Puppy training has gotten off to a rough start. It's not been their fault. A lot has happened since we got the puppies. Wes got really sick. I completely neglected my training while Wes was sick. An e-mail from a friend today made me realize that I need to get back on track. I want to get these puppies Delta Certified when they turn 1. I have a lot of work to do.
I will be writing on this blog a lot more about their progress. I know a lot of people are not interested in training details, but this way my dog training friends can hold me accountable and give tips or critique my training to help me improve. I am not a professional dog trainer by any means. However, I have trained enough dogs to know what I am doing. I also grew up training my own horses to compete with. Horses and dogs are different, but the concept is the same. In order to be effective at training any animal, you have to have their respect, and you have to know how to speak their language. Communication is the key.
I am going to go off topic a little here and not focus on the puppies. I was speaking to one of my dog training friends today about a lady she is referring to me about how to train her Australian Cattle Dog. This will be the second person I have helped with specific Cattle Dog training. The concept here goes back to understanding animal behavior and being able to communicate effectively with them. The dog is not listening to her. He is doing what he wants to do. Positive reinforcement training is not working for them. The lady being referred to me is in a basic obedience class with her ACD. Until you have learned to effectively communicate with your cattle dog, and until you know the traits of the breed, an obedience class is not effective. A basic obedience class teaches basic, fit the mold, skills. I heard a dog trainer say to a client once that an Australian Cattle Dog would not make a therapy dog and that they were not allowed in her facility. Cattle dogs can be hard, but they are not bad dogs. I lost a lot of respect for that trainer when I heard that. You can't train every dog the same. A dog is not a car. A dog has a brain. You have to speak their language. You have to target whatever drive they have. Do they have a prey drive? Do they have a herding drive? Do they have the mentality of a retriever? Use those drives to your advantage. Pull out the best trait in each dog and fine tune it into how you want them to utilize it. I do so well with Topher because I understand him. He is my star child. Maybe because he was bred to work with livestock; I was raised training horses. Maybe it's in our blood. Maybe our brains are wired the same way. We are critical thinkers. We pay attention to details. We are a little unsure of others like us. We like to have a job. We are driven to do what we do. We have a strong bond with our Master and we look to Him for approval in all we do.
The puppies are a mix between border collie and labrador retriever. Bella looks more like a lab in shape of her face, but her temperment is slightly more characteristic of a border collie. Shiloh looks more like a border collie in her face, but her temperment is slightly more that of a lab. Bella is constantly thinking about something. If it moves, she is going to chase it. She is a problem solver. If she wants to do something, she is going to figure out how to do it. If she is bored, she is going to get in trouble. Shiloh is content being by your side. She will not find trouble, but will follow in suit. She is calmer and likes to follow instead of lead. She does not mind things that move. (The cats like her better.) Bella is more outgoing when it comes to learning new things. Shiloh is more outgoing when it comes to people. Shiloh is easy to predict. I am learning more and more everyday how to think like Bella. I am predicting her actions before she carries through with them.
Potty training: Shiloh has been a little harder to potty train than Bella. Part of that was that Shiloh has a urinary tract infection, but also Shiloh likes her safe spot. If I take the dogs outside, they know they have to go potty. Bella is good about it. Shiloh needs some coaxing. If not made to potty while outside, she will walk back inside and use her pee pad. A lot of trainers will frown on the use of pee pads because you are essentially teaching the dog to potty indoors. I agree with that in part, but I also think that if you reward the behavior of going outdoors then they will learn that's what they are supposed to do. Puppies are going to have accidents when they are young. If they are going to have an accident indoors, I would rather it be on a pad. I have been taking the puppies outdoors every hour when they are awake, after they wake up from a nap, and after they eat. Now that Shiloh is feeling better on antibiotics, we have only had one accident indoors today on a pee pad. Shiloh is letting me know when she has to go outside by going to the door. Bella has not learn to tell me yet, but she is also not having many accidents. Topher and Tanker are trained to ring a bell when they need to go outside. That is my next step in potty training with the puppies.
Names: The puppies are starting to learn their individual names better. Shiloh is better at looking at me when I say her name. Bella is more independent. I think she knows her name, but she is not going to look at me unless she wants to. Wes and I will start playing the name game with them. This is harder to do with four dogs, but I will crate the other dogs or lock them in a room while we work with each puppy individually. They have to know their names and more importantly, they have to know that they must look at me when I call their name. This is step one in training them to be therapy dogs. I am the master. When I ask for their attention, they have to give it to me. This may take a little more work with Bella, but it will happen.
Walking on a leash: Both puppies have become excellent at this. We use regular harnesses on them. They are not pulling with them. I am impressed at how well they are walking on a leash. As they get bigger, I may switch them over to a front attaching harness. We use front hook harnesses on Topher and Tanker when they work as therapy dogs. I think they give the handler more control than a regular harness. Not that our dogs need it too much, but they know to listen to our every word when the front pull harnesses are on. They know we're the ones in control. I am not a big fan of attaching the leash to a collar. Tanker has a stiff neck and I feel that it puts too much strain on the spine and the trachea. Although they are not pullers on the leash, I prefer to not use them.
The puppies are still acting like puppies. They play for a few hours and then sleep for a few hours. This goes on 24-hours a day. They are 14-weeks old now. They need to learn to sleep throughout the night. That means that we are starting serious crate training this week. When they are in the crates, they must sleep. I am sure this means we will have some sleepless nights for the first few nights, but in the end, we will have dogs who sleep all night long.
This week I am going to work on separating the puppies more. They are pretty attached to each other. I need them to be able to work independently. I am going to start walking each dog individually each morning. I then will spend time training them individually in the driveway. I am thinking a half an hour to an hour each. That should wear them out mentally and physically. Hopefully I will hold up for that long each day. It's my goal and I am going to work hard to achieve it.
I am going to work on "down" more with the puppies this week. I am going to work more on "bow" with Topher. I am having a difficult time teaching "bow" to him. He has gotten it once or twice, but the other times he ends up in a sit or a down. I am going to work harder on it this week.
I am going to start Tanker on "bow" this week as well.
Topher is looking to me more and more now that the puppies are here. I was very proud of him today. He and Shiloh were laying together. He had a rawhide, and then Shiloh took it from him. He stood up and started to curl his lip at her slightly. I said, "Topher, leave it" in a stern voice and Topher turned around and walked away. He came over and sat next to me. Topher likes to keep the puppies in line, but he is looking to me to do so. That is very much cattle dog behavior. It's neat to see his breed traits coming out more now that he has somewhat of an opportunity to use them. He keeps an eye on the puppies at all times and makes sure they are behaving. He is in charge of them and I am in charge of him. Australian Cattle Dogs are the best. When you find one that you are in tune with, it is the best dog-handler relationship you'll ever have.
About The Foster Zoo
- Lindsay, Wes, and The Zoo Crew
- We have decided to blog our adventures again. So much has changed since we last blogged. Bella and Shiloh both went to their forever homes and they are in wonderful families. June Bug got adopted. We quit fostering dogs after those adoptions because Tanker's epilepsy got bad. We quit doing therapy dog work because Tanker's epilepsy got bad. Tanker passed away June 9th, 2013. We adopted a senior border collie named Shania Tankerbelle in his memory. We still have our two cats, Sweet Pea and Little Bit. Wes has started rescuing pitiful bettas from Wal-Mart and we currently have seven. We have a camper. We camp. We have focused on giving our animals the best lives possible. We are The Foster Zoo Crew and we like to have fun.