My new border collie puppy will come home tomorrow. His arrival signals the next chapter in my dog training adventures as he becomes a new member of the family. While I’m deeply involved and passionate about dog agility, the puppy’s early life will be all about becoming a well mannered member of our family who is welcome at family get-togethers (the true test). What luck that these same traits will form a great foundation for what he will also become someday in the future – a great agility dog.
This puppy is only my 4th dog and it’s been 5 yrs since I’ve raised a puppy. So getting my mind around puppy training was the first step. It means going back to these two principles. 1) The puppy is not human, he is hard-wired to be a dog. 2) The laws of animal learning apply, 24 x 7.
After living for years with two well behaved adult dogs it can be easy to forget the first principle. After all, I communicate as well with 10 yr old Lacey and 6 yr old Breeze with words, looks and voice as I do most humans I know, sometimes better. They (mostly) fit seamlessly into the patterns and boundaries of our human life while still maintaining their unique personalities.
Puppies — on the other hand – remind us in big flashing lights that dogs are social predators. Their innate (unmodified) behaviors include sniffing, chasing, scent marking, biting, resource guarding, playing and chewing. As long as the puppy isn’t sniffing your house guest’s crotch, chasing the neighborhood children, marking the door post, biting your butt, resource guarding your bed, using your new couch as a launching pad and chewing your favorite shoes, we are good to go! It’s so easy to forget how much we ask of a well-behaved dog.
That brings me to principle #2. Most of puppy training involves modifying these innate behaviors to fit within the boundaries of our human lives. We are wise to remember and understand the principles of operant and classical conditioning that are so powerful. In addition, we must always keep in mind that we are animals too and our puppies are perfectly capable of modifying our behavior :-).
Puppy “Split” (working name) comes home tomorrow. I’ve got the puppy pen and crate set to go, have acquired chew toys, puppy food and rounded up the puppy tug toys. I’ve planned out the introduction to our older dogs. Let the journey begin!