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Hi all, our pup is now 14 weeks & was doing really well with general training & behaviour. Walking has never been easy but she’s now got two modes, 1) plonking her butt down & refusing to move or 2) pulling like a train. There’s a bit of good walking in between but it seems to be getting less & less. I’ve tried praise & reward but as soon as she gets a reward she plonks her backside down & won’t budge. When she does move, her nose is in everything & she’s so distracted. We have been using “watch me” to get her focus on us which worked brilliantly to begin with but now she looks up you for a treat & then carries on doing what she wants! She also picks things up, leaves, conkers, anything & I’m rewarding her for dropping them, but she’s picking them up in order to get that reward!
She’s also not focusing on us anymore anywhere near as much. Her recall has been brilliant but she’s barely acknowledging us now unless it’s a really focused, short training session. She doesn’t like the heat & I know it’s not helping at all but i’m kind of starting to despair, wondering where we’ve gone wrong.
I’ve had excellent advice from you guys on here & would really appreciate any input you can offer!

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Really it's all about not allowing the things you dont want to become a habit. Believe me, puppies always learn the wrong thing easier than the right thing! There are two little pieces I wrote a while back, which might give you a few ideas moving forward. The first article is about training heelwork.

First off, as in most things, there is more than one way to skin a cat. This is just my way.

Firstly, I never take a puppy for a walk. Every time we go out of the gate it’s training. But not too regimented, rather fun training. Think about this for a moment. You are going on the school run and take your pup with you, killing two birds with one stone. Kids to school and puppy walked! You are in a hurry as you always are at this time, trying to get the kids to school on time, and preferably with them not getting run over by a lorry on the way! You meet other mothers on the way and have a nice natter as you go. Once you have posted the kids in through the school gates you can relax and walk back home with the other mums. In all honesty pup did not get much of your attention for the whole of that time, you were too busy. Training the pup was the last thing on your mind! Yet your pup was learning. He was learning that there were exciting smells and sights just past the end of the lead, people to greet and to make a fuss of him, so he wanted to get there in a hurry. In other words, he was learning to pull you along!

Better to leave pup at home. A lesson learned by him that he cannot go everywhere you go! Take him out only when you can give him undivided attention. But I’m getting a bit in front of myself. Training starts the minute the pup arrives, well before it has had it’s vaccinations and able to go out.

The first part of training is to get the pup use to a collar, and this literally starts the day the pup arrives home. I always put the collar on immediately before feeding. That way the food takes the pup’s mind off the collar. I leave the collar on all the time unless pup is in her crate. (It has been known for collars to get caught up in the bars and strangle the pup, so don’t take chances!) I like the softest, lightest collar I can find.

My first actual heel training takes place off lead in the garden. Armed with a few treats I call the pup to my left side, waft the treat in front of his nose so that he is aware of it and with the command “Heel” walk forward 3 or 4 paces then stop, praise him and give him the treat, then give him my “End of training command.” In my case I use “OK” as the command. Basically it means “We’ve finished and you can do what you want now.” Talk to your pup while he’s walking at heel, tell him how wonderful he is, keep his attention on you.

After a few days of this, two or three times a day I’ll start using a lead. And for my first lead I use a piece of string! It’s lighter than any lead, which is ideal because I don’t want pup to really notice the “Lead.” We are starting to walk a little further now, so time to think about where to walk. Aim at 10 seconds of heelwork at first, keep it short and keep it fun. Walk pup on the left and If he tries to get in front turn in an anticlockwise direction across in front of him. If he lags behind turn clockwise away from him and encourage him up to heel. Never walk in a straight line for more than 5 paces, straight lines are boring! Squares, Triangles and circles are the order of the day. Add other exercises in to provide variation. Stays are so useful for when you need to clear something up on the floor, or even for taking photographs. Recalls are obviously useful. But don’t combine the exercises at this point. For example, if doing a sit stay then make sure you praise the sit stay before moving on to a recall. Make sure your pup KNOWS it’s finished it’s sit say!

There is a lot of talk about the relative merits of collars or harnesses. But in reality they only secure the dog from running off. Really they play very little part in the actual training. Because my pups are destine to be working gundogs I don’t want a collar on my dogs when working because of the risk of getting caught up and strangled. So I use a slip lead, so named because it is quick to slip on or off and does not need a collar! If you do your training right then you never have a tight lead so what you use is really unimportant.

So now the vaccinations have been given and your pup is able to go outside the gate. I slip my pup into my car and take her to the park where I can continue training along the route I’ve started. I don’t want to walk there because it’s too far to be able to keep my pup’s attention. Plenty of time for that when the habit of walking to heel is set. All the training in the park is the same as at home. Short pieces of work interspersed with games. Even sitting on a seat watching the world pass by is still training, it’s training patience! Work at your training and you will end up with a dog to be proud of. I don’t take my dogs for a walk. I go for a walk with my dogs, and thats a big difference.

The second article is socialisation, which to a large extent is linked to heel training in that it's aim is a quiet "controlled" dog. A dog which it is a pleasure to go out with.

SOCIALISING:- That much misunderstood word!

What do people think of in human terms, when talking about socialising? Going out to the pub or clubbing, a wine or beer or two, dancing and chatting up the opposite sex!! So is it surprising that people, when talking of socialising a puppy think along the same lines? But really, that is not what canine socialising should be all about. Socialising is simply the wrong word for what we should be doing. Familiarising is a far better word, learning to meet and deal with all things the pup is going to come across in later life. Uncontrolled playing is not what should be happening, this is simply training your pup to be a hooligan! We want to be the centre of our dog’s life, not running off to play with every dog he sees, where the play becomes the focus and we become an afterthought.

Almost all people love to see a puppy, but few people like to see muddy paw prints on their nice clean clothes just as they are going out shopping. But they are their worst enemies, making a fuss of the puppy one day then complaining about muddy paws the next, and you go from, “That woman with the lovely Labrador puppy!” one day, to “That woman with the uncontrollable dog!” the next. Better for you to take control from the start, it’s your puppy and your responsibility. When people say to me, “Oh it’s all right, I don’t mind.” my answer is, but the next person might. Teach your pup to meet and greet with all four feet on the ground, then to sit quietly beside you while you chat about the weather or old Mrs so and so at number 46. Aim to be “The lady with that lovely calm Labrador!” That does not just happen, that comes with training. Exactly the same applies when meeting another dog. Dont stop all playing, but limit it and BE IN CHARGE! It finishes when you say. A minutes hoolie which finishes with you calling your dog too you, praising it for coming and then walking away together gives a wonderful feeling to both humans and dog. Remember what I’ve said so many times on these posts of mine, “Everything is a training opportunity!” Aim to be the place where your pup’s fun comes form, not other people and dogs.

Following on a little, I often talk about thinking about dogs in the wild. The nearest equivalent, behaviour wise, in the UK are fox cubs. I’ve often sat in my truck in the middle of the wood watching them play. But really. In this case there is no comparison between wild and domestic dogs. A wild pup will play, but really, only with it’s own littermates. Strangers would be chased off by the sire or dam. But the play period would not last long before leaving “home” and finding food becomes the priority. The pup would be forced to grow up and become an adult very quickly. Domestic dogs do not have the same priorities. Food is supplied without any work needed on the part of the dog. literally the dog does not need to even think! We do it for them. Domestic dogs have become the Peter Pan of the canine world, so don’t wait for them to become adult because in comparison with the wild canine, it aint gonna happen. Thats one reason why training is so important!

We all have different lives, do different things and want different things from our dogs. So even before we get our pup really we should be sitting down and thinking about what we want from our pup, and how best to get it. I work my dogs so they need to be familiar with livestock, sheep and cattle, birds, hare and deer. So I need to make a conscious effort to take my pup to places where she is going to meet them, so I’m able to teach her to leave them alone. Possibly if you love hiking then the same situation applies. Maybe if you live in a big city your pup might need to travel on buses and trains. As I said, think about your lifestyle and decide what your pup needs to know about. Maybe now you can see why I said that “Socialising” is the wrong word, and “Familiarising” is a so much better word. I saw a picture on here a while back, two dog walkers meeting, one says to the other, “You’re so lucky having such a well behaved dog!” and the other saying, “It’s strange, but the more I train the luckier I get.” You get out what you put in, and I don’t mean walking long distances, it’s all about quality, not quantity.
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