January 31, 2014
"So, we should never let him pull?" one of FLD Axel's raisers asks after my loose leash walking demonstration. "Correct!" I reply.
The team has more concerns. "He doesn't know 'come' very well," they say, not an uncommon issue among puppy raisers. And dog owners in general.
"Practice name recognition instead," I say. "Don't even use the word 'come.'"
Name recognition is one of my favorite exercises with my puppies, especially when we are just hanging out in the house together. First my puppy learns to look at me whenever I say his name (he gets a treat!); then I practice calling his name frequently throughout the day. Sometimes he is chewing on a toy across the room from me, sometimes he is in another room playing with my cc'd dog or checking things out, sometimes he's sniffing for crumbs under the kitchen table. I call his name ONCE and ALWAYS reward him with a treat when he comes to me.
It doesn't take long for a puppy to figure out that it is worth his while to come running!
FLD Axel does know his name - he will look at his raisers when they say it. "I'll bet that I can get Axel to come to me," I say to them. I ask Axel's handler to hold the pup. I walk several feet away. "When I call his name, let him go," I say as I kneel to the floor. I use my high-pitched excited "baby" voice and call, "Axel!" The puppy looks over at me. The handler releases him, but Axel stays where he is. "Puppy, puppy, puppy!" I say, slapping my thighs and shaking my head. The bundle of fur bounds over with his leash flopping behind him. He almost knocks me over with enthusiasm and I get a bonus face wash. "Good boy!" I say. He gets a treat and some loving.
"Now you call him," I say, taking hold of Axel's collar and withdrawing my attention. The raiser says his name. Axel pays him no mind. The raiser raises the tone and animation of his voice. "Axel!" The puppy zooms over like a six-year-old who hears the jingle of an ice-cream truck on a hot summer day.
"Let's all play," I say, pulling Axel's other two raisers into a circle. The handler tells the others, "You have to get your feminine voice on." The men laugh as one by one they squeak out Axel's name. The pup thinks this game is a blast!