The Puppies Are Here....Part 4

Posted on Feb 20 2010 at 10:19:24 AM in Animals & Nature

Drop it is an absolute must for a dog. A solid "Drop It" will 1) save your Italian leather shoe and 2) maybe save puppy if he takes something unsafe into his mouth.

For the "Drop It" behaviour use a toy that puppy likes (not one that he goes absolutely nuts over, just one that he likes). Initiate play with this toy and when puppy has the toy in his mouth, waive a soft, stinky treat under his nose (I recommends Zukes). When puppy drops the toy, say "yes", give him the treat and then give him the toy and contine with play. Repeat at least 5 more times each day over the next few days. When you notice that puppy is beginning to drop the toy as you bring your hand forward to waive a treat under his nose, start to just put your hand out and when he drops the toy, say "yes" and treat from the other hand now and resume play.

Over the next few days add in "Drop It" (Give, Out, Drop are all fine, but be consistent use the same verbal every time) after you put your hand out, just as puppy is releasing the toy, then say "yes", treat from the other hand and continue play. When you are getting immediate release of the toy 5 times in a row, you can start to vary the treat delivery and being to wean off treats.

Do this by treating on the 1st and 3rd of a 5 request session, then the 2nd and 5th, 2nd and 3rd. Be very inconsistent with when you treat, during the weaning off exercise but still use "yes" for a correct behaviour and still continue with play. Will you have to play every time your dog drops it for the rest of his life, no, but then again why not. After all isn't that why you chose to have a dog in the first place, for companionship and fun and trust me even when a dog is 12 they still like to play. You should always say "yes" for the "Drop It" because you always want your dog to know that he did the right thing.

This may seem like a lot of work and you would be correct, a puppy in general is a lot of work but I strongly believe that front end load brings tremendous and consistent rear end results. If you and your dog enjoy a long, happy life time together without behavioural issues or worse the heartbreak of surrendering or rehoming your dog then the work is well worth it.

Walking puppies can be a challenge but again some initial effort at the beginning will bring results in spades. My first recommendation is a harness with 2 points of contact. This takes the pressure off of puppy's developing neck skelature and soft tissue which are easily damaged. I recommend harnesses for adult dogs as well for physical safety in avoiding damage to the neck resulting from a sudden lunge or pull by the dog and also to avoid a negative association when their air is cut off as they pull towards and unfamiliar dog, person or object. This is not to say that you can't use a buckle collar and leash, just be careful. Never, ever jerk or pop the leash for any reason, ever. 

I also avoid martingale collars, choke collars and absolutely pinch collars. 

So your pocket is full of soft, small, stinky treats, your puppy is on a harness with two points of contact and off you go. Gently talk to your puppy while walking, let him sniff (see the Sniffing article for training the sniff as a reward) and every time he even glances at you say "yes" and drop one of your treats at your feet. Then reward again when puppy comes back to you to get the treat.

I know what you're thinking, the puppy is coming back only to get the treat and you're probably right, though let's hope that he also likes to actually be near you and the point of this is you are increasing his desire to be near you by using the treats. If you are absolutely consistent with this technique your puppy will stay near you and not pull, he will be there because you have worked hard to create a wonderful, positive environment around you and a trusting relationship with your puppy and he wants to be near you.

If at any point your puppy actually pulls on the leash and he will, stop, just stop walking and stand there. Do not pop or jerk the leash, do not say anything to puppy, just stop and be silent. When he looks back to you, say "yes" and drop those treats at your feet, saying "yes" again and even giving a friendly pet to your puppy and then continue to walk. You've just rewarded your puppy verbally, physically with the treat and pet and then what he wanted most, to continue with the walk he got that as well, simply by coming back to you. Repeat this over and over and over again.

You may get in only two blocks on an hour walk at the beginning, but that's ok. You are creating a firm foundation for your relationship, puppy did get exercise and also got a mental work out trying to figure out what was getting him those treats. It's a win, win, win technique. 

Over time I would continue to reward my dog for staying with me with the one off treat, the "yes" and a pet or a good old sniff of the local watering hole (fire hydrant).

My last word today is on "Off". Dogs jump up. Dogs jump up and generally we don't like it. Do NOT knee your dog, even gently. You may unintentionally injure your dog, you will absolutely injure your relationship with your dog and kneeing doesn't work. Might work with the person doing the kneeing, but overall the dog will still jump on others, every new person they might or they could start biting every new person they meet, expecting to be kneed and wanting to avoid it.

So have every single person they meet use the "Off" technique without fail.  If even one person pets your dog while he is jumping up, your dog will have been rewarded for that behaviour and he will repeat it.  The dog's mentality on the subject is "hey it worked once, could work again".

"Off" works like this:

Person leans down to pet, puppy starts to jump, person immediately stands straight up and turns away from puppy while saying "off", then turns back when puppy's feet are back on the floor and repeats the attempt to pet the dog.  Practice this over and over again and do not let anyone who is not willing to help you teach this behaviour to your dog, pet the dog.  They are not doing you any favours and are doing you a real disservice.

For additional help to make your puppy successful, especially if they are persistent with the jumping up, is to leash puppy before your guests come to the door and stand on the leash.  It should not be choking puppy or pulling puppy to the floor, it should only be preventing him from jumping.  When the guests come in they can pet puppy with his four feet on the floor quite simply because he physically can't jump up.  You can also keep a small bowl of treats at the door (where puppy can't help himself) so that guests can also reward with a treat in addition to petting while four paws are on the floor.

The other option is for the person petting the dog to slide a thumb through the collar while petting, again preventing puppy from jumping while being petted.

Keep in mind though, the "off" technique should still be used after the front door greetings have been done, if after being released from the leash, puppy starts to jump on your guests again.

Join me tomorrow for a discussion on Socialization!

  Article Information
Author: Kirsten
Created: Feb 20 2010 at 10:19:24 AM
Updated: Feb 20 2010 at 10:19:24 AM
Language: English