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Summer 2009
Volume 3, Number 2

This issue will be the puppy issue because....
I have a new puppy! Ally was born April 20th and joined the household on June 17th. She is a Vizsla.

Puppy Priorities

My clients have been very curious about what I’m doing with Ally, so here are my priorities for eight to sixteen weeks:

     Socialization: Ally’s breeder did an awesome job socializing this litter and Ally is very excited to meet new people including men and kids.  Nonetheless, I don’t want to take this for granted. We tend to have a quiet household, so we’ve made point of regularly having people over for dinner, having my agility students come in the house to meet her etc. I also try to walk her in a busy neighborhood like downtown Princeton or Rocky Hill every other day.

   Play with your own stuff: I want Ally to be able to have run of the house as soon as possible, so I was very careful in the first few weeks to keep all shoes put away, kitchen towels up on the counters rather than hanging from the refrigerator door etc. I also used gates, an ex-pen and a leash to restrict her access so that whenever she was out of her crate, the only things within reach were her bones and toys. I made sure she got lots of attention for chewing on her own stuff. After a month, she is starting to seek out dog toys to play with and mostly ignoring other items--except socks!

   Play with me: Most puppies love to play tug with their owners, but lots of adult dogs loose interest in playing with their people.  We play tug multiple times a day and are now working on playing tug in lots of new places. I want her to be able to focus on playing with me despite distractions. 

   Sit to say hi: Ally is a very bouncy, pawsy puppy. Often, owners tolerate this when the puppy is small, but get angry when paws are muddy or the dog gets big. Ally’s rule is that her butt has to be on the ground to visit. If she jumps, I either turn away or slip a thumb in her collar and gently lift her off of me with no comment and no eye contact. At this point, she very rarely jumps on me, but she has a long way to go with other people! Of course, training the other people is by far the hardest part.

    Control yourself: Ally’s rules already include sit while I fix dinner, sit to have your leash put on, sit to come out of your crate, sit before I’ll throw a toy. All of these rules are easy to enforce—if she won’t sit, I won’t cooperate!

     Come: I started teaching an emergency recall cue (I use Come) as soon as Ally could sit. We started with yelling Come as she sat in front of me and I fed her lots of treats. Then with her sitting in front, I would take one step back, lure her to come towards me and sit again, and feed her lots of treats.  Gradually, we built distance and faded out the lure, but she still gets rewarded generously every time she comes. I’m also careful not to use my emergency Come! for everyday situations when I need her to come along—that’s Let’s Go.

     Explore new objects: As a future agility star, I want Ally to love walking on new things. I’ve been using a clicker and shaping her to climb on a box, wobble board, plank, log etc etc.

    Hold still: Dogs need to learn to be still and tolerate restraint for grooming, vet visits, pulling off ticks etc. There have been lots of protests about this, but Ally spends a little time restrained in a sit, stand and/or a down every day.

     Settle in a crate: This was the hardest one for Ally. Initially, she screamed her head off unless I was right next to her. She was having full panic attacks and wouldn’t eat when in her crate. It took most of our first two weeks together for her to learn to relax when separated from people. This required patiently waiting out the screaming and going back to reward any quiet. At first, she wouldn’t eat the treats I would drop through the door for quiet moments, but eventually she started eating and stopped screaming.  It’s important for puppies to learn to relax in crates both when home alone and also while people are home but busy. You never know when you will need to confine your dog for a repairman, scared child, or because the dog needs rest after surgery.

Turning Tug Into Fetch

Almost all puppies will play tug with very little encouragement, but getting them to retrieve can be a bit more of a challenge. While I enjoy tug and I don’t believe it causes behavior problems, it isn’t nearly as good exercise as fetch and with my big dogs I’ve found it rather hard on my shoulders.  So teaching a good retrieve is a priority for me.

New puppy owners make a lot of mistakes when trying to teach their dogs to fetch: they chase after the puppies, teaching keep-away; they coax and thus unintentionally praise their puppies whenever the pups loose interest in the game; and they insist on stealing the toy whenever the puppy brings it to them.

Here’s how I like to teach fetch. I find a narrow space like a hallway or small room and set myself up sitting on a dog bed in the doorway. I start by teasing the puppy with a toy, and when I’m sure she’s focused on it, I throw it a short distance underhanded. When the puppy picks up the toy, there is nowhere else to go other than back towards me—so now I can praise my pup for retrieving. When she gets to me, I praise her some more and start a game of tug. At this point, I want the game to be 90% tug and 10% fetch, so we tug for a while. When I want the toy back, I stop tugging and gently hold the puppy still either in my arms or by her collar until she chooses to drop it, then I immediately bring the toy back to life and throw it again. With a baby puppy, I only throw the toy four or five times, and then we stop before she can loose interest.

If the puppy isn’t interested in chasing the toy but likes to tug, I can start the game by tugging the puppy into the narrow space, letting go of the toy, and backing up. Once again, the puppy has no where to go other than to bring it back to me and I get to tell her what a great job she is doing.

So set your puppy up for success! If you start to teach fetch in a small narrow space, she’ll never learn to run off with the toy. Ally is just starting to graduate to playing fetch in a long hallway, but I’m guessing is will be another month or two before we try playing fetch in an open room or outdoors. For now, we play lots of tug outside, but I only work on fetch when I’m sure she will be successful.

Upcoming Obedience Classes

Seven weeks; $145

Tuesdays in Belle Mead
8:00 Puppy starting September 15th

Sundays in Belle Mead starting September 13th 
4:00 Beginners  
5:15 Intermediate 

Wednesdays in Rocky Hill starting September 9th
5:15 Beginners 
6:30 Canine Good Citizen 


Upcoming Agility Classes

Six weeks; $120

Sundays in Franklin Park
starting September 13th 
10:00 Level II class
11:30 Novice Ring Prep
1pm Intro to Agility

Wednesdays in Franklin Park
starting September 9th
10:00 Novice Ring Prep
11:30 Intro to Agility

Quick Tip:

Need to keep your new puppy away from computer cables and electrical cords? Chicken wire can be folded to neatly block access to spaces under desks, couches etc. Be sure the sharp cut ends face inward so they can’t be reached by your puppy. Here is Ally playing with a toy while a roll of chicken wire keeps her away from recycling and wires under my desk.


Princeton Trail Guide:

Congratulations to student Sophie Glovier (Caspian the Flat Coated Retriever's mom) on the publication of her new guidebook "Walk The Trails In & Around Princeton." Here's a great way to discover Princeton area hikes with your canine buddy. All the proceeds benefit local open space organizations. The book is available at Labyrinth Books on Nassau, Chicklet Books in the Princeton Shopping Center, and there will be a book signing from 3-5pm on August 8th at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports in the Princeton Shopping Center.

Doggie's Day Out
Princeton Walking Tours

Join students Jennifer Hawkes and Pug Eli as they host Doggie's Day Out Walking Tours of Princeton.

These tours confirm what we all know--Princeton is a great town for dog walking! You will enjoy a dog friendly tour of the town while learing Princeton history and doggie trivia. Tours are Sunday afternoons through October. For more info, see the Princeton Tour Company

Eli the Pug on the job. 

Farewell, Sweet Girl

We lost Lexi to bone cancer in May. She was a few weeks short of her 11th birthday. 


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