Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Training your new puppy - All Breeds
I want to incourage all new puppy owners of all breeds to take part in my blog. While my personal, primary breed is Boykin Spaniels, these methods very much apply to Labs, Goldens, Tollers, Chessies as well as any other breed including those for pets/family companions, and the "Go Anywhere" companion dog. These methods are time proven methods that apply to all breeds.
Should you have an issue with house breaking, crate training, early puppy retrieves, obedience, or any other phase within the first 8 months of the pups' life, then this blog is for you. I welcome your questions and will gladly answer them for you in a timely manner. I want to help you make your new pup the best he can be and what you do now is the key element in his training.
Should your issue fall within the confines of an article you see on here, just post the question in the comment for that article. If you cannot find the topic, just email it to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post the question and answer for you.
Again, welcome to my blog and I wish you the best in your quest for the finest trained companion and hunting dog possible.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Training Tip - The Pivot Point of Heel and Heel Recovery
Whenever anyone is working with a young pup and they are first introducing them to the leash, the pup will inevitably tug and pull on the leash. By standing stationary at times like when you have pup outside to use the bathroom, allowing the pup to pull and tug all he wants, pup will learn to give to his neck which is to not pull and tug and also to accept small corrections with the leash. Once we have attained this we can begin to move forward with pups “Heel” work.
So pup has learned, to a certain degree about giving to his neck. While walking at “Heel” you can walk backwards away from pup and with a slight tug on the leash give him the recall command either verbally or with a whistle. Pup should come to you with ease and not try to run off in the other direction. Since pup is on a leash, the leash is the control factor which prevents this unwanted action of running away. While pup is coming to you, you should be taking several additional steps backwards, requiring pup to recall a further distance. When you stop and allow pup to come all the way in to you, praise pup “Here, Good Boy, Here”.
Once pup is doing this reliably, which should only take one or two days, we want to start teaching pup the all important “Pivot Point of Heel”.
Pivoting into Heel on Recall: In the above paragraphs I have described how you can be walking along with pup somewhat in the “Heel” position, and then, unannounced start walking backwards and simultaneously command “Here”, either verbally or with a whistle and pup should turn and come to you. If required, give a slight tug of the leash and pup should turn and come to you. After pup has turned and is coming to you, walk several more steps backwards, then stop and using the leash, guide the pup to your “Heel Side” having him rotate into position. Use slight pressure on your leash to guide him into the “Heel” position. He should rotate counter clockwise for left handed heel and clockwise for right hand heel, both of which he is rotating in towards you, not out and away. As soon as pup begins the rotation step back off walking forward and with pups’ momentum, he should fall right in and walk relatively at heel with you.
Pivoting into Heel then Sitting: As pup gets better at this and his “Sit” starts improving, you can start having him rotate into the “Heel” position and come to a stop and “Sit”. Do the same as you did before except now as he is in the midst of his rotation, take one single step forward, come to a stop, and have pup sit. Apply upward pressure on the leash if needed to get him to sit.
Up until now, we have not used the command “Heel”. We have just had pup getting acquainted with the side we want him on for “Heel” and walking loosely at the “Heel” position. Now that we are starting to introduce the “Pivot Point of Heel” we want to start introducing the command, “Heel”. So at first, pup will start relating the word “Heel” with the relative position at your side. Later on, pup will learn that “Heel” also means to walk at your side in the “Heel” position.
On the first phase, as pup begins into the rotation say the command word “Heel” one time and then step off walking forward. Pup will quickly start relating the word to the action or position. Remember, do not repeat this or any command, just say it one time and give a little “Good Boy” as you continue to walk. When you begin to have him rotate into the “Heel” position and come to a stop and “Sit”, here again, say the command word “Heel” as he begins the rotation, take one step forward, command him to “Sit” followed by praise. Here, since the action of the rotation and the action of “Sit” are so close together, we will apply praise after pup “Sits”. Where when we walk forward as pup begins the rotation, we will praise during the rotation.
Heel Recovery: “Heel Recovery” is the process of pup returning to the “Heel” position, from the “Sit” position just a few feet from you. It is also a step in the process of finalizing the “Pivot Point of Heel” and teaching the smaller elements required for a dog to be able to easily learn to rotate into the “Heel” position during the return on a retrieve in order to make delivery to hand.
To teach “Heel Recovery” we must first master the pivot point of “Heel” coming in and sitting at our side. Pup must also be able to “Sit” while we step out in front of him and not moving until commanded to do so, which is the basic principal of the command “Sit”. Once this is achieved, then pup is ready for this next step. Place pup at “Sit” and step out in front of him while still holding the leash. In this, I am using a leash that is no longer than 4’ in length which is the typical length of a puppy walker or puppy slip lead. I will describe this for a left handed heel dog. A right hand heel dog will be just the opposite.
You should be holding the tip or end of the lead in your right hand, approximately at your waist line. Then placing your left hand under the leash, a little further down, allowing it to ride easily in the apex between your thumb and index finger. Your left hand is going to be used to loosely guide the dog into the heel position, including the rotation, but will also be simulating a silent hand signal.
First, take one single step back with your left leg, while simultaneously commanding verbally “Here”. As you take this step backwards, bring your left hand down towards your left side with palm out and with the leash sliding loosely in the apex. The dog should come to you and should rotate into position if the “Pivot Point of Heel” was thoroughly taught to the point of habit. As the pup begins the rotation, command “Heel” while you simultaneously take the one step back forward with your left leg, come to a stop, and command “Sit”. Now step back out in front of pup and repeat. Each time you have pup out, work in three or four of these.
Now in the world of Field Trials and Hunt Tests, the handlers train their dogs to come into the “Heel Position” on every retrieve in order to make the delivery to hand. This is as much their preference as it is for style points. Nothing wrong with it, but I find hunting to be a different world. There are certain situations in the Hunting World, where I find front delivery more beneficial. In a tight duck blind, coming into “Heel” is pretty much a requirement because of limited room within the blind. In the upland fields of South Dakota hunting wild pheasants, I want the dog to come directly into me and sitting, for me to take delivery of the bird. I have found through experience that with the pheasants, especially in the case of a crippled rooster, I can better grasp the bird in this position. Anyone that has hunted wild pheasants to any degree knows that nothing can get away and disappear faster than a crippled pheasant. So getting a good grip on the bird is vital. So once the dog has made delivery, he should remain at “Sit” in front of you while you place the bird into your game bag, and then upon command, should return to “Heel” and “Sit”. In time, the step backwards and the return step forward will no longer be required. It is during this learning phase that it makes the process much easier for pup to pick up on.
While there are those that will want the dog to come into “Heel” on every retrieve, the “Heel Recovery” is still a vital step that should not be overlooked. It is not just for those wanting front delivery. First, it helps to solidify the “Pivot Point of Heel”, but it also is part of the breaking down into small details so that down the road, pup will have an easier time grasping the concept of returning and rotating into the “Heel” position during delivery. Recently, I attended a training day for the Midsouth Boykin Spaniel Retriever Club. While working with some of the handlers of the novice dogs, one person stood out above all the rest. Not for what his dog did in the field or what his dog did wrong, but how he went about correcting his dog for dropping the bird at the end. A large number of dogs were dropping the bird a few feet from the handler then coming into “Heel”. While many think this is a break down in their “Hold Conditioning” process, it is more a breakdown in the “Pivot Point of Heel” or “Heel Recovery”, which is taught early on without bumpers or birds and then adding back in during “Hold Conditioning”.
This one guy did not really correct his dog after it dropped the bird, rather he showed his dog what he expected, breaking it down into small details. I saw numerous people take the bird and place it in their mouth and command “Hold”. Then they would give the release command and be done with it. They really accomplished nothing, because the entire problem was a break down from not ever properly teaching the “Pivot Point of Heel” and “Heel Recovery”. Where this one person that stood out went about things differently. He sat the dog out in front of him, put the bird in the dogs’ mouth and commanded hold. He then stepped out a few feet from the dog and commanded the dog into the “Heel” position, then gave him the release command. The difference between these two different approaches is as different as day and night. In one case, the dog is really not grasping anything more than “Hold”. Where the one guys’ dog saw the big picture by having to rotate into “Heel”, “Sit”, and then release the bird on command. While this one guy did not fully teach the “Pivot Point of Heel” and “Heel Recovery” and then carry it down the road to the phase in training where he taught “Hold”, he at least understood the concept of breaking things down and showing a dog what all is fully being asked of him in terms the dog could understand.
So each time you take pup out to the bathroom, take pup for a walk, or any other time you have pup on lead, work in two to three of these and in no time at all, pup will quickly learn all about the “Pivot Point of Heel”. Warning, do not start having pup start returning from his puppy retrieves and ask or expect this action. That will come in time, for now when he is retrieving, just focus on him returning to you and also promoting his holding onto the bumper by supporting his lower jaw.
Training Log - Cona and Pinky Week 1
Assessment of Week 1: Overall, their progress is fine, just not what I wanted to see after the first week, although this is no fault of theirs or mine, it is just life and we have to deal with it and make any necessary adjustments. So we will use our goals from last week, evaluate them thoroughly in order to properly set our goals for this week. It may take a few weeks, but this lost time will be easily caught up and before you know it, the pups will be 100% back on track.
While away, they still worked on their crate training, house breaking, and utilizing the leash whenever outside. This basically left any work afield; retrieving, nature walks etc for me to work on upon my return. On Sunday, I went to my brothers’ home to visit with my father for a little bit while my wife and daughter attended church, so I took the pups with me since they would be needing out for bathroom breaks and they would need their noon feeding. Where my brothers’ home is located, I took full advantage of the time and situation to combine their trips out of the crate to use the bathroom in with a nature walk in the woods located next to the house. There was tall undergrowth and fallen limbs that they had to maneuver through, over, or around. Great experience for them, and their boldness to cover really showed in this new environment. New, since they had never been there before, but with their past exposures and introductions, it was no big deal.
Throughout the week when I was home, I did work on the leash. One important aspect here is the dog learning to give to their neck. Simply put, this is a means of them learning not to pull or tug on the leash and instead, to give and respond to slight tugs, all in an attempt to get them walking at heel and responding to leash corrections. When I hear people say that whenever their dog is on a leash, he pulls, tugs, and drags them down the street. Simply put, as a pup, this step was skipped over entirely. The dog is clueless about giving to his neck or when and how to respond to a leash correction. A dog that has not learned to give to his neck and learned to accept leash corrections will never walk at heel, on or off leash.
When I take them out to their bathroom spot, I stand stationary and they are limited to the length of the leash in a circle around me to use the bathroom. Naturally, they want to get to the end of the leash and pull trying to go to a different spot. In this situation, I do not pull on the leash, rather I stand there stationary and when they get to the end of the leash and start pulling, I remain stationary and they eventually give in. They do not learn this overnight, but at this age, they should pick up on this over the course of a week with repetitious and consistent efforts on my part.
One area that I was unable to make the amount of progress that I really wanted to see was with their sit. So once I returned, I started again as if it were the beginning of teaching them to sit. Many times, it is far better to fall back and go at it again, than it is to try and pick up where you left off. In dealing with young pups, things such as sit are far from known commands and therefore not yet habit, so them forgetting is not uncommon. Since my return, they have picked back up and are now caught back up to where they were when I left. So I lost a few days, no big deal. If you find yourself in such a situation, do not try and rush the dog in order to catch up. Do not try and double up the work, too much pressure on a young pup can be detrimental. Back up, start again, and take things slowly and methodically and the pup should fall right in line.
Another area that I did not get as much done as I originally planned was with retrieving. While both pups are retrieving, I wanted to get them beyond the knotted sock and started on a small, miniature tennis ball and my fire hose cork filled puppy bumpers. I had also set out to get them beyond the hallway retrieves and outside in my retrieving channel with these new items. Since returning, I have gotten them back up to where they were when I left and just yesterday evening, got them both going on the miniature tennis ball.
One thing I noticed that had not lost any ground was their recall. This was great, but I have to credit the fact that while the entire litter was still here, I put a lot of time in on this. Of all the obedience commands, this and “Sit” are tied for the top commands. For me to be getting the response from them that I am getting, without a setback, thrilled me to say the least.
Their secondary socialization has still progressed extremely well, even in my absence. The trip Sunday to my brothers was a great socialization experience. The ride in the truck was about 45 minutes one way, and they took to it like a duck takes to water, both riding peaceful and quiet without any fuss. Seeing my brother, father, and nephew was great as well. All being new people and the pups acted if they had known them all their life. All the work put in early on, has already begun to pay big dividends.
My goals for the upcoming week:
• Continue with crate training and house breaking
• Continue with leash work, learning to give to the neck
• Continue working on “Sit”
• Continue working on the bathroom command
• Continue working on recall both on and off the leash
• Progress to a puppy bumper inside
• Transition the retrieves outside in the retrieving channel with tennis ball and puppy bumper
• Continue with Secondary Socializations
• Continue with environmental introductions and nature walks finding new conditions and obstacles for them to experience
• Introduction to water/first water retrieve
So barring any more unforeseen situations, this week will be interesting to see how the pups progress and at the weeks end, assessing to see how much ground we make up. Until next week, Happy Training.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Training Log - First Week Goals for Cona and Pinky
Before 8 weeks of age, the pups had been well socialized. This was their primary socialization period. This socialization was performed by their mother (Willow), their littermates, and the breeder (me & my family). They had met many different people in many different environments. They had been taken for rides in a vehicle in the crate. Early on it was the entire litter, and then as they got older, they were taken for rides individually. My daughter and I even took them one at a time for rides on my 4-wheeler. They had many different experiences and introductions into various environmental situations. They had learned to get in and out of our house having to climb the one step threshold of our entry way. They had also been introduced to a set of concrete steps which they had to climb or be left behind. They had introductions to cover of all types: Tall grass, puppy size brush piles, thick cover (our front flower bed was great for this with the thick shrubs and other plants), as well as crossing barriers like cross ties or landscape timbers. They had been introduced to feathers using pheasant wings saved from last years South Dakota trip. They had also had some early puppy retrieves which the sock or wing was only tossed a couple of feet. They each had also gotten used to wearing a collar. They actually have had a type of collar on since birth. I had also let each of them walk around the yard with a leash on, dragging it along as they went about their explorations.
First Week Goals:
Secondary Socialization – Primary Socialization is from birth to 5 or 6 weeks of age. Secondary Socialization is from 5 or 6 weeks of age to 12 weeks of age. Once these windows pass, there is no going back and making the time up. This is one of those: “It has to be done now or else” situations. The Secondary Socialization is started by the breeder (if you did your homework and purchased your new pup from a responsible breeder-a pup not well socialized is always easy to pick out of a crowd) and then completed by the new puppy owner.
I will continue with the secondary socialization. Pups will still get plenty of opportunities between 8 and 12 weeks of age to meet and greet people of all ages, go for more rides, and get introduced to more environmental scenarios or issues. As part of their on going training, beyond 12 weeks of age, I will still continue with the social meet and greet, travel, and environmental introductions.
Due to my advanced level of socialization as a breeder, my pups experienced more than your typical litter of pups do. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I am around so much due to my career as a dog trainer and breeder that I am able to do so much more than someone that works a regular job 8-5 Monday – Friday.
Leash Training: Since my pups are so much bolder than the average litter from all their socialization early on, I will have to start taking them outside one at a time from now on and they will be dragging a leash. No more going out as a litter. This is just like you taking your pup home and the litter mates are no longer around. For this first week, they will just be dragging the leash along, getting more acclimated to it. They are still too young to expect or even attempt any “Heel” training.
Crate Training/House Breaking: Due to my efforts as a breeder, all my pups started sleeping in their own crate at 7 weeks of age. I began this for the sake of the new owners and the puppies as well. Thus far, all the pups that have gone home have had no issues being able to sleep through the night where the typical pup has separation anxiety from having been separated from the litter for the first time. Their routine, which was started at 7 weeks of age, will be continued on. They will get out of the crate every few hours throughout the day to use the bathroom. They will also go outside to the bathroom after each meal and again 20 minutes later. Throughout the day, other than getting out to the bathroom, they spend their days in the crate, just as they would with you while you are at work.
Each and every time I put them in the crate, even though I am physically putting them in, I will command “Kennel Up”, and in a short time, they will associate the sound of the words with the action of getting inside the crate. Each time I open the crate to let them out, I will first tap on the crate door and say “No, Sit”, and then as I open the crate door, I will use my hand to restrain them. When I take my hand away, I will command “Here”, and they are allowed to come out. Once out I immediately pick them up to carry them outside. No allowing them to come out and go racing around the room. If I allow that to happen, I am starting a very bad habit of kennel busting which is busting out of the kennel and racing off. That will get a dog run over by a car or truck at a busy boat ramp in Arkansas during duck season, or when you get them out of the car to take them into the vet.
In the afternoons and evenings they get more time outside the crate. This is when I will be doing much of their other introductions and habit formation/training. Anytime I have them out in the house, on leash, I first take them to the bathroom, regardless of when the last time they were out was. This is to insure that I am setting the pup up for success, not failure. Spending these periods of time in the crate not only gets them used to being in the crate, but it also makes it so that when I get them out, they are super excited to see “ME”. I want them excited to be with me. Being with me should be their greatest joy in life. This is where the bond begins and also their building their desire to please me. By pleasing me, they get to spend more time with me. All this helps build structure. Think of it as the pup has to have a job. If pup is allowed too much free time, then the pup has no job and would rather be off free doing his own thing, than being with me. It is hard to get a pup to focus on me in a situation such as that.
Puppy Retrieves: Using a knotted sock at first, I will begin with the hallway retrieves. I will shake the sock in a teasing manner in front of pups’ face while restraining him with my free hand, then toss the sock a few feet and release the pup while saying his name as he goes after it. If at first he does not just race after it, no big deal, the pup is only 8 weeks old. I just get the pup and the sock and repeat. Usually by the second or third time they get it, sometimes just shortening the retrieve is all it takes. Once they grasp it, I recall the “here, here, here” in a happy tone of voice and clapping my hands or slapping on the floor. If the pup drops the sock and comes to me, I praise them. The next time, I will lessen the excitement level of my voice and hand clapping so not to cause so much distraction that they drop the sock. I will also do two important things before each retrieving session. 1) I will first take them outside to the bathroom so we do not have an indoor accident. 2) I will “puppy proof” the hallway; no items on the floor that might divert their attention away from the sock. Both of these things are insuring that I am setting the pup up for success.
I will give each pup no more than 3 puppy retrieves per session. I will not do the retrieves 7 days a week. 3 to 5 days a week is more than adequate. I will save two of my retrieving days for the weekend, which will give me the opportunity to possibly get two retrieving sessions in on those two days, which is fine as long as I space them out by at least a few hours.
Water Introduction: The pups are now of the age and the weather is right so that I can start the water introduction. Right down the road is a state park: Puskus Lake. This is an out of the way state recreation area which does not get heavy use, so the chances of the pups getting distracted is somewhat limited. They also have a concrete boat ramp which is ideal. Elizabeth and I will go there and take the pups for a walk in the woods. The time spent here will actually help us work on two of our goals, intro to environmental situations and water introductions. The walk gets their body temp up through physical exercise. Then we will turn and walk down the boat ramp and right into the water. Doing it this way, the pup goes in without thought just following me, plus the water will feel refreshing since they had previously been romping around in the woods building up their body temp. I will not worry with any water retrieves the first time out. The early puppy retrieves will remain limited to hallway retrieves for at least the first week. Depending on how the hallway retrieves go, we may do a short water retrieve the second time out.
Recall: While recall will be part of the puppy retrieves, since the puppy has to return to me with the sock, I will not limit it to that. I have several methods which I will use to recall them. 1) My wife, daughter, and I will all get down in the floor with the pups, one pup at a time. We will alternate who recalls the pup saying (Cona, here, here, here, Cona here). Pup will not only be learning recall, but learning to recall to each member of the family. Once the pup gets to the person doing the recall, lots of petting and praise will be given. 2) Whenever we are outside, whether for a bathroom break or other reason, I will do a few short recalls. No recalling from all the way across the yard. Just like with retrieves, it will be kept to short puppy distances: The greater the distance from me, the greater the chance of the puppy getting distracted halfway back to me and stopping to investigate. I want pup to understand that the command “Here” means to come all the way back to me, not just part of the way. Since as a breeder I had already started using a whistle to recall the entire litter from time to time, after just a couple of days, I will also start intermittently using the whistle along with the verbal command, “Here”.
Sit: No better time than the present to start teaching this command. Since pups have already begun with the leash and collars, they are not going to be distracted by the scratching that normally occurs when they first have one on. This scratching diverts their attention and makes teaching sit more difficult. I will begin by getting in the floor with them and using the leash to apply slight pressure to their neck. If needed, I will use my free hand to help direct their rear end to the ground. The very moment their rear end touches the ground, I then say the command word, “Sit”, and release the pressure. I praise them (Good Boy, Sit, Good Boy, Sit) and pet them. When petting, I can keep them at “Sit” for a moment helping them to understand what “Sit” means. I would like to see them by the end of the week being able to “Sit” when pressure is applied, but while I am standing instead of sitting. If I can get them doing more, great, but I am going to keep my goals realistic and attainable.
Bathroom Command: I will be starting to use the bathroom command with the pups this week also. I choose to use the command "Get It Done". The words are not important but the consistency of the use of what ever words you choose is important and that you are repititious in the use of your word choice each time you take the pup out. One quick note: If you choose something like "Go Poo Poo Potty" that is fine, but just know that at the duck camp you are going to be giving this command to your dog in front of all your buddies, so choose your words wisely.
So keep a watch out here, next weekend I will be letting you know how our first week went. Did we accomplish what we had hoped for with our goals and what will our goals be for the upcoming week. Until then, Happy Training.
Training Tip - Can't See the Forest for the Trees
All too often, as retriever/dog owners, during the raising of our new puppy, we see others with older dogs doing certain things or we read on the internet (email and online forums) what others are accomplishing with their dogs. We want our pups doing what these other dogs are doing, so we start pushing. Instead of training we are testing (I am not referring to hunt tests). We test our dogs to see just how far they will run/swim out and get the bumper. We test to see how far into tall cover they will drive or if they will do a double or a triple. Instead of training slowly and methodically for these scenarios, we get them doing the easier ones and start testing to see if they can do more.
I have often said that dog training requires patience. It requires patience to train your dog in a slow and steady pace. Everyone hates doing obedience because it is about as much fun as watching paint dry. The best advice I know to give is to tell a person with a new/young dog to stop worrying what other people have their dog doing at what age, it is not a race. No two dogs, even from the same litter, are going to progress at the same rate, even if raised in identical environments. In the dog world, there are not many guarantees. Even if a dog came from a top, proven breeding, it can still be a dud. It happens sometimes what we have to do is work with the dog at their own pace, not the pace of others.
Internet forums can be a source of good and bad advice. Often times not all the needed information is provided and the advice given, based on the information at hand, the advice given is not applicable. Then there are the people that when hiding behind a keyboard become owners of field trial champions and are world class dog trainers. In reality they may have partially trained one or two dogs in their life and suddenly they are experts, yet their own dogs are hardly trained at all, even in the most basic of skills.
I remember being at a local park with Millie when she was around 8 months of age and we were working on some lining drills. There was this one retrieve she was having difficulty with and yes, I was getting frustrated. Then along comes a guy that had more advice than Carter has pills. Here he was with this big old lab that was out of control, would not obey basic obedience commands and this guy was trying to give me advice. Meanwhile, here is Millie sitting at my side off lead without having to be constantly reminded that she was in “Sit”. If a person cannot train his dog in basic obedience and enforce it properly, how is he qualified to give anyone advice, especially when he has no background information on the dog or its’ training thus far. I let the guy talk, thanked him, and went back to doing what I was doing, my way. Through patience and common sense, I found the cause of the issue and was able to correct it, without all this garbage fed to me by this so called expert dog trainer.
In closing, remember that dog training is not a race. It is about teaching each and every aspect to the point of habit, regardless of how long it takes. Until each aspect is engrained to the point of habit, never move on to the next phase, no matter what. Stop jumping around, once you have selected a formal training methodology; follow that method to the letter “T”, no variance. Do not train a dog beyond his age. At 8 months of age, we should not be trying to run blind retrieves we should be beginning to teach hand signals. Blinds come after several months of training on hand signals and the dog has them down to the point of habit.
As told to me early on in my career as a trainer:
The fastest way to train a dog is to make haste slowly. Mike Stewart, Wildrose Kennels
Friday, May 15, 2009
Training Log - Cona and Pinky
Now up until this point I have been working with all the pups doing what any breeder should be doing, with a focus on primary socialization. I have also put alot of time into introductions to various environmental issues: Tall grass, fallen limbs, piles of limbs, dense cover (my barberry bushes in my front yard), intro to feathers using pheasant wings, going up and down steps, riding on my four wheeler and traveling in a crate, etc. While I did do some retrieving with them, it was all kept to very short distances, one or two feet.
Now they are 8 weeks, their eyesight is more focused, and they are the same exact age as when most of you got or are getting your new pup. So I have started with my puppy program just as I have described within the pages of this blog. I will be going through step by step and training these two pups using the same methodology as I have asked you to apply to yours, Yocona River Boykins "Raising Pup". So you can follow along on their progress, I will be making posts, Training Logs, on here so you can keep track of how their training is going.
I will be setting my goals, noting progress, making notes of any issues, and what I did to correct these issues. These dogs will be seeing and doing exactly what yours has done or will be doing. So I hope you follow along and keep up with their training to see more on just how effective my method of "Raising Pup" truly is. Whether your long term goal is a Grand Champion HRC Hunt Test Dog or a top Hunting Retriever or Upland Flushing dog, these methods apply to all puppies, regardless of breed.
So check back often for updates. I also intend to start interjecting a few videos of the pups as well. Until then, Happy Training.
Frontline Plus - Flea and Tick Preventative, Money Saving Tip
Frontline Plus is available in different sizes: Dog 1-22 lbs, Dog 23-44 lbs, Dog 45-88 lbs, and Dog 89-132 lbs. The only difference in any of these products is volume. How much of the preventative comes in each little vial.
- Dog 1-22 = .67 ml
- Dog 23-44 = 1.34 ml
- Dog 45-88 = 2.68 ml
- Dog 89-132 = 4.02 ml
Here is data, taken directly off of the www.1800permeds.com website:
How this product should be used:
Use Frontline Plus for Dogs (fipronil 9.8% and S-methoprene 8.8%) on dogs and puppies 8 weeks or older. Frontline Plus for Dogs is available as 0.67 ml applicators for use on dogs and puppies up to 22 lbs, 1.34 ml applicators for dogs 23-44 lbs, 2.68 ml applicators for dogs 45-88 lbs and 4.02 ml applicators for dogs 89-132 lbs.
So with the typical Boykin Spaniel coming in as an adult in the 23-44 lb category, we will use that size in our comparison. The pricing of the product is based on pricing taken direct from www.1800petmeds.com website on 5/15/09.
6-Pack Dog 23-44 lb $81.99
6-Pack Dog 89-132 lb $88.99
For simplicity, we will round these numbers to $82.00 and $89.00 respectively.
Each package contains 6 individual vials, with each vial being a one month dose for one dog. If we take the large dog, 89-132 lb vial which is 4.02 ml in volume of product, and we divide it by the volume of one vial of 23-44 lb preventative which is 1.34 ml in volume of product, here is what we get:
divided by 1.34 ml
So if you break the large dog vial down you get three months treatment for a 23-44 lb dog.
3 months 23-44 lb $27.33 Total
1 vial of 89-132 lb $14.83 Total
So if you buy one 6-Pack of the 89-132 lb Frontline plus for $82.00, that will give you 18 treatments/18 months of flea and tick prevention for a 23-44 lb dog.
If you buy 18 months of the 23-44 lb Frontline, it will cost you $246.00. That is a savings over 18 months of $164.00.
If you check with your vet, many vets will sell the frontline products one vial at a time. So you can get a single vial of the 89-132 and have 3 months worth of Frontline Plus Flea and Tick Preventative.
Now here is the only catch. You have to have a safe container to store the unused portion in so it does not spill and should be somewhat air tight. It must be stored out of direct sunlight in a cool environment, such as a cabinet inside your home. It has to be applied with a syringe. I use a 3 cc syringe to draw up the product, then remove the needle from the syringe, and apply as you normally would from the packaged vial. The syringe is reusable but the Frontline should never be applied with the needle still attached to the syringe. If you rinse the syringe out with tap water after use, be sure and let it completely air dry before reinserting the plunger. Any water left in the syringe could affect the Frontline and its’ effectiveness.
I suggest you verify this with your vet. While he will hate to hear you thinking about this, because it affects his sales, he cannot argue the veracity of this. His only concern should be your ability to read the syringe to make sure you are using the correct amount and not under or overdosing your dog.
I am not a Veterinarian, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Training Tip - Advanced Sit
So by now your pup is catching onto to things and when he is sitting, he should have begun to focus on you, waiting to see what he is to do next. Keep promoting this. Verbally praise pup, “Good Boy Look at Me” when he is looking at you. Pups will inevitably want to stand up when you talk in a higher pitch, happy voice. By having pup on a leash, you are able to act quickly and reinforce sit with a correction by simply pulling straight up on the leash applying constant pressure. Then when pup sits back down, you release pressure, but do not praise pup at this point. While you would have praised earlier, at this stage pup is getting the commands down fairly well and we have to really focus on when to praise and when not to. Typically, when you give a command and a dog complies, praise him. If he breaks from the command and you must correct and reinforce, do not praise after he re-complies. He should have never broken from that command to begin with.
At this stage one of the things I like to work on more and more, is having pup sit while I am moving about. This shows pup several things. It reinforces that “Sit” means to sit and not do anything else until you are told to do so. It shows pup that if I move about, he is still required to remain at sit. This is also one of many things that also builds patience since pup is having to sit patiently and wait for the next thing the two of you are going to do.
Now do not go out and have pup sit, while you walk forty yards away. Take things a step at a time. To begin, while holding the leash and pup is sitting at heel beside me, I get pups attention and have him “Look at Me”. With pup focused on me, holding my hand, palm out like a traffic cop’s stop signal, I command “No Sit” and I walk around him in a half moon pattern back and forth. As I am walking this half moon pattern, I am switching back and forth, which hand is holding the lead and which hand is held out to reinforce sit. Now this may sound trivial, but it pays dividends down the road. Remember, if you are training pup as a retriever, hand signals are part of what he will be learning. He has to learn not to move just because there was a little movement with your hands. Typically, the casts are given with a combination of both hand and verbal commands and he must learn to be patient, focus, and wait for the full command in order to take the correct cast. So your switching hands, is just a building block for this. If at any point, pup decides to get up from the sit, quickly respond with a sharp “NO SIT” simultaneously while you pull straight up on the leash applying constant pressure, releasing the pressure once pup sits back down, but without praise.
After just a few of these half moon patterns, J Hook back into pups’ side at heel, get his attention, “Look at Me, Good Boy”, and give him the “Heel” command and walk off. J-hook, this is the first I have mentioned of it, but it is at this stage that it is to be utilized. If a pup is sitting out from you and you just walk straight into him to get into the heel position, 9 times out of 10 the pup will get up. When we walk into his space like that in such a direct line manner, pup will stand up resulting in a correction. Remember, always set pup up for success. In order to prevent pup from standing, we want pup to have success, J-hook into his side and he should remain at sit. As you begin to approach pup, make a wide turn, like a J, coming into his side at heel. Doing this, pup will remain at “Sit” without experiencing the invasion feeling which forced him to stand in the direct approach. Sure there are times and dogs that may not stand when directly approached, but it is always best to insure that he doesn’t. It is these little details that will benefit us and our pups in the long run.
As pup gets better and better with the half moon pattern, we want to start working on being able to drop the lead on the ground and slowly doing this same half moon pattern a little further and further out from him, continuing to use your hand signal to reinforce. We then should slowly start working towards being able to walk complete circles around pup. When we first start doing this, pup will spin his body so that he can watch us. This is ok, but you should reinforce sit with a verbal “No Sit” while continuing your walk around him. As he becomes more and more comfortable, he will figure out that he can just turn his head in order to see you which will be our objective. Here again, as pup gets better with this, start increasing your distance from him, but always go back to the heel position, give pup the “Heel” command, and walk off. Do not recall the pup off of sit while doing this drill. Recalling pup will lead to anticipating. This is where the pup knows you are going to call him to you, so he starts creeping towards you since he knows that is what you want. Creeping leads to breaking. Too much recalling, especially during sit drills, will make sitting longer periods a very hard thing for pup to grasp.
Another aspect of advancing pups’ skills with sit is the introduction of denials. Any dog that is going to be a retriever must be able to remain at sit even in the face of distraction. Waiting to a later point in the dogs’ training only makes this harder. For the pet, retrieving is the most effective and structured forms of exercise you can give your pet, especially if they are a retrieving breed. It far exceeds a daily walk. Retrieving is in their genetic makeup, so without it, they are somewhat unbalanced mentally. An unbalanced or bored dog will often lash out with destructive behaviors such as chewing and digging. Most dogs do these types of behaviors out of boredom. Making a dog sit and wait for the retrieve until commanded or made to sit while we pick up the denial, is a great way of providing distraction while being required to sit. It is an excellent obedience enforcement drill. For a retriever or flushing breed that is just a family pet, retrieving is still in their genetic makeup and should be used to help give the dog a structured exercise program and to keep him mentally balanced.
So with pup sitting at heel, make an attention getting noise and toss the bumper out, no further than you do with your sit drills where you are walking around him. Command “No Sit” then walk out and pick up the bumper. Pick it up in a manner that pup sees you pick it up. Make sure that as you walk out, you do not turn your back on pup and use your hand signal to reinforce sit. If you read your dog properly and think he might be considering getting up from sit, reinforce with a sharp “No Sit”, but no praise. As you are returning back to pup, with your hand signal reinforcing the sit, praise the pup, “Good Boy Sit, Good Boy”. Remember, we have to praise for the right action at the right time.
By now you should have seen a pattern of when I am using the dogs’ name versus “No” followed by the command. Many times “No, Sit” is to correct and then remind of what they were commanded to do. Other times has to do with retrieving. We use their name to send them on a retrieve, so if we toss a bumper out as a denial, then say “Fido Sit”, as soon as their name, Fido, comes out of your mouth, he should be taking off for the bumper, and you cannot correct pup because he did what he was told. Therefore the rule is: Anytime that a bird or bumper is in the field, we never use the dogs’ name unless they are being sent on a retrieve. Always command them “No Sit”, “No Heel”, and “No Here”. You have to get to the point of habit with this. Work on keeping your pace slow, so that not only is the pup focusing on the task at hand, but so are you. You have to know exactly what your next move and command is, well before you move or give the command.
While I talk about giving verbal commands, do not overlook the whistle. I like to use a good balance of both verbal and whistle commands to keep pup working equally as well from both. So whenever you are taking pup outside, even if it is to use the bathroom, take your whistle along and give him a few sit whistles while he is beside you on a leash. Caution, if your young pup is responding well to the whistle while on lead beside you, do not think he is going to respond to a sit whistle while he off exploring away from your side. While he might or should respond pretty well at closer distances to the recall whistle, the sit whistle is a different thing. If you stand there blowing the whistle over and over, it is just like repeating verbal commands. We never repeat commands for a known command and we never give a command that we cannot enforce.
While you are putting pup through these various “Sit Drills”, remember to keep him focused on you: “Look at Me , Good Boy, Look at Me”. Also, once I have pup where I can sit him and stand or walk around 10 or 20 feet away, I keep a bumper in my back pocket that has a small piece of rope attached. As I walk around in the half moon pattern, I use one hand as reinforcement of sit and with the other hand, I am twirling a bumper. The movement will keep the pup focused on you and not distractions or sounds that may be going on nearby. If you do this on a regular basis it will help instill the habit of always watching and focusing on you.
Often people misinterpret what I say when I talk about the time pup spends in a crate or on a leash. They often ask the question: “When does he get to be a pup”? I have looked it up in the dictionary and an encyclopedia and I have never found where it defines what being a pup means. This boils down to the humanization of a puppy. With children, they watch TV and see things on commercials and the next thing you know, Mommy, I want one of those. Pups don’t watch TV or read magazines. They do not come up to you and say Mommy, the Smith’s dog across the street has a brand new red chew toy, can I have one like he has. What I mean by all of this is that if pup never experiences something such as too much unstructured free play, pup will never realize what he is missing out on. By having pup spend a lot of his time on a leash with you, and you are the one releasing him from his crate at various times during the day, then he comes to look at being with you as the greatest thing on the face of the earth. So use this time and structure it.
At night, when the family is sitting around watching TV is one of the best times to work on sit. I have talked about this in my first article on “Teaching Pup to Sit” where you take a small scrap piece of carpet and put it on the floor beside the couch or chair that you sit in. With the pup on the leash, you teach him to sit and remain at sit on the carpet, the carpet giving pup a boundary. Since you are holding the leash, should pup decide to get up and wander, you can quickly correct and put him back in his place at “Sit”. As pup starts sitting where you can get up and walk away, but within the same room, instead of using the remote to change the TV channel, get up and walk over to the TV and do it manually. Do not forget to use one hand to reinforce the “Sit” command if needed.
As pup “Sit” gets better and better, find more and more ways of involving him in your everyday life. If you need to unload the dishwasher, then take the carpet piece to the kitchen, with the leash still on pup, have him sit. You will find that just being in the same room with you is a total joy for him. If you get on the computer to check your email, take the carpet in with you and have pup sit beside you with the leash resting on your leg so you can quickly correct if needed. If you go outside to work in the flower bed, you may find it helpful if you take the carpet with you and have pup sit on this. While we do not want to build too much of a dependency on the carpet outside, while pup is still in the learning stage, you can intermingle it in with your outside activities sometimes just to help reinforce. Just make sure you also work pup on sit without the carpet as well.
Another thing that most of us find annoying about a dog actually has a simple easy fix to it. Have you seen yours or someone else’s dog start barking and race to the door whenever someone knocks or the doorbell rings? Have you ever contemplated how they figured out that that ring means someone is at the door? In order to stop this behavior, with an older dog, you have to implement a little behavior modification where with a pup; we show them what we expect whenever the knock or ring occurs. Whether you are working with an older dog or you are training a pup, the steps are exactly the same, no variance. First, your dog should be sitting on “Place” reliably enough that you can walk across the room to the front door and they remain at “Sit”. If pup is not at that stage, then you need to remain with pup enforcing sit while someone else answers the door.
While sitting in your recliner or on the sofa, have a friend or family member go and knock on the door and ring the doorbell. First, if the dog barks, using the tips of your fingers tap the dog firmly on the side of the neck and give them a harsh sound or “No”. Once they stop barking, but before the door is answered, walk them over to their place and tell them “Place, Sit”, and go answer the door or stay there with them, while someone else answers the door. Whoever answers the door must open the door just far enough that the pup cannot see who it is. Stand there for a minute holding a fake conversation, remember, the dog does not know what you are saying, they do not speak English. Then close the door and come back over and praise the pup, “Good Boy, Sit, Good Boy”. If you do this once a day, five days a week, for 30 days, your dog will form the habit and every time there is a knock or the doorbell rings, they will go and get in “Place” and sit. With an older dog, this will most likely take a little longer than with a pup. Older dogs have bad habits that are so engrained, that it takes longer to teach them anything because you are spending so much time suppressing all those bad habits, the ones that you will never totally train out.
I always ask clients to tell me the four ways you can command a dog to “Sit”. It never fails, someone always starts off like they know all the answers and say: Verbal, Whistle, Hand Signal, and………….silence. They suddenly realize that they have no clue what the fourth one is. The fourth way is the “Silent” command. There is only one place or time in which this command is used and that is when we are walking the dog at heel and come to a stop, the dog should always “Sit”. To begin, when we are teaching “Heel” we will interject stopping into the drill and each time we come to a stop we command the dog to sit either verbally or with a whistle. If the dog does not sit immediately, we pull up on the leash applying constant pressure until the dog sits. If we do this over and over, the dog soon learns, and since you have worked to keep the dog focused on you at all times, the dog realizes when you stop and will begin to sit automatically and pretty soon, no command is needed, since it has become a habit for the dog. Now is the time to reinforce the definition of “Sit”. Sit Defined: Put your butt on the ground and leave it there until I tell you to do something else. This applies regardless of which of the four ways you commanded your dog to sit; Verbal, Whistle, Hand Signal, or Silent. So if the dog truly understands this, if you were to pause after stopping, then start back up walking, your dog should remain at “Sit”. To begin, do not expect the dog to remain at sit at first. Also, do not use any type of gesture, command, or body language to reinforce “Sit”. We are teaching the dog not to pay attention to body language, pay attention to the command. The command was to “Sit”.
With pup sitting and you holding the leash, take one single step, if pup makes the slightest move to get up and walk, quickly stop and step back while simultaneously correcting the dog with the leash and verbal correction, “No, Sit”. If you do this two or three times during each heeling session, the pup will pretty quickly will catch on to what you are expecting of him and will remain at “Sit”. So when you step out and have to stop and correct, after you correct, try and step out again, correct if needed. If pup complies, then slowly take a few steps out while still holding the leash and turn and face the dog. At this point, it is ok to reinforce with a hand signal. Walk slowly up to pup and give him a little scratch under the chin accompanied by “Good Boy, Sit, Good Boy”, then step back away and come into the pups’ side with a J-hook. Now, “Fido, Heel” and walk on. A little further down the street or across the yard, stop again and repeat.
In just a short time, pup will catch on and you can walk further out. As you step out, gently let the leash slide through your hand and gently fall to the ground. When you come back into the pup, reach down and grab the leash by the end and J-hook into the dog. When hunting, the ole adage “silence is golden” is just part of the reason for teaching this, but we also want to train the dog to the point of being able to do many different things with silent commands, even for the pet in our lives. Being able to look across the room and through facial expressions correct a dog, then with just a hand signal tell the dog to sit is just one example of your objective with silent communications.
With any aspect of a dogs’ training, we have to reinforce and revisit throughout their life. Just as a top field dog has to work regularly on blind retrieves in order to stay sharp on them, the pet in our lives has to be worked on obedience from time to time as well. I go outside all the time and will take two or three of my dogs with me. I have them all sit beside me and I walk out into the yard and look around or talk with a neighbor. When I am done, I will either give them the bathroom command or I will turn and heel them back inside. This keeps them from anticipating the next move. It makes them to stay focused on me while they wait my next command.
Training Tip - Puppy Intro to Cover
This past weekend I took a few minutes and trimmed some of the bottom limbs off of the River Birch Tree in my front yard. As I was trimming these small branches and piling them up to the side, my daughter came outside with the puppies, age 7 ½ weeks, for them to use the bathroom. Well they saw me and came running over to me, straight through the limbs and right to my side. This gave me an idea.
I took all my limbs I had trimmed and piled them up over between a big Cedar Tree and a large Crepe Myrtle. Then Elizabeth and I took turns and we would get the pups to follow us and we would walk straight through the pile of limbs. The pups came straight after us and never let up. While this is nothing for an adult dog, but for these little Boykin Spaniel puppies, this was a major thing. This was a huge brush pile or beaver dam for them.
It is things like this that we find when we go on Nature Walks with our puppies that gives them these all important introductions that is going to be so beneficial down the road. To wait till a dog is 4, 6, or 8 months of age to introduce them to these little things will affect the dog greatly. A puppy that is introduced early on will be bolder in cover than a dog that never had these introductions early on.
I have also been taking these pups on walks in a sage grass field where I train at each day. Anytime I let the puppies out for a bathroom break from their crates, we walk off into the sage grass and they are bounding through as fearless as you would ever imagine.
So get your pruners out and get to pruning all those trees and shrubs that your wife has been hounding you to prune. Now you have a good excuse for getting out of the recliner on the weekend and doing a little yard work. We will keep the reason our little secret and let your wife think it is because you love her so much that you wanted to please her.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Training Tips - Bonding with Pup and Older Dogs
First thing we want to do is to address playing with older dogs. While it is important that pup learns to interact properly with an older dog that you have in your home, there are also cautions that must be taken. While your older dog might not have an aggressive bone in his body, let an 8 week old pup latch onto his ear and see what happens. We often tell people that the dogs have to set their pecking order, we also have to be smart, using common sense, and making sure that pup does not put himself in a bad or dangerous situation.
I have seen it before. A family gets a new pup and takes it home with great hopes and aspirations of their future hunting partner and family companion. One of the first things they do is put little pup down in front of their 6 year old dog that has always been an angel of a dog. Suddenly, Mother Nature kicks in, and the older dog feels compelled to set its’ dominance by showing pup who is the alpha in this house. In doing so, the older dog snaps at the little pup. Not in an aggressive manner, just saying “I am the boss”. Unfortunately the older dog gets its’ mouth onto the pup a little too hard and injuries the pup. The family races pup to the vet and they are not able to save the pup. Now not only are mom and dad devastated by this, the young children are totally traumatized. This is one of the saddest things I have ever had to deal with in all my years working with dogs.
Until the pup gets some size on him, at least around 4 months of age, you will want to air on the side of caution and be very careful about allowing pup to play with the older dog.
Another aspect of playing with the other dogs that we fail to see is that during all that excess play, they are bonding. Unfortunately they are not bonding with us; they are bonding with the other dog. I want my dogs to enjoy one another’s company, but I want them to crave being with me. I want them of the mindset that spending time with me as the greatest thing on earth. So limiting their time with the other dogs is critical in the development of this relationship. You can let them play, but do so on a very limited scale for a while, until that bond with you is set in stone. By including pup in as much of your life as possible will be the key factor in this.
I suggest to people with other dogs that they find ways to spend with pup, when the other dogs are not around or crated. If your dogs are used to playing in a fenced yard, then put them outside while you interact with pup inside. If you have to, go to another room then take pup with you, leaving your spouse or children in the main room of the house with the older dogs. This way they are not feeling left out. While dogs do not have feelings of jealousy as humans do, they do have feelings. A lot of times it is possessiveness. You are their human and now this little pup has all your attention. As pup ages, you can start having the dogs share your attention more and more at the same time.
For a pup, bonding time is critical. It is one of the key factors that will make pup want to work for you and please you. When dogs first come into training, I always spend a minimum of the first 30 days in obedience. This time period is more than obedience though, it is bonding time. First off it is the new dog and me getting acclimated to one another. He realizes I am the one that gets him out, throws bumpers, feeds him, and gives him a pat on the head. If I were to take these dogs and go straight into retriever training, I would never get them working for me in the field.
As your pup grows and ages, there is more and more you can involve him with. As you progress through obedience training, you are getting pup to understand more and more that “Sit” means to sit until I tell you to do something else. So why not take pup outside while you are working in your flower beds. Instead of having pup run wild around you, have pup sit while you work. Sure, you are going to inevitably have to put pup back in his place a few times, but that is all part of the learning curve for pup. Corrections are a means of reinforcing a command. If a pup never receives a correction, then pup will never truly understand the full realm of the command or drill that you are teaching him. Also, by involving him in your activities and enforcing obedience, you are instilling in the pup that the obedience is expected no matter where you go.
Don’t just leave pup in the crate all the time.
Don’t feel sorry for pup and let him just run wild and loose, inside or out. Give him structure.
Don’t leave pup at home while you run to the hardware store.
Make pup a part of your life in every aspect you possibly can, but do this in a structured manner and always enforce obedience and you will end up with a well trained well socialized companion for life.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Question - Questions about Electronic Collars
I enjoyed your Blog the other day but here are a couple of other questions. May seem dumb but I am a complete amateur. What constitutes a good response to a nick. A yelp a toss of the head, the doing what was commanded, also how often do you burn a dog. I know that each breed is different and each dog within the breed can be different also each E-Collor is different. I use an inexpensive Dogtra. Pager, Nick and Constant with different degrees of juice. 20,40,60,80, etc. What is the difference between that and Tri tonics and its Nick one, Nick Two etc.
First I want to address the differences in the brands of Electronic Collars. To be perfectly frank, I have no clue. I am only familiar with the brand and model that I own. Personally, I will never own anything but a Tritronics brand ecollar. Simply put, their reputation for reliability of performance and their superior customer service is unmatched in the industry. Those two factors alone is all I need. Sure, there may be a different brand that has more lights, bells, and whistles, but those factors do not constitute a quality product in my opinion. I want to also reiterate that while I do and will use an electronic collar for low level stimulus, I always prefer to train without one. I fully believe that while it may take longer to train a dog this way, I truly feel that the dog has a better understanding of what is expected and is more thoroughly trained.
Second, you stated: “I am a complete amateur”. Knowing this, I have to assume this is your first dog or one of your first dogs to train as a retriever or upland dog. There is an old saying that even the biggest advocates of ecollars state: “If you cannot train a dog without an ecollar, then you will never train one with an ecollar”. When I see someone with their first dog they have ever truly attempted to train, I much prefer to see them training without the collar. I want to see them learning about every aspect of training. Learning how dogs think, learning how to read their dog, learning why dogs react certain ways in certain situations. In other words, I am wanting to see them learning how to train. Knowing that the possibility exists that you will have another dog in the future, the more you learn on this dog will make that dog all that much easier to train. It is not that I am against collars, I just prefer people to be as qualified as possible when they decide to move onto the collar.
Third, there are many videos and books on the use of ecollars. I highly suggest you read and learn as much as possible, before you ever strap the collar on your dog. Regardless if the previous trainer has collar conditioned your dog or not, it is more about you knowing when, where, and how to use that collar. Mistiming the stimulus is a major factor in why collars can be detrimental to the training of a dog.
Another consideration in determining whether to use or not to use the collar is the fact that dogs can and will become collar wise. Recently I chatted with someone on a public forum that was looking for a type of harness for their Boykin Spaniel. They were having problems with heel. Another Boykin owner chimed in to tell about the harness they use. This person went on to state that their dog knows that when that harness is on him, that he has to behave. My question to them was, shouldn’t the dog know it has to obey and comply regardless of when, where, or what is strapped onto their body. This is the most basic of obedience principals and training. This dog was obviously lacking in proper obedience.
My dogs realize through my tone of voice when they are out of line, whether it is in the field, at home, or out and about in public. They know that when they hear that tone of voice that if they do not comply, that I will be correcting them and putting them in their place if needed. I do not have to nick them with a collar in order to get compliance, even when we are working at distances in the field. This level of understanding was obtained through a thorough obedience program as a pup.
The other part of your question was: “what constitutes a good response to a nick”? Based on my understanding of your question, you are trying to figure out how to determine what level is appropriate for your dog. Each dog is different and some dogs can stand or require a higher level of stimulus than others. For me, I never want to use a level, nick or constant, that makes the dog vocalize. When just sitting or walking, if I were to give them a nick or constant stimulus, I want to see their head turn, as if a bee just buzzed by their head and they were turning to see what it was.
You also asked about how often I “Burn” a dog. This is a term that I hate passionately. It is the one term that gives the collar a bad rap, outside of the realm of those that abuse the use of the collar. Burn is actually a constant stimulus. Just like when I am working on obedience with a dog using a slip lead or choke chain. If I command the dog to sit and he does not comply, then I instantly pull up on the lead applying constant pressure or stimulus. Once the dog complies and sits, I instantly release the lead stopping the stimulus. It is the same with the ecollar. There are some that never use the constant, they prefer to use a repetitive series of nicks in order to get the dog to comply, but that is a personal choice.
In closing, before making the decision to use the collar, think long and hard and make sure you have done your homework and read as much information on the use as possible. Also, spend time around numerous people that use a collar. You will experience a lot this way. You will see those that are on the realm of abuse, while there are others that their use of the collar, is in no way traumatic on the dog. This will help you to make your choice on whether or not you want to strap one of these devices on your dog. Also, you have to judge your own character. If you are a person with a short fuse, then you should never even consider using an ecollar on your dog. Also consider what you are going to do when your dog is running in a performance event and blows you off because he realizes that he does not have to listen to you because there is no collar on him. What if you are in a public place with your dog and he decides that he does not have to obey, because the collar is not on him. These are not uncommon occurrences. You must also make sure that your dog is spot on with his obedience. If your dog is not, then you need to back up and get your obedience fine tuned before you ever put the collar on the dog. Remember, this is not a tool by which to train a dog, it should only be used to correct a dog for failure to comply to known obedience commands.
Also, check out this website: Gun Dog Supply The owner, Steve Snell, fields tests and reviews all of his products. He has some very informative articles on all the different models and brands of ecollars.
Friday, May 8, 2009
This is probably the number one source or reason why so many puppy owners fail their dogs. They come in from work or school and sit down in front of the TV with their favorite beverage looking to unwind. Their new pup sits there in front of them ready, willing, and able to learn but they choose to put off working with the pup until tomorrow. Unfortunately for the pup, tomorrow never comes.
We all live hectic lives. With work, school, social engagements, children’s extracurricular activities, and time with family and church, we never seem to find time for the puppy. If one chooses to purchase a new puppy, Boykin Spaniel, Lab, Golden, or any other breed, then they have to accept the responsibility that goes along with that purchase whether your pup is to be a family companion or your next hunting dog. We have to maximize our time so that we do not fail pup.
Instead of just sitting in the chair in front of the TV, get the family along with the pup and go for a walk, pup needs his daily exercise and the family can use it as well, I know I can. While watching TV, get the pup out of his crate on a leash and work on “Sit”. When you take the pup out to the bathroom, take a few extra seconds to work on sit, here, and heel going and coming from his bathroom spot. Each time you put your pup into his crate, start making him sit, then have him go into the crate on command, “Kennel Up”. Whenever you feed the pup, make the pup sit and wait a moment, then release him for his food. You can do the same for when you offer him water. If you have to run into town to pick up something from the hardware store, take pup along. Riding in a car is a good thing for a young pup to experience and the socialization aspect of meeting new people is priceless.
So here are a few suggestions: Sit down and analyze what it is that you do everyday when you get home from work or school. Now how can you work pup into that routine. Five minutes here and five minutes there really add up because with a young pup, their attention span is so short, that is about all you can get out of them. Also, look at what all can you give up, so that you can give pup more quality time. The reruns of “Friends” or “Jerry Seinfeld”, you have seen them all before, so could you give them up. Just letting pup run loose playing chase with the kids everyday does not qualify for socialization activities or training exercises. While the pup might get physical exercise doing this, think about all the bad habits he is picking up if you allow this to go on throughout puppyhood and beyond. While playing with children is good, it should not be the only activity the pup gets. He will come away thinking that he is supposed to run and play with everyone he sees and will never be able to focus well enough to accept training.
Sitting up when pup is six months of age and thinking; “Well, I might want to think about starting his training now that he is old enough”. You just missed out on the most productive training period of the pups’ life. The pup is old enough to begin training the very moment you arrive home with him, and should not be delayed one single day.
Once you miss this window time during puppyhood, you cannot and will not be able to make it up, not even sending pup off to a professional trainer. Remember, everything that a pup learns within the first 6 to 8 months of his life, with the first 4 months being the most important, is engrained in the pup for life. You cannot get rid of it. You can suppress it through training, but it will always find a way to rear its’ ugly head and usually, at the most inopportune times.
In a previous article we discussed the topic of “Pressure Oriented Training”. The less you do with your new dog as a puppy, the greater the amount of pressure or force that will be required in order to get this dog to perform, even the simplest of tasks such as sit, here, and heel. With all dogs being individuals, some dogs can be salvaged where there are some dogs that cannot. One can never predict which dogs can or cannot be salvaged. This will only be determined with time, training, and expense.
So here is my final bit of advice on this topic: If you are planning on getting a new Boykin Spaniel puppy, then this should be planned out well in advance so that you are properly prepared. Do not rush the decision or the selection process. Interview your prospective list of breeders and once you find the breeder and breeding pair that you want to obtain a new Boykin Spaniel Puppy from, it is now that you must be prepared to wait. Getting a pup from a specific breeding might take you 6 months to a year, but will pay off for you in the long run. During this time which you are waiting, you need to be doing your homework. Take my guidelines from this blog on “Raising Pup” and read them several times from beginning to end. The more you commit to memory, the better prepared you will be when your new Boykin Spaniel Puppy arrives. Reading the articles one time will not suffice unless you have a photographic memory, which most of us don’t. Also during this waiting period, you will want to start getting together all the puppy supplies and training aids that you are going to be using throughout puppyhood. If you can also start purchasing any training aids or equipment for when you pup starts into the formal phase of retriever training, this will ease the burden of having to run out and spend the money all at once. It is always easier to spend a few dollars here and a few dollars there than it is to spend $100 all at once.
When you are nearing the time for your new Boykin Spaniel Puppy to come home, make sure all of your closest friends know. They will all want to see the pup and this is great socialization, but it is also so they can be made aware that you are committed to the training of this pup. They must be aware that you may be giving up some of the social functions that you might otherwise take part in. Your friends should understand.
As I mentioned in a previous article, start your training journal. This will help you to stay focused. Along with the journal, make yourself a list of short term and long term “Puppy Goals”. Blind retrieves and hand signals do not fall under the category of “Puppy Goals”. The journal along with the list of goals will be vital in keeping you focused and on track with pups’ training.
“You become responsible forever, for what you have tamed”. Antoine de Saint-Expury
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Question - Pressure Oriented Training
Dear Mr. Black.
I have had the pleasure of talking with you when you were with Wildrose. Congrats on your own operation. I have the best Boykin in my State. And you can ask me that any time and you will get the same answer.., but I have a concern. He has been my buddy and best friend for the last two years. I have trained him so that he has an HRC started title. Then others told me that the dog can go a long way and you should get him to a pro. So we sent him out and he has not come very far as far as I’m concerned. He is unbelievable as far has his feelings for me. When I go to the kennel to see him he goes crazy and a lot of what they are trying to do goes out the window. I didn’t use a lot of e-collar. Just a lot of reps and love for him. The pro is wonderful but he is a lab man and uses a lot of e-collar work. At a fun test my dog didn’t work for him at all in the first round but tore the test apart while working for me in the second round. Great enthusiasm while he was with Dad. I don’t want to upset anybody but think its time for my boy to come home might I get your opinion. He has been there for three months. I don’t want him broken either.
Before addressing the issue of pressure oriented training, I want to first address the use of an ecollar. Ecollars are not bad, people are bad. The ecollar does not ruin a dog, it is people that ruin dogs. An ecollar, when properly used can be a very effective training aid. Ecollars, in my opinion, should never be used to train a dog, instead, they should be used only to correct known obedience commands Therefore if you are working on casting drills and you send your dog out for a retrieve and the dog gets off line, you blow the stop/sit whistle and the dog ignores you. Since the dog is far out, the ecollar can provide you instantaneous ability to correct the dog at the exact, precise point of the infraction. While I will always prefer training dogs without the use of the collar, I do on occasion have no other option. Had the dog been raised properly as a pup, then the dog has all the obedience commands engrained to the point of habit which is required if you do not want your dog trained on an ecollar.
One should never allow their temper to control the ecollar. Whether using an ecollar or not, when you find yourself loosing your temper, the training session should end for the day right then and there.
At my recent “Raising Pup” seminar, I had my daughter voluntarily hold the ecollar in the palm of her hand while a client controlled the transmitter. As soon as he went from level 1 through level 3, everyone in the group wanted to try it. My point was to show them that with ecollars, at levels normally used, the actual shock is very mild. While they can be turned to a level that is not mild, I am not an advocate of using the collars on these levels. So just because someone uses an ecollar to train with does not make them a bad person or trainer. Further, I want to clarify that the use of an ecollar I do not consider to be pressure oriented training. It is not any different than using a slip lead or choke chain in order to get the dog to sit, heel, or recall. They are simply learning about how to turn the pressure off.
Pressure Oriented Training: The best description of a Boykin Spaniel I have ever heard was made by Pam Kadlec of Just Ducky Kennels. In fact it is the tag line on the cover of her book, “Retriever Training for Spaniels”. The description is: Boykins are Soft Tempered, Hard Headed, Intelligent Dogs”. This hits the nail square on the head when talking about Boykin Spaniels. I only wish I had been the person to first come up with that description.
The part of the description that is too often overlooked is the “Soft Tempered” part. With a soft tempered dog, too much pressure through correction or force to retrieve can cause them to shut down on you. Total refusal is where they will cower and lie down in many cases. In comparing a lab to a Boykin, temperament wise, the average lab in the United States is far from soft tempered. In fact, there are breeders and trainers that prefer to cull out the softer tempered dogs. While over in Britain, they tend to cull out the dogs of stronger temperament and keep the softer tempered dogs. For the American Field Trial Labs, I do not disagree with their approach to breeding and training. It is what is required to develop a line of dogs that will perform to these extremely high levels. Levels not required for the average person wanting a good hunting dog and family companion. This soft temperament in a Boykin Spaniel is what we have all fallen in love with in the breed. It is something that we do not and should not breed out. We just have to realize it takes a different approach to training.
Millie Latimer of Rock n Creek Kennels in St. Matthews, SC has often stated that Boykins do not take to the drill sergeant approach to training. I agree, the approach has to be more fun for them, but that does not omit obedience. I will fully explain my approach to training with a template in a future article, which tells how to take a Boykin and get the required work in, while keeping the dogs’ spirit high the entire time and always ending on a happy note.
When taking a dog to a professional trainer, regardless of the reason you made this decision, the less you have done with the dog as a pup, makes the trainers job all that much harder. This is the single biggest issue professional trainers have. If you have done little to nothing with your dog, or gotten the obedience part of the way engrained then just let it go out the window during the teenage years, and then the trainer is required to apply a given amount of pressure in order to get the dog to perform. This level of pressure should vary according to the individual dog. Since we live in a society of instant gratification, people want instant results out of their dog. We often are expected by owners to train into a dog (obedience) in 30 days, what should have been done over the course of 6 to 8 months. Knowing that you will only have to dog in training for a limited amount of time, this is where the pressure starts coming in and dogs being forced to perform.
Boykins and their softer temperament need a different approach, still using pressure, but in smaller degrees. I like to use the concept of showing a dog what I expect of them. For example: If I have a dog that goes out and picks up the bumper and wants to run off or play around before coming back, instead of applying pressure to recall through the use of the ecollar, I prefer to stop them and show them what it is I expect. If using the ecollar, I will blow the stop/sit whistle and if the dog does not stop and sit, then the collar correction is applied. Now I blow the recall and have the dog come back into me. If the dog has dropped the bumper, then I will walk out to the dog, place them at sit facing me and put the bumper into their mouth and command “Hold”. I will walk back to my original location and recall the dog into me. It may take numerous times to get this habit started, but by doing it this way and showing them what I expect, I am eliminating the possibility of shutting a dog down through the use of too much pressure. Sure, it may take longer to accomplish this, but I have eliminated the possibility of shutting the dog down.
Another common aspect of retriever training that has grown more and more popular is the use of Force Fetch and Force to Pile. First, if my entire goal was to obtain field trial and hunt test titles, then I most likely would consider this method. Since that is not my goal, then I prefer not to follow this line of thinking and training and have found that my methods do in fact work. I have trained with the Force or higher pressure methods, but once I learned the alternative, I found it a lot more productive for my dogs and more conducive for the Boykin Spaniel.
Force Fetch: In its’ origin, Force Fetch was developed by the bird dog trainers, primarily for the English Pointer. While there is not a better dog in the world for covering large tracts of ground and locating birds than the English Pointer, they are terrible retrievers. So the trainers devised a method they referred to as Force Fetch, in order to be able to get their dogs to retrieve on command, without fail. As it turned out, it worked great for them. In the retriever world, primarily the Field Trial World for retrievers, they found that this worked well for them, especially with some of the jacked up lines of dogs their breeding programs produced for the purpose of field trialing. With most of the professional trainers heavily involved in these trials, they started applying it to their hunting dog clients as well. Now for the lab world, this worked out fine. Many of them use this as a guideline of whether a dog will make it in their program or flunk out. Many of these trainers (not all) feel that if the dog cannot stand the pressure then the dog is not worth training or not capable of being trained. I am of the opinion that these trainers should be bending their training method to match each individual dog, not making the dog bend to the method. This line of thinking is what makes it hard for a lot of lab trainers to successfully train a Boykin Spaniel.
Force to Pile: This is a phase of Force Fetch. Where Force Fetch begins on a training table and then moves to the ground, it is after it is on the ground that Force to Pile comes in. A trainer will set out a line of bumpers spaced out 5 ft or so apart from each other. Using the ecollar, they are applying either constant stimulus through the collar or a series of repetitive nicks from the collar to force the dog to the first bumper and to fetch it up. They then apply the pressure through the collar again moving down the line to the next bumper. It is when the dog puts his mouth on the bumper and picks it up that the electric stimulus is stopped. The dog learns to turn the pressure off by picking up the bumper when commanded to do so. This is one area that many Boykins will fail. The level of pressure for this is often times too much for a Boykin. There are Boykins that can deal with this level of pressure, but they are not the norm.
Recall: Often times when dogs come into training, this is one of the many issues we have to deal with since the owners either did not take the time to teach and enforce or they hit a road block and did not know where to turn for advice on how to overcome. So by the time the dog is 6 to 8 months of age, it only comes when it wants to. The dog has become self employed and does only what he wants to do and our opinion and commands mean nothing to him. So to overcome this, many times trainers will use the ecollar to teach recall. This is achieved by applying the electric stimulus much like with Force to Pile. With the dog on a long check cord (prevents the dog from running off), a constant electric stimulus or a repetitive series of nicks is applied while simultaneously recalling the dog both verbally and with the whistle. Only when the dog gets to the trainer is the electric stimulus halted.
There are other methods that teach this without forcing them to recall In these other methods, we are showing them what we expect. These methods take longer, but in my opinion, they are more thorough and the same is accomplished without risking shutting the dog down. The best thing to avoid the use of this pressure is simple. Take the time and teach it as a puppy. The more time you put into your dog as a puppy, the better the dog will be as an adult. Regardless of the method of training you use, without the groundwork at the puppy stage, this dog will never be a field trial champion, top grade hunting dog, or great family pet without the basics being thoroughly taught as a puppy. If you know on the front end that you are not going to have the time to apply to the dog as a pup, then consider purchasing a started dog that is trained and ready for his first hunt around 12 to 16 months of age.
Hold Conditioning: While I have trained using these various methods of force or pressure oriented training, I prefer a more natural method that shapes and molds what is already there genetically. If it is not there genetically, even with all the force and pressure in the world, you cannot put in a dog what is not already there. If a given dog is born without any drive, you cannot force this into them. Drive is a genetic trait. Drive is different than temperament and I fully believe that too many people in the retriever world fail to understand this. A soft tempered dog with drive, will still race across a field, through briars or across an ice covered rice field to retrieve a downed bird, and do so with gusto and style.
To retrieve a down bird or prey is a genetic trait for a retriever or flushing breed. I am of the opinion that if the dog has the natural desire to retrieve, then why are we forcing it. Too many feel that they have to instill the level of control into the dog that is obtained through these force methods that it gets the dogs understanding that they are working for them. On the other hand, if we take the time and train obedience to the point of habit, we form a nice social bond with our dogs and we can show them through a gentler approach that working for us is a good thing and they will be rewarded for doing so. We nurture our relationship so that they want to please us, and through this, they are dependent upon us. A dog that is dependent will require far less pressure to train than a dog that is independent. Independence is a learned trait that dogs pick up as a pup through lack of training or being allowed to much free time in an unstructured environment. All free time as a pup must be structured or the pup will pick up too many bad habits that can never be fully trained out, only suppressed through training and often times pressure.
So instead of using the more common Force Fetch methodology, I simply take and do what is called Hold Conditioning. Now this is actually the first stage of a proper Force Fetch program. There is some pressure used here but it is much lower and no ecollar or ear pinch required. You are simply opening the dog’s mouth and showing them how to hold the bird or bumper. If they have a sloppy or hard mouth, this can be corrected during this time. You are teaching “Hold” as a command. So when you do get to the field, a young dog will require a reminder here and there to “Hold” a bumper or bird. You are simply shaping or molding what is already there genetically.
The final stage of a good Hold Conditioning Program moves from the training table to the ground. Here we will teach the dog to walk down the street and chew bubble gum at the same time. They have to learn to walk and hold. There is recall work involved also where the dog is sat at a point, the bumper is placed in their mouth with the command “Hold”. You then walk out and recall them into you to make the proper delivery to hand. It is more involved than just this, but I will be covering this in depth in future articles.
Even with all this said, even if you have taught all of the obedience as a pup to the point of habit, there are trainers that will still apply the pressure. It is the way in which they learned to train dogs and they are unwilling to bend to match a dog. It is their way or the highway. So the best advice I can give you is to do your research. What makes a person a great lab trainer does not necessarily make him a good Boykin Trainer. While there are not a lot of us in the United States that specialize in the breed, there are trainers that train other spaniels with similar temperaments. There are also a limited number of lab trainers that utilize a gentler approach. Do your homework and ask questions. You may find that you have to drive a further distance to find a trainer, but this is far better than taking the dog to a trainer that uses too much pressure and ends up breaking your dog to the point of no return.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Training Tip - Recall Drill
Now I do like to get in the floor of my family room with a pup of approximately 8 weeks of age, along with my wife and daughter. We will form a triangle and put pup in the middle. One at a time we will excitedly call pup, “Here” and clap our hands. When pup gets to us, we pet and praise him, “Good Boy, Here, Good Boy”. Then the next person will do the same thing and we will repeat till each of us has recalled the pup 2 or 3 times. Watch and do not let pup get bored or too tired with this. We want to make sure we stop while pup is still excited and going, not after he is bored or tired out.
My friend John Huddleston of OTM Boykins in Birmingham was telling me recently about someone that he works with that had gotten a pup off his last litter, JustAHomeWrecker x Heidi Belle. The owner of the pup, Wayne Myers, had been having a little difficulty on recall. The dog was not always coming, and Wayne knew from listening to John and reading my articles here on “Raising Pup”, that chasing the dog was the wrong thing to do. So Wayne put his thinking cap on and came up with an ingenious way to work on this.
His young pup, Rocky, as you will see in the Video, is very energetic, but most importantly is food motivated. So Wayne decided to do this drill right before Rocky’s normal feeding time so that he would be hungry, thus helping insure success. With his assistant trainers (His Wife and Son), they went into the yard and formed a triangle. Each of them armed with kibbles of Rocky’s’ food to be used as bait to lure Rocky into coming when called. Each time Rocky is called, he gets a kibble as a reward.
There was one instance in the video where Wayne had just called Rocky, which Rocky complied, and had received his Kibble. Then the son called Rocky, but Rocky ran to the wife, where he sat waiting for his Kibble. She alertly folded her arms and stood as still as she could be, ignoring Rocky, while the son kept repeating the command: “Rock y Here”. I know you recall from previous articles that you should never repeat commands. While this is very true, it only applies to “Known Commands”, commands which the dog is already performing to the point of habit. When teaching a command, repeating is sometimes a necessity. So in this case, the son did the correct thing. Rocky quickly realized the error of his ways and turn and went straight to the son, where he was promptly rewarded with a kibble.
Another great thing about this drill is that it is family oriented. All too often I hear that the dog will come to the husband when called but not to the wife or children. Through this drill the dog is learning to come to everyone, plus spending time as a family unit is always a good thing, something we all need to do more of.
Now this drill is not just for dogs that are having difficulty with recall. This drill can and probably should be used with all pups. It is so easy to do, and is great fun for the pup, keeping his spirits high. Boykins do not always perform well to Drill Sergeant Methods, something I have heard from Millie Latimer of Rock N Creek Kennels on more than one occasion. So by making this a fun, light hearted session for the pup, he is having fun while learning, which equates to a productive time. It is good exercise for the pup as well.
This drill also works sit and patience training into it as well. As pup progresses with it, having pup sit and wait before he gets his kibble, makes this drill multi faceted.
Thanks to Wayne Myers and his family along with Rocky for sharing this with me.
Training Tip - Combining Heel, Sit, and Recall with Nature Walks and Retrieves
Cesar Millan preaches, “Exercise, Discipline, Reward”. That is exactly what we are doing here. When I worked for Wildrose Kennels we started doing this and found it to be most effective. Where before we were getting a dog out and heading straight to the field to retrieve and found the dogs to be too hyped up and unfocused, which is not conducive to learning. By taking the walk we burn a little energy off so they will become more focused. The discipline is just a constant and helps to make sure these skills stay honed, and the reward is the retrieves.
You can take this same approach with pup. When you get to the field with pup, go for a short walk and intersperse a little obedience into it. No more than 3 to 5 minutes for a pup of 10 to 12 weeks of age. Then head out on your “Nature Walk” as you have done in the past already, except here we are going to do so on lead. By having a leash on pup, he is learning that he not only has to be obedient afield, but he is learning how to heel in taller grass, over obstacles, and even in shallow water. Heeling in all of these areas is entirely different than heeling in your front yard in cut grass. Be sure and bring your puppy bumper with you because we are going to blend a little retrieving into the walk.
If you remember in the previous article on “Early Puppy Retrieves” we discussed the importance of no more than 3 to 4 retrieves per session. Doing more than this, pup will get bored and you run the risk of pup loosing interest in retrieving altogether. On the nature walk we will allow pup more retrieves, but they will be so spread out that it will not affect him. Here is how it is done.
You and pup are walking along at heel along a path, and you come to a patch of tall sage grass. Stop and have pup sit and show him the puppy bumper. He most likely will get a bit excited, but make sure he remains at sit. Now command “Fido, Heel” and walk pup into the sage grass a very short distance, setting up a trailing memory. Command “No, Heel” and turn pup 180 degrees and walk back onto the path where you will turn, line pup up, and send him back in into the sage grass for the retrieve. Remember distance is not the factor here, it is all conceptual. Now after the retrieve, have pup sit, then heel him off, continuing on your walk. By doing just one, you are leaving pup wanting more, but he has to wait, thus learning patience.
Now a little further down you will come across a larger patch of sage grass. Turn and walk into the grass, which heeling in tall grass is a great experience for the pup. Now turn and walk back out to the path of cut grass, have pup sit, and toss the bumper on the ground in front of him, again, you are setting up a trailing memory. Now turn and walk pup back into the tall grass, line him up, and send him for the retrieve. This time instead of going into the grass, pup is going out of the grass and returning having to enter back into the grass. This is all dealing with various psychological barriers, which we will get more into later on.
So as you continue your walk, you are going to come across all kinds of scenarios that will be great experience for the pup, with each scenario pup is only getting a single retrieve, and then walking off at heel to the next location. By spanning all the retrieves out over the course of the walk, you are not boring the pup versus sitting in one location and throwing numerous marks or memories where pup can quickly become bored. You do want to watch for pup showing signs of getting physically tired. When he does, it is time to stop all retrieves and head back. Pup can stop retrieving just as quickly from being tired as he can from becoming bored, plus a tired dog will be more likely to spit out or drop a bumper, which is a habit we do not want to start.
This is also a great time to introduce water retrieves. I always like to do several land retrieves first, which will build up pups overall body temperature. This way when he enters the water, it is refreshing for him. I like to first walk down to the waters edge where the water is shallower entry. I walk pup into the water and work a little bit on walking at heel in the water, this is important for a waterfowl dog. Many times we have to walk through sloughs or flooded grain fields to get to the duck blind and your dog needs to know that he has to heel in water just like he would on land.
Now while you are still in the water with the pup, remove his leash and grasp his collar, show him the bumper and give it a short toss right out in front of him. As long as the water is shallow and he does not have to swim, he should charge right out after it. Do one or two retrieves here and then take a leisurely stroll back to the car. On the way back, you might let pup off the lead to stretch his legs just a bit. His running will help dry him off before getting back into the car but will also be a good way to end a session on a happy note. Before getting all the way back to your vehicle, stop and recall pup into you, be sure and praise him for recalling. Now put your leash back onto pup, have him sit, and then heel him back to the car. This is just a reminder that you are in control and that obedience is expected when and where you say. It will also calm him from his little scamper and he will have a more settled ride home.
Working in your yard throughout the week, and then one out of each weekend, you take pup out on a nature walk; this will help in rounding out his training through the various introductions to the environment that he will encounter. These are not only great training for pup they are also great for socializing pup and also bonding with pup. For the bond is what builds pups’ desire to please.
Training Tip - Teenagers
I am often heard quoting author Robert Milner. Robert has been writing and training almost as long as I have been on this earth. He is the founder of Wildrose Kennels, which he original opened in Grand Junction, TN in 1972. In his book, “Retriever Training, a Back to the Basics Approach”, Robert put the perfect title on his chapter on obedience. It is this title that I quote, religiously, because this title speaks volumes when referencing obedience. This chapter is entitled, “Obedience is a Way of Life, Not a 15 Minute Drill”. No list of words grouped together explains the expectations of obedience better than these.
Jane just bought a new puppy, and has not done her homework. So by the time pup is 4 months old she decides to enroll her and her new pup in obedience classes at the local pet store because pup is a wee bit out of control. They go to class once per week, for 1 hour sessions in which Jane listens to the instructor intently, hanging on almost every word, “almost” being the key word here. Her and little Fido do well in the class the first night, then they go home, where Jane immediately takes little Fido off his leash and lets him run amuck throughout her apartment just as she always did. Fido still takes Jane on her daily walks, dragging Jane down the street for the neighbors’ amusement.
Jane and Fido go to the second meeting of the obedience class and all the other attendees and their dogs are starting to walk nicely at heel, the dogs are sitting for small amounts of time, some for longer periods than others. The dogs are starting to focus on their owners intently, awaiting their next command. Meanwhile here is Jane and Fido. Fido is not sitting, well maybe every once in a while when Jane is physically forcing him into the sit position and physically restraining him so that he will remain at sit. If she lets go, little Fido is all over the place, dragging poor Jane with him. So why is this? Why is Fido so far behind the other dogs? He is just as intelligent and capable of learning as the others are.
You see, Jane failed to do her homework. Jane failed to take what she learned in class and apply it at home. These 1 hour class sessions once per week are not enough. Yes, you have to do some short obedience sessions daily with your pup, but then you have to turn around and enforce that obedience in every aspect of the pups’ life. The sessions are designed to teach pup a specific skill, but then you have to learn to enforce those skills with pup during all your interactions. You have to teach pup that he cannot get on the sofa with you. You have to teach pup that jumping up on you is not acceptable. You have to teach pup that family room is not the NASCAR’s Talladega Super Speedway. You have to teach pup that just because another dog comes up, this does not mean playtime and that the presence of other humans does not mean he is going to receive affection. You have to enforce obedience and show pup what behavior you expect of him where ever he goes. In other words, “Obedience is a Way of Life, not a 15 Minute Drill”.
Regardless of how hard or how often you work with pup, he is going to test you, he is a teenager. He is going to see just how far he can go before you stop what you are doing and correct him. Remember in previous articles, I stated that if pup is out of his crate, then he is on his leash. The leash is the control factor here. It is there so when pup decides to stand up from sit to sniff around, you can instantly correct him. The timing of the correction has to be instantaneous so that pup fully understands why he is being corrected. “No, Sit” and pup returns to the sit position. If pup decides to get out in front of you, “No, Here” and he comes back into the heel position. These corrections, with their instantaneous timing, show pup exactly what we are expecting of him. By doing this every single time pup breaks from a commanded position, pup is learning, learning exactly what we expect of him. Poorly timed corrections are a sign of an unfair leader and pup will not fully understand the correction.
You are standing in your front yard chatting with a neighbor and little Fido is sitting nicely in the heel position at your side. In a minute or so, pup stands up and starts sniffing all around. Meanwhile, since pup is not really attempting to go anywhere, you let him be and continue talking with your neighbor. So what is it that you are teaching pup by allowing him to stand up here and sniff around? Pup is being taught that he has decision making power, the power to decide when and where he is going to sit and for how long. While this may seem trivial to you, remember, Fido is still a teenager. Today it is just innocently standing up from sit while you chat with your neighbor. Tomorrow he is not coming to you when called. Next week Fido is racing through the house, jumping on furniture, jumping up on you and every person he meets. You give a pup an inch, and pup will take a mile. Once they are a mile out there, it is very hard to reel them back in. Laziness to correct a dog for a known command has ruined more dogs’ obedience than anything in the world.
In the case of the neighbor, he knows you are training your dog and will understand if you pause a brief moment to correct your dog and put the dog back into the sit position, then resuming the conversation. If you have a neighbor that does not, he is probably not an animal person, so it might be best to either postpone the conversation until after you are through working with your pup, or just put the pup in his crate and then go talk with the neighbor.
So when most dogs reach 4 months of age, they Will start testing the waters of authority. You have to be aware that this is going to happen, so keep a sharp eye out. Regardless of what else is going on around you, you have to be aware of your pup at all times. Regardless of where you are, pup has to be corrected and put back in his place in order for him to truly understand what it is that you expect of him. If you are vigilant about this, the teenage years will not be nearly as traumatic for you as it would be if you let the pup get away with the small infractions.
Remember, focus on the small stuff, and the big stuff comes together with ease down the road.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Training Tip - Focusing on the Little Stuff
So how do we get out of this rut? How do we keep from getting ourselves in this rut that many before us have also fallen prey to? There are two things you can do, that will help you in keeping pup on track and you focused on where the pup is in training and where it is you want to go with pup. This applies to any Boykin Spaniel Puppy or a dog from any other breed for that matter, regardless if pup is going to be a pet, companion dog, or hunting dog.
Training Journal: A training journal will not only help you in keeping track of what your goals are, it is also a means to keep track of where you have been. Were there any issues with the “Sit” command? Did the dog have difficulty when starting double retrieves? Did the dog fly through early water entry with reckless abandon, but at some point down the road, developed a fear of water entries?
By keeping track of every aspect of pups’ life on at least a weekly basis, if not daily, you have a means to look back and find what may have helped in pups’ progression, or have been the root cause of a potential issue or problem. Make sure you update your goals on a weekly basis. These updates should be based upon the pups’ performance in training the week before.
Here is my suggestion on a thorough journal. On the day you bring pup home, sit down and write every little nuance about pup that you see. Do not skip one single detail. Be honest and thorough. Do not build up pup as the next world champion retriever, yet. Make sure you cover all good and bad that you see in pup, based on your knowledge and opinion.
Now if you have been following my “Raising Pup” training series, you have a good grasp on how things should progress. One of the first things you want to do is designate one sheet (front and back) in your journal to each article here in the “Raising Pup” training blog from Yocona River Boykins. Read over each article again, and then in the journal, write down the objectives on the corresponding page in your journal. Note any pitfalls that you should be on the watch for. Then as you begin progressing with pup, make your entries. Write down exactly what you did with pup and how pup performed. Don’t be overly critical, but make sure you do properly critique pups’ performance. Note in the entry what the weather was like, cold or hot, windy or rainy. If you had a bad day at work or school, or you had an argument with your spouse or girlfriend. All of this needs to be noted. All of these things can and will affect how pup performs. Dogs are masters of reading people. If you had a bad day, they will know it and respond accordingly. So if you put it in writing, later on when you sit back and read the entries, you can better analyze what may have occurred to cause pup to not have the best of days.
Work from a Template: A template in dog training is a preset pattern which to work by and guide you. Remember before in an earlier post when I talked about Cesar Millan and that in each episode he preaches: “Exercise, Discipline, and Reward”. This in and of itself is the basic template you will work from on a daily basis. While we are not always able to do all of these things each and every time we are interacting with the pup, we can still keep it as our guide. In the mornings, you have to take the pup out, feed and water him, along with help get your children up, fed, and ready for school. Then you have to get ready for work yourself. This may mean getting up a little earlier each day, but this is just the sacrifice we make when owning a dog.
So in the mornings you most likely will not have time to do your normal full routine like you do with the pup in the evenings, it will be an abbreviated version. You will do sit and heel as you take pup out. He has to sit at the doorway going and coming. He has to heel out to the bathroom area and then sit there upon command and wait for you to give him the bathroom command. Walking back into the house, you might throw in one or two quick heel changing directions to work on pup focusing on you, and then pup has to sit again going into the house. Once back inside, give him a little short pet or bonding session as his reward. If you are still on multiple feedings per day with pup, then he is going to have to sit and wait before being released for the food bowl, the food being the reward.
Then in the afternoon, you are going to expand all of this into a walk at heel session, applying a few change of direction drills working on pups focus. You might work in a little recall, extended sit, and whistle commands. The walk provided the exercise portion of the template, the obedience drills were sit, recall, and whistle commands. Now it is time to reward pup and you can do this with a few retrieves.
Now, while pup is sitting by your chair at night while the family watches TV, pull out the journal and write down what went on. What all you worked on and what progress or pit falls did pup have. Honesty is the key element here. If you ever do have an issue that is over your head and you seek help of a professional, with good journal entries, the pro will have a better chance of analyzing where things went wrong which will aid him in correcting the issue. Issues are far easier to fix if we can find the source of the problem. In dogs, for every behavior, there is a reason or cause.
There is also a template we will use down the road, once we step into the formal aspect of retriever training. We will cover that later on, but first, let's get pup through obedience.
Now do not fall into what so many before you have and that is testing not training. Example: Pup is doing fine with his retrieves and you start lengthening them. So you throw one out 20 yards instead of 10 and pup nails it. You repeat this and again, pup nails it. So you start getting excited and instead of training you start testing by throwing it 30 yards out just to see if pup can do it. Suddenly you have a pup that is not finding the bumper and coming back to you empty handed. This in turn leads to a pup that stops retrieving altogether. Pups not only stop retrieving because people throw so many marks or memories that they bore the pup, but throwing marks and memories beyond the pups ability is a cause as well. Pups can quickly and easily stop retrieving because they stopped finding the prize, the bumper, on their own. You just set the pup up for failure and succeeded because you got off course from your template and let your emotions control the training session versus common sense and a training template. This issue is totally man made.
First, with young pups, distance is not nearly as important as the conceptual aspect is. When you do start lengthening the retrieves, do it in smaller increments. If you do have a pup that nails a 20 yard mark but fails on 30, throw 20 yard marks for a few more days, then extend and master to 25 yards before going out to 30. Also, before I throw a mark a given distance, I want to make sure pup can nail that distance with a trailing memory first. If pup is having trouble with 30 yard trailing memories, he will definitely have trouble with 30 yard marks.
Another aspect of small details is with returning to heel with the bumper. Before you start having pup come and rotate into the heel position with the bumper, you best make sure he can do it without. This is taught through some of the obedience drills we will address later on. For a young pup to force them into coming and spinning into heel too soon is having goals that most likely exceed a pups abilities. It is you pushing pup to meet goals that are set too high.
Before you start blowing a whistle to stop pup going out, you best make sure he will do it without fail while standing right next to you. If pup is not sitting to the whistle, without fail, when on lead right at your side, then you should never expect pup to do it while running out for a bumper or about to run into the street.
Teaching whistle sit is like all phases of training, it is progressive. We start at our side, then we start interjecting it during recall drills while the pup is coming into us, then we can start applying it as pup goes out. Again, it is the little details, breaking things down for pup so he has a better understanding of what is expected of him. Doing this in a slow, methodical manner will speed pups learning process faster than anything.
Healthcare Update: Ever Changing Protocols
Just yesterday, I took my current litter of six week old puppies in for their vet check, de-worming, and first round of puppy vaccinations. While I have been used to the protocol for puppies practiced by the clinic when I was employed there, and the protocol used at Wildrose Kennels, I have not kept as in touch with this as closely as I should have. As a trainer and breeder it is very important that I stay abreast of the changes so I can stay on top of things for my puppies, the client dogs in training, and also for my own personal dogs. As a dog owner, you too need to stay abreast for the sake of your dogs. Through your annual visit, your vet can keep you updated on any changes that warrant your attention. Your vet is your frontline defense against these ever changing issues.
The biggest change in the protocol that I found yesterday was the offensive approach to heartworm prevention. Here in the South, Heartworm disease is a major issue. It has always been said that with a dog that is not on heartworm prevention, it is not a matter of if he will contract heartworms, but rather when he will contract it. So as part of this new protocol, they are now giving oral heartworm preventative to six week old puppies. These medications also contain an excellent de-wormer to rid the puppies of any of the internal parasites that are so common in most all puppies, regardless of how clean of an environment they come from. So let’s pause for a moment and take a look at what these internal parasites consist of:
(Source material taken from the puppy pamphlet provided by Novartis Animal Health-makers of Interceptor)
Heartworms – Heartworms are deadly and one of the most common of all canine parasites. Heartworm disease spreads when mosquitoes bite an infected dog and then pass the disease along to other animals. Since mosquitoes get indoors, all dogs are at risk. Symptoms may include vomiting, coughing, difficulty breathing, lethargy, weight loss, collapse or convulsions, even sudden death. Dogs must be tested before being put on any type of heartworm prevention. Note: For more detailed information on heartworm disease, visit the website of the Heartworm Society, The Heartworm Society
Hookworms – Hookworm infections may develop while a puppy is in the uterus, nursing, through skin penetration, or later in life as dogs swallow hookworm eggs or larvae. They attach to the intestinal lining and leave bleeding internal wounds. Hookworms are zoonotic parasite that can spread to humans, especially children. Symptoms may include weakness, weight loss, haggard appearance, and dull, unkempt fur.
Roundworms – Puppies can acquire roundworms from their mothers while nursing or by eating infected animals such as rodents or snakes. Roundworms are a zoonotic parasite that can spread to humans, especially children. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, and stunted growth.
Whipworms – Whipworms develop when a dog swallows whipworm eggs passed from an infected dog. Symptoms may include diarrhea, anemia, and dehydration.
Fleas – It is also important to protect your dogs against fleas. Flea eggs that have fallen off a pet develop into worm-like larvae, which hide in carpeting, furniture, leaves, and other dark places. Adult fleas can then easily attach themselves to the pet when the pet comes in contact with those locations. Symptoms may include itching, skin irritation and extreme discomfort. A good fleas prevention program will help control the flea population be preventing the development of flea eggs.
Zoonotic/Zoonosis: Meaning a parasite or disease that can be transmitted or passed from an animal to human beings.
(Source material taken from Merial, makers of Frontline and Frontline Plus for the prevention of fleas and ticks)
Ticks - Often too tiny to be seen, ticks attach to pets and feed on blood until they are engorged. They thrive in high humidity and moderate temperatures, but can be found all over the country. Ticks may carry and transmit diseases, including Lyme disease that can cause serious health problems for pets and people.
Please realize that while your breeder can prevent fleas and ticks in the environment which they whelp and raise your new puppy, while the other internal parasites such as Hookworms, Roundworms, and Whipworms can be contracted from the mother both in the uterus, through nursing, and through skin contact. Many times these mothers checked clean before or at the time of breeding and the environment which the pups were raised was a visually clean environment. These parasites, while the treatment is necessary, are virtually unpreventable and are easily and inexpensively treatable.
(Source material taken from the puppy pamphlet provided by Novartis Animal Health-makers of Interceptor)
Vaccinations – All dogs, but especially puppies are susceptible to many diseases. There are several vaccines that your puppy should receive. Consult your vet for clinic recommendations. It is important to complete the vaccinations so your puppy is safe to go out into the world and socialize with people and other animals. Some vaccinations require booster shots to maintain effective levels of protection. Be sure to ask your veterinarian about these.
Vaccinations are routinely given for:
Canine Parvo Virus – attacks the lining of the intestinal tract and damages the heart of very young puppies and is often fatal.
Canine Hepatitis – affects the liver and can cause loss of vision.
Leptospirosis – causes kidney and liver damage.
Canine Distemper – attacks the lungs and affects the function of the brain and spinal cord.
Parainfluenza – respiratory virus that causes coughing.
Adenovirus Type 2 – a severe but rarely fatal respiratory virus.
Rabies – a virus that attacks the nervous system and is always fatal.
There are other types of vaccines available that are not part of a standard protocol in all areas such as the Rattlesnake Vaccine and Lyme Vaccine. These are vaccines that you would consider region specific, for issues that only affect certain regions of the country. Check with your vet to see if there are any other added vaccines your puppy needs for your area.
If you intend on having your pet boarded, take pet to public parks or doggie parks, compete in any type of event where large numbers of dogs are, then you should consult your veterinarian about vaccinating your dog for Bordetella, which is a respiratory bacterial infection, commonly called “Kennel Cough”. This is spread through the air in confined areas such as kennels. This is commonly part of the standard protocol or standard vaccines that vets give puppies and adult dogs, but ask to make sure your pup will be getting it.
There are those that are advocates against annual vaccinations. There are even those that are against puppy vaccinations as well. Talk with your vet and make an edcuated decision. I assure you, an unvaccinated puppy or adult dog is far more likely to contract any of these various diseases than to have any adverse reactions or conditions caused by vaccines as some might suggest.
So make sure that you get the complete series of puppy vaccines as recommended by your vet. Keep your pet on Flea, Tick, and Heartworm preventatives 12 months per year. All dogs should see their vet at least once per year for a routine examination, heartworm test, internal parasite test, and routine annual vaccinations.
If you are concerned that your home or yard has fleas and ticks, pre-treat it two weeks before you bring your new pup home. I recommend treating your yard at least 1 or 2 times during the spring and summer months. There are many products available at your home supply store that you can safely apply. Be sure and follow all label instructions for the safety of your pet and your family.
Now with all this information I have just put before you, do not panic and go into a state of hysteria. This material is not intended for that purpose. While some of these parasites and diseases are more serious than others and should not be taken lightly, this information is meant to simply better educate you, the puppy buyer, so you are better prepared to care for your new pup.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
In Memory of Thelma Anderson
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....
Training Tip - Focus, Look at Me
So early on when we are teaching pup to sit, we should be snapping our fingers and getting him to look up at us. When he looks up at us, say the words “Look at Me, Good Boy, Look at Me”. This becomes a command that will pay dividends in the field. When I take young pups into the kitchen on lead to get some water, I always make them sit and wait. They are thirsty so they are focusing on the water bowl. I command “Look at Me” and once they do I give them a “Good Boy” followed by a short pause then “OK” or “Water” to release them to drink. When taking them outside and they have to sit at the doorway while I open the door and step out, they are intently focused on the outside world and not me. So I command “Look at Me” and when they look up at me, I praise them and command “Here” followed by “Sit” while I close the door. Now again, before we can heel them out into the yard, I must get their attention. I can snap my fingers or command “Look at Me”. Once they look at me and I have their attention, “Fido, Heel” and off into the yard we go.
When you are working on extended sit, where pup is sitting while you walk half circles and full circles all around him, make sure you are keeping him focused on you. We want him watching us and depending on us for every move he makes. A dog that feels dependent upon us will always be easier to train than a dog that is independent and wanting to make decisions on his own.
Once pup has gotten fairly good at walking at heel, we want to start working on focusing on us as we walk. It is done the same way as the other scenarios, a snap of the fingers, or a command “Look at Me”. We want the dog walking along and looking back up at us so he knows when we change direction or alter our course. This can be achieved by changing your directions. When you go on your neighborhood walks, and you notice pup looking off in the opposite direction from you, suddenly turn and walk 90 degrees to your right, if the dog is a left handed heel dog. If pup does not turn and come with you immediately, give a little tug of the leash and he will turn and follow. You can also turn a full 180 degrees and again, a tug of the leash and pup should turn and follow. When he gets back into place in the heel position, do not praise him. Only praise him if he follows you immediately as you change direction without having to tug on the leash. Looking back at the quail hunting scenario, if the dog had been focused on the hunter/handler, then he would have rotated with him and marked the bird when it was shot and almost instantly sent for the retrieve, decreasing the likelihood of a lost bird.
Looking back at the scenario where we sent our dog on a blind retrieve, we blew the whistle and the dog promptly stopped and sat. However, his attention was elsewhere and he had his head turned away looking at where he thought the bird might be. If you have trained the dog to the command “Look at Me”, then that is all it takes and the dog will turn his head back towards you so that you then can give him the cast in the direction the bird actually is. The “Look at Me” command is very much a control factor and the dog must always understand and respect that we are in control, which is all taught through a good thorough obedience program.
So in everything you do with your new pup, work constantly on his focus and never stop. This can make the difference between an ok dog and a great dog.
Training Tip - Adopting or Rescueing an Adult Dog
I received an email today, and I decided to post it so it might help others who are thinking about rescuing an adult dog or already have a rescue dog or an older dog with similar issues. Here we have a dog that is on occasions lashing out or snapping when approached. While we will never truly know what the trigger mechanism was that made the dog act this way, there are several steps we can take to overcome this behavior. Depending upon the degree of the aggression, you have to be your own judge as to when to say uncle and seek the help of an experienced professional. Do not put yourself in a situation that you are not comfortable or confident with. The dog will read this and act upon it accorddingly.
Your name was provided to me by Phyllis Patrick in Savannah, Georgia our representative with Boykin Spaniel Rescue. My husband and I recently rescued a beautiful Boykin after our beloved Bud, a 5 year Boykin was killed by a rattle snake hunting with my husband. Bud was ours from 8 weeks old and a very well socialized dog who got along with people and other dogs and was my husbands constant companion.
Our new rescue is a dog from Houston, TX who was surrendered after the owner died. A little back ground on what we know about Gurtie.
Gurtie had been trained to hunt and my husband talked to the trainer who had her for over 6 months at about a year of age because of the owners sudden death. He told Carl that Gurtie was "force fetched" (broke my heart) and she was then rescued from the kennel by an attorney in Houston for BSR when the children surrendered her. In her foster home she was crated for over 15 hours a day. Her foster Mom raised King Charles Spaniels and said she was "afraid Gurtie would hurt her show dogs" so she had to keep her crated most of the time. Needless to say once we met Gurtie we were not leaving her in Texas in that situation.
She responded well to me - a female but would not go to my husband initially. She took about 2 weeks to warm up to Carl and begin to trust him. Now she is retrieving land and water for him and actually prefers his company to mine. He is so much more fun! We have a 5 month old setter puppy that was given to us before Bud died and Gurtie gets along with the puppy very well and is very tolerant of puppy behaviors - chewing on her ears etc.
Gurtie is very distrustful of other people. She is a beautiful dog and on numerous occasions she has snapped at other people who try and pet or approach her. If someone extends their hand toward her she will growl and snap if they persist. Is there a good way to help her overcome this tendency to not trust others? Should we expose her to other people or try and keep her away from others to prevent a bad outcome? She has never bitten anyone but I worry that she might. When our kids came home from college she initially snapped at them but now is better although she still will snap at times. She even snapped at me the other day when I approached her suddenly and she was tired. Any advise is appreciated. She has only been with us for about 6 weeks so maybe I am expecting too much too quickly?
Thanks so much and please forgive the length of this e-mail. Just so very much want her to be a part of our lives and to be comfortable in her new home in Georgia!
We appreciate any input or referrals to other trainers you may know. We would be willing to pay for training if you feel it would be helpful but you are so very far away from us!
First, there are a few points that I want to make to you about some things you said before we get down to the meat of the matter.
First, you stated that Gurtie was “Force Fetched” by the trainer that had her for about six months. Do not let this break your heart, this is not a bad thing and never think that this was the source of the behavior. I assure you it was not. The words “Force Fetch”, make it sound worse than it is. Simply put, for a hunting dog, he has to be taught that he has to retrieve each and every time he is commanded to do so. Never is he able to decide on his own when, what, or where he is going to retrieve. It also is a way of solidifying that the dog is now working for you. I saw a good definition once on a dog forum. I liked it so much that I wrote it down, I just do not remember what forum I saw it on or who wrote it:
Force training is about so much more than force. It molds the way a dog will accept all training and how he will accept the trainer for the rest of his life. It establishes attitude, compliance, and subservience and firmly establishes YOU as the key figure for the rest of his life.<br />
While I have personal views on the topic or ways some force fetch, , which I will save for a later discussion, my views aside, it still is not a bad thing. Many times it is required due to lack of early puppy training by the owner. I must commend the trainer for working with the dog versus just keeping it in his kennel on a day in and day out basis. His work with the dog was a good thing and kept this dog mentally balanced during this transitional time, or at least up till the time it went to the foster home. This trainer might be a good person to talk with and see if he saw any of these behaviors when Gurtie was with him.
Now moving on to the foster home, I agree with you that 15 hours a day is a long time for any age dog to be in a crate. I question who this person is fostering for and do they realize that her situation is not conducive to her being a good foster home. A good foster home is one that is going to work with the dog, take it out for exercise, to examine the dogs’ social, mental, and physical needs. They are to determine things such as what would be a good home for the dog: One with kids or without, a home with other animals or without any at all. This is just part of what makes a good foster home and it is obvious that this was not.
While I do not feel this was the entire source of the issue, the being crated so long everyday without proper exercise, it did put this dog in an unbalanced state of mind. Dogs are pack animals and while the foster home had other dogs, leaving Gurtie locked up daily for so long, was very unnatural. I am not against crating dogs, in fact I am a major advocate for crate training dogs, but there is a limit to how much time per day a dog is forced to stay in a crate. Crate training a dog is as much for their safety and well being as anything. Another thing is do we do not know if the foster home had children? Children, who were not properly taught by their parents how to act around animals or how to treat animals, can and will be mean to animals. They see this dog in the crate and they tease or poke something into the crate and the dog barks or growls. They know he cannot get out so they find it funny and continue to do this. It only takes one or two times of something like this to create this distrust in humans for the dog. So we cannot rule this situation out. The foster home might not have any children, but it could be grandchildren or the neighbor’s children that did this. The foster person could have poked or prodded at the dog if it barked while in the crate as a method of stopping the barking. With Gurtie showing a slight fear of your husband at first, I would not rule out the foster person’s spouse or boyfriend either. There are many possibilities here that we will never know. Just knowing what the possibilities are does help in attempting to overcome this situation.
First off you need to read and learn as much about Pack Mentality as possible. One of your best resources comes on TV everyday, Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel. Watching this show you are very likely to see a dog that is from a very similar background and you can watch the various techniques Cesar uses to help and overcome these problems and how he rehabilitates them. The one thing you will see is that with every dog, there is one common denominator that Cesar uses to rehabilitate these dogs, and that is pack mentality. You must first make sure that the hierarchy of the pack in your home is properly structured so that Gurtie sees you and the other family members as Alpha. A lower member of a pack never puts its’ teeth on an Alpha.
Cesar also has two books available: Cesar’s Way and Be the Pack Leader. I also like a book entitled Leader of the Pack, by Nancy Baer. These books are all great reads and I find the most useful, even in my day to day life with my dogs, which I have had mostly since they were puppies.
Knowing that there is a strong chance of cruelty in the foster home as I described above, you must understand that a dog has only two defense mechanisms: 1) Bite 2) Flee or run away. Based on what we suspect may have occurred, the dog is biting or snapping out of fear, fear of what has happened before in her life. So we need to start with socializing her as much as possible around as many people as possible. You need to do this as often as possible, daily if you can and this must be done with her on a slip leash or choke chain. This way you have the ability to instantly correct at the first sign of aggression. At first, this must be done in an environment which you totally control and the people you know and trust. They must know that they are not to approach the dog, get into the dogs’ space, or make any attempt at petting the dog. We just want to create, over and over, a situation where the dog is around people but not one person makes any move towards her, and in time, she will learn from this that people are not bad. It is a way of regaining her trust in humans. Then, over time, you can start adding people or places to where you take her. Remember, once you start venturing out with her, at first you do not want total strangers coming up to pet her. People are not only rude, but stupid as well. People will walk right up to someone in a park and rush right in to pet a dog that they know nothing about, then they get mad if the dog bites them. It was them that brought the situation on by approaching the dog in the manner in which they did. So you must sometimes act quickly and put yourself between the dog and this stranger so you can prevent a situation from occurring.
If you find that she is in anyway food motivated, treats, then after a number of these socialization sessions, you might want to start using treats. Start by having one of the people in the group call Gurtie to them using the treat as bait. This way it is not the human moving into Gurties' space, it is Gurtie moving into theirs. Reward her with the treat only if there are no signs of aggressive behavior towards the human. This is simply positive reinforcement for good behavior and no reward if there is bad behavior.
You should also start working on setting dominance. This can be attained without physical interaction, rather through the use of tone of voice, body posture/language, and facial expressions. If at home you see any aggression from her as you pass by her in a room or outdoors, do not move away and do not move into her space. Stand your ground and use your tone of voice and body posture/language to tell her you are the alpha and that this behavior is not going to be tolerated. Cesar also uses a technique I like that he calls the claw. It is very harmless but is based on how dogs interact in the wild. If a lower pack member gets out of line, the Alpha will lunge and snip at the neck of the dog while making a low pitched growl or sound. That sudden pop on the neck and the tone of voice put the lower pack member back in its' place. While I cannot advise you to try this at anytime in the near future, you have to be the judge on if and when. Remember, we are describing and prescribing problems and a cure over the internet. A situation is always easier to fix if seen in person. Cesar’s claw is to fold your fingers so they are pointing out from the palm of your hand, and if the dog is at your side and you see her acting aggressive or beginning to show signs of aggression, then you pop the side of her neck while she is looking away and immediately using tone of voice to correct her. If on a leash, then you have one other means to correct in this situation.
Keep in mind that socialization with slow progressive human interaction is what it is going to take to overcome this. I also suggest that you slowly start working in a daily obedience training session with her, on lead. Since she was trained by the man in Texas, these should all be known commands, so she should progress nicely through this. Obedience is one of the best ways to help you to obtain and maintain dominance. Regular exercise is also a requirement. Anytime you are going to do any obedience session, put her on a leash and take her for a nice fast pace walk before starting the obedience session. Burning the energy off of her helps put her in a calm submissive state of mind, which is always where we want our dogs to be. You want to also do this walk before any group sessions.
You also mentioned that since your husband has started retrieving with her, that she has started bonding with him. Through retrieving, we enforce a certain level of obedience, which in turn sets dominance. She respects him as the Alpha. If you would take her and do the same thing with her, then you will find her attitude towards you change for the better. When your children are at home, have them start working her in this manner and they too will be setting themselves up as Alpha and her attitude towards them will change as well.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to give me a call or drop me an email. I also want you to report into me and let me know how Gurtie is doing.
Training Tip - Teaching Pup to Heel
Definition of Heel: To sit or walk at one’s side with pups’ shoulder even with our leg.
By now you have already introduced the lead/leash to your Boykin Spaniel puppy. When he is outside he has begun dragging it around when going to the bathroom or just exploring the yard. You should have also started using it inside to keep pup at arms length so to speak, keeping pup from wandering off out of sight and getting into something or going behind the furniture and urinating or leaving a “land mine” for you to find later.
Hopefully, you have also begun to teach “Sit”, which between the dragging the lead around inside and out and learning the “Sit” command; pup has begun to learn all about giving to his neck. A pup that has not learned or begun to learn about giving to his neck will buck and fight like a wild horse getting a saddle put on him for the first time. “Giving to his neck” is when a dog understands and accepts a tug of the leash as a correction, even though mild, it is still a correction. A dog that fights it is fighting the correction, where the dog that gives to his neck is accepting the correction and learning from it. I recall two dogs that an owner brought to me for training at 4 ½ months of age. They had never had a collar on them much less a leash. So I put collars on them both and immediately the started scratching, and this went on for at least a week. Then I put them on a cable tie out in the yard. They got to the end of the tie out and went to rolling and twisting. When I took them off the tie out and put them just on a leash, they did the same thing. As I said before, waiting and teaching later on always makes your job harder, and the pup does not learn as easy. It took about two weeks for these two dogs to get fully acclimated to a collar and leash where a young pup would have gotten acclimated in just a few short days.
So we are able to get pup to sit on lead by our side, here is how we begin the process of teaching heel. With an 8 to 10 week old pup, I will put the leash on them and carry them outside, place them on the sidewalk and tell them to “Sit”. I snap my fingers to get the pup to look up at me (eye contact is paramount, we always want a dog that is focused on us – more on this in an upcoming article), I say their name: “Fido, Heel” and I do a little hand motion to them indicating that we will be walking forward. At no other time are you to say the word “Heel” except starting the walk. When teaching a pup, repeating the word for any reason while walking will end up associating the word with the incorrect action. Another important thing to note, never tug on the leash and give the command at the same time. I see people giving the command while they are simultaneously tugging or snatching on the leash. Number 1, this is an unfair leader, they are correcting the dog by snatching on the leash before they ever gave the pup the chance to comply with the command. It also associates the snatch of the leash with the command which is the incorrect association. For now we only want pup to associate the command “Heel” with walking at our side.
The Correct Side to Heel a Dog on: You must decide this NOW! For right handed shooters the heel position should be on your left hand side and left handed shooters should be on your right hand side. More than anything, this has to do with the side of the gun that the empty hulls are ejected from and we do not want them flying in front of the dog, distracting them or to be hitting them on the head and face. For pet owners, it is whatever side you feel it most comfortable on. Left sided heel is the most common used, but all members of the family have to heel the dog on the same side every single time.
So you have pup sitting and you have given the command to “Heel”, do not expect pup to start walking at heel and do not do a bunch of snatching on the leash. At this phase of the game the objective is to get the pup to associate walking on leash with the side of our body that we want him to heel on. We want to focus more on keeping him to our “Heel Side” than the actual position. If you need to correct him, do not give him any hard, sharp snaps of the lead. Gently tug getting him to come back into position, but remember, do not say the “Heel” command, this is all done silently.
Now as the days and weeks go by, pup will do less and less running out in front of you because you have been gently tugging and putting him back into place. Also, he has had his fair share of times when you begin to walk and he takes off running. In doing this, he kind of found the end of the leash and flipped over backwards. Do not sweat this, it happens and pup will be alright. Do not dote over him when this occurs, just get his attention, and make him sit, repeat the heel command and walk again.
WORD OF CAUTION: I cannot emphasize to you enough that pup is still rather small and has very short legs, especially when compared to a human. So do not walk at what would be your normal pace because the poor pup would have to run in order to keep up. You should walk very, very slowly taking very short steps. Walking faster not only forces pup to run which makes any attempt to get him to walk at the appropriate heel position difficult, but it can also get him overly excited. We want the pup to be calm, and with calm we get focus. A focused pup learns ten times faster than an unfocused pup.
So over the course of the coming days and weeks, pup is starting to get the hang of this, but is still far from perfect, and that is fine. You will find that “Heel” is one of the harder things to teach pup and it will not be done in a matter of days. It will be refined over the coming months therefore it will require patience, persistence, and consistency for pup to properly learn to heel.
After just a few days of doing short little walks in the yard at heel, start taking pup on short walks in your neighborhood. This not only helps the progression of learning to heel but it is a great socialization routine as well. It is getting pup used to the sights and sounds of his surroundings. Remember, this is a young pup, and although full of energy, taking a one mile walk will not only be too much for the pup, it will end up being counter productive. First, make sure you give him time to relieve himself before going for your walk. Most of your neighbors will not appreciate your pup leaving them a present in their front yard or at the end of their driveway. Taking a plastic bag in case pup does have an accident is always a good idea. While walking, if any cars come by, I like to step over to the side of the road in the grass and have pup sit as the cars go by. It does a couple of things. A) It gets pup acclimated to the sight and sound of automobiles. Does anyone want to guess at what else it does for the puppy? B) We talk about setting pup up for success, not failure. By pup sitting as the car passes by, it is doing just that. Pup is learning to sit in the presence of cars and trucks; he is not learning to chase them. It is also beneficial later on when you and pup are in the front yard as your wife or child leaves or comes home and pulls into the driveway. Pup learned early on to sit in the presence of automobiles so as you see your wife pulling up, you tell pup, “NO, Sit”. Otherwise, pup is most likely going to run over to them to investigate and this raises the likelihood of them accidentally getting run over.
Working in a Vet’s office, we had an abbreviation that we hated, HBC. This stood for Hit By Car. Greater than 50% of all the HBC cases we would see on an annual basis occurred in the owners own driveway by a member of their family. Chasing or running over to an automobile is always a very dangerous proposition. Always make pup sit, and have the family member get out of the car and come over to them. Never let pup go to the car.
So we are taking walks in the neighborhood. It is time to start putting a little more emphasis on the actual heel position. This is achieved several ways. A) Whenever pup gets just a little bit out in front of you (I stress little bit – meaning no more than the length of his body) I will give him a slight tug to get him back into position and I will do this silently. B) As we progress I will start interjecting the “NO” command. At the very instance that I give the tug of the leash, I will firmly say “NO” and get pup back into position. C) Pup is starting to get a better grasp on heel and now I start another method of getting him back into position. As we walk and pup tries to get out in front, I immediately start back stepping and simultaneously give a tug of the leash along with a firm “NO”, “Here”. Pup should turn and come walking towards you. Once he has gone a couple of feet back in your direction, then return to walking forward (never stopping or breaking stride) and have him rotate into the heel position, still doing this silently, not giving the “Heel” command. The direction of rotation is important here. Use your leash to help show him, and before you know it, he will do it every time. I will describe this for a left handed heel dog. A right handed heel will be just reversed of this. With the dog out in front coming back to you, he should rotate counter clockwise into position. That is rotating in towards your leg, not out away from your leg. He will learn this to perfection through “Heel Recovery” and “Reverse Heel” (returning to the heel position) in an upcoming article.
We have now progressed past dragging the leash around. We have learned all about which side we are supposed to be on. Pup has also gotten a real good grasp on walking at the actual “Heel Position”. Now it is time to take it to the field. It is most important that we work on all aspects of obedience everywhere we go with pup. For the hunting dog, it is critical that we not only do our yard work with pup, but once he has a good grasp on it, we need to take pup to the field and apply it there as well.
One last note: I see people recalling their dog with the command “Heel”. This is incorrect. Verbal recall should be “Here or Come”, never “Heel”. To recall the dog, command “Here” and right as the dog gets to you, then the command “Heel” is given which tells the dog to rotate into position and sit.
In our next article, we are going to be discussing combining heel and sit with nature walks and retrieves.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Training Tip - Correction and Praise
All too often people are praising their dog for something they did, but they are giving the praise while the dog is doing something bad or something else that also might be good. Example: I see this all the time. In retriever training, one of the things we train for is to be able to stop a dog to a whistle while running out for a retrieve, and then to take a cast left, right, or back to the bird or bumper we want them to pick up. So someone will send their dog and blow the whistle and the dog stops and sits as commanded. They give the cast and the dog turns and runs out in the direction they were commanded to go, and they pick up the bird or bumper. From there they run back to the handler and come into the heel position, sit, and make delivery to hand. It is at this point that I all too often see praise given. What are they praising for? In the dogs’ mind, only one thing, the praise was only for the release of the bird or bumper on command and sitting. What and when should the dog have been praised for? Well breaking this scenario down, I would only praise for the main points I am focusing on in that training session which would be the stop/sit to the whistle and the cast to the bird or bumper. So when the dogs stops and sits to the whistle, “GOOD BOY”, then I pause and give them their cast. Then, when they take the correct cast, again I say, “GOOD BOY” for taking the correct cast. I will not praise them for picking up the bird or bumper, the return, or the coming into heel and making the delivery. These aspects are already known commands and giving to much praise can take away the importance of it, just like over correcting a dog can take away the effectiveness of the correction or can cause irreversible damage to your training.
Another prime example is with “Sit”. Remember from my article on “Sit”, that by definition, it means to put your butt on the ground and leave it there until I tell you to do otherwise. So when I am working with a young dog, or older dog for that matter, and I am working on extending their sit, I will many times give them a pat on the head, stroke across their shoulder, or scratch under their lower jaw or chin. I try and reserve all petting for only when they are sitting. I never pet a dog in training while they are standing. Petting is very much a reward, and this is reward based training. So if pup is sitting and I pet him in one manner or another, I expect pup to remain at sit while he is getting this reward. If pup stands up or gets too excited, I stop petting and give him a verbal correction. If he continues then I give a sharp snap of the lead to make him sit. I do not pet him at this point. He broke the rules by getting up or getting too excited. I only reward them (verbally or with petting) after the initial sit, never after a correction. Also, let’s remember that Boykin Spaniels are about the cutest darn pups in the world, and everyone that sees them wants to pet them. While this is fine with young pups, we want to alter this when they are around 4 months of age. By that age they must learn that just because a human walks up, does not mean they are going to get attention and that they still must obey your commands and be obedient. So when people come up, many will ask if they can pet your puppy where others are down right rude and just walk up and start petting. I have a friend that takes his dog everywhere and people always want to pet his dog and he looks them dead in the eye and firmly says no, because you don’t know how. Now many people will take this wrong, but what he is meaning is, do not go crazy with it. Scratch the dog under the chin or a pat on the head or stroke the shoulder. None of this crazy two handed face petting that gets dogs wound up tighter than a banjo string. If the dog gets too excited or gets up from the sit position, all petting must stop. He has to correct the dog, and petting is fully halted at that time.
This sounds mean, but in reality, it is not. The dogs and puppies learn real quickly to remain at sit. In no time at all, a dog will sit like a statue while you are petting them because they do not want it to stop.
Let’s digress for a moment and look at verbal communication with a dog. Dogs do not speak any human language such as English, French, German, etc. In the wild and with domesticated dogs, they do use tone of voice. So in order to verbally communicate with our dogs we must speak their language. There are three tones that you must use in order to properly communicate verbally with your dog:
1) Firm Tone: Use a firm tone of voice, not harsh, to give any commands. This does not mean loud. I can whisper commands to my dogs when they are close by, but do it with a firm tone and they will understand and obey.
2) High Pitch Tone: Men, check your testosterone at the front door. It has no place in dog training. You need to give praise to a dog using a higher pitch happy voice. You can watch a dog whenever you use this voice and their tail or nub will start wagging because they understand exactly what you are saying, regardless of what language you are saying it in or the words that you are using.
3) Harsh Tone: Anytime that you are verbally correcting your dog, use a harsh tone of voice to do this. I often times will actually growl at my dogs. If one of my dogs is sitting at heel and decides to stand up, I can give a low growl, and they will promptly return to sit. NOTE – I do not praise them for sitting at this time because Sit is a known command and they should have never stood up from sit. Only give the praise when they initially sat down. Again, you do not have to yell at your dog to correct him. It is the tone not the amplitude that they understand. If you raise your voice and yell, it will do one of two things. If the dog is a hyper dog to begin with, it will get them spun up, and we want them calm and under control. If the dog is a softer tempered dog, it will intimidate them and they will cower, and this could lead to the dog shutting down on you.
When working at Wildrose Kennels, we had a client and good friend, that I always said his dog did not know if it were being corrected or praised. This guy was a heavy smoker and had been since he was a teenager, and he is now in his early sixties. All these years of smoking caused his voice to be gravely sounding. No matter how much he tried, his tone of voice was always harsh. Therefore his dog sometimes could not read him based on his tone of voice therefore he was very dependent on body language in his training and communication with his dog. This was more difficult at distances than it was up close. Because he has spent so much time with his dog, going everywhere, the dog has learned more about communicating through body language than most I see. Today, his dog is tops in the field for ducks and pheasants, but it took extra time for her to learn to read his body language more than tone of voice to communicate.
Physical Correction: When I use the term physical correction, I am not telling you to go and beat your dog for doing something bad. If you get to a point that you feel you need to beat your dog, then it is time to put the dog up for the day and stop training, because you have lost your patience and the dog will read this negative energy from you and be off the peg for the rest of the training session. Continuing will only set your training back at this point.
Now there is a time and place as well as a way to physically correct your dog. What I try and use is the three strike rule. Example: Let’s say I am working with a five month old puppy on extended sit. I have pup sitting, with a leash on him but lying on the ground. While I walk around in a 20 to 30 ft radius of him, pup decides to get up and come to me. I use a harsh tone “NOOOOOO”, pick up the leash and take him back to the exact spot that he was sitting. Then if pup does this again, I will make the tone of voice a little harsher, and when I put him back in the original spot I will give a sharp snap of the lead as a reminder to get his focus back and to remind him that getting up from sit is wrong. Then on the third occurrence, I will pick the dog up by the nape of the neck (the loose skin on the back of the neck just below the scull) and put him back in the original spot. If the dog just not getting the message, using both hands, I will grasp the loose skin on both sides of his neck, picking him up to eye level and stare harshly into his eyes as I give a verbal correction or growl. In both instances, picking the dog up so that their feet are no longer on the ground does as much good as anything. It really gets their attention.
In order to be able to train a dog, the dog must be able to accept and to understand correction. If a dog gets to be 6 to 8 months of age and the only correction they have ever had was in a high pitch happy voice: “No poochie poochie, don’t do that”, they will have a very difficult time understanding correction needed to train because the only corrections they have ever had up to that point were actually given as praise due to the tone of voice. They must thoroughly understand “NO” and the tone it is said in. They need from time to time to be picked up and returned to their place. There is an occasion that when you pick a dog up by the nape of the neck, that you need to give him a slight little shake in order to gain his attention.
We all love our dogs, none of us more than the next guy. I always hear that “I can’t do that to my dog because he is my Baby”. Yet if it were their son or daughter doing the same thing, they would give them the required correction in a heart beat. A mother carries their human child in their womb for nine months, this is their own flesh and blood, but they allow their dog to do what they would never in a million years allow their human child to do. I try and apply the same methods and timing of correction with my dogs and my daughter. If I tell her to do something and she just sits there. A few minutes later, in a firmer tone, I tell her again. If she still does not do it, it is at that point she just got her third strike and I will get up and make her do it by whatever means the situation calls for. As a parent, I see many direct parallels between dog training and child rearing. Both need just good common sense, a level head, patience, and consistency and both child and dog will turn out fine. Slack off, and both will be the one that others look at and think, “I am glad that is not my dog or my child”.
So don’t be afraid to correct or praise your dog. Watch your timing, and make sure you are correcting or praising for the right things. While teaching a young pup, we need to give extra praise, but once they are a little older and the commands become “Known Commands”, then less and less praise is required. At the same time, once the commands become known, and they have an infraction or do not obey, then we have to give a little more correction than we did when they were little pups.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Breeder - Puppy Socialization II
As mentioned in a previous post, I have started placing a crate inside of the whelping box with the pups. I removed the door of the crate, so no pup gets locked inside or outside of the crate. I also place a towel in there or absorbancy should one of them have an accident.
I first got this tip from my friend John Huddleston of OTM Boykins. He had done this with all three litters he had off of JustAHomeWrecker x Heidi Belle. My 2 year old male, Url, was the only male off of that first litter and I found acclimating him to a crate was far easier than pups I had raised in the past. Too often you have to about pry them in with a shoe horn. The crate is new and different to them, so they are a bit shy about going in.
By placing the doorless crate in the whelping box with them, they are able to sniff it and get used to its' presence and then go into it at their own pace. Alot less traumatic on the pups this way.
I have also been taking them for rides in the truck, crated of course. Getting a pup used to riding in a vehicle is vital for both hunting dog and pet. The pet will have to go to the vet at least on an annual basis. They may also go to the park to play, or on a trip to grandma's house. Their being acclimated and comfortable with it is vital. Like anything, the younger we can get them used to it, the better they will deal with it as an adult. For my dogs, all I have to say is "wanna go for a ride in the truck", and they get all wiggly. Then when I let them outside, they will make a line, straight to the truck, anxiously awaiting me to open the door and load them up.
This week the pups turned 5 weeks old. So I started advancing their socialization and human interaction. One day, earlier in the week, I had to go into town to run a few errands. Everywhere I was heading I knew ahead of time, would be fine with a litter of pups tagging along, everyone loves a cute little puppy, especially cute little Boykin Spaniel Puppies. so I headed out first to the UPS Store to mail some papers to my father. Everyone loved them, oohhing and ahhing over them. From there I stepped across the parking lot to Guest Realty where a good friend of mine and hunting partner, Stacy Callahan works. Needless to say all the men do not go as crazy over the pups as women and children do, but they loved them none the less. When asking what kind of dogs they were, Stacy chimed in quickly, saying those are first class Pheasant dogs, having hunting quail and pheasants behind my Boykins on multiple occassions. We also made a quick stop at Vincent Boot and Shoe. This is always one of my favorite places to take puppies. The folks there love dogs and know all my Boykins on a first name basis.
We then drove around the Oxford Square to my wife's work at Baptist Outpatient Rehab, to show all the therapists there. This was by far the best visit for the pups. Everyone of the therapists had to hold and play with them. After a few minutes, it was like musical pups, and they were passing the puppies around to one another. Each therapist had to make sure they got to hold and play with every single one of the pups.
After this, we made a quick stop by the bank. I probably could have cleaned them out they were so enamored with the pups. My fiend Lisa kept talking about how much she loves puppy breath. Well who in their right mind doesn't.
It was a big time morning for the pups and they were all ready for a nap after the bank. Even though it was just a few miles back home, they were all asleep a mile down the road.
I have also been introducing them to various bumpers and pheasant wings when they are outside. It is always great to see a 4 1/2 to 5 week old pup charge after a bird wing tossed out on the ground. I have been getting little 2 foot retrieves out of them today. I know 2 feet is no great distance, but we must remember that their eyes may be open but their eyesight is not fully developed and everything is still a bit fuzzy. It will still be that way somewhat at 8 weeks when they go home. I ignored a patch of grass underneath the river birch tree in our front yard so I would have some taller grass for the pups to walk through. For them, this was a big deal. The first time I walked under the tree, they were all coming behind me full steam. They slowed a bit when they came to the taller grass, but in fear of being left behind, they put their fears aside and charged right on through. After that one time, they no longer slow up when they go through it now. I have to watch them, because they have also taken to going under our cedar tree. This is like a huge redwood forest to them.
All these little things may seem trivial to some, but for those with any dog experience at all, they will truly understand the benefits of all these socialization aspects. Having experienced puppies that had never even walked on grass until the day they went home, these pups are so much better socialized and have a definitive headstart that the new owners and the pups will benefit from.
So the pups have had a big week, packed full of fun and adventure.
Training Tip - Chewing, Biting, and Chew Toys
Looking at both the Boykin Spaniel as a pet and as a retriever, we must look at the aspect of habit formation as a pup. Chewing, just like many other actions, can become a habit. As I have said before, “we can allow our Boykin Spaniel Puppy to form good habits or bad, it is all up to us”.
One of the things people always ask is how I stop my new Boykin Spaniel puppy from chewing on my hands, the answer is simple: Get your hands out of his mouth. Not the answer most people expect, but the only answer that is truthful. What I mean by this is that when holding a pup, you should always hold him in a way that he does not have access to your hands. Hold him with your hand under his chest between his front two legs and your forearm is holding his body against yours. This way he does not have access to your hand. I know, you have one free hand and this adorably cute little 8 week old Boykin Spaniel Puppy needs some petting so you have to pet him, all around his face which happens to be attached to his mouth, and the chewing, oh, it is so cute also. STOP RIGHT THERE! I tell everyone I meet with a young pup of any breed, “What is cute as a puppy is horrid as an adult”. Chewing very much applies to this fact.
Now I am not saying to not pet your puppy, but do so in a manner that does not allow him to chew on your hands. If he tries and wiggles around in an attempt to get his mouth on you, tap his snout and tell him “NO” firmly. He may not get the point immediately but through patience, persistence, and consistency he will learn that this is an unwanted behavior. As I write this I have a 5 week old litter here beside me in the whelping box. As part of our daily socialization routine, my family and I spend time with each one, multiple times per day. We always hold each one in the manner which I have described above. I do pet their little heads and scratch them under the chin, and rub their little eyes and they have at times attempted to chew on our hands. However, we are already showing them that this is not an acceptable behavior and they are already starting to learn so for the most part, they no longer attempt to chew on my hands.
Now pups will also chew on other things or body parts, in fact, they will chew on anything. To back track slightly to a previous article, this is why I do not promote or advise anyone to allow a pup to run loose in the house. There are too many things that can harm or kill. Examples: A lamp cord plugged into the wall, the cord to the vacuum cleaner, or the plug for the television. These are just 3 of literally hundreds of examples I could list. Others may or may not involve electricity, but can be just as life threatening. It only takes a split second of your attention being diverted by a family member, the telephone, or a TV show for pup to get into something and end up dead or injured. I know this is being blunt, but the facts are there. If you do not believe me, go sit down with your vet and ask him to relate the stories of people and their puppies and what all has happened and what they got into. His stories will be an eye opener and I assure you that in the vast majority of the cases, the pups were running free in the home and the owner was not paying attention for at least that brief moment. When people tell me that the pup has chewed them out of house and home, that they have eaten holes in the sheetrock, destroyed furniture etc, I always ask why the pup was running free and unsupervised in the home. A responsible parent does not leave a small child that has started crawling or walking in a room unsupervised, so why do we allow a pup. For the same reason that you would not leave the child you should not leave the pup unsupervised or running free.
So what do you do about all this chewing? If you are following my guidelines on “Raising Pup”, then you are crate training the pup and also using your leash. Therefore when pup is out of the crate, pup is on a leash in the home. If he is off the leash it is during bonding times when we are giving pup 150% of our undivided attention. So pup is not free roaming in our home and is unable to get to all the hazards we have in our home. There are still things and body parts that are within reach of pup while on a leash and with you. If pup starts chewing on something, tap his nose and sternly tell him “NO”. If pup gets a mouth full of your pant leg, pry his mouth off and hold it shut with one hand while tapping his nose with the index finger of the other hand and firmly telling him “NO”. If pup grabs hold of the skirt of the couch, again, pry his mouth off and hold it shut while tapping his snout and telling him “NO”. Some pups will learn faster than others, it is just the laws of nature, but all pups will learn as long as you and every single member of your pack (family) are patient, persistent, and consistent in your corrections. You must be fair but firm. Doing this, pup learns that chewing is an unwanted behavior and he should not be doing this. Beyond this, try your best to always puppy proof the area where you and puppy are going to spend your time. Remember, with everything you do with your pup, always set pup up for success, not failure. By puppy proofing an area, we are taking precautions by eliminating things he can chew on, thus we are setting pup up for success.
If you insist that your dog must have a chew toy, then I recommend that you only allow pup to have one chew toy. Too many and pup gets confused because pup thinks everything is a chew toy and he will have trouble learning what he can chew on and what he cannot. Then, with only one chew toy, anytime pup is chewing on anything he is not supposed to chew on, pry his mouth off the item he is chewing on and place the one single chew toy in front of him. This way, he is able to learn that this is the only thing he can chew on.
Types of acceptable chew toys: While I only have one type/brand of chew toy that I deem acceptable, let me explain why the others are unacceptable.
Stuffed animals are never a good thing for a pup. Instead of chewing, they tear, rip, and destroy. How can pup differentiate between his stuffed animal and your child’s teddy bear, he cannot. The bits and pieces of stuffing, a pup can chew and swallow. While in small amounts, it may be harmless and pass right on through, but if pup eats enough of it, this stuffing material will ball up in the stomach and get lodged in the Duodenum, which is basically where the stomach empties into the small intestine. If this happens get your check book out so you can cover the cost of an expensive surgery that could have been prevented with a little common sense. Also, many times these stuffed animals can have fabric coated buttons or squeaky devices inside them that also can be swallowed and lead to surgery.
Tennis Balls and Retrieving Dummies also are not recommended items because here again, the pup can tear, rip, and destroy and these small pieces can be harmful. Remember, we are wanting something he can chew on, not destroy. Plus, we do not ever want to allow pup to chew on anything that we are going to be using for retrieving. It is in these cases that he will stop halfway back on a retrieve, lie down, and start devouring the ball or bumper.
Soft Rubber or Plastic Toys are not good either. Again, we do not want to provide pup with any toy that he can tear apart into pieces and swallow. If you get pup a toy that he is able to break pieces off of, then at the first sign of wear, throw it away and get a new one for the safety and well being of the pup.
Kong Toys are in my book, the only acceptable products on the market that I would consider my pup having as a chew toy. While they are somewhat a pliable rubber, they are still hard enough that it takes a long time for pup to damage the toy. Like I said earlier, at the first sign of a tear or rip, throw it away and get a new one. Kong toys are also available in different sizes so you can get one to match the age of the pup. While I have seen pups destroy one in a couple of months, with other pups, the same Kong toy might last a couple of years.
If you insist that pup is allowed to have a chew toy, then you must never do any retrieving with that chew toy. Doing so will only send mixed signals to the pup. Remember, set pup up for success, not failure. Do not train in what you have to train out later.
So you have determined that you are going to allow pup to have a Kong chew toy. Here are a few recommendations or guidelines I suggest you follow. First, we are the pack leaders in our home and pup is not ever allowed to have possessions. Everything belongs to us and pup can only have what we allow him to have and when we allow him to have it. This includes crates, beds, toys, food bowls, and even humans. Allowing a puppy to have possessions can lead to possessiveness which can lead to acts of aggression over these possessions. When we are teaching pup to sit, we have him sit at meal time with his bowl in front of him. He sees us or our family members, including children, place the food bowl down. He does not get to eat the food until we release him. I will take this a step further and in the middle of the meal, I will take or I will have other family members take the bowl of food right out from under him and make him sit again and wait. Then that same family member will place it back down and he can only return to eating when I release him. While to some this might seem mean, mean is not allowing him to finish at all. What I am teaching him is that it is my food bowl and I am allowing him to eat from it. This same principal should be applied with a chew toy. You have pup on leash beside you. You then take the chew toy and show it to him, maybe even allow him to sniff it briefly to get his attention, but he must remain at sit. You can continue to hold the toy and then place it down on the floor and have pup sit and wait. Then give the pup the release command “OK”, for him to play with his toy. Periodically take the toy from him or have a family member do this, and have pup sit. Again we are teaching pup that it is our chew toy. I also recommend that the chew toy not be left on the floor so pup can chew on it at his leisure. I prefer he only gets it when we have time to supervise him with it and then only for a limited period of time.
For me personally, I prefer not to give any chew toys to a puppy at all. There is no reason or justification anyone can give me that will change my mind. I want to prevent the development of the chewing habit and biting. This is not an acceptable behavior in my home. A dog putting his teeth on me is a sign of dominance and since I am the pack leader in my home, my dogs respect my leadership and never put their teeth on me even in play or they know they will be corrected for this and reminded of what their role or place within the pack is.
Teething, ok, I lied to you. There is one exception to my rule that I will allow a pup to have a chew toy, and that is when they are teething, loosing their baby teeth and cutting their adult teeth. For anyone that is a parent, we remember the sleepless days and nights when our children were cutting their teeth and how painful it was for them. To help we gave them these fluid filled rings that were frozen and they would put the cold objects in their mouth, which in turn numbed their gums and eased the pain. Do Not Give These Fluid Filled Rings To Your Pup! Instead, get a couple of the puppy size Kong toys and keep them in the freezer. Then during the time that pup is teething, I will put pup in his crate and give him one of the frozen Kong toys to chew on, but only for about 20 minutes, then I take it away and put it back in the freezer. Pup is only getting it on a limited scale, and I am controlling/owning the toy so he respects this and we never develop the possession aspect with him.
Teething typically begins around 3 months of age and may go on for a couple of months. The first teeth the pup will start to lose are his front teeth, followed by the side or back teeth. The last ones he will lose and the last adult teeth to grow in are the “Canine” teeth. These are the four fang teeth. Starting around 2 ½ months of age, start inspecting pups teeth on a weekly basis for signs of teething. Since teething is painful, some people recommend that you stop retrieving altogether during this time. My thoughts on this are as follows: If you have done a proper job of promoting in an informal manner, pups’ holding the bumper and not spitting it out when he returns to you from a retrieve, you want to watch for the any signs of him suddenly spitting the bumper out. If he has been doing well and then suddenly spits it out half way back or as soon as he gets back, it is my suggestion that you cease all retrieves until pup finishes teething. An alternative is to find as soft of a retrieving object that you can or a smaller object. Look at your local pet store for the miniature tennis balls. For most Boykin Spaniel Puppies, at the age in which they begin to teeth, these balls will fit in their mouth, inside their teeth, thus not causing any pain or discomfort. The puppy bumper from Lion Country Supply that I recommended in the “Early Puppy Retrieves” article is also good because it is so soft and pliable that pup experiences little to no discomfort. Just be cautious and do not let pup form the habit of spitting the bumper out or chewing on the bumper in an attempt to sooth the pain from teething.
In closing, chew toys are a personal choice that only you can make. I have given you my reasons and justifications for not using them. If you insist on using them, use common sense when doing so and do not use the chew toy as a means of baby sitting the pup while you run off and do something else. Even with the chew toy, puppies have short attention spans and will stop chewing and run off and get into something hazardous or urinate on the floor, making house breaking harder. An unsupervised puppy is an accident waiting to happen. The very first vet I ever worked for, Dr Charlie Thorn, would always tell me and others in the clinic that when dealing with dogs and cats, “if it can happen, it will happen” and on numerous occasions, I found that he was very correct and profound in this statement.
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