Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Puppy training Coda

I briefly talked about some of the issues I had with Coda as a puppy and how I dealt with them so I didn't have to give her up. Once I figured out how to work with her attitude we rapidly developed a strong bond. I remember once taking her to the vet (which she didn't like ever since her spay at 6 months old) and she hopped up on the bench to hide behind me. My vet said 'you have an extremely good relationship with your dog and she trusts you a lot.' That made me feel very good about how I treated and trained Coda. It was definitely an uphill battle because she is very stubborn and strong-willed (my mom loves to tell me I got my come-upings because I was a handful in the same way as a kid). So I'm going to write about how Coda went from being a little piranha to an impressively trained dog (until Trigger entered the picture).

Coda was a product of all hard work with no treat training. I almost think I went the long way around the barn on this one but I'm not sure Coda would have taken to treat training to begin with. She is sort of picky about her treats so it could have failed. What I did find was that she is work/praise motivated (mostly work) and that is common for female dogs from what I've been told. I did a lot of playing with Coda in the house. For sit I would take a toy, give the command 'sit' as I would drag to toy over the top of her head causing her to lift her head backwards and her butt to go down. As soon as her butt hit the floor I would give her the toy and praise her like she just won the gold medal in the Olympics (it's OK to go a bit over the top with praise especially in the beginning). To teach 'lie down' I would employ the same principle with sit but in the opposite direction. I'd get her in the sit position and gently apply pressure to her shoulder blades as I dragged the toy on the floor away from her mouth. Sometimes it worked and other times I had to put one hand on her butt and use the other to place one paw down and then the other. One method I read in a book (Walter's who wrote 'Family Dog', 'Gun Dog', and 'Water Dog') was to take the leash under one foot while holding their butt down and create almost a pulley system to drag the dogs head to the floor. It's very uncomfortable and imposing for them but if they have demonstrated that they understand the command this may be a tactic that needs to be used. Teaching the command 'stay was trickier and requires a good level of patience which is something  I seem to lack. Keep it very short with puppies! Once Coda knew what sit was I would put her in that position and use a palm up hand to indicate 'stay' while saying the command. Then I would take 2 or 3 steps away while I told her to stay and using the signal. As soon as Coda looked like she was going to break I'd tell her to come and give her a ton of praise again. Gradually you can build up to leaving their sight and they will stay where you put them which is really cool! I use to take treats put Coda in a sit/stay and then go hide the treats in the house for her to search. This also taught her to use her nose, which I later discovered came in handy when we started Search and Rescue training. Next is the command 'come.' Some puppies have little problems with this command in a controlled setting however as soon as you change the scenery this command becomes obsolete which is very bad. I truly believe that come and wait are two commands I taught my dogs that have saved their lives. With come I started in the hallway in the house using the sit/stay commands. By doing it in a hallway, the puppy has nowhere to go but to you so high levels of success. Get low when you give the command and give big wide open arms. I call it the funky chicken. I would get low so they could see how excited I was to have them coming back to me and then I'd sort of hop and wave my arms while calling them to me. Works like a charm until you go off-leash outside. Then I employed the long leash and running away tactic which I'll talk about in the leash/off-leash blog later.

I know that a lot of people will read this any thing 'really, do I have to get that silly and stupid with the praise?' No you don't have to but it will make things easier down the road. Dogs unlike cats love our praise and attention. Have you ever seen your dog look up at you with that doggy grin and happy eyes? It's because they want to know they have your approval. There are many ways to train dogs and these are just the techniques I used. I will admit I think I did a lot of things the hard way but I do get a ton of compliments on how well behaved my dogs are on and off-leash so I couldn't have been too far off the mark.

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