Sure the post is belated. Maybe a lot. But it's here! Ok. As you may know, I recently took a new dog into my home. One that I hope will make a very fast runner. He is about six months old. His name is Miles (yeah, because he's going to run lots of miles. Clever, I know). I rescued him, before he hit the shelter, from a woman who simply didn't have time for him. The woman told me he is a Weimaraner Lab mix. He looks purely Weimaraner to me.
He had been with her for several months, so I assumed he would have some basic training under his collar. I was wrong. The day I got him was the first day he had ever been on a leash. He had no indoor manners and wasn't even 'potty trained'. Luckily he is a fast learner and took to my dog door very quickly and used the 'potty' outside from day one. Following the lead of my other three dogs probably had some influence on that.
The first order of business was to get him neutered and up to date on shots. While recovering from the surgery, he had lots of time to start learning his indoor manners. This is very simple training. Basically, he lived with my wife, my son, my three dogs, and me for about three weeks learning what he can and can't do. This mostly consists of where and when he eats, when he can and can't get on the furniture, when it is and isn't ok to ask to be petted, and other general house rules. I don't want to go into specifics of how all this goes, as it's fairly basic. I think most of you know how those first few weeks go. What I want to cover is out of the house training.
This began, for my puppy, with leash training and environmental confidence. These are also fairly basic things, but they are crucial yet often over looked steps in the training of a new puppy. What we did is go to a local park that doesn't see much traffic. It's a nice area beside a river with several different substrates to walk on and plenty of new sights and smells he had never before experienced. I put him on a six foot lead, attached to his collar for very basic on-leash experience. I did not make him do anything on lead. There was zero heel work or 'no pulling' work. This was his first day on a leash and he needed to get use to the sensation of being tethered around the neck. This is an unnatural sensation for a dog and one of the very first things they need to become acquainted with. This first step is especially important when you have a new dog that is more that a few months old and lacking in this experience.
We set out on a short walk (about two miles) and I simply let him explore. We stopped at any bush or tree that needed to be sniffed. This park was especially great, in that it has pavement, grass, gravel, and large rocks to walk on. It is very important for your new dog to experience as many new things as he can while he is as young as possible. On this walk first walk, let your dog do what a dog does. Sniff, mark, explore, and play. It is important in training a new dog to be patient. I can't express that fact enough. Too many things too fast, and a dog can become fearful. I am lucky in that Miles was very confident and took to all these new things very easily. With patience and understanding, I think any dog will learn just as fast.
We walked across all the different substrates, saw some wildlife, climbed on some rocks and picnic tables, and waded into the water. By the end of the walk, he was perfectly comfortable being on the leash. It was a perfect first step for him, and set him up for future success. This may not seem like a big productive training session, but trust me, it is. You have to lay the foundation before you build a house. Miles is primed and ready for his next training session which will include basic commands (sit, stay, come) and getting use to a retractable lead and a harness.
Miles will have his next learning adventure very soon and I will give a detailed account on how and why that training is performed. Remember that the first few steps have to be taken slowly, with plenty of patience, love, and understanding. Get these sessions right, and everything to come will be exponentially easier.
If you have any questions about basic training, specific behavior problems, or if you want to sign up for a class, email me at CanicrossUS@gmail.com