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How to Train Livestock Guardian Dogs - The Black Alder Pups Finish Their First Week With Me!

These puppies know how to work!

The puppies have been with me for a whole week! That is amazing. There is just no time to waste when training livestock guardian dog puppies because they learn so fast, and time flies by. I have to remind myself to train puppies now and do chores later, because in the larger scope of things what I do with the pups will matter more.

The video below is an introduction to the Black Alder Pups Training Project. It isn't fun to listen to me (I don't think!) but if you are new to the series, this would be the place to start. The good news is that you can watch puppies play in the background thanks to Olga!

Note: The three female pups are purple tail, purple butt, and orange butt. The male pups are blue tail, green, and red. These colors are specific to each pup and will remain consistent as long as the pups are with me.

The first 48 hours that an LGD spends in a new home present a significant training opportunity unlike any time period yet to come. This is a video of the first time we invited the puppies outside into their new small pasture.

This is a video of our first clicker session with the pups on the morning of their first day with me. Well, it is tough for an animal to form a relationship between the sound of the click and the value of a reinforcement if they don't care about the reinforcement! I know that the pups like chicken, because I fed some to them with their morning meal, but they don't understand how to take it from our fingers.

That skill must be taught before we can click them for behaviors. They figured it out pretty quickly. By the end of this first clicker session, the pups didn't fully understand that the click meant anything, and that is just fine. They learned to eat from our fingers, that hands are a good thing to watch, and that when people are around it is so easy to make chicken just fall from the sky! How cool is that!

This is Step #1 in teaching the pups that a training session is an opportunity for reinforcement. There need never be any stress for them in learning from humans, even strangers, as we were to these pups.

On Day #2, we moved the pups across the barnyard to a field with some very different challenges. The video below is instructional; the second video is just for fun, cute puppies everywhere. But there is a lot to be learned by simply watching puppy behavior in the presence of a variety of stimulus.

This final video is a collage of clips from days 3-6.

In summary, in their time with me so far:

They met twelve new dogs, sharing space with two of them. They can hear lots of other dogs on the ranch; these twelve dogs shared a fence line with them.

They met four noisy, active hair sheep.

They met one of the goat herds, thirteen zippy, opinionated creatures!

They met my fast and fancy pony.

They have worked in seven new areas on the ranch.

They met seven new humans.

We worked on recall. They had a great start at this with Debi, which was very evident the first time I charged off across the barnyard with them, whooping it up and "being a party" as I call it. I have moved them around many times over this week using recall. They are good at this! This will continue many times every day; recall matters, and it is so easy to teach.

They are masters at figuring out barrier challenges! This is a tremendously important skill for an LGD to have.

This is a lot!

In every circumstance the pups have been ready for these new challenges, often more quickly than I expected them to be. In working with a group of dogs, of any age, it is appropriate to set the pace of the increased responsibility to match the needs of the "slowest" pup. In this litter, there is no slow pup! The group is so consistent. They all have moments when they back off, and then step up, but they are quite the homogenous litter!

My goals for the coming week

I will continue to build a solid recall.

More clicker work will happen, as I reinforce the pups for moving with me, for greeting me with paws on the ground, for eye contact, following my hand, and lots of other things. You'll see this in the week #2 videos.

I will allow the sheep flock to spend some time in fields with the puppies, rather than from across the fence.

I will bring in a couple more trusted mentor dogs.

I will introduce more novel items to their fields and click and pay for their interaction with them - as well as for leaving! This second piece is so important; check out the new thing and then go back to work!

And there will be more and more and more that I will come up with! Stay tuned, fun stuff ahead!

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