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Tenderfoot training... my pup is smarter than me!

Chilipup
May 29th, 2008, 12:22 AM
About a month a go I became a first time puppy owner. I am so proud of my 14 week old golden retriever puppy named Chili. My reason for posting actually isn't about bad/questionable behavior. Instead it has become obvious in the past 2 weeks that sit, lie down, and stay (all the way across the yard..and sometimes even ignoring her at that distance) are becoming easy and even at times boring!!

Being a first time dog owner, I have tried to read up on how to raise a pup. However, I feel like I don't want to push my little Chili too far at such a young age? She has done puppy kindergarden. I will be enrolling her in obedience in two weeks (she will be 16 weeks). I want to stress that our relationship is trusting, extremely positive (I don't think I have ever yelled at or made her feel guilty), and loving. However, she knows that nothing comes free. Before she gets anything from a tender, lovey-dovey voice, to a rub, treat, toy, up on the bed, outside, inside, etc. she must sit, stay, lay down (whatever I tell her). But it's getting confusing because she is so smart she is doing everything before I even tell her (or even at times mixing up the commands out of excitement and eagerness to please). So do I still praise her when she lays down at her dish waiting for her food, or when she sits and waits while i go out before her, etc.--without having to tell her?? Its like she knows everything and I feel like I need to mix it up before she feels like her behavior is her own choice and not what I ask of her.

I guess my questions is... Maybe i am a superb trainer (yeah right), however, when my little puppy is constantly looking to me for direction (at such a young age) at times I feel like I'm not sure what to tell her to do! Who would have thought my golden would master sit, down, and stay by 13 weeks! I want to take her further but not with un-meaningful lessons (rollover, beg, speak, etc)...Any suggestions?? I am sure all of your puppies are where Chili is at in her training at such a young age (because you both actually know what your doing!).

My biggest fear is if I don't continue to challenge her smart, inquisitive mind, she will start learning naughty behavior out of boredom!!!

TeriM
May 29th, 2008, 12:34 AM
Wow, congrats on your success :thumbs up. It sounds like you are doing a great job, my only note would be to remember to also have fun with your puppy. A good play session is also a great learning tool as the pup will learn guidelines for acceptable behaviour. By incorporating training with the play session the pup will learn how to "settle" while stimulated.

The "useless" tricks you described can also be great learning tools. Any training exercise promotes a bond between puppy and owner. Tricks are also great for introducing the puppy to people (especially non dog lovers) :).

Don't worry, your puppy will still give you lots of challenges ahead. For me, the more difficult ages came closer to six months and beyond ;).

Good luck :).

jessi76
May 29th, 2008, 08:20 AM
If I stand still, with my dog in front of me, he will go through a routine without me saying a word. often, he'll sit, down, sit again, speak, twirl around, sit again, bow, then stand there and look at me like "well, where's my reward?"

My trainer told me that dogs will fall into a training routine easily, and often, a dog will run through everything he/she knows in hopes to get a really good reward for it. This is when I stopped rewarding the basic commands, and really started to mix it up more often. Instead, I would create strings of commands, using some he already knew, and some new ones.

Another way to train is to incorporate hand signals with your voice commands. Hand signals are helpful - I use them ALOT. I can "down" my dog from across the yard by raising my arm straight up over my head. also, a flip of the hand means for him to "sit". maybe it'd be more challenging for you to incorporate a few signals.

I agree w/ TeriM, you still have plenty of challenges ahead! 14wks is still very young... see how well Chili acts at 10mths. lol.

sounds like you're doing a really good job though! do you have any plans for Chili in the future (since she trains so well)? Maybe as a therapy dog?

tenderfoot
May 29th, 2008, 09:53 AM
Cherish these moments - for soon she will be a teenager!!!! Staying out late, breaking curfew, dating the wrong boys, mouthing off, not doing her homework and her room will be a mess!

You are doing a fabulous job! She is doing what I call her circus routine - she knows it well and runs through it all in advance hoping something will get the payoff. Help her slow it down and really listen for what you are asking. Just repeat the single command and wait, the second she makes the wrong choice - calmly say 'no' in a low tone and have her try again. Use low energy and you might have to really walk her through it very slowly. A leash would help so that you can stop the wrong choice faster. Always remember to praise the good choices - but you might want to use low energy for her praising at this point.

She can have a huge vocabulary right now - 30-40 words. It is limited only by your imagination. Any action she can perform has a word and hand signal of association, all her toys have names and you can name the rooms in your house and the people too. The more you work her mind right now the greater her capacity for learning will become.

Remember though - it is also about teaching her things at 4 levels. 1-inside the house, 2-outside, 3-at distances away from you and 4-with distractions. Her sits might be suberb inside, and pretty good outside, but how about at 10 feet away from you or 20 feet away? And what if there are other dogs around or squirrels?

She is also going to go through stages where you wonder if she remembers her own name. Suddenly your brilliant puppy is going to become blind and deaf to your cues and you will be thrown into shock. What happen? Hormones! Adolescence! This too shall pass and she will return to her better self, but you will need to be ready for those challenges.

Lissa
May 29th, 2008, 01:21 PM
Being a first time dog owner, I have tried to read up on how to raise a pup. However, I feel like I don't want to push my little Chili too far at such a young age? She has done puppy kindergarden. I will be enrolling her in obedience in two weeks (she will be 16 weeks).
I want to stress that our relationship is trusting, extremely positive (I don't think I have ever yelled at or made her feel guilty), and loving. However, she knows that nothing comes free. Before she gets anything from a tender, lovey-dovey voice, to a rub, treat, toy, up on the bed, outside, inside, etc. she must sit, stay, lay down (whatever I tell her).

It sounds like you are doing an excellent job - good for you for researching ahead of time, being consistent and setting clear boundaries! :thumbs up
I wouldn't worry at all about pushing Chili too far, puppies are like sponges and most thrive on work (so long as its disguised as play!). My dog started foundation agility by 16 weeks... IMO its never too early to train your puppy!

But it's getting confusing because she is so smart she is doing everything before I even tell her (or even at times mixing up the commands out of excitement and eagerness to please).

Unfortunately, this is not about smarts - its poor stimulus control...Your pup is anticipating and/or guessing at what you may ask or have just asked her to do. In other words she is "jumping the gun"... It is not a good thing... Yes I love to see a dog that is EAGER to please but I also want a dog that has self-control and of course I want my commands to be under excellent stimulus control (ie: if I ask for a down and get a sit, I have poor stilmulus control - basically the command is not understood or the dog isn't paying attention). Eagerness is good but it often turns into anticipation which is obviously not a good thing.
So do I still praise her when she lays down at her dish waiting for her food, or when she sits and waits while i go out before her, etc.--without having to tell her?? Its like she knows everything and I feel like I need to mix it up before she feels like her behavior is her own choice and not what I ask of her.

It depends on what you want... If you want her to sit before she goes outside or eats her dinner and she offers it before you say it, then yes praise and reward her by opening the door or putting the food bowl down. If you continue to do this it will become a default behaviour (something she does automatically without being asked). But you need to decide on your criteria... For instance, I want my dog to sit before he goes outside too and my criteria is: Dodger sits far enough away to keep the door clear, he must be completely calm and he is not allowed to move until I release him. I definately do not want him offering a 2 second sit right in front of the door before bolting outside:p... So yes, while offering a single behaviour is a good thing, you generally need to raise the criteria...

Who would have thought my golden would master sit, down, and stay by 13 weeks! I want to take her further but not with un-meaningful lessons (rollover, beg, speak, etc)...

While it would be wonderful if she has mastered these 3, very important commands at such a young age, she probably hasn't got them down pat yet...When puppies are young they tend to stick close to us - they are too vulnerable to ignore us and most are not brave enough to face the world alone yet:p. Aside from that, at 13-16 weeks of age, its unlikely that your puppy has been challenged by a major distraction...
BTW - "tricks" are often quite meaningful. Most dogs love trick training (so tricks can actually become a reward), it makes you a better trainer, it keeps your options open and things like rollover or beg are actually great warm-up/cool-down stretches (in the case of beg, its great core strength training)... I started basic single-behaviour tricks with Dodger a couple of days after I found him and as he matured the tricks started incorporting numerous behaviours (like turning on/off lights, opening/closing drawers, putting items away etc...) Tricks shouldn't be underestimated - they are invaluable IMO...

My biggest fear is if I don't continue to challenge her smart, inquisitive mind, she will start learning naughty behavior out of boredom!!!

That is definately a reasonable fear - boredome is definately the enemy:laughing:...
I would continue working on basic commands: sit, down, stay, wait, come, stand, leave it/drop it, go to your mat/bed/crate. Make sure they under good stimulus control and then start changing the context (duration, distance, distraction, diverstity).
Work on setting your puppy up for success when it comes to how you want her to behave in your daily life... For example - where do you want her to be when you are preparing/eating dinner, or when company is arriving or when you are carrying a load of laundry downstairs? How do you want her to greet people? Do you want her to walk on a certain side of you? ETC... There are so many little details that you can work on to ensure that she will always be the wonderfully obedient puppy she is today.
I would also start retrieving work and tricks. Also, you may want to decide if you want to do any organized dog sports when she's an adult... Some sports require a lot of foundation exercises that can be started now to keep Chili busy.
When you can't give her the direct attention that she needs, playing find-it (with toys or treats) is a good way to keep her busy. Also, shaping sessions are very good for dogs because it requires so much thinking on their part (its tiring!)!

Good luck with Chili - she sounds like she has amazing potential.