Saturday, December 08, 2012

14 weeks - Training

Here I am catching up on 3 weeks of posts now that I finally have my external hard drive. I compiled some videos of the work we did during this week with 3 main components: targets, handling, and paw placement.

Targets: It's nice to teach a dog how to touch a target because then you can use that target to shape bigger behaviours that you want. For example, when I was teaching Summit to retrieve I actually first rewarded him for touching the toy. So you could put your target on top of a toy and ask your dog to touch it. Once he has the hang of that you can make the target smaller, or place it under the toy, or eliminate it altogether, depending on your dog. Targets are also great in the beginning stages of agility to teach a dog to stop on the contact obstacles. You can use targets to help teach "go to" or heeling. The possibilities are endless.

Handling: It is so important for any dog to learn to accept being handled. This will make your life as an owner easier. It will make your groomer's life easier if you have the type of dog who needs frequent grooming. And it will make your vet's life easier... which in turn makes your dog's life better through early detection of diseases. Trust me. As a vet there is nothing more frustrating than trying to examine a dog that cannot be touched. If you start with a puppy you have a great opportunity to avoid problems. If you adopt an older dog, don't worry, it's never too late to start. Pick a time when your dog or puppy is just chilling. You don't want to try doing this with a dog that is wound up. So play fetch, go for a long walk, have a playdate with some other dogs, then wait until your dog is taking it easy. Just start touching her feet, her nails, lift up her lip, check her ears, rub her all over. Give her a treat periodically, or frequently if you have a nervous/timid dog. Don't push your dog past her limits. So don't jump right to trying to trim her nails. Just touch a couple of toes gently, give a treat and then move on. The next day try putting a little pressure on the toes with your fingers. And so on. Give lots of rewards and slowly work your way up.

Paw placement: The last segment shows us working on paw placement. This is a precursor to pivots. It's also great for teaching body awareness and for encouraging a dog to put its feet up on strange objects. I chose a dog bowl turned upside down. I also have some bricks I've been using. Interestingly I found that she seemed to have a very good sense of where her feet were... and she diligently stepped AROUND the bowl. I definitely find her worse with her hind feet, that will be coming up at 15 weeks when we started that. Once she got the idea with her front feet there have been no problems and she tries to put her front paws up on anything I put on the floor now. In the beginning I almost had to put her feet on the bowl for her sometimes, but generally you can manage to just lure them. If you're having trouble try a bigger object so they can't step around it as easily!

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