We are two weeks in with puppy Royal today, and are having a blast with him! This little guy is so fun and happy, and just loves to learn and play and interact with us. We are spending a lot of time just hanging out and playing and keeping that desire to interact strong.
Right now our training is focused on building cooperation in the things we will have to ask of him throughout life (getting his harness on, being crated, being picked up, grooming, etc.). The most important thing we can do for our puppies at this age is prepare them for "life with humans" and all the weird things that entails. As much as possible, we want his active participation and choice in these things. In times when I have to take choice away, such as picking him up when necessary (he's a tiny thing with developing joints so sometimes it is a fact of life for him right now), we give him fair warning with a cue telling him what to expect (we use "Coming Up" to tell him he will be lifted). This way life still is predictable for him, and therefore still feels safe.
One of the first foundations skills we have been working on is shaping him to put his head into a harness. Our first session is below, and while I have sloppy mechanics and even put the harness on upside down at one point, he is engaged and not shying away. I am presenting the harness for him to put his head through, not coming into his space and shoving it over his head.
We also have been working on shaping Royal to enter the crate on his own, and building good associations with being in it. Here Lowell is marking any time Royal orients or moves towards the crate in any way. He places the reward closer to and then inside of the crate AFTER Royal has made some effort to move towards it, even if slight at first. Royal receives reinforcement for remaining in the crate. He is free to leave if he wants, but then quickly chooses to move back towards the crate where good stuff happens. Getting him to love that crate and actively wanting to be in it makes building duration in it easy work.
The first skill that Royal is learning is hand targeting. This training started on his first day home, and is such an easy and useful behavior. I tell all my students that this is one of the most important thing I train. Hand targeting allows me to ask Royal to move or change position without the need of physical prompting or force. This can be a foundation for teaching a recall, loose leash walking, or position changes. I use this behavior frequently at the vet clinic and when grooming, and if I ever need to smoothly move my dog out of a situation.
This guy is so fun to train, and has already figured out that offering behaviors can result in good stuff. He has great stamina for such a young guy, and loves to learn!
Royal's new experiences this week included visiting a pet supply store and strip mall, meeting more new people, seeing different moving objects such as shopping carts, walkers, and kick scooters, passing dogs of different breeds and meeting two friendly Elkhounds owned by a friend, visiting a friend's house, and hearing shotgun fire. We have also been playing tug games while playing a variety of sounds using the Sound Proof Puppy app on our phone, in order to build good associations with obnoxious noises.
This week looks to be a hot one, so we'll be looking for cool ways to socialize the pup, plus it looks like we might have the chance to do some conditioning with actual thunderstorms in the next few days. Visiting family will give even more opportunity for meeting friendly people as well. These early weeks are lots of work, but so precious and fleeting - we are enjoying every moment of them and not taking it for granted!
Angela and Lowell, your friendly Harmony Dog Trainers!