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1st Clicker Session For This Litter At 7 Weeks of Age

Updated: Feb 5, 2023

Serendipity’s litter of ten pups, sired by our Benson Ranch Bonavento, was born on July 7, 2019. Training is what I love to do, so I thank Dr. Laura Bailey, the owner of Serendipity, for the opportunity to purchase five of the pups.

Serendipity & Bonavento during their courtship - Sara is facing the camera.

Laura started these pups well using the Puppy Culture guidelines. The pups have acclimated quickly to their new life here on the ranch. They have the Blush puppies (now 15 wks old) as neighbors, so they have lots of canine activity to be part of. When they are just a little more sure of themselves, I will begin to use a Blush pup or two in with them.

The pups had only been at the ranch for a few minutes when I took this photo. In preparation for their arrival I placed several sheets of plywood up between them and their boisterous neighbors. This gave them some sense of security and allowed them to decide when to greet the Blush pups.

This is the pups' first meal at the ranch. I love painted puppies because it allows me to really get to know specific pups, so I added color to the group while they were distracted by their dinner. The pups wearing purple are the females; the males are teal, blue, and white.

By the second day the new pups were ready to take a chance and meet their noisy neighbors. Notice the wall of Blush pups! They could not wait to meet these little guys.

On the morning of the second day the pups were willing to follow me outside for a bit. Those Blush pups look huge by comparison! The Sara pups are about 10 lbs; the Blush pups are about 40 lbs. The litters are eight weeks apart in age. When you think so how quickly pups grow, and think about the fact that their brains are changing at least as quickly, it really substantiates why the early training of puppies is so, so important.

This morning I began clicker training for the Sara pups. My broad goal was to begin to program their automatic positive response to novel stimuli; they did very well with that. But since these pups are new to me, I needed to determine my baseline with them. I need to know if they know what a clicker is, if they understand how to take food from my fingers, and if they know what a training “session” is.

Laura told me she used a clicker to teach manding to her pups, so I expected the pups to be comfortable with the sound of the clicker (and they were); however, I also expected to see LOTS more volunteered behaviors from them, such as manding and recognition of the sound of the clicker as previous to something tasty being offered them. I saw almost none of that. This is good information! Their behavior does not mean Laura didn’t do all that she told me she did with these pups; it only means that the pups did not offer me those behaviors today.

The training session with these pups at seven weeks of age is on par with the 1st clicker session we did with Blush’s pups at four weeks of age. It is convenient to train with consideration of the age of pups because it helps with organization and being ready to take advantage of predictable developmental windows of time, but it so isn’t the whole story.

The behavioral markers of the pups determine how quickly training should progress – always! And I have never seen a correlation between pups who learn things early and becoming superior guardians; I just don’t believe that is so.

If you consider these five pups a litter (I do), they are the third litter I will have trained using a clicker. I learn from every litter and adjust my training goals accordingly. It is always a fascinating and dynamic journey.

In the “Follow Blush’s Litter” series, I documented my training with Blush’s pups in meticulous detail. Most of the training for the litters to come, including Sara’s litter, will follow that model. I will share many of the highlights of the training of litters going forward, but not all of it. My video camera and I need a break! But along the way, I will keep you updated on the progress of Sara’s litter.

Stay tuned for the next big changes!

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