In the past several weeks, I've started lessons with two new puppies and a 9 month old. Every one of them starts at the same place; learning to work for food. The first session that female GSD, Dahlia, arrived for was very short. She had eaten a meal earlier, was being fed more than she needed, and saw no reason to pay attention to her owner. Her world changed radically, and one week later I saw a very different puppy before me! This one was driving strongly into the owner's hand, eager to work with him. Her positions are being shaped with the food at this point; moving backwards, sit, down, spins. Even the beginning of moving from a front position to heel by a flip to backing. Of course, she doesn't know this is all foundation for her schutzhund career, she just knows she is having fun and earning food. Her owner is diligent in his homework, too, and in just several sessions she is doing all that in addition to learning to go to a perch/place and begin rear end awareness and in the last session we introduced her to a revier. By the time club training resumes in February what this 4 month old pup knows will rival some young adults.
The difference is in building the desire to work through a relationship with food. Another puppy that had a first lesson this week is meant to be a well-mannered pet, not a competition dog. Tucker is a nice looking 4 month old male German Shepherd, who entered the training building not caring about the other end of the leash. Despite calls of "Tucker, Tucker, Tucker".... he went where he wanted and was contained only because he was on leash. He didn't respond to his name. Fortunately, the owners listened to my instructions and Tucker was hungry. I guarantee that between that lesson and the next, Tucker is now earning his meals by recalls, hide and seek and with sit and down. In his first session, there was an immediate change from the pup who first entered the building to the one who left. The best part is watching the owners see that change.
The third dog is one I have in to evaluate for training and titling. Bella is a 9 month old female German Shepherd. If a dog does not have the same foundation, it can take a few days until they come to understand that there is no free lunch. Food is offered in my hand (her kibble, or sometimes a treat) and if she elects to go elsewhere, the session is over and too bad for her! The choice is hers, whether she eats or not. Sometimes this occurs when a dog has not had to work in hand, and is used to being fed in a dish that is put down with no rules, sometimes when they learn they can cruise the ground and pick up food for free instead, if a handler is not good with the food delivery. For the past few days, the attention has been hit and miss but tonight things clicked! She drove nicely-- even a little strongly!!-- into my hand and would follow the food for spins, sit and down and here. She did not fall out of attention for the entire session. I have introduced her to the between the legs position of training heel, ala Knut Fuchs, and she is not yet comfortable with that so for now I am leading her slightly forward in that position until she is good with the leg pressure and I can adjust her head position. We ended the session with the beginning of her vorhaus, or send-away, by sending her to the remainder of the food in her dish after the session. Next session will begin to introduce the perch/place. The break-through occurred on the fourth day since I got her. So, it takes some amount of patience and willingness to offer the food and let the dog make the decision instead of breaking out the correction collar and forcing it. In the end, you will have a much better working relationship. If the only reason your dog stays with you is because it is attached to a leash (leather OR electronic) you need to examine your methods. Also, from the first moment you start training, have a vision of what you want to accomplish and make sure the small steps along the way are building blocks toward that, and not in conflict.
Until next time, good training!
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