Friday, April 29, 2011

Puppy Class for the Civil War and Games Pups

It seems like only yesterday that the Civil War and Games puppies were playing on the puppy cam. These puppies are now in the their last month of early socialization classes, and then they'll be able to join the rest of the dogs in training in our regular puppy classes.

Early socialization classes help the puppies get used to being around other dogs and performing behaviors in that environment. When these dogs grow up and become service dogs, they will need to be able to perform behaviors regardless of where they are. Early socialization lays the foundation and helps the dogs become very adaptable to change in their environment.

At the beginning of class, we had all of our puppy raisers take their dogs off leash so we could practice recalls. As soon as the puppies were off leash, they started romping around together, happy to have some playtime. Many of the puppies still came to their raisers when called. Our puppy raisers practice recalls as often as they can. A good recall can save a dog's life. Watch SSD Chamberlain bound back to his puppy raiser in the midst of playing with his littermates.

The puppies then practiced basic obedience. Each puppy does "sit" and "down" on cue, some on both the verbal and hand signal. Watch SSD Atari sit and give a down on cue.

SSD Harriet focuses on her puppy raiser and sits when asked. From a sit, she easily slides in to a down on cue.

When the puppies go out in public, they always draw quite a crowd of people wanting to pet them. Usually when people pet a dog, the dog will give that person it's attention. You've probably seen a dog wagging its tail and getting very excited when someone pets it. However, a service dog needs to stay focused on its handler, even when someone else is petting it. We start practicing greetings right from the start. When someone asks to pet a puppy in training, the puppy raiser makes sure their puppy is standing calmly with all four paws on the floor or is in a sit or down. Then while the person is petting the puppy, the puppy raiser gives the dog treats to keep them focused. If the puppy gets too excited, the puppy raiser may ask people to stop petting the puppy until they get them back under control.

Watch SSD Rummy stay focused on her puppy raiser while she's being petted.

In the next video, SSD Clara practices greetings. Note that as soon as she gets up and starts to pay attention to the person who's petting her, the person stops and Clara's puppy raiser works to get her attention again. Once Clara is sitting and focused again, she can be petted.

The last thing we worked on in class is the cue "go to bed." When given the cue, the dog should go to their dog bed or mat and lay down. This cue comes in handy when you're preparing food in the kitchen or when you're eating meals. Instead of being underfoot or begging for food, the dog should stay in a nice down-stay on their bed. Watch SSD Meade learn "go to bed." His puppy raiser is shaping the behavior, starting with tiny steps. Note how as soon as Meade puts his paw on the mat, he gets a click and treat. Eventually, he will only get a click and treat for having two paws on the mat, then three, then all four, then laying down and staying.

The Civil War and Games puppies are doing very well in their training, and we're looking forward to having them join our regular puppy classes at the end of May.

Don't forget about the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community on May 14! Some of these puppies may be there, and if you sign up and raise money for the Walk, you may get to help some of these puppies practice their greetings!

Sign up for the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community.

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