Monday, November 23, 2009

Chapter 7: Puppy Kindergarten

I didn’t know what to expect from “school,” but when we arrived at the outdoor classroom, there were other puppies and humans to sniff and play with, I knew I was going to love it!

My teacher, Lisa, didn’t hold back and shared as much as she could with our humans.  Based on the type of collar that our humans had purchased for us (pinch or slip), she showed them how to properly put them on and use them, so we wouldn’t be hurt.

My hu-mom preferred the use of the pinch collar (based on the training she had received from Nick), but she did learn the proper way to use a slip collar (if she ever had need).

Lisa also shared about the “three voices” our humans should use when working with us: 

  1. First there was the low-pitched “correction” voice. She said this voice is used with authoritative and domineering (but not threatening) body language, with eye contact and no smile.
  2. Next, there is the pleased or neutral voice.  It is more high-pitched and enthusiastic.  It is accompanied with a smile and the body can be lower to the ground.  This is the “Good dog!” voice.
  3. The third voice is the “command” voice.  The voice is calm, confident and firm, and the body language is upright, not domineering, with eye contact.  This voice is one that makes statements and not a question voice.  For example, it is NOT “ssssiiiiiiitttt?????  it is a simple “sit”.  Period.

The last thing that Lisa shared before we got started with our “education”, was the importance of timing.  She explained to our humans that treating and praise must be immediate, following a positive response to a command.  She said that waiting any longer than a few seconds wouldn’t allow us to connect the treat/praise to the command. 

Now that our humans were armed with how to properly put on our collars and leashes, how to use their voice, and how to reward us in a timely manner, we were ready to start working together.

First on the list was the ‘sit” command.  Our humans were armed with treats and they were instructed to hold a treat near our nose, then move it up towards the top of our head, so that we naturally raised our heads and lowered our bottoms.  As soon as our bottoms hit the ground, our humans said, “sit” and rewarded us with the treat.  We did this over and over again until we “got it.”  If we “failed” to respond, Lisa showed our humans how to gently pull up and back on the leash to get us to respond.

Once we had the “sit” command we moved on to the “come” command.  Our humans would ask us to “sit” then take a step away from us, hold out a treat and say, “come.”  We were given the treat, and our humans were encouraged to greet us with much praise.

We did this over and over, with our humans taking more and more steps away from us as we became consistent with our response. 

Lisa said that the “come” command is very important and could save our lives, one day, so she encouraged our humans to practice this command often, and be sure they kept their voice happy (never frustrated or angry), and gave us lots of praise when we responded.

Lisa had us switch humans, so we could practice responding to other people…and so our humans could also learn how to work with puppies of other breeds.  She also would try to distract us with a toy, puppy, talking, etc., when our humans called us to “come”—she wanted to make sure that no matter what, we responded to our humans.

My hu-mom and I had great fun learning together, and as we learned “commands” together, it was wonderful knowing exactly what my hu-mom and hu-man meant when they talked to me.  I loved the treats and praise that I received whenever I responded appropriately to the “sit” and “come” commands.

Next week, the “stay” and “down” commands, along with puppy massage.

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