The Retrieve with Bags and Shadow: The Foundation – Building a Bond
By: Michael Baggetta
The first time you pick up your puppy the relationship between you and your dog has begun. From this point on, you have begun training your dog. It is important to know that a dog’s brain is completely developed by 16 weeks. In the first eight to ten weeks, you will have the greatest opportunity to establish the groundwork for all your puppy’s training. Building this bond will allow your dog to trust you and eventually lead to the motivation for him or her to please you (I will talk about motivating factors later). You and your dog are on the same team and like any team, you are working with each other. In order for the dog to want to be on your tea, they must trust and respect you.
In my second article, I talked briefly about “pressure on, pressure off.” This term will be used throughout the training. It’s very simple really, when you pick up your puppy he will start to struggle and want to be put down. It is important you do not give in. You will apply gradual pressure to him until he submits. Once he remains still for longer than five seconds, you can put him down. He has earned it. While your puppy’s brain is still developing, you are going to want to do the “pressure on, pressure off” drill multiple times throughout the day. As we go through the training you will learn to use other methods of “pressure on, pressure off.” This technique is used in many training tools and multiple training scenarios.
A great way to continue the “pressure on, pressure off” drill throughout the day ispairing it with doing multiple checks of your puppy’s eyes, feet, ears and mouth. You want your puppy to get comfortable (this is a lifelong lesson) with you examining and checking them. While holding your puppy, simply grab his paw and rub it. If he tries to to pull away apply some pressure (not to hurt him) just until he relaxes. Go back to rubbing his paw and continue this with all four paws. It is important that your dog gets use to his paws getting examined because there may be times in the field (also when trimming your dog’s nails) where you will need to look at their feet. Anytime you examine their feet, you should also look in both ears, open his mouth and examine his eyes.
Another daily routine with your young pup should be walks off the lead, in a safe area with your whistle (items you will need for training will come later in my series). A good walk for a young puppy should be around 100 yards and repeated about three times a day. The walk does not have to last a very long time. During these walks let your puppy be a puppy. Let him sniff around, just walk slowly and he should follow naturally. If he stops to investigate, keep walking slowly, as he finds himself alone he will run after you. As your pup comesrunning for you, give him the ‘come’ command and blow your whistle three short times.The voice command ‘come’ along with three short whistles will be used to command your pup to come early and throughout the training process (you are now taught your first command). When he approaches, if he sits on his own, recognize it and say sit along with one short blow of the whistle (this indicates the sit whistle). When each one of these commands are performed with the puppy make sure you give him positive and over exaggerated praise.
Knowing the first few weeks are very important in the development of your dog, youmust understand there will be a few do’s and don’ts that you need to follow. I will go over them in upcoming articles. One, Staying consistent with everything you do from the your daily routine, expectations around the house, especially early on, will be one of the most important things as you begin to train your pup. Two, keep training sessions short. Three, make everything fun for your puppy (let them be a puppy). Make sure you do not use heavy handed discipline early on. It is also important you understand that while I put a timeline on some of the training phases, this is only a gage and it does not mean you have to stay on the exact schedule. Being patient will be very vital to your success. Remember there is always a great training opportunity with young dogs, no matter the situation.
You’ll know your puppy and when he is ready to move on to the next stage. Remember what it is you are trying to accomplish. Just like humans, dogs learn and develop at different stages in their lives.
Until next time – Keep the retrieve alive!