Thursday, March 11, 2010

Puppy Class

Every other Wednesday, our puppy raisers bring their puppies to puppy class. Puppy raisers and puppies have a chance to demonstrate what they have learned in the past two weeks. Our trainers teach new methods for teaching the dogs behaviors, and then we give everyone a chance to practice the new skills.

Because each puppy learns at their own pace and may be at a different place in their training, our trainers spend some time with each puppy raiser to give them suggestions for working with their puppy.

This week, we started class with puppy massage. The puppies are usually very excited for puppy class because they get to see all the other dogs, but puppy massage helps calm them down a bit. It helps relax the puppy raisers, too! In puppy massage, puppy raisers move through the green, yellow and red areas on the puppy. The green areas are the places the puppy loves to be touched; the red areas are the places where the puppy doesn't really like to be touched. For example, a dog's green area might be his ears, and a red area might be his paws. In puppy massage, you would massage his ears, then just slide your hands down to his feet and back up to his ears. This will help him get used to being touched in those red areas.

At the last puppy class, we gave the puppy raisers leave it homework. Puppies were supposed to start working up to a 15 second leave it when food is dropped on the floor. They were also supposed to practice leave it when walking by food.

In this video, SSD Misty Morning demonstrates walking by food on the floor. (We used a pile of kibble.) Notice how she definitely knows the food is on the floor, but she chooses to look up at her handler. Every time she looks up at him, she gets a click and a treat. This exercise trains the dogs to ignore food on the floor and pay attention to their handler, which will allow them to go places like restaurants or the produce aisle at the grocery store without lunging for dropped food.

One of our trainers demonstrated the "soccer" method of blocking the dog from getting to food, another dog, or anything it wants. You use your body to block the dog, similar to the way you would stop a soccer ball. (Do not kick the dog. Just move so your body is between the dog and the item it wants.) The goal is to prevent the dog from getting the item and to teach self control, so that he will look to his handler rather than lunge for the item he wants. Eventually, the dog will be able to walk right past food without a problem.

In this video, SSD Onyx and her puppy raiser practice the "soccer" method. Carol, one of Onyx's puppy raisers, is blocking Onyx from getting to the other dogs. Very quickly, Onyx stops trying to get around Carol and sits and looks up at her.

The puppies are also learning visit. In the finished behavior, the dogs will rest their head on a person's lap when given the visit cue. The puppies start by hand targeting, gradually increasing the time they rest their head on their handler's hand. In this video, SSD Star, Cabo and Sunshine demonstrate their progress with visit.

We're looking forward to seeing what all the puppies learn over the next two weeks!

Some of these puppies will be at PawsAbilities this weekend, so be sure to come to the Farm Show Complex to join in the fun!

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