12 weeks!

August 14, 2009

Summit is now 12 weeks old and we have accomplished so much.  I have not had a puppy since Riot who is now 5 1/2 and back then I didn’t put much thought into the foundation training that I now know is so important.  So in other words, this is the first puppy that I have actually trained a good foundation with.

Summit has more and more energy each day but has learnt to relax and sleep in his crate between training sessions and our daily outings.  Here is a quick run down of all the things we have been working on for the past 3 weeks:

Socialization:  When creating a good pet and a great agility dog it is important to me that Summit is happy to be around different people, dogs and many different environments.  We are sticking to our 50 new men, women and children each week.  Daily trips to the pet store, hardware store (great to meet men, for him of course :)) and local playgrounds are a big part of his training plan.  We have been to the airport 4 times to work on recalls, tugging and crate games.  We have walked down town, in the river valley and had many training sessions beside the highway (leash on of course!)  An important attribute to any pet or performance dog is that they are not fearfull of any person, place or thing.  It is important to be aware of any fears or apprehensions your pup has and deal with them asap.

Tugging:  Next on our priority list is tug drive.  Developing both food and toy rewards is extremely important for a performance dog.  Tugging naturally raises the dogs level of arousal and gets their heart going.  Have you ever seen a dog who tugs like mad anytime, anywhere yet runs slowly on the agility field?  Likewise how many blazing fast dogs do you see that hate to tug?  Not only is it important to build intense drive for the tug, but also that the puppy will tug on anything you present to them.  Summit has a bit of a stubborn streak so for most of his first couple weeks we worked on tugging on more boring toys then as a reward he got to play with his favorites.  Similarly he would throw a temper tantrum if he could smell the kibbles in my hand and would refuse to tug.  This was a bit of an issue to work through but he is now happy to tug on any toy, even if I accidentally drop a cookie on the ground.  I did not want to start any foundation training that involved food until we had really good tug drive so that I would not run into a situation where I had to fight with him about the tugging.

Release: our next focus was teaching the release.  Summit seems to have extremely good verbal discrimination and learned his release word very quickly.  I teach the release with Susan Garrett’s sit-tug-sit game.  The first step was to teach Summit that when I take the toy away he needs to offer me a sit, next we added  bit of a distraction by lowering the toy over his head, if he broke the sit I would quickly hide the toy then try again.  When he could hold position with the toy above him I said “break” and he jumped up for the toy.  After a couple session of this I faded the lure of the toy and said “break” and when he broke I would then present the toy as his reward.  Make sure to be still with your body, the release word should be purely a verbal cue.  Even now he takes it very literal and actually “breaks” up into the air…

Recalls:  We are trying to keep up with our goal of 20 restrained recalls a day, but some days we don’t have a holder.  Recalls are so important for building drive, motivation and a great recall.

The fun stuff:  I really enjoy training the more exciting skills like start lines, circle work, hand targets, etc.  It is very easy to teach all the skills that will lay a foundation for a good agility dog.  The hardest part is building great intensity and drive into each and every skill/behavior you teach the dog and this has been my major focus.  Teaching a sit stay is a very simple exercise for a puppy, but more important than distractions and duration is the attitude your puppy portrays when you leave them in a sit.  My biggest goal with Summit is to build in as much attitude and intensity into each individual behavior I teach him and not move forward until I am happy with his level of desire.  Again this goes back to building that great desire for toys and food as a reward before moving onto the fancy stuff, sometimes hard to do but it pays off in the long run.

At 12 weeks old here is what we know so far:

-release word

-sit on cue and hold position: good duration, I can move about 40′ away from him, and I can throw a toy back behind him without any foot movement then release him to it.

Tug drive – on any toy and with distraction like cookies or people he really wants to go see

Recalls – great drive on his recalls and have not yet rehearsed not coming when called

Crate Games – sits at back, drives out and in with great speed

Circle work – his circles are as good as Preston and Riots already, we can do outside, inside, front crosses, 360 spins, you name it!

Its yer choice – we wont take cookies off the ground off jump for our toy unless told “get it”

Hand targets – they are killer!  Hand is almost on ground and he pushes hard with distractions and multiples

Perch work, 4 feet in a box, backing up, wobble bards and stability disks are coming along

Table – drives on, hits the deck and wont budge!

Our priority is now on retrieving….this is our biggest challenge yet 🙂

Stay tuned for a video sometime soon!

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2 Responses to “12 weeks!”

  1. Katie said

    Wow! So great to hear about how much you are already able to do with Summit! Can’t wait to see more videos, I’m really looking forward to learning about raising an agility puppy by following you guys, please keep up the posts.

  2. Dee Dee said

    I own a German Shorthaired Pointer named Merry-Belle. I have enjoyed this article greatly. My GSP loves to tug on her toys and although she growls when we play “tug”, there is no aggression intended. She will release when told to release and she is squarely focused with intensity. The one thing I haven’t had time to work on with her is public socialization. GSP’s are known for being very protective, but I’d love Merry-Belle to love all people and wish I had more time to devote to taking her every where I possibly can….but alas, time is an issue.

    Any suggestions?

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