your pup to sit and stay at the front door when guests arrive is like astrophysics to your puppy. Don’t expect graduate work out of a first grader!”

McConnell and Scidmore also point out additional behaviors that require a certain maturity:

  • “It can take 2 years to get a solid off-leash recall in the face of major distraction.”
  • “Guard against expecting a lovely heel from your pup at this phase, and avoid trying to force him to walk quietly by your side on his own.” (Note: you want to teach the pup to enjoy staying with you, not forcing him.)

How many of us feel like failures when our pup seems to forget her housetraining? I have a feeling I’m not alone in this. I was surprised to learn that puppies don’t have full bladder control until they are about 7 months old – or older, in the case of small breeds like cairns and Westies. Until then, according to McConnell, we need to try to take our pups outside every hour or so (while they are awake). Personally, I find that to be an impossible standard, but at least I understand why Peaches is still having accidents in the house. It’s not her fault, and she isn’t being “stubborn.” She is being a puppy.

I remember the first time I had a puppy. I think I was yelling “nooooooo!” at least 7 times a day. (Moses B. Beardog, forgive me!) I recently picked up a copy of As a Dog Thinketh, by Monique Anstee, and I love the approach she espouses:
“When you have a young puppy in your home, he should rarely hear the word “no.” Almost every bad behavior stems from a lack of management. Reward all of the wonderful things that you see, redirect him before he gets into trouble, and exercise the snot out of him as you show him the world. Enforce naptime, too, so he is not overstimulated. Having a young puppy should be a fun experience that leaves you exhausted from all your efforts.”
Anstee definitely has that “exhausted” thing right!


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