January 31, 2014
Tammy finishes FLD Copo's paperwork and comes over to see what I am up to with Axel's team. She wants to start "class" but decides our recall game fits in with her training plan. She says, "Keep going. I'll go over and do the same thing with Bear's team."
One thing leads to another. Axel's raisers ask what else they could do to discourage the pup from being so mouthy. He is better than when he first arrived, but there is room for improvement.
I have an idea. Both teams had done some nice "leave it" work with the puppies.
|FLD Bear balances two bits of kibble on his front paws and is staring down a third bit on the floor. Good "leave it!"|
"We can use the same technique to help Axel not chew on your hands," I say, referring to the "leave it" command. I take a handful of kibble and put a few in my right hand and the rest in my left. "The treats in my right hand are poison. Axel will NEVER get a treat from this hand," I say, offering my right fist to the puppy.
Axel immediately wraps his teeth around my fingers. I stay still and don't let him have any "poison" kibble. It is difficult. I lift my hand in the air to give my skin a break from his shark-puppy teeth. I try again. Axel tries to devour my hand again. I grit my teeth and hold on.
Axel lets go of my hand for a nano-second. I say "YES!" and offer him a treat from my left hand. He gladly partakes. I remove my left hand and present my right fist again. He goes for it. Before long he backs away and is rewarded with another YES! and a treat from my left hand. After about four times, Axel tastes my hand with much less gusto and backs away much sooner.
I tell the guys that rewarding Axel every time he backs away from mauling their hands will help him learn to leave hands alone.
Tammy gathers everyone together. She asks me to show the group what I've been doing with Axel. My right hand needs a break. I switch hands and set the reward kibble on some books that were piled on a nearby chair. Tammy planned to use the books for a rear leg training exercise.
|FLD Axel mauls my hand but does not succeed in getting the "poison" treats. After only a few tries, he has no interest in my hand at all. (Photo compliments of Dr. Donna.)|
Demo done, Tammy takes the floor. Axel, however, now decides he want more kibble. He leaps up, trying to snatch what I've left on top of the pile of books. One of Axel's raisers snaps his fingers and points to the floor. Axel drops down. The raiser hands him a treat. The pups jumps up straight away. Fingers snap. Four on the floor gains a treat. Again. "He jumps up on us like that when we're lying on our bunks watching TV," one of the men says. He says they snap their fingers or tell Axel "down" and reward him when he gets down.
"So how's that working for you?" I ask. They shake their heads. "Let's try this instead," I say as Axel leaps for the treats that are just out of his reach. "Just wait him out."
After a few attempts at the kibble, Axel's front paws hit the deck. "YES!" I say and drop a bit of kibble on the floor.* We repeat. Soon Axel looses interest and wanders off to attack a Nylabone lying a few feet away.
Back to work. Tammy guides the teams through a ladder exercise designed to teach the pups about their back legs. Did you know that puppies oftentimes struggle with stairs because they don't realize they have back legs?
|FLD Axel's raiser supports the pup at the collar as he steps over each rung. This exercise helps the puppy learn to maneuver his back legs.|
After each puppy makes his way through the ladder three times, Tammy explains how to let the puppies learn to make good decisions without always telling them what to do. A thinking puppy grows up to be a Leader Dog that is comfortable making decisions. She demonstrates with FLD Harper how to work past temptations on the floor.
Tammy talks to the teams about ignoring bad behavior and rewarding the behavior we want. She explains the importance of staging training in low distraction settings, what to manage and when it is okay to "lure" a puppy through a crowd or past a big distraction. We discuss raising criteria when a puppy "knows" a command (not treating for each and every "sit" for example) and how to ration the kibble. "If your puppy only has, say, 50 bits of kibble to use as rewards for the day, you'll have to think about when you are doing to give him those 50 bits," I say. Save them for training sessions and for exceptional behavior.
There is so much information to cover we never get to the leg exercise with the books. That will have to wait for another visit.
All this work makes for tired puppies.
|A very sleepy FLD Axel.|
And, my guess, fairly full raiser brains.
|FLD Bear snoozes next to inmate raiser Chad.|
|Time for this raiser to get acquainted with his new puppy, FLD Copo.|
*Some time later I learn that dropping treats on the floor is not appropriate for Future Leader Dog puppies. Anything we can do to discourage our puppies from dive bombing things on the floor or ground is important. Thus, a better approach is to treat the puppy close to the floor from the hand.