Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On (Sheltie) Puppies

Dog training has come a very long way in the last 4 years... which is the last time I had a puppy.  To be honest some things have really stayed the same and some have changed.  I have been on leave for two days and needless to say I am spending almost all of it with the dogs.  Here are some thoughts:

1.  Puppy teeth are still as sharp as they were 19 years ago (when I got my first one).  It doesn't matter how few of their teeth are left in their mouth or how far they are into teething.  PUPPY TEETH ARE SHARP.  Puncture wounds are inevitable.

2.  Apparently my Sheltie puppy reads my mind and knows that I have wanted to rip out the carpets in the bedrooms for years.  He is offering his assistance.

3.  Clickers are the best thing since toasted bread.  How else can you teach good and bad (accidental) habits with one repition.

4.  If your dog understands clicker training, your other dogs are bound to go ballistic when you click three miles away for another dog.

5.  Under no circumstances leave your full height dogwalk up and your unsupervised Sheltie puppy outside, even if it is just for 30 seconds.  Apparently mine loves heights and that is an awesome vantage point.

6.  Puppies love being muddy.

7.  A breeder that does good socialisation is worth gold.  It is SO nice to have a puppy without issues.  I love Chaos and Quake, but they had so many issues to begin with that Volt has been breeze.

8.  Puppies love shoes, but only your favourite pairs.

9.  Sheltie puppies are small.  They fit under the retaining wall.  I don't.

10.  Puppies tire you out.  BADLY.

Recently I had a chat to a friend about flyball training.  I haven't done flyball in 7 years, so I really don't keep up to date with the training methods, but this friend told me about one method where they stick an X on the box with masking tape or something and teach the dogs to target onto the X to get a nice box turn...  Sooooo, it occured to me that I could use this concept to teach my dogs some cool tricks.  So this morning, I duct-taped (in South Africa we fix EVERYTHING with duct tape... oh wait that is universal) onto an old plank I had in the garage.  High Voltage the Maniac Sheltie (I think that should have been his registered name), got it one shot... and as always at full speed.  So I thought no probs, the other dogs will get this one quickly.  Erm, WRONG!  All of them tried to do a two-on-two-off on the plank... Training fail!  I say this because A.  No target was down  B.  No 'touch' command was given C.  The plank does not remotely resemble any training tool I have ever used for contact training.  Now you can argue that They are offering the first behaviour that comes into their minds, BUT my dogs are not like that.  They always try and figure out what they can possibly do for the click.  This time they refused, just kept stopping TOTO... Soooo obviously even though they all have brilliant contacts, they are not connecting that behaviour solely to contacts.  Good or bad???

Anyhow, Chaos was awesome today as always...  Quake's poles sped up 123.39% within 24 hours, but with that dog, we will have to wait and see what tomorrow brings, he never fails to surprise.  Delta has a very large repertoire of tricks and it occured to me for the first time ever today to teach him how to heel, lol, you can say it, I am a JACKASS!  Echo... well can anyone tell me how to convince a 13 year old (massive) BC with an arthritic back that he CANNOT do full height jumps, the dogwalk, poles and A-Frame?  Note to self, make sure all Agility equipment is packed away/hidden/dis-assembled/invisible before taking him outside...  Volt does everything at full-speed, I am doing everything in my power to keep that up!  He targets in various shapes and fashions, downs, sits, kind-of-heels, retrieves, tugs, waits, recalls (well mostly always), gives paw, is starting to play dead, reverses... but mostly we (yes me and him) stick to the whole running around the garden like hooligans and rolling around in the grass together thing...  Neighbours still think I am insane, but quite frankly they should only start worrying when I start doing it naked...
If all the dogs (yes all FIVE of them) are this tired, can you imagine what I feel like?

Finally, a happy tired Sheltie puppy after a long day hanging out with me.


  1. Alett

    I came upon your blog by accident, but enjoyed it very much. I have a 12-year old Sheltie named Angus, who it my heart's delight. BUT his barking drives me - and my neighbours - crazy. We have done what we could, but he barked the day we bought him and 12 years later, he still barks incessantly. Is this a trait of the Shetland Sheepdog? He really is not too well anymore and one of these days I will have to start looking for a new pet. My first choice will always be another Sheltie, but if they all bark like Angus, I risk being stoned by the neighbours.... Regards Zannie Böhme

  2. Hey Zannie,

    They are known to be a barky breed, but only when something is happening. Since I was aware of this when I got Volt, I immediately started working on it. I would reward him every time he was quiet and looking at me and ignore all barking or yapping. Another alternative which may trainers use, is teaching a bark command. So when the dog barks naturally, you add a command and reward. Once the dog understands a bark command, you can start teaching a quiet command. While Volt still barks when people arrive at our gate or if noisy children are in the vicinity (we don't have kids), he is generally quiet. It is a problem that has to be dealt with when they are young, as it is instinctual and gets harder to solve once they get older. I am sure a dog trainer close to you would be able to give good advice.