The Obedience Laboratory, Part One
Sometimes, I work with young dogs and pups as sort of an ongoing obedience laboratory. I spend time imprinting them with what I feel an owner wants and needs and then continue with basic training and socialization. The real fun comes when the young dog is ready for some formal obedience training. I say fun because I write about this stuff all the time and tell owners to train, train, train. Should I really be espousing this philosophy if I myself don’t practice it? The answer is ‘No’, and that goes for any breeder out there who sells pups. If they don’t, won’t or can’t train their own dogs, then they are not worth your time.
That being said, I have been working on a particularly raucous young female, age six months, still available, but nonetheless living in my house and my yard until such time as she is picked out by her new owner. She has all of the energy of a working lines pup, hectic at times and in need of focus and obedience. She also forged quite a bit on the leash, which is something I felt needed to be taken care of before adoption.
So, I decided that, after a couple of months on the slip lead doing basic sit and focus commands, it was time for the prong collar. Now, a prong collar is not a cruel instrument. The prongs are all soft, rounded metal points. You start out snapping to both rings and use very light, firm pops. No dragging, no walking with it, no using it for jewelry. Trust me, your dog will only look ghetto in a prong collar that you can’t use because you never corrected your dog with it.
The obedience sessions have been no more than five minutes each, for a total of two days in a row. I generally like to do daily obedience until the young dog is somewhat conditioned to the corrections and starts to respond in a consistent manner, then back off to every other day.
Here is the summary of the training done so far:
1. ‘Sit’ command, followed by ‘Watch’ command. Verbal praise plus some kibble. Corrections done for ANY deviation from the command, as many times as needed to get the command executed.
2. Sit/Stay with ‘Watch’ command. Done until dog was able to sit and watch for a few seconds at a distance of three feet. All done on leash. Verbal praise plus kibble. Repeated ten or fifteen times, with correction, until dog could do it.
3. Heeling (fusse) in circles. Similar to lunge work, only in a smaller circle. I started her in a small circle, about eight feet in diameter, giving the heel command with light correction. When she jumped up instead of heeling, she was corrected instantly, made to heel again, then praised verbally and with kibble. Repeated about five to eight times, all after doing the above sit commands. Occasionally, dog was put in a sit, then back to heeling just to ensure good control.
After two sessions (two days, five minutes each day) of the above actions, the pup went from hectic and unfocused to calm and more focused. Even her ears, usually flying and sticking out all over the place, settled down to a perfect pendant position.
I brought her into the house where she will rest, prong collar still on, for a few hours before play time (after taking the prong off).
I will keep you all posted on her progress, but am positive that after only another week of this work, the dog will fully flatten out on all the kinks and be on her way to obedience stardom!