Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Puppy training...CONTROL

When you are walking along with 2 border collie puppies, people take notice :) When they find out you have 4 others, well..after the look of "dear lord you are INSANE" wears off...I get the same questions.....

People are always asking me what I am doing with the puppies, crate games, baby jumps, jump bumps, shadow handling etc?....how I raise them...

I have to admit, with Zip I taught her all sorts of tricks and controlled a lot of her life, what she played with, who she socialized with etc etc etc......raised her according to the "nothing in life is free" idea etc etc.

And I thought I had it all figured out...until I attended my first clinic with Jack and Kathy Knox...and before I sent Zip on her first outrun at the clinic, I laid her down..rather...MADE her lie down and Kathy pointed out that it was causing tension in her...Zip was ready to fight before we even started the outrun. Kathy told me to let her get up and position herself where she wanted to be....Zip relaxed, and she softened and did an amazing outrun...

I watched Jack and Kathy with her dogs, they were off leash, got along with everyone, loved working sheep, but knew their limits...they had great recalls and didn't spend all day herding other dogs etc. These dogs didn't have crate games, obedience etc etc etc put on them from the get go---they were allowed to be dogs and be relaxed--with some basic rules. And the older dogs taught them the rules. It was a turning point for me and a great day for Zip, because I stopped wanting that CONTROL. I wanted the partnership...the trust...which I got with Zip after that weekend :)

However the control freak in me still remained...it came back again to bite me, this need for control, with Klink, she was a hard dog to start, VERY hard, correction meant nothing to her on stock, JUST HAD TO WORK. I wanted her to obey, I wanted that control. And instead of relaxing and looking for, what Ray Hunt would say is the "smallest change and the slightest try" I wanted EVERYTHING. Again I had great people to point out to me that the control I wanted would never come until I LET GO. And it happened, Klink became an amazing dog, but she always was, it was my need to control things...all me.

And then came Gator...and I had learned from Zip and Klink to RELAX and LET GO. I didn't really start him on stock until he was 15 months old, he wasn't ready, and the control freak in me was OK with it?? What?? NO WAY...yes :) I didn't do anything in agility with him---ANYTHING, until he was 10 months old...he still debuted at 18 months in USDAA and was a Grand Prix semi-finalist at the USDAA Nationals at not even 2 years old! I didn't push him, I just trained him and things came along :) What a MUCH nicer way to train a dog...relaxing, letting things happen--letting go of all the control. Letting them be a puppy, a teenager, get gangly legs, LONG tails, lose teeth etc etc. They are adults for so much longer :)

So...do my puppies know 37 tricks and all that jazz??

NOPE---they know sit, down, their recall command, lining up at heel and side and LOTS of tugging and bonding. LOTS.

They like their crates, x-pens etc...and are quiet most of the time :)

They are learning how to with the rest of the pack, how to submit to the elders and how to play NICELY with their bigger brother and little brother (aka don't kill the Jack Russell!). They go on daily hikes with all the adult dogs--running and playing and doing what puppies do! And yes, Even and Lynn go together on these hikes! YIKES!!!! :)

They will recall in a group of dogs, recall off each other, tug like crazy everywhere I take them, and are getting socialized. I am not taking them to a MILLION places. I take them here and there, let them soak it all up and just RELAX...

And they learn to relax, and have an off switch...as I type this both puppies are asleep on their beds in their x-pens :)

I think controlling and shaping every single behavior in a puppy is not something I am interested in. Fine if you are, just not my cup of tea. They are just dogs 95% of the time, and trial animals the other part...they are puppies for such a short period of time....I want them to be puppies. I want them to make decisions, and be wrong (and LEARN wrong is not the end of the world) I want them to know that a recall has NO option other than to come to me...and there are lots of positive things in life.

But there are also rules--they have to learn about correction, that is life, working stock requires us to correct the wrong and reward the right (by giving the dog his/her sheep). And I think a correction in agility is not the end of the world either.

Not to say that obedience is not needed, and my dogs do learn crate games, obedience, impulse control etc etc......but just not as soon as I get them home...but even at 6 months they may not know crate games! And that is ok :)

My puppy being able to do a perfect heel at 10 weeks is the least of my concerns. There are so many things that are more important to me than that. Do I care if they sit in their kennel until released at this point in their lives? Nope...call me crazy, but no, I really don't care.

I want them to be independent, and a bit head strong--there is plenty of time to work on impulse control and obedience. I am raising a herding dog first and foremost afterall! I want something that WANTS to run 600 yards away from me to find sheep and if the going gets rough, be able to think for itself and handle the situation!

They do spend a lot of time with me, I want that relationship and I want them to be bonded to me, which both puppies are:) Given the opportunity to play with me versus each other, I win! WOO HOO!

But I am relaxed about it, I have let go of my need to control every reinforcement, every interaction, every command...and just sit and soak up every silly, loud, dirty, crazy moment of puppyhood.

So when you see my puppies at trials, they will be jumping on you, licking your face and being obnoxious...and yes, that is OK with me :)

16 comments:

Sarah said...

is it bad that my ADULT dogs jump on people, lick thier faces and are obnixious, and is it bad that Kaleb is doing this at 7? gyp still is allowed to give gyppie hugs and if people don;t like it they just ask her to get off - i figure its better than her being afraid (which she was).

hmmm perhaps I should do some crate games. LOL

i like your philosophy.

An English Shepherd said...

nice post, yes dogs should have fun :-)

Barbara said...

I absolutely loved this post.

Louanne said...

quoting Ray Hunt very cool

stickitbc said...

Jinx is wishing that i would have done this with him:))) As i am wishing that too!!!!!!!!!! GOOD thinking:)))

Robin French said...

Okay, what is a crate game? Seriously, i keep hearing that phrase and i don't have a clue.

fulltiltbcs said...

It is a training method by Susan Garrett that teaches self control etc etc. Many agility people use it.

Here is a description on the DVD from a place that sells it.

http://www.agilityclick.com/prod157.htm

BCxFour said...

Excellent! Thank you for posting this!

manymuddypaws said...

your post was great- I agree with a lot of the things you wrote. It seems that we put so much pressure on our pups, and ourselves!!!

When I got Pixel I was SO worried to do it wrong, I tried to do it all. I have since relaxed and she has spent most of her puppy hood doing puppy things- jumping up, playing with dogs, playing with people, learning rules and training- BUT it is a game we play. Training is not her whole life.

Again- great post. I think more people need to have this attitude.

sheepkelpie said...

I concur. I think pups should know the basics, but then, they need to learn a lot on their own- and to think for themselves. That way, when they are sent for sheep and the sheep don't do what's expected- they can figure it out.

Jerry said...

Loretta, an excellent post! You so eloquently put in to words what I firmly believe in!

fulltiltbcs said...

Thanks everyone for the positive feedback :) I just hate seeing everyone rushing to get their dogs out trialing as fast as they can, and missing out on the real fun of training these animals!

As a side note, I do think Susan Garett's crate games are very good, but it is the question I get asked ALL of the time...so it is in there as an example :)

Nancy Gagliardi Little said...

Loretta,
This blog was fantastic. I can't tell you how important this topic is to any dog (Border Collies and non Border Collie) in performance training. I see this issue time and time again with experienced dog trainers that over do the self control and training in puppies. There are SO many things that you can work on in their living environment that doesn't involve equipment or livestock that will give you MAJOR payback in both those venues. Dogs can have an off switch, but trainers can screw it up by the training or lack of training. Too many experienced dog trainers do not do enough confinement and controlled exposure to the pup's environment and they actually teach more independence to their pups. I have been thinking about doing a blog on this subject, but you just hit the nail on the head. Thanks for writing it.

Jerry said...

Loretta, don't underestimate what you've written here. It's more then about starting dogs too early, which so many people do (I'm guilty as charged with my first agility dog). It's about letting puppies BE PUPPIES. It's about letting the puppies learn to be independent thinkers. It's about not overly controlling every aspect of your puppies lives. It's about pack interaction, and MOST important it's about building a great relationship with your puppy! So Thanks! I hope more people see it!

Annelise Allan said...

Great post! It is a good reminder that we often try to teach too much too fast to puppies! Let them grow up first. My Sheltie puppy will be a year old in a week and he doesn't know 37 tricks - he doesn't even know one true trick but he loves to be with me, has a great recall, has a great off switch (best for any dog I've had especially given that the on switch is a whirling and barking blur of fur) and he plays well with other dogs and even kids! Maybe this summer I'll get serious about training contacts and weaves with him. With each dog I have I do less and less of the tricks and I teach less and less of it to students. I'm seeing more and more experienced people starting their puppies when they are older and that is good news.

Darci said...

Will you re-post this in an Email to me in about ...Oh, say...about Sept! LOL
It has been a hard lesson for me to stop being a control freak! Somes days I get it, and some days I revert back. A little reminder is a good thing! Great post!