Thursday, December 27, 2012

Training in General at 8 weeks old

First let me say that "training," if you can even call it that with an 8 week old puppy, is not easy.  They have the attention span of a house fly, they want to bite and lick your face and feet constantly.  They will eat your treat and then get right back to whatever bad behavior they were doing.
My point here is: DO NOT feel bad if things aren't going perfectly!
You read all these books about puppy training where the puppies are all calmly looking at their owners for treats....well, you can pretty much forget about that with this breed!  They are too active and quick and TOO smart.  Yes, I knew that before getting an Aussie, but I didn't quite grasp how smart they were until I had one.  He learned I wanted him to sit to get things pretty quickly, but it's like he knows that that's what I want and does it and then immediately runs off right after I give him the toy or the treat.  I can't explain it, I just know he knows. 
If he's running off right after giving a treat, you're probably thinking "What about training on a leash?"  Yea,  are you ready for a puppy pulling like crazy, flipping over themselves and getting tangled, and then chewing on the leash and then when you take the leash out of their mouth they're chewing your hand and jumping up at your face?  Well, you better be ready for that! I was not and it caught me off guard.  Trying to do training like sit, come, down, and stay was very challenging.
Get ready for your expectations to shift dramatically!
So, I've decided to completely shift my goals and my expectations of training (see below) and focus on how coming to me is very rewarding, sitting to get something (like a toy) and general bonding.  During this first week with the puppy, don't get mad if they don't do what you want and act crazy.  It's okay, just focus on the no biting hard and the few other things listed below.
Focuses of Training (Detailed description of how to accomplish this are below):
  1. I am fun and gentle and love you
  2. General manners
  3. Not all things are free
  4. No biting hard
  5. Coming to me is super fun!
1) I am gentle and fun and Love you
I have realized that first and foremost, your puppy needs to be having fun and getting bonded with you during this transition week into your home at their young age.  I tried to start being super strict and all "trainy" at the get go and I think it created too much distance between us.  Sit on the floor and encourage your puppy to come sit with you in your lap and lay near you while you pet them, mess with their paws and ears, and just be close.  Keep a nylabone or other chew toy or stuffed animal in your hand so if the puppy tries to nibble on you can shove that proper chew toy in its mouth and keep petting them.  Basically I throw a toy, he goes and gets it and then comes and sits next to me while he chew on it and I pet him during this time.

2) General manners
So, this isn't about a particular training thing, just general stuff like
a) You, the owner, should walk into and out of the house first so your puppy doesn't get used to racing in front of you and tearing ass out the door.
b) if you don't want to be jumped on or licked, gently push puppy away or put them to the task of chewing a toy. 
c) DO NOT chase your puppy (unless they have really run away outside and won't come back and might be close to jumping off something high).  This teaches them that playing keep away and chase are fun. 
d) If the puppy is being too pushy trying to get a treat from your hand or their food bowl.  Stand up straight and tall.  Make no eye contact.  Wait for them to sit or stop jumping on you (if that even happens), then continue.  If they don't stop jumping on you or they are biting you, see #4 below.
3) Not all things are free
This is a pretty easy one to try and enforce.  All it means is that before you give them a toy, they have to sit for at least 1 second (this about all the impulse control they have at 8 weeks old).  To teach them to sit: place treat in you fingers and hold it by their nose and raise your hand up slightly until their butts go down...or shove the butt down, then treat.  These dogs are super smart, they will figure this out.  Also, periodically during playing stop the game, take the toy and hold it to your chest and make them sit before you keep playing.  Once you rassle the harness and leash on them for a walk, make them sit before going outside or coming in.  But seriously, don't worry about this at first.  It's more important that you exit before they do and otherwise you just want them to follow you and not be scared to go worry about them gaining confidence going out for walks before the whole sitting thing.

4) No biting hard
If they bite your hand or your face or your pant leg, say Owww! and move away for a moment. Don't yell too loud.  More of a high pitched talking voice. Or, re-direct them to a toy.  With biting on the hands hands, ball your hand into a fist, it's hard to bite that and don't move your hand around, making it a target.  Once still and uninteresting, they will stop and look for something else to bite instead.

Just remember, hang in there and when in doubt, call your breeder! They should be able to give guidance and help you troubleshoot.  Also, never ever forget they are a tiny puppy and they have no idea what they're doing.  They will mature as they get older.  They play with their litter mates by jumping on them, biting them, and chasing them.  Don't expect the puppy to do any different with you or in your house.  You are now in the process of showing them how to play with you and this will take up to 7 days or more. 

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