Friday, December 3, 2010

On training Voltage

I thought I would write a few things about training puppies, my maniac in particular.  I will try not to make it too long, or maybe write it over a few posts.  Oh and by the way the photos I am posting is more awesome pics of spaz courtesy of Melissa Wilson.

Everyone has a system, I am ont JUST talking about a handling system, a training method etc.  I am talking about the complete package.  As a puppy you need to train your dog according to your handling system, using training methods you are comfortable with in a timeline that suits your lifestyle at the pace you and your dog is comfortable with.  With each new dog you get you will change or modify this system to compensate for previous shortcomings and mistakes or to improve yourself and your next dog.

I believe that your dog's entire life is a training session.  That is why for the first few months, my puppies are either constantly under my supervision or in their crate (this means a total of about 10 hours a day in a crate, but that includes night-time when they (hopefully) sleep).  This time is basically just spent hanging out, getting to know each other and convincing my puppy that I am the coolest thing in the world.  I get to shape little behaviours and teach basics, but mostly we play the game called 'life as a puppy'.

Oh hat... there I go rambling again... 
I like being systematic, so I devide the my own life as well as my dog's life into categories:

My criteria:

This depends on me.  I want my dogs to perform everything I teach them at full speed, with enthusiasm and some self control.  As a trainer I am the one who has to create the oppertunity for them to do this.  This 'rule' will always ensure that I put my dog's happiness and safety first.


These are the behaviours where all I need to do is channel and control my dogs instincts, whether it is to enhance that instinct or to supress it.  These are little, daily things, that my dogs need to learn to think about. like: 'I may only play with a toy if it has been presented to me, I cannot just pick things up at random', 'I have to have good manners and self control with other dogs and people, I cannot just launch myself into their faces', 'I cannot herd the cat/helicopters/my mom's feet/the car tyres/the swallows overhead, everytime I feel like it, 'Fetching means running after it AND bringing it back'.  These are the things that  neccesarily gets trained every day of your puppy's life, through living.


These are the things I consciously train my dogs.  I do believe there is a place for shaping as well as for repetition and conditioning training.  The ratio of this depends on your lifestyle, preferences and effort.  Sit, down and stand on command, proper jumping technique, house training, handling cues, tricks all fall into this category.

It is this last category I will have a quick word about, I am sure I will write about all three of these in the next months of Volt's puppyhood.

I never want to under- or overwhelm my puppies.  This includes both physical developement as well as training of behaviour (which includes environmental).  I do believe in teaching quite a few behaviours during the same time period, but two of these behaviours should not overlap too much as too confuse my dog (which will inevitably break rule 1).  I don't believe in doing 'too little' in a set time period, which will also hinder my dog's enthusiasm and probably bore me. Voltage is 13 weeks tomorrow, but he has only been with me for 10 days.  So in short here are the behaviours I am teaching Volt, the Maniac Sheltie atm:

1.  Sit
2.  Down
3.  Crate
4.  Release (which means stop whatever you are doing and come to me for a treat or a game)
5.  Look at me (on command)
6.  Be aware of me (this I am not teaching on command, it is more of a 'check in on me every once in a while')
7.  Targetting a 'platform target (ie a box/raised surface) with front feet AND back feet
8.  Loose lead walking.
9.  Tug and retrieve (although this is actually abstract for Volt, for some dogs it might require active training)
10.  Recall

These are the things I can think about that I am doing for right now.  Very few of these have any command to it yet, at the moment these are merly the behaviours I am marking.  A lot of people might disagree with me marking so many behaviours without a command, but my philosophy is that as long as he is offering the behaviours mentioned, there is no problem.   It differed with my other puppies, each has their own strengths and weaknesses which need to be considered.  I feel this is what is neccessary for Volt at the moment and not only is he excelling at this, but he is loving it.

In the near future I would like to teach Volt a ton of tricks, including, 'bang', the circus trick, lifting each paw, standing on his back legs, reverse and many more, but for now I am happy with our progress.
At the moment I am allowing short supervised periods of socialisation with the other boys and I have good news.  This afternoon I had all 5 dogs out and had the older boys doing synchronised tricks  and all of a sudden little Volt was offering me a down with some serious eye contact.  It was a good test, he definitely 'gets' it!

No comments:

Post a Comment