You would think goal setting with a puppy would be easy. I have this tiny ball of energy who is just jam-packed with potential…but I find myself struggling with putting together a “training plan” for her like I might for Bear.
Eventually, I would like for Epic to compete in rally, agility and herding with me. Less of a priority but still something we will train for are tracking, traditional obedience and carting.
I have friends with dogs that were in the rally and/or obedience ring (and qualifying) by 6 months of age. The dogs appeared reasonably well prepared and not overly stressed so I have no real problems with this.
And yet, when I look at Epic, who has been on this planet for all of three months (and with me for all of three weeks) I can’t imagine going into the rally ring with her in three months. Not because I think she lacks intelligence or ability but because she is still learning so much about the world around her.
On top of this, there’s the fact that I had so much trouble along the way with Bear and stress at trials that I am hesitant to rush things with Epic. I want her to be comfortable and confident no matter what I ask of her, no matter where we are and for this to happen, she needs to learn at her own pace. As far as I know, there are no shortcuts when it comes to building confidence and I don’t know any dogs who have benefitted from being pushed past their abilities at any point in time.
As a result, I have been working with Epic in in short training sessions through the day on some basic behaviours for a pet, conformation dog or sport dog. Sometimes we work on these things while the daycare dogs are watching /playing from another room, sometimes we work on them at lunch time by ourselves. We have been working on these things at work, at home (indoors and out), and when we are out and about if people want to see what she can do. These behaviours include:
- housetraining (go pee/poop on cue outdoors)
- kennel up
- hand touch
- foot target (2 paws on mat, 1 paw on Easy Button)
- follow me (lead up to both heeling and gaiting)
- handling for grooming/vet/conformation ring including body, legs, feet, ears, teeth and nail trimming and, hand stacking.
- sit pretty
- paws up
- roll over
- sit/stand/down for meals, to be released from crate and to go outside.
- Doggy Zen (lead-up to “leave it” and an overall great self-control exercise)
- interaction with puppy-appropriate obstacles (ladder, ramps, cavaletti, tunnel, wobble board, fitPAWS equipment)
I’m not working them in any particular order and I’m not overly concerned about practicing everything everyday but we’re working together and most importantly, Epic is learning how to get what she wants (and she wants SO MUCH) by offering me appropriate behaviors.
My business partner also as a puppy who is about a month older than Epic. We haven’t had a huge conversation about our respective training goals but it does not appear that they are in a huge rush to get into the ring either.
If you are reading this and have a puppy now (or added one to your family in the last year or so) do you (or did you) have any goals for your puppy with definitive timelines? I’m curious.