Chaos Crew

Chaos Crew

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Giving Your Puppy a Great Start.

I am writing this as part of Blog Action Day on "Starting Your Puppy". My last post was about Envy turning 1 year old, so I have just gone through a year of getting her started.

There are so many things to address with a new puppy, it's impossible to come up with a definitive list. Add to that the extra training you want to do for puppies that are destined for agility and it seems like an overwhelming task.

Don't compare your progress to someone else's progress as no two dogs are the same, and no two trainers are going to have the same plan.

Here are a few of the training tasks I undertook with Envy in no particular order:

Crate Training - agility dogs will need to spend time in a crate, and do it without complaining. Also, unless you are planning to watch your puppy 100% of the time, having a crate will give you piece of mind when you have to leave the house, or go to bed, or just need a break from crazy puppy time. You can watch 'Crate Games' or just logically make a crate a happy place - feed them in the crate, make it a safe place, and never a punishment place.

Toys / Tug - get your puppy interested in toys and especially tugging with you early on. It will help bring a bond, and teach puppy that life is more fun when interacting with you. Make it a game of keep-away, but let them get it plenty of times too. Use their prey drive and drag it along the ground and get them to attack it. Play with plenty of different toys too - you don't want them to only want to play with just one toy.

Leave Them Wanting More - puppies' attention spans are short, so don't let them be the one to end any game you play with them. You want to be the one to end it and leave them wanting to play more. This will help build a good work ethic and focus on you.

Tricks - teaching tricks is great for both the puppy and the owner. It teaches the puppy to be more inquisitive with their environment and more adventurous. It also teaches you patience. There are 100's of tricks you can train, and endless resources out there, including youtube. As they say, it teaches your puppy how to learn.

Chase Game - its a good idea early on to get your puppy to chase you. This can be a fun game and brings out their natural drive. You want your dog to run after you when they see you run. You can introduce a 'ready.... ready... GO' with this game too.

Bond - to have a successful agility dog, you need a good bond with them. They should want to be doing whatever you are doing - be the most interesting thing in their lives. This is a lot of work! You really dont want your other dogs to be occupying the majority of your puppies' time. Some of the other tips I am giving help to build a good strong bond with your dog. I live on 40 acres and think nothing of letting my dogs out with me off-leash. None of them want to leave and go exploring - they are always within about 100 feet of me waiting to see what we might be doing next.

Hand Feeding - early on, take advantage of your dog's desire to eat and hand feed them. Its a perfect time to do a little training, and shows them that good things come from you.

Explore Places and Surfaces - take your puppy to many different places and explore! You want them to walk on sand, grass, rocks, leaves, concrete, hardwood floors, metal grates, etc. etc. Get them use to seeing new places. Climb a hill, go down into a pit, go in a forest. Whatever you can think of - expose them to it!

Noises - you want your puppy confident no matter what noises are present in their environment. It can help if your breeder exposed your puppy to a variety of noises before you got them, but definitely let them hear all the loud and weird sounds of the world. You can take treats with you when you go places, and when you hear a weird sound, give puppy a treat. For example, go to Lowes and you might hear a loud saw, a beeping forklift, moving doors, trucks, etc.

Things that move - agility dogs will need to be comfortable on the teeter. To start that, you want your puppy to be OK with things that move under their feet. Wobble boards are great for this, as are the exercise balls and 'peanuts' or a skateboard. Put them on many things that can move and let them get comfortable with it.

Other dogs - my puppy doesnt have to be friends with all the other dogs out there, but I want them confident enough that they are not afraid of other dogs. Find out from friends if they have dogs that 'love puppies' and spend some time with them. Not all dogs like puppies, and you dont want to have a bad experience at a young age, so do this with care in a controlled environment. Usually puppies of the same age and size will get along well.

Other People - my breed of choice, the Border Collie, is not a real 'people dog' and as such, I make sure to introduce my puppy to as many different people as I can. Here it's important to carry treats with you so that you can give some to strangers to feed to your puppy. You want puppy to think that all people are great. Try to get a variety of people too - men, women, big people with big hats, little screamy kids, black and white, etc. My dog Rip did not get enough socializing with people before I got him and as such he is not at all confident around strangers.

Eating Near Other Dogs - we have too many dogs to have any of them be food aggressive. Early on, puppy needs to learn that they can eat right next to another dog and that the other dog will not steal their food. There is to be no growling or guarding allowed. I can be hand feeding Envy a piece of raw chicken, and any other dog can be licking up the juices that might fall to the floor while she is eating and she does not care. This is VERY important to avoid fights within the pack!

Leash walking - unless you like to be dragged around, teach your puppy how to walk nicely on a leash while they are still tiny!

Take Tons of Pictures - they grow so fast, you need to take pictures all the time. Posed and candid. You dont want to have them reach a year old and wish you took more puppy pictures!

Introduce Water / Baths - at some point, puppy is going to need a bath. Also, as an agility dog, its nice to have them enjoy water because it can get them nice and cool during a hot outdoor trial. My Rip dog hates water - thinks its a punishment. I made sure to introduce Envy to water as something fun.

Brushing - some dogs like to be brushed and some dont. Make sure puppy gets brushed enough times so they know its OK and not something to worry about.

Nail Trimming - same thing goes for nail trimming - since this will need to happen periodically, introduce them to it early.

Picking Her Up - teach puppy that it's fun to get picked up. Again, treats will be your friend here. You want your dog comfortable with you picking them up and carrying them a bit.

I could probably go on with 20 more things very easily, but that is a good list to get a puppy started. I have the advantage of working from home, so can spend a lot more time throughout the day with them than someone who has to be away for work all day.


Helen King said...

Some very excellent advice!

Greg S said...

Thanks Helen!

Incredibolt said...

Awesome list & some great advice! I started teaching a puppy class in the fall and have seen the dogs grow from 2 months to just over 7 months. What a journey to be on with these handlers.
And I agree, there's so many things to do with young dogs, it's hard to make a concise list. Great job :)

To Dog With Love said...

Great list for any puppy owner, whether they plan to do agility or not!
Diane and Rocco

Wendy Ryan said...

Great stuff! I have looked over most of these puppy blogs today and yours is the MOST HELPFUL. I am a veterinarian who trains, and am looking for a good set of "instructions" to put into a Puppy Welcome Kit for clients. Yours covers everything to get a well socialized puppy!!! I have many clients who have no idea how important it is to get their puppy "out and about" and how to start handling exercises,(nail triming, etc.) So, thanks a lot!!!

Greg S said...

Thanks! Wendy, you are welcome to use my list of items to help out new puppy owners. We are all better off when the dogs out there are are good canine citizens!

Karen Beattie said...

I like your point that dogs need to be able to eat while other dogs are around. Resource guarding can be a real problem once you get close to that crowded agility ring. They also need to get used to sharing their special person too as there will be lots of dogs coming into their space and interacting with you.