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Puppy diary, volume 8. training update
by, 29-06-2014 at 07:09 (1889 Views)
I thought it was time for a training update, I'll tell you what I've been teaching the pup so far and my methods. This is my first dog trained myself, so I'm by no means an expert.
Poppy is doing fine now after her illness last week. It broke my heart to see her when I got home laid out like a rug barely lifting her head when I came through the door. I ended up having to coax her to drink by cupping water in my hands, but by later that night she'd perked up a bit and by the time we took her back to the vet the following day she was back to normal.
In terms of training, Poppy is coming on, I think, really well. House training is almost complete, bar one or two occasional accidents. To be honest we've trained this with prevention rather than cure. We never trained her to newspaper and overnight she's been in a cage, so she's never been in the habit of going in the house, I think it confuses the dog. We just let her out as ssoon as she comes out of the cage in the morning, whenever she's eaten, when she's been having a crazy play and when she wakes up from sleep. For the first week this was really easy as the wife and I were both off work so she was never unsupervised. When she toilets in the garden she gets praised, and we use cue words to get her associated. Whenever she has had a mishap inside I've ignored her and just cleaned it up. When she was smaller I'd scoop her up and run her outside if I caught her in the act. Now I give her a "No! Outside!" which stops her for long enough for me to run to the door, where she invariably charges after me. Mostly now, she'll go to the door when she needs outside and wait. The only problem is she seldom whines or barks so if nobody sees her waiting she'll sometimes wee on the doormat in desperation.
Other basics are coming on really well. Again I taught her pretty much all this with reinforcement, ignoring the mistakes and praising/rewarding with a treat when she gets it right. The first thing I ever taught her was to come to the whistle, on her very first day at home. I wore the whistle round my neck constantly, and every time she looked at me I'd encourage her to come by moving around excitedly. As soon as she started running at me I'd blow my chosen signal on the whistle and then praise and play with her. Also, from her very first feed I'd get it ready when she was in another room, blow.the whistle and "hey Presto!" Every time the pup comes to the whistle she either gets playtime or food. After a few days I stopped being able to.whistle her for her food, as she now recognises the noise of the container I keep it in, and appears like a shadow as soon as she hears it. I now just do little reinforcing exercises at random, whistling her to me and then giving her fuss/games/treat.
Next up after a day or two I introduced the sit. The old trick of holding up the food bowl didn't work with this pup, she'd just back away so she could see instead of sitting down to look up. So it became a waiting game. I'd stand there with the food, stock still while she jumped, whined, barked and whatever else, then eventually out of frustration she'd flop down on her arse. As soon as her backside was dropping I'd hold my hand up and say "sit", then feed her the instant it touched the floor. After a couple of days she'd sit on command for treats, toys and fuss. Then I started back at feeding time using the whistle and hand signal. She got the idea straight away, and will now sit to hand, voice or whistle.
Next I introduced steady/stay. Again, I started at feeding time, making her sit back from where I normally put her bowl by one or two paces. I said "stay" and held her in place at arms length and put the bowl down at the opposite arms length. She struggled free, so I picked up the bowl before she got there. Two more tries and she stopped struggling, so I clicked my fingers as a release trigger while she was moving to the bowl. Then as with everything else I introduced the same idea with toys and treats, and using a whistle as a release signal. I've also managed to do away with the command, just using my finger to point at the spot where I want her to stay. She'll sometimes sneak, and won't stay if I'm out of sight for more than a second, but she's getting better and she's only a pup after all.
The best thing now is seeing how keenly she follows commands. She's so keen to please. I also love seeing her work things out in her little brain the first time I introduce something, or look at me for approval when she knows she's done right.
The next thing I need to teach her is proper lead manners. My biggest problem is she always wants to carry a loop of the lead in her gob. Makes it impossible to control her without starting a tug of war which she then sees as a game
Anyway thanks for reading if you've got this far. I hope it might be of interest, especially to any other dog novices who are wondering where to start. I have to say, this far it's been easier than I anticipated, I've got a quick learner here for sure. She's much smarter than my parents' show/pet lab puppies that I'm used to from my childhood. Half of what she does I'm sure she's actually taught me, not the other way around!