Puppy Training and Development: Part 2
Intro to Water
Through socialization it is important to introduce the pup to water and swimming at a young age. If you wait too long for this the dog might never reach their full potential in the water. This can be an easy process but can take a little bit of time until they’re fully swimming. Never throw the pup into the water because you believe in the “sink or swim” methodology. This will scare the dog and they will form a negative association with swimming. Don’t try to introduce water on a cold day or when the water is really cold. Ideally, you have access to a pond with a very gradual slope or even a shallow wading area you can stand in. To start, take the dog out on a walk through a field on a hot day. Once he is warm and feeling confident you should walk him toward the water and just walk in with him. If he hesitates, turn around and try to encourage him to wade out into the water. The
goal of the intro is to get his feet wet and if he swims then thats even better. When he wades in, throw a dummy or ball in the water but not so deep that he has to actually swim yet. Play and have fun in the water with the pup but don’t get deep enough to where he has to swim. If the intro went well, then leave and come back tomorrow. Slowly get deeper with each session and allow the pup to progress at his own pace. Before too long the pup will be swimming and retrieving in the water. If you’re having trouble you can bring other pups that will swim or bring an older dog that the pup will want to play with. Once you and the older dog(s) are in the water playing the pup will want to get in the water for the fun. If you’re really having a hard time you can try to use a clipped wing pigeon, or duck if the duck wont scare the pup, to try to get him to chase the bird into the water and catch the bird. Take your time with water introduction but for a well bred dog they have been bred with the desire to swim so it shouldn’t be an issue.
Keeping the Puppy in the House.
I like to keep my puppies in the house for many reasons. The main reason is that my hunting dogs are also part of my family. They need to learn at a young age that thee are certain things that are acceptable in the house and certain things that are not. Also I like to have my dogs in the house because is builds a handler to dog bond quickly. But having a high-energy puppy in the house can be a little overwhelming and messy. If you’re patient, consistent, and fair you will build an obedient and confident dog faster than one that lives in the kennel. In my opinion, we as hunters ask a lot of our dogs so why not let them enjoy a little nap at your feet while you’re watching tv with the rest of the family. A quick note about puppy toys; you need to limit your puppy’s number of and access to toys. Some toys can cause problems for what we’re trying to do. For example, a squeaky toy encourages biting down and, in turn, can cause hard mouth. If the pup has more toys that Petco then he might not become as excited about the training tools that he sees as toys. My dogs have Kong food toys and NylaBone chew toys. I limit access to Kong toys to only when in the kennel but the chew bones are always out. Certain toys can even cause harm to a puppy if not supervised so please do your research. The first step to brining a puppy into the house is teaching it that the house in not a bathroom. This is simple but, like anything else, takes a little time and patience. The rule that you’re trying to teach a puppy is that going to the bathroom inside, or on your patio, don’t get rewarded. Instead relieving themselves in whatever area you have chosen gets the pup treats, praise, and even play time. I keep my puppies in a kennel when I cannot watch them, and I know after an hour or two the puppy will need to go use the restroom. I recommend using a puppy crate or a crate with a partition limiting the amount of room the puppy has. If he has too much room he will just go to the bathroom in the corner of the kennel. It sounds gross, but when a puppy pees on themselves its a self correcting action. If the puppy is small enough, I will take him out of his kennel and carry him outside to the bathroom area. When he relieves himself, I give a treat and praise, but I continue to walk around that area because 9 times out of 10 he’s not done yet. I spend time with the puppy until he has gone number 2 and once he has I praise, give treats, and will even play fetch if the dog will bring it back. We then go back inside and I let the puppy hangout with me and play in the house for a little bit as another reward. After about 30 minutes to an hour (depending on age) I put the puppy back into the kennel and repeat the process a few hours later. If you do this right he will hurry up and go to the bathroom every time you take him out. I also use the cue “go potty”. The pup will eventually understand this word and when you’re in a hurry or about to leave on a long trip they know that they should go use the restroom. Now, the puppy will have an accident so just get ready. The right thing to do is to scoop the puppy up and calmly go out to the approved potty area and give him the cue “go potty” and reward when he does. Don’t scold, yell, or rub his nose in it. This will just make it to where he’s afraid to use the bathroom in front of you. Also, if you find the mess and didn’t catch the puppy doing it then just clean it up, stay calm, and move on. Once the puppy has had many positive repetitions and is starting to catch on then I will swat my puppy on the butt if I catch them in the act. But I only correct them IF I catch them in the act. The amount of time it takes to house break a dog depends on each dog and how consistent you are about letting the puppy out. Just stick with the plan described above and soon enough the puppy wont be soiling the house. If the puppy develops a chronic problem of soiling the kennel, put the dog food on the ground of the kennel for feeding. If the puppy pees then it’ll be a self correction and wont be able to eat. Only do this though if it becomes a major problem, don’t do this if the puppy has had a few accidents in the kennel because this will happen.
The first command I teach my puppies is “kennel”. Having a young puppy willingly walk into a kennel is a nice way to confine the puppy when you don’t have time to be watching your puppies every move. This will be the puppy’s quiet place and there will not be any direct corrections at this point in the kennel. We want the dog to enjoy the kennel and relax when its alone. I first start by teaching this with treats and a kong toy(s). I get the puppy’s attention with the treats and just throw the food into the back on the kennel, when he enters the kennel I say “kennel” and treat him again. I don’t shut the door for the first few times I do this. After he’s reliably going into the kennel with seeing treats thrown into the kennel I then will hold his collar, throw treats into the kennel, and restrain for half a second or a full second. Once I release the dog I say “kennel”. This strengthens the command by saying the word, the dog performs the action, and then gets rewarded. As long as the puppy is willing to stay in the kennel I will continue to feed him treats or his food. After he’s going in and out confidently I will close the door for a second, treat through the door, then open the door and treat again. When you have to put the dog in his kennel because you are leaving for work or just need him to be put up I’d recommend playing this treat tossing game and if its feeding time then give him his bowl of food. If its not feeding time, I give my dogs a chew bone or a kong full of food to keep them entertained. I keep the kennel by my bed or couch with a towel over the kennel when I’m sleeping for the first week or so when raising the puppy so I can hear if he whines, or starts to rustle around. When you hear him to start rusting around and he’s been kenneled for a few hours, wake up and do the potty training procedures. Ideally you are able to take the dog out to use the bathroom before he starts to whine. If the puppy starts to whine or bark and you know he doesn’t have to use the bathroom I will gently rock the kennel and say gently say “quiet” or “hush”. And when he settles down again I verbally praise and go back to sleep. The goal here is to have the puppy love the kennel and not bark or whine. Barking is a self rewarding activity so if you let the puppy bark and say “he’ll grow out of it”, unfortunately you’re wrong. The protocol for barking in the kennel is just tap on top of say “hush” to interrupt the action and praise or reward when he settles down. In the future if barking becomes a major issue I’ll permit a bark collar but only do this after the dog loves his kennel and is collar conditioned. A note about a Kong: I use a kong as a food puzzle toy to reward my dogs for being in a kennel. Instead of barking they’re chewing on the toy and being quiet. To fill a kong I don’t use the expensive squeeze filling or any of the fancy fillers you will find online. I simply fill it with the dogs food, put a bacon flavored treat in the middle, fill it with water, let it drain and then freeze it. Then when I want to give the dog his kong I just put a little peanut butter at the big opening to encourage chewing.
Next is to teach the dog basic house manners. The level of manners you decide to set now will last the lifetime of the dog and anything that seems “cute” at this time might not be so cute when he is 75 pounds, muddy, and decides to jump into bed with you. The main point for teaching house manners to a puppy is just preventing situations where he can get into trouble. Put the trash in a place where he cant get to it, hide your shoes and valuables, etc. An ounce of prevention at this stage will be much easier than trying to correct already learned and self rewarding bad habits in the future. At first we wont be correcting our puppies for anything because the puppy is never wrong! Instead, we will interrupt the undesired behavior and show the desired behavior. There are a few things you can do to make life easier for you and the pup around the house. Once the dog has had a little obedience you can teach the dog to not run through doorways until released with their name. Make them sit and slowly open the door, if they wait patiently you can say their name and let them go outside or inside. This will prevent any accidents when you and the dog try to squeeze through the door frame at the same time. When working on this you can teach “go outside”. This just means go to the back door and wait until let out. When the puppy has an undesirable item in their mouth and after you have calmly removed it, you can grab a bone and say “get your bone” as you give it to him. Over time you’ll be able to say “rufus, get your bone”, and he’ll go grab and chew on the bone. Its a very informal command that has nothing to do with hunting but it makes life a lot easier. In the back I’ll give a quick rundown on behavioral problems and how to fix them. Since the dog is in the house it gives you plenty of opportunities to teach obedience commands throughout the day without doing much extra work. We are going to make the pup work for everything. We think its work but for the pup its all fun games that equal treats and loving. One of my favorite times is right after our field work and before feeding time. Once I have fed my big dogs I get the puppy’s bowl full of his allotted amount of food and teach or review obedience commands. He sees the bowl of food, and you have a bounty of food rewards right on hand. This is where I teach almost all of my commands and then move them into the yard.
I have already explained how to teach “kennel” but heres how I teach the rest of the commands to a young dog. I start by teaching my puppies “sit”. I simply get down on one knee, push the bottom to the ground and say “sit” and once the butt has hit the ground I give them a treat. Simple! Don’t expect him to sit for too long but once his butt hits the ground, treat him, then say “okay” and let him get up. Do this a couple times but keep it short and keep your expectations low to start. If the puppy really fights you then the other way to teach him sit is zero force. Carry the bowl of food around with you but be watching him out of the corner of your eye. Eventually he will get tired and sit, and thats your chance! If he sits on his own immediately give him a reward or even a handful or rewards and praise. If he’s fighting you on “sit” then he’s strong willed and confused so if he offers the behavior on his own you should reward it! I like my dogs to sit on their own anytime they want something because its way better than jumping or nudging my hand. Also when the pup is learning “sit” and he comes up to you on the couch for petting, make him sit and then pet him. If you plan to run your dog on blinds in advanced training it is beneficial to introduce the whistle sit at this point in training. If the dog already knows sit just say, “sit” and blow the whistle once. When his butt hits the ground reward him. Do this “sit” then whistle combination a couple times. Then switch it up and blow the whistle once then say “sit” and reward when he sits. After a few days of this he should be sitting to the whistle by itself.
The attention span of a puppy is short but keep working at it and make sure not to over do it. Remember, the puppy is never wrong!