Raising An Adventure Dog–Post 3 Obedience
A Strong Foundation
When venturing into the wilderness (or just out in public) with your dog, it is very important for them to be under your control at all times. Whether this is on lead or under voice command, your dog needs to be trained to listen to you and to behave in a certain manner. Training your dog also helps solidify your bond with them.
It is a privilege to be able to explore certain wild areas with our dogs and it is up to us to train our dogs and to practice Leave No Trace. This essentially means to leave the place you are visiting just as you found it. The Center For Outdoor Ethics is a wonderful resource for learning about our impact on wild lands and how you can help keep them looking untouched for future generations to enjoy.
Training Begins At Home
Before your puppy comes to your home, he/she received training (hopefully) from their mother. Mother dogs are fantastic about training their pups. If you ever get the opportunity to watch a mother and pups interact, it is an amazing thing to behold. If puppies are taken from their mothers too young, certain behavioral issues can occur. Once the pup is old enough to leave its mother and come into your home, training must continue there.
From day one you must set in place certain rules of the house for your pup to follow. There is no gray area with dogs so do not allow them to do something as a pup and then try to scold them for it later. Many behavioral issues are inadvertently created by us. If you do not want the dog on the couch do not let him/her on the couch. Period. Sometimes because the pup is under a good deal of stress those first few days we might feel bad for them and go easy on them with regard to training. Don’t. Be firm but fair, consistent and patient from the moment you bring pup into your home and you will have a much more enjoyable puppyhood all around.
As a former Obedience Instructor, it is my opinion that all puppies should attend some type of puppy class. Usually these classes–while covering some of the basic commands–are structured to provide puppies with important socialization skills with regard to people and other dogs. Play is an integral part of learning, and puppy classes incorporate playtimes into their training work. Even if you have other dogs at home, it is important to teach puppies how to interact with dogs and people that are new to them. This is called socialization. Read our previous post on this topic to learn more about the role socialization plays in your pup’s life.
Once your pup graduates from Puppy Class, the next step is a Basic Obedience course. This will expand upon the skills your puppy learned in puppy class, usually with less play and more focused work. For more advanced work (such as off-lead training) there are both Intermediate and Advanced level obedience classes as well. Most areas have local dog clubs that will offer these classes. If your area doesn’t have a local dog club, try your local animal shelter.
Freya Goes To Class
About a week after Freya came to live with us, I began searching for a local puppy class. Even though I am experienced at training dogs, the exposure to other puppies and people at this stage of Freya’s life was invaluable and something I wanted her to experience. Everywhere I called had no available slots until after the first of the year, when Freya would be old enough for Basic. Since she was exhibiting signs of shyness I wanted her in a puppy class as soon as possible. I lucked out and found a spot in a class about 45 minutes south of us.
We had a good mix of puppies, with both experienced and non-experienced owners. Because of Freya’s size the instructor was at first concerned that she might be too big to play with some of the puppies. I certainly didn’t want anyone to get hurt, and even though Freya wasn’t quite 4 months old, she was very close to 50 pounds already. We watched her closely and it was apparent after a few minutes of play, she was going to be fine with this group. A particularly spirited Brittany Spaniel really gave her a run for her money and the owner of a feisty Golden Retriever pup jokingly asked if I would be willing to trade puppies with her.
Freya practicing the Sit
Pro Tip: Get a treat bag to avoid holes being chewed into your favorite pair of pants!
Training Outside Of Class
It is important to work with your pup at home and out in public, not just for the hour that you show up to class each week. You have to put what you learn into practice outside of class in order to see results. The more you practice, the more your pup will retain. It only takes a few minutes each day to teach your puppy lessons that will last a lifetime.
Teaching your pup to sit before being fed or petted, to wait before jumping out of the car or crossing the street, to lie down quietly at an outdoor cafe while the humans enjoy a meal and most importantly to come to you when called are all quite easy to incorporate into our daily lives. Their attention spans are very short so shorter sessions are best when they are young. Every training session should be happy and upbeat, so that your puppy associates learning with fun.
Freya at a local cafe being a very good girl
Whether you realize it or not, you are training your puppy by how you interact with him/her every day. If you call your puppy to you to punish them, you are teaching them that coming to you is a negative experience. If you pick up your puppy and coo at them, love on them and give them affection when they jump on you as a small pup, you are teaching them to jump up, because they get all sorts of positive attention. This is a difficult thing for dogs to unlearn and a big complaint of dog owners once their puppies get bigger.
Training happens every day, so make sure what you are teaching your puppy now is what you want to be dealing with when they are an adult. Puppies are like little sponges and will soak up everything around them. Make sure they are soaking up the stuff you want them to learn and above all else, enjoy them. Put in the time and energy now and you will have an unforgettable bond that will last a lifetime.
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