Raising a sound working partner in a dog is not always easy. Should you teach your puppy handstands and spine-bending tricks? Should your puppy really meet a hundred new people a week? What kind of toy play should you encourage? What does your puppy really need to know, now?
While I don’t claim to have all the answers, and while most of the answers actually depend on the circumstance, I do have a pretty good system for puppy raising for sports. I divide the essentials into these categories: socialization, sport-prep, thinking games, and play.
There are more varied thoughts on this category than perhaps any other topic in dogs (and that is really saying something). When is comes to socializing your puppy it’s all about asking what *your* dog needs to tolerate and accept as an adult, and then systematically helping him feel comfortable with those things. My process is choice-based, and involves allowing pups to self-soothe in the presence of potentially scary or exciting stimuli. Here is a video of my puppy Felix learning that skateboarders are no big deal, he is three months of age here:
For puppies that are destined for sports it is important to focus their early training to what I call “sport prep” games. Motion beneath their feet, clanging metal sounds, going over, under, and through new objects, and many other sensations will need to be played with. These are just fun games that will help them learn “the real thing” later. Below, see Felix learning one of my favorite games to prepare him to learn the teeter totter later on in life.
Empowering your future sport partner to problem-solve is one of the best things you can do for her. In this class I will introduce you to two kinds of thinking games: dog-guided and trained. Some are clicker-trained tricks that help your dog to think through a training scenario, and others are void of human interference and allow the puppy to figure out how to get what she wants using her own body and brain. Below, you’ll see an example of the dog-guided type of games we will play:
Everybody knows it; play is vital to a successful performance career. Dogs that play are faster more willing participants. All puppies play naturally; learn how to foster that natural drive and build it into toys and other games to create effective reinforcers. Plus, just really let loose and have some fun! In the video, you’ll see Felix first learning how to play with me, with a toy.
My online course, Pupstart for Performance starts June 7th. Contact me to sign up!