The first month with Flippa has, of course, mostly been about bonding, cozying up, getting to know each other and finding good routines for everyday life. I have also carefully studied her to understand who she is and how she works – it is, after all, a very fun time when discovering and new individual. It is so easy to get caught up in thoughts like “I should not do this or that with my next dog” (if you have had several dogs) but instead, you should STUDY your new puppy carefully. What challenged you with your last dog may not even be a case with your new one. You should of course learn by your mistakes – and also by good things you have done – but as I said; give your new puppy an honest chance by trying to understand it.
Except getting to know each other and building a relationship, I train her for everyday life and upcoming hunting adventures. I do a few playful exercises, for example, when I wait for the pasta water to boil, when the dogs get their food or when I’m walking the dogs in the garden. I do small things – it’s very much about creating good habits. I tried to list what I really started to do or train during her first month and came up with this:
- Wait for her turn (otherwise there will be chaos with four dogs)
- Come to me with objects (do not run away in another direction …)
- The hand target to eventually be able to deliver all objects in my hand and not drop them half a meter away
- “Create games” and the word “free” (she gets her food in her crate, which she now loves and uses as a sleeping place during daytime). In Sweden it is against the law to keep dogs in a crate with a shut door, so it has to be open.
- Be in the car both when I’m driving and when it is parked
- Getting used to be at home without me
- Play tug
- Reversed luring
- Her name
- “Get it” (to the food bowl)
- Find treats in the grass (together with me)
- Sit and relax with me when other things happen around
- Seeking out my left side means treats
- Getting used to retrieve game
- Get acquainted with water
It has turned out that Flippa has an incredible ability to concentrate and great endurance which of course poses a great risk to me – it is very easy to train too much and for too long. I either set a clock for one minute or put 5 – 10 treats in my hand and when they are finished, I take a break. Sometimes I of course do longer sessions, they use to be between 3 and 12 minutes.
In my everyday life I always work with being Flippa’s safety and her best choice. I offer her my lap or to be between my legs in case something is scary. I always want my dogs to be come to me if they are scared – which is why I also protect them from scary things. If, for example, another dog comes running and barking towards us, I discourage the dog and put myself in between, etc.
I confirm her eye contact by looking back and talking to her and sometime by giving her a treat. When we are outdoors, my ambition is to reward almost every time she spontaneously comes to me, or just looks at me. The fun happens all around me all the time.
But the most important thing of all during Flippa’s first month has been that I’ve studied her carefully. Who is she? I have some themes in mind when I look at her:
- Curiosity and courage: How does she rule the world?
- Biddability and willingness to follow me: Is she aware of and wants to follow me?
- Interest in objects: Does she like to pick up an d carry stuff?
- Rewards: What rewards does she like?
- Handling: What does she think I handle her?
- Ability to relax: Does she have an on/off switch or does it need to be installed?
- Noise: What does the she do when she gets upset? Does she bark or whine a lot, and if so, in what situations?
It’s so easy to just go on and train things that you think are fun or important – maybe because you failed with something important with your last dog. But the thing is that each puppy is her own individual. Of course, some things are important to teach the dog regardless, but others can be more important for my puppy – something that I do not want or very much want. An example with Flippa was that when we were playing, she happily ran and picked up everything I rolled or threw away, took it, ran towards me and then turned off at an even higher speed and ran past me … That is a completely wrong thought and I simply do not want that with my puppy. I want her to come to me with whatever she has taken. So, then I started playing with her and serving good treats between my legs when she returned (first without objects then with them). She learned that quickly, and of course she got a reward expectation (eating) so she began to spit things out some distance away from me. It will be the next thing to fix, but the first thing is, of course, that she happily comes back to me, the second I’m going to fix with a hand target and reversed luring in due course.
To be continued!
For those of you who have a puppy and want to train with me, check out our online puppy classes