Shepherd's Way

Midsummer EveMidsummer Litter: Week One

A new litter of puppies presents a fantastic opportunity for a professional dog trainer... raw potential, waiting to be shaped and cultivated, willing to serve as props. So, in this week one update, I decided to use Belle's puppies as guinea pigs (metaphorically only, despite their uncanny resemblance to actual guinea pigs) in a review of puppy appropriate exercises.

All good training must respect the abilities of the student. One week old puppies are deaf and blind, they lack the strength and coordination to walk and play, their days consist largely of eating, sleeping, and growing. That does not mean that you must sit idly by, however, there is much that can be practiced...

Carpe Diem!

Settle on a mat

Puppies need to learn that they don't always get to tear around, there are times when their job is to settle and relax. Notice how Tarot is laying quietly, body relaxed, head down, eyes closed... OK, her eyes are closed all the time right now, and she can't hold her head up for long. Nevertheless, we can take advantage of this by associating this behavior with her mat.

Down stay

Juno demonstrates a nice "down stay". We have not put this on cue yet - since she can not see or hear - but as with all training, the first step is getting the behavior you want. She nailed it!

As you can see, she is outside on the grass, which raises an important point: once your pup has mastered a particular behavior in one location (say, the kitchen), practice it in other settings so that they can learn to generalize.

Leave It

Teaching "leave it" -- leave or ignore some object you do not want them to have -- helps develop your puppy's self control. It can also provide a basis for silly pet tricks like balancing a treat on his nose, but that is generally an advanced skill. Mia was doing so well with her training, however, that we were able to move right into ignoring the treat on her head.

Four on the floor

While Dave might not mind Litha hurling her little body at him now, in just a few short months that behavior would be quite a nuisance. So, he is wisely teaching "four on the floor" -- ie, no jumping -- by rewarding her only when she has all four feet on the ground. It is not necessary for the pup to have tummy and chin on the ground as well, Litha was just testing the limits of this rule.

Waiting at doorways

It is very important to control your pup's behavior at doorways -- dogs that bolt through doorways are out of control and can get into trouble.

Rune would like to be outside in the sunshine, but he is learning to wait for permission before going through the open door. Good boy, Rune!

Food bowl manners

Obviously Hanwi enjoys her meals... as she grows, this love of food could lead her to "guard" her food bowl. We don't want that to happen. So, to prevent that, we will make a point of working with her at mealtimes -- adding special treats to her bowl while she eats, feeding her some of her meals by hand, and generally doing everything we can to make her LIKE having people approach her food dish.

Last but not least, my favorite photo from the week: