Friday, October 15, 2010

Gemstones and Flowers Soak Up New Skills

Young puppies are sponges when it comes to learning new things, and the Gemstones and Flowers are no different. Aqua, Opal and Topaz (the Gemstones) and Daisy and Dandelion (the Flowers) attended Early Socialization Class at the kennel on Wednesday.

Because it was a gorgeous evening, we let all of the puppies run in the field, which is an enclosed, woodsy area. The pups had a great time playing!

Of course, we turned their time in the field into a training opportunity, and we practiced recalls. Each puppy raiser went to a different part of the field while the dogs were running around and then called their dog to come. They did great! In the following video, Opal is in the process of begging for treats from Topaz's puppy raiser. But when her puppy raiser calls her, she bounds straight over to him.

It was starting to get dark, so we moved class from the field to the training room. And of course, we turned the relocation into another training opportunity. One at a time, each puppy and puppy raiser practiced loose leash walking from the field to the training room. Daisy demonstrates loose leash walking in the next video. The leash is nice and loose, forming a "J," and Daisy is focused on her puppy raiser.

Topaz's puppy raiser does a nice job getting Topaz refocused for loose leash walking. when he starts to pull, she backs up so Topaz can't reach what he wanted. She then turns in a circle to get him reset, and they continue on their way. Look at how nicely Topaz walks on a loose leash after that!

Once everyone was inside, we went over all of the cues in the puppy manual. When puppy raisers first get their puppies, we give them a bag full of goodies for the dog (tug toy, ear wash, heartworm and flea and tick meds, leash, etc). We also give them a puppy manual that contains information about dog health, clicker training, shaping, socialization and more. In the back is a list of all of the cues the puppy raisers will be teaching their puppies.

Now, we did not go through the list of cues because each puppy needs to know them by the next class. We went through the cues so that our puppy raisers were aware of what they are. It's important to use a verbal or hand cue only once the puppy has learned a behavior. Otherwise, the word is just going to be meaningless to the puppy. Or the puppy might start to learn that the cue means something completely different than what you intend it to mean. For example, if you see your puppy starting to lunge for some food on the floor, your instinct might be to say the cue "leave it" as you pull the puppy away from the food. When you say "leave it," you mean "ignore that food on the floor and look at me." But if the puppy doesn't know that behavior and he always hears the "leave it" cue as he's pulling towards food, he could interpret "leave it" to mean "pull really hard to try to get that tasty food on the floor." So it's important not only to wait until the puppy knows the full behavior before adding the cue, but also to be aware of what the cues are so you don't inadvertently start using one before the puppy is ready.

We spent some time practicing "leave it." To start, each puppy raiser held some kibble in a closed hand. Of course, the puppies wanted to get the kibble, so they nosed at the hand. The second their puppies stopped trying to get the food and looked away, the puppy raisers clicked and treated with food from their treat pouches. It didn't take long for the puppies to learn that they'll get treats for ignoring the food in the hand. Watch Aqua quickly give up on trying to get the food out of her puppy raiser's hand.

By the end of one training session, some of the puppy raisers were able to leave food in an open palm and the puppy would ignore it. Watch Dandelion . She ignores a whole pile of food in her puppy raiser's open palm. Notice that when she does turn her head toward the food, her puppy raiser immediately moves his hand out of her reach. Soon she is staring intently at her puppy raiser, ignoring the food next to her head.

This was an excellent early socialization class! We can't wait to see what these puppies will learn by next week!

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