To begin, some background. I have trained dogs most of my adult life and was a professional dog trainer for almost twenty years. Obviously this means that I have very definite opinions about the relationship I want to have with a dog and the training methods I use to achieve that goal. Having said that, as long as a handler is reasonably consistent with his/her approach to training, almost any type of training will eventually produce results. Training methods are a matter of personal preference. As I am inherently lazy, I personally choose to train in a fashion that consistently gets me the best results in the least amount of time, while developing the type of relationship I want to have with my dog.
First and foremost, I do not own pets – all of my dogs have been, and will be, companion dogs and then, hopefully, working dogs. My dogs are not relegated to the backyard (or kennel or crate) and only interacted with when I want to spend time with them. My dogs are part of my household and from day one all of my interactions with my puppies and dogs are with the intent that they will learn the behaviors necessary to become the companion I want without me having to micromanage what they do or when they do it. While at the current time I have the good fortune to work from home most of the time, I have, in the past, worked jobs away from home. As it was necessary for me to crate a puppy while I was away from the house, I had a hard and fast rule – if the puppy was crated while I was at work, the puppy was always uncrated during the times when I was home (other than when I was sleeping.)
Readers may have a different way of raising their dogs. My blog posts are about how I raise my dogs. Readers are welcome to raise their puppies/dogs how they please, but don’t waste my time trying to argue with how I am raising my dogs. If these blog posts are helpful, I’m very happy to hear it. If you don’t like what you are reading, please go read someone else’s writings. I am no longer in the business of training dogs and therefore do not have to (and won’t) deal with dog owners except on my terms.
I have lived with multiple dogs for most of my adult life and many of those dogs have been “second-hand dogs” which have found themselves homeless due to no fault of their own. My advice to prospective dog owners is that, with the exception of working dogs, obtaining an adolescent or adult dog from a shelter or through a rescue group is a great idea. With an adolescent or adult dog, you can get a pretty good idea of the temperament and characteristics of that animal. However, if the prospective dog owner desires a puppy, I do not recommend getting one from a shelter or rescue group. If a puppy finds itself needing a home the chances are very high that the “breeder” did not invest the time or energy in ensuring the pup had the best possible start in life and oftentimes it means that pup was removed from its dam and litter-mates too early and lost out on valuable life lessons. In my opinion, puppies should be obtained from a good breeder (not all breeders are created equal) and if a working dog is wanted, a puppy from a good breeder is pretty much de rigueur.
Fix, my newest companion/working dog, was obtained from a good breeder in Pennsylvania. He and his litter-mates were raised on a working farm and given the best possible start in life, from both their dam as well as the other canines and humans in the household. This start has enabled Fix to transition seamlessly into his new environment.
Today marks two weeks since Fix left his litter-mates and traveled far, far away – to what probably seemed like a new galaxy to him. In that time he has been asked to adjust to many new things. Having never been crated alone before, it took Fix three nights to learn to be quiet in his crate when I went to bed. He learned this, not because he was corrected for howling and barking, but because he was ignored when he did so and was only released from the crate when he was quiet. He has learned that even after the crate door is opened, he has to wait for a release word. While it is normal to have to take a young pup out to potty during the night, I have been extremely lucky with Fix that he has slept through the night from the beginning. He is learning self-control around food and that he needs to wait for a release before eating. The adult dogs Fix was raised with taught him appropriate behaviors around his elders and therefore his introduction to my other dogs went smoothly. I continue, and will for a period of time, to monitor the dogs but that is more to ensure he doesn’t harass my older dogs. So far the older dogs have disciplined him when his behaviors have necessitated a correction and none have gone over the top. Twice a day, at a minimum, Fix accompanies me on chores. Fix chased a chicken once early on, but it took only a quiet “aah” to interrupt the behavior and then praise when he came to me when I called “puppy, puppy.” He now watches the chickens closely but does not chase them even when they are flapping around. Fix spent a day and a half biting at the tires of the feed cart before giving up that behavior – not because he was corrected for it but because I didn’t focus on it. Some of the boundaries he is learning now, will be boundaries he starts pushing as he enters adolescence. However, by developing a relationship and instituting rules and structure now, the trials and tribulations of adolescence will most likely be short-lived.
These first two weeks have been about incorporating Fix into my household and teaching him the rules and boundaries while encouraging self-control. As Fix continues to grow, I will start more formal training with him. Future Farm Dog 101 blog posts may be weekly or monthly depending upon what Fix and I are doing. I hope you join us on our adventure.