Learn your name
This week I ‘got’ my puppy. Or rather, I kept my puppy. The 7th puppy Chris and I have had. My mum taught me that there are only two words a puppy needs to know: his name and ‘NO!’ These days we are a bit more progressive and try to focus on the positive behaviour we do want. So I want to teach him ‘Yes!’ rather than no, but the latter will inevitably be said as well!
When I have all the puppies, I do try using their names as much as possible, but if I call one, they all come! So as soon as I had just him, I started to make sure I called him.
I call out ‘Quin’ then when he looks, (or appears) I call ‘Quin come’ in a stupidly high-pitched voice. When he comes, I ‘draw him in’ with my hands, until he is sitting at my feet looking up at me. Then I say ‘yes!’ and give him a treat. I try to give him two tiny bits of treat, one from each hand. Jackpot!
Practice makes perfect
How often do you think I do this? Once a day? Every now and then? Possibly 10-20 times PER DAY. EVERY SINGLE DAY. The more I do it, the more likely he is to respond.
Is it OK to call him without treats? Er no. What I’m going for is developing a ‘Pavlovian response’. If I describe a pizza to you, with oozing cheese and juicy tomato sauce, on a crispy dough base, will your mouth start watering? Mine did! I have that response because I have eaten enough pizza to be able to imagine eating it again.
I want to create that response in my puppy. I want him to hear his name and imagine he is getting a treat! I need it to happen enough times that he makes that instant link. The more practice we do, the stronger his response to his name will be.
It’s no good just giving him a bit of his ordinary food for this. He needs sweeties! Not too big, he’s only a baby! Not to rich, or too sweet, too crumbly for you to manage. They must be easy to hold and feed. Personally, I use ‘Wagg’s Training Treats‘, because the dogs love them, they are easy to handle and they are cheap and easy to buy. You can also use cheese, or sausage, or liver cake, or bits of chicken, or any one of a million tasty bits of food, as long as they are safe for puppies.
I have also taught Quin to play with me this week, using a tuggy toy. I think I’ll talk more about that next week though. If you have a puppy and you practice recall 100 times this week, that is a good start!
I also want to mention that you do need time to spend with your puppy, away from distractions and especially away from other dogs. If you have other young dogs and they spend hours playing every day, that’s lovely. But you may then find the puppy is too tired to concentrate when you want to spend time training.
A puppy can only concentrate for 5 minutes, but you do need them to be alert enough to do that. So make sure they have some down time before you ask them to focus.
Finally, I just want to give some love for our older dogs, who may be struggling with the very annoying puppy! Aura has found this week hard, because she is so sweet that she hates telling off the puppy. Even when he is jumping in her face. This makes her stressed and miserable.
I’ve spent some time focusing on just her today, practising our agility moves, making a fuss of her and taking her away from the puppy, but with me. All of which have improved her mood no end.
It’s hard to know what age is ideal when introducing a second dog. Too young and they can become very focused on each other, which can make them harder to manage. Too old and they can feel miserable and neglected. Being aware of the issues helps, of course.
Weekly Focus Challenge
Call your puppy! Say ‘Name, come!’ in the same excited way. Practice keeping it consistent. Do NOT just say their name over and over again. Give them a chance to respond. If you had someone just repeating your name over and over again, you wouldn’t rush to respond. So try and stay calm and clear. When they get to you, say ‘Yes!’ and give them a treat. Then wait for them to wander off and do it again.
Buy the Workbook
The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.