Friday, July 12, 2013

Naughty Will Happen

If you watched Rundle's 14 week old video that I posted yesterday, you will have noticed that at the end of the video I left in a clip of Rundle being "naughty". I had left treats on the table and he jumped up to eat them. Bad me!  In situations like this, it is not fair to blame the puppy for doing something that is simply nothing more than puppy behaviour. That is why I put the clip in the video - to show that "oops" happen sometimes and how we deal with them is more important than what actually happened.  Rundle grabbed the treats and I gently moved him away so I could pick up the treats that were remaining. I did not punish, scold, hit or otherwise threaten a puppy that has not yet learned self control or that stealing food off the table is not allowed. It is my job to manage his environment so things like that do not happen and I failed.  It happened and I now need to be much more aware of where I leave treats and be more proactive in situations like this, such as asking Rundle for a sit when I notice him looking for treats on the table - a puppy can not sit and jump at the same time.

I am sure there are those who will be thinking "how will your puppy ever learn if you don't (insert punishment here) him"?  He will learn the same way that he has been learning the other self-control skills we have been working on - with time and practice and maturity. He already knows that he doesn't get his supper if he is jumping and twirling - supper only happens if your butt is sitting.  He will also learn that stealing food is not allowed if I am diligent about rewarding what I want. It will take time and patience but I will not use fear, punishment or intimidation to teach an innocent puppy basic manners (or anything for that matter).  We now have one more thing to add to Rundle's training list :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Growth, Getting Out and Learning

Rundle is now 14 weeks old and has been living with us for 6 full weeks.  He continues to be a fun, bright, inquisitive puppy.  He just squeaked past the 30 pound mark in weight and I imagine he is still the smallest of his littermates.  I weigh him every few days, not because I am worried about his weight, but because I like to monitor the rate he is growing at.  I like to see a slow, even growth of about 2-2.5 pounds a week (10 pounds per month) and being a raw fed puppy, calories are not as easily measured as if he was kibble fed.  So I weigh often and adjust food intake as needed.  Large breed puppies should be kept lean as a slower growth is much better for the development of their joints and soft tissues - when bone grows faster than the muscles and ligaments, this puts strain on joints and soft tissues.  As long as a puppy is provided with adequate nutrition, their final size is determined by genetics, not by how fast they grow. So, I aim for a lean puppy with a slow, even growth and as long as Rundle is healthy and active, I am not going to worry about how big he is compared to other puppies his age.

Now that Rundle is getting older, he is able to get out a lot more.  He now gets to come with me and his  big brother Bosley to Bosley's agility class.  It is a great place to meet other friendly dogs and people who love to help socialize puppies.  He is also going to start attending the agility foundation classes.  He is too young to participate, but he was invited out so he can learn to work with me in a distracting environment.  So we will go and work on puppy training at the agility field while the rest of the dogs are having class.  Rundle will also start Puppy Kindergarten in a couple weeks.  Again, another opportunity for him to learn that working for me is fun, even when there is the distraction of other puppies.  It will also be nice for him to play with other puppies his own age.  Puppies learn a lot from playing with other puppies.

This past weekend, Rundle had the big adventure of getting to hang out at an agility trial.  It was our local agility trial, so I brought Rundle out for a few hours each day.  He met lots of new people and a few new dogs.  He got exposed to the sights and sounds of a real agility trial (a variety of sizes and breeds of dogs, lots of barking, shouting, teeters banging) and he took it all in stride.  I don't think there was one thing that worried him and he was happy to meet all the new people.  One of the things that any performance dog must be comfortable with is being in a crate.  Much of the time for a dog at an agility/obedience/rally, etc trial is spent crated.  So Rundle got to play "get in your house" a lot when he was out this weekend and was rewarded  for staying quietly in his crate.

As for training,  I gradually add new behaviours and build on what Rundle already knows, in a way that I feel will be challenging for him but not overwhelming.  I have now combined the hand touches that Rundle has been doing since he was 8 weeks old with the recalls that he has also been doing since he came home.  We now practice him coming to the hand that I drop as I run away.  This is the very beginning of agility foundation work that will become the start of circle work and crosses (lead changes).  All complex behaviours that we teach our dogs (such as difficult agility moves or advanced obedience exercises) are all based in the basic foundations that we teach our puppies and young dogs.
Sometimes I teach Rundle things that I didn't really plan on teaching yet, just because it seemed to fit into what we were doing.  For example, Rundle learned a "get in" command (finding heel position).  I had not planned on teaching this for a while, but he was naturally moving into that position because of some of the other things we had been doing (leg weaves), so I decided to add the "get in" into our training.  So, I have a basic plan for training, but it is also a fluid plan that changes as required.

Here is another short video of what we have been working on:

Monday, July 1, 2013

13 Weeks

Rundle turned 13 weeks old on Saturday and over the past week I have noticed an increase in his energy level.  He is napping less and wanting to play more.  He is getting more and more enthusiastic about training and is getting more confident about offering behaviours.  I have also noted that he seems to have a high frustration level - meaning that he will keep trying without getting frustrated that he is not being rewarded.

This past week, I faded the clicker and hand lures on the behaviours that he knows well and have started random reinforcement on several behaviours.  I will still use the marker word "yes" or give him verbal praise when he does something correctly, but I am fading out the cookies on the things we have been working on for a while and that he is fairly solid on.  He has no problems working for several repetitions without a (food) reward (I always praise).

We continue to work on all the basic behaviours we have started - recalls, sit, down, stand, hand touches, etc., as these foundation behaviours will be needed in the more complex training we do later.  We also continue to do body awareness work (balance disc, peanut ball, pivots).  For fun this week, I decided to teach him to weave between my legs when walking - he thinks it is very fun but I might regret it later when he is much bigger than he is now :) We have also started adding duration to his sits and downs (the beginning of a stay) - I do this very slowly and right now I am adding a bit of lateral movement on my part, but not any distance yet.

Here is another little video of what we have been working on.  Rundle is a very bouncy puppy and you will see this a couple times in the video.  Bouncing is just ignored and it's not something I am really concerned about - puppies jump and bounce.  Rundle also seems to come from a family of enthusiastic bouncers - some may think it is it annoying but I find it fun and hopefully we can use his love for bouncing later in our training as I am considering putting that natural behaviour on cue once he is more mature.