Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Puppy Recalls and Tug Training

PUPPY RECALLS:  Per the video below, it's easy to train a very young puppy to do a reliable recall.  I start with 10 Cheerios, wait until the dog is away, then call "Dogs Name, Come", while holding out the Cheerio where they can see it.  When they come to my extended hand, I give the treat.  Then, no more treats until they go away again.    At first they offer other behaviors, but quickly catch on they have to "go away" before you will call them back for a treat.

After this is working well, vary it up by extending an empty hand, eventually not even extending a hand.  Just call "Winston, come".  After they come, immediately reach for the cookie and give it.  They quickly learn to hang around for the treat without seeing a treat, or a hand.  After awhile, they learn to stay at your side while you walk over to get a treat somewhere else, like on top of the TV.

Vary the locations for this training, indoors, outdoors, from across the yard, from another room.  Eventually you just keep a pocketful of treats handy, and do a single recall, several times a day.  Maxie, my 3.5 year old Papillion, now routinely runs to the far side of our yard, sits looking at me, waiting to be called.  Sometimes I call.  Sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I treat.  Sometimes I don't.  It amazes me how much mileage I can get out of just the hope of getting a plain old Cheerio. A cheap treat, low cal, and dissolves down to nothing.

DESENSITIZING PUPPIES:  Working Recalls is a good time to also be desensitizing a puppy to being petted, fondled, squeezed, grabbed in various places, etc.  Papillons especially can become a bit skittish and snappy if not accustomed to lots of varied handling.  With proper training, they can be handed off to just about anyone, lunged at by children, poked and prodded, etc., without excessive fear.

Tugging is fun, bonding, and great conditioning exercise, especially good for developing strong neck, shoulder and back leg muscles, but it is also an important motivational tool in agility for getting the dog warmed up, revved up, focused on you, and ready to run a course with enthusiasm.  As much as possible, owners should encourage their puppies to tug. One very cheap tug toy for small dogs is a knee-high stocking.  You can buy a pack of 12 of these at Dollar General for just a few bucks, and each one lasts through several 5 minute sessions.  They tuck neatly into a pocket without any bulk, stretch far out, give good resistance, then recoil back to you when the dog lets go.  Here's Winston doing this exercise with me.  Notice how he loses interest when I let go, indicating he is really playing with ME, not with the toy, which is the case with most dogs.

NOTE:  I am partially taking these videos of Winston because I don't have any videos of Maxie at this age, and I want to track how Papillon's develop, when their feathers start filling out, how their features and markings change.  Thus the comments on Winston's tail, nose, ears, etc.  I am sorry to have missed Maxie's early development. I might have one old YouTube video of him playing with FoohFooh.  I'll look that up tomorrow.

Upwards and onward!

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