...ready for action !

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Starting home life

The first couple of weeks after Secret came home were just for her to settle in. Unfortunately my parents had not relented and she had to live at my partners house. This made everyday training very difficult, especially as I was now working as a full time small animal vet.
My previous two dogs had a lot of obedience training when they were young- I have always believed obedience is a necessary part of agility and I still do so (despite then fact it would probably be labelled as a slightly old-fashioned view point now!) Jess my first dog has her Obedience Champion title, and Terra has her CDX (the middle title) and I think the skills they learn in obedience are important in agility. More then that- they WAY a dog learns obedience can be very beneficial- if you as a handler and trainer can produce a dog that happily and accurately produces good obedience work then agility work will be easier and more successful. Depending on the way it is taught it can also encourage a 'thinking' dog, especially with some of the more advanced exercises (e.g scent discrimination). And anyone that can teach a dog to heel happily in the ring with no primary motivators for 10 minutes should have no problems with teaching agility, which is traditionally much more self-motivating for the dog.
That was my opinion and Secret was supposed to do her share of obedience work- except it didn't really happen when she was a pup. Due to a variety of circumstances, but mainly my lack of access to her I decided to work on other skills and leave obedience till later. Possibly a big mistake!
The first behaviour that Secret learnt as a pup was to nose touch a hand. Probably the most useful behaviour to learn, as once they do this you can use it for all sorts of things- leading them round, shaping other behaviours, starting contact training and rear end awareness work.
This was trained in a very basic shaping manner (NB shaping is the term used when a trainer rewards a behaviour the dog offers fairly naturally without having to be lured or forced into position). All Secrets' initial behaviours were trained using the clicker. I chose not to condition the clicker this time but started straight away using it to mark a behaviour and rewarded quickly afterwards. Secret as a puppy was smart and food-motivated. It didn't take her long to work out the idea of the clicker and her natural instinct of sniffing a hand soon translated into a fairly sold hand target (sometimes too solid, she had the tendency to shark on the odd occasion, which I also didn't worry about.)
Other behaviours taught at this age (8-16 weeks) included sit and down (fold back only, for a couple of reasons, firstly its necessary for obedience if I later decided to do it with her and secondly it teaches great body awareness). I also tried to encourage her to play with a toy, at this stage she wasn't overly interested.

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