Updated: Jun 26, 2022
And now the real work begins….
Feeding puppies three times a day, poo cleaning, clicker training, livestock introductions, field transitions, and all the rest are easy – they are nothing compared to what is to come. To this point we have worked with the full litter as a group. Now our focus will shift to working with each puppy singly or in pairs.
From now and until the pups leave me it is my goal to have them on leash once a day. In our previous leash work we allowed the pups to lead us on adventures while on leash; it’s time for them to learn that often I get to decide where we are going. To do this I move them from one field to another on leash rather than allowing them to go through gates on their own.
The pups learn that some gates are OK to go through if they are open, but some gates are not. I teach my pups that they are not to go through gates that don’t open into other fields unless they are wearing a leash and collar or harness.
I also teach them not to crowd me at gates. They learn that if they want to go with me sitting patiently while I put the harness or collar on is faster than if they bounce in anticipation because, as with manding, I reward the behaviors I want to see more of by giving the thinking pup my attention. The pups that are quiet and respectful with me get to go first.
Although the pups may get annoyed with me for my persistence in having a destination in mind they are never frightened because we have prepared them for this training. If I think a pup might pull on a leash I use a front attachment harness instead of a collar. Dogs that pull against a collar can cause themselves injury, and become frightened more easily than when a front attachment harness is used. Another advantage of using a harness in this way is that when the pup pulls the harness turns the pup toward me. Since we have rewarded the pups for giving us eye contact it is easy to re-direct the pup.
I have now separated the litter into two groups, each with a mentor – Sabrina or Rosie. This helps me in making decisions about creating the pairs of pups I have in mind. The pups are not happy with me about this!
I move one group of pups, each on leash, into a new field, with their mentor, and let them spend the night there. To this point they have always had the option of sleeping in their own beds, so to speak, so this is a challenge for them. The next day I move the group to a new field, or back to their own field, and switch to the second group.
The pups quickly learn that having a destination is fun and interesting! My the second day most of them go forward with me with enthusiasm.