'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

16 July 2011


I said that by the time Angus was 12 weeks old he'd at least know SIT, COME, DOWN and STAY by voice, hand and whistle. He's actually a bit smarter than I anticipated and is progressing very nicely. Remember, at the time of this post he's 8 1/2 weeks old.

I started Angus on treats. Some trainers do and some don't. With retrievers treats are fine because by the time we progress into actual retrieving that will completely take the place of everything else.

First up was reinforcing his name. I use it whenever possible without overdoing it. I keep all our training sessions limited to just a few minutes. Anything more and I run the risk of convincing him he can ignore me without consequences because there are no consequences for failure or refusal at this stage. I call his name when he's active and involved without being actively occupied with something puppy. He now regularly acknowledges his name when he's called. Ok, it's now time to move on.

At this age Angus, and most puppies, are gastricly motivated. As soon as he figured out treats and that I could and would dispense them for certain behaviors the training took off at light speed. He sat at the breakfast table practically immediately. He has such a good disposition anyway that he just naturally sat while watching me. It was very simple to stand so he'd follow. I then called COME and sat again. He came running and as he sat I commanded SIT. As soon as his butt hit the floor I gave him a treat and praise. Within 2 or 3 repetitions he reliably came and sat on command.

That's all well and good but how about when we're away from the table? On to the next phase. I started springing COME and SIT on him at times when he was doing other things. At first he got a quizzical look on his face when I commanded COME. You could see his little gears turning. Then he'd light up and come running. As he got to me I commanded SIT. When he sat I took out a treat and gave him play and praise. At the same time I introduced hand commands and the whistle. The Hand command for COME is clapping and for SIT it's a pointed finger.
Take a look at how interested Angus is. That's a focused puppy.

This is our training whistle and he loves it. The whistle seems to really speak to dogs and Angus responded the first time he heard it. He came running and Daddy rewarded him with lots of love and play. There will come a time when as soon as he sees the whistle, dummies or leash he'll lose his mind with joy. Pavlov was short sighted.

Ok, let's set up the training. It takes place in the living room, where he's spent the most time and is very comfortable. It's filled with familiar things and smells that give him comfort and security. The training is limited to what I know he understands and there's no pressure or consequences. It's just fun and Angus picks up on that immediately. We're keeping the training light and happy with lots of treats and love.

Both done for a treat and sets the stage for a learning session. He's active, interested and feeling no pressure.

Let's try it with hand commands. COME is clapping hands. Note I am no longer bent over and offering a treat.

And SIT. You can see the pointed finger and his butt heading for the floor. No oral commands were given.

What a good dog! Time for some love.

Now for the whistle.
COME is a rolling trill. It's loud and a happy sound. Angus really responds.


And SIT. SIT is one sharp short blast.

I move away and have him follow, re-set and do it once more to be sure it's all set in his mind. Note that Angus is still sitting as I move off. We haven't worked STAY to any degree yet but he's showing good signs of understanding what to do.

COME. Look at his ears. He's responding with enthusiasm and happiness. This is all a big game and one he gets rewarded for doing well.

SIT. You can see my hand at my mouth trilling the SIT command. He sat with alacrity.

And we're done. I keep his training time very short, a minute or two only. It keeps his interest and enthusiasm up and trends to alleviate balking or refusing so there won't be any bad habits to break him of later. This way we can play and have fun while learning at the same time, the true purpose of preschool. Distances are limited to a few feet mostly because it is massively easy to distract a puppy at this age. "Yea, the whistle. Oh look at that leaf. Is it a Fun Thing? Do I need to attack it. I think I do. Joy!!"

Angus responds to love and affection. He feels secure and is developing both a strong bond and a deep trust in me. Both are critical for his long term development and happiness. He's never happier than when he's in Daddy's lap. This is impossible for a puppy who is getting inconsistent messages or too much training or discipline at such a young age. Puppyhood is a time for play, fun and learning to learn.

And now it's time for a nap.

We're starting on STAY and DOWN but both are a bit harder than SIT and COME. Angus has done DOWN a couple of times with some help but not reliably and we haven't tried STAY in training yet. Both will come but only as Angus seems ready to progress. Angus drives all the training at this point. When he's off he's off and I don't even try to force the issue. For now I am overjoyed with him, how smart he is and how eager he is to learn and perform. This little puppy will come and sit on voice, hand and whistle command.

Have I mentioned he's only 8 1/2 weeks old? What a Good Boy!!



Murphy's Law said...

Yay, Angus!

Sarge said...

Good job Angus,that's a lot to learn in such a short time. My dog is six and won't do what Angus does. I doubt that it has anything to do with the trainer.

So here we must consider the whole process and at least give a good job to the Six.

Six said...

Thanks ML.

Perish the thought Sarge. She's gonna fall in love with Angus when they meet, guaranteed.

Brigid said...

You've done a wonderful job with him. I can remember when Barkley was that young. He still tries to crawl in my lap though.

Six said...

Thanks Brigid. Labs are so affectionate. Trooper was the same way. I used to laugh about having an 80 pound lap dog.

innominatus said...

My teenage stepkids are still struggling with lessons your dog has learned in a week.

Cindy said...

What a smart little man! Good looks, brains and a sweet temperament, you can't ask for anything more. He is such a lucky boy.