Farm Dog 101: Starting more Formal Training

Fix turned 12 weeks old yesterday. He has a good start on basic manners and is exhibiting more self-control every day. He is still learning about his world and how to interact with it. Fix is a little precocious and many of his stages seem to be a couple of weeks ahead of what would be considered “normal” for a puppy. Generally, I would expect a puppy to start exhibiting the type of independence I am seeing in Fix at about 16 weeks of age. Right now, Fix is starting to become more serious about testing his boundaries. Consistency is the key word here. If a behavior was undesirable yesterday, it will be undesirable today and tomorrow and I am still setting the stage where I can make doing the right thing easy for Fix and doing the wrong thing harder.

As noted before, Fix is now wearing a collar and dragging a line while we are out doing chores. The line enables me to, if necessary, enforce a come and to prevent undesirable behaviors by being able to control those and re-direct Fix to more appropriate behaviors. The last few days, instead of crating Fix while Tuck and I move the remaining six sheep to pasture in the morning and back again in the evening, Fix has been accompanying us. I restrain his impetuous behaviors of wanting to “chase” after the sheep and encourage him to quietly follow behind the sheep whilst they are moving. (In this case, he is ahead of me and pulling at the end of the leash, but I’m allowing that at this time. He is not barking and he is learning he can’t charge madly forward.)

A few nights ago I swapped out the small wire crate Fix slept in for a larger one. Yesterday I retrieved a grooming top from the dog room and put it on top of Fix’ new crate. When possible, when working with puppies, I prefer to introduce new things with the puppy elevated. (It is also easier on my back as I age.) Fix and I did two short training sessions yesterday. The first session I molded the behaviors I was seeking: a sit, stand and down. After three repetitions we were done and Fix was placed back on the floor. Last night during the second session I used small pieces broken off of a salmon dog treat to lure Fix into those behaviors: sit, stand and down. I will continue to alternate between molding and luring for a couple of more days before eliminating the treats.

Fix already has a basis for “come” and has learned to wait for a release around food and so on so the foundation for a “stay” is in place. Both of those commands will start to be formalized this coming week.

Note: In the previous Farm Dog 101 post I mentioned a series of articles on socialization I had written, and I provided the link to the for interested readers. I also wrote a later series on training. These articles are archived in issues of the Shepherd’s Call and are only available to members of the English Shepherd Club. For those interested, if you contact me and provide an e-mail address I will send a pdf containing the six articles. These articles are copyrighted – please respect my copyright. While not required, a donation to National English Shepherd Rescue (www.nesr.info) would be appreciated.

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