As a dog trainer I spend so much of my time working with older dogs that have developed problems. Nothing too major, these problems are usually things like jumping up, barking, running away, but this week I have been luck to be able to work with two wonderful litters of miniature poodles. Cherry and Napoleon’s litter are currently 9 weeks old. The other litter is from Annabell and Jed and they are only a week younger.
Baby puppies are sponges who are happy to soak up good and bad experiences and current animal behavior research states that what experiences a puppy gets between 6 weeks and 16 weeks of age are fundamental in forming their character and behavior as they age. It is at this time that the foundation for behaviors such as running away, barking incessantly or jumping up are created or avoided. As they are still babies it is also critical that any training done at this age is gentle and caring and based on positive reward methods.
These puppies are not fully vaccinated yet as it does take some time for vaccines to provide effective coverage, however they have the benefit of mum’s antibodies and the places they are taken to are carefully managed with regard to the animals and humans they are exposed to.
The basis of work that is important with puppies of this age is to get them used to new experiences, new surfaces, different animals, cars and car travel, and humans of all shapes and sizes. We work hard to make all these experiences positive and do not push a puppy faster than they are prepared to go.
A good example of this is when Helen arrived at our education and training center yesterday. Her two puppies are a boy and girl and they are 6 days younger than Cherry and Napoleon’s babies. All of these puppies and their respective parents have met a couple of times already but always at Helen and Shirley’s place. This is a familiar and comfortable environment for these pups, not so the outing to a new place. Both puppies were initially unsure about where they were so we opened the car carrier up, kept the other dogs back and settled down with a cup of coffee to wait for when both puppies felt comfortable enough to venture out. It didn’t take the girl long as she is the more outgoing of the two puppies however the boy was less certain and he had to stick his head out a few times and have a look before he ventured out. When he did come out to join us we greeted him with lots of cuddles and nice treats for being such a brave boy. Had he not ventured out at all that would have been OK as it was his way of saying this is just too much for me to handle right at the moment. If we had forced him out we may inadvertently had made him fearful of venturing into a new environment and set the foundation for long term issues.
|The boy taking time out away from the others
This little boy can be seen in the video below doing zoomies around the room as once he did come out and settle in with the others he had a ball. I swear he had a perpetual grin on his face from ear to ear all the time. He did however take a couple of time out breaks safely back in his car carrier as he remembered that this was all new and unfamiliar. But sure enough the fun and games enticed him out again and he once more joined in.
I started introductory clicker work with them getting them used to the sound of the clicker and that the click meant that a nice reward was coming, either a cuddle, a play with a toy or a food treat. They got used to following me around which is the introduction to both loose lead walking and coming when called. All of this of course was done off lead and with no coercion. If they chose to wander away and do something else they were allowed to.
We also had the small green dog agility tunnel out and seeded it with dog treats to see if they would venture inside this big strange scary place. Cherry and Napoleon’s puppies had no problem with this as they have got used to the idea that nice to eat “stuff” can be found in there. It’s how I know if they are peckish as they go to the tunnel and check it out. This is of course only when they are not relocating the tunnel to the other side of the room just for fun. I must get that on video it is such fun to watch. Annabell’s puppies did venture inside but not as far as the others but that was ok for today’s session.
We did shoot some fun video and took lots of new pictures all of which can be seen on our Youtube site
. After a couple of hours of play with a few sleep sessions all the pups were taken home for their dinner and sleep and we were confident that we had achieved another very positive step in the ongoing puppy pre-school training of these delightful puppies. But the fact that I got to sit on the floor with 5 fluffy puppies and Cherry and Napoleon giving me hugs and kisses was a total bonus.