The Clothier seminar was on observation skills and arousal. She also did an extra session on adolescent dogs which stuck quite a few chords with me. Stella is approaching her second birthday soon and I have been noticing a lot of distraction and testing of boundaries lately. When Riley was around the same age that was when everything went crazy with my "perfect" puppy and started my interest in dog training. Teenage dogs are hard!
Suzanne is a fabulous presenter. She has a great sense of humour, interesting stories and an appreciation for dogs that shines through everything she discusses. This blog will talk about the information presented during the adolescent dogs portion of the seminar. A few favourite quotes included:
"Adolescent dogs are trying to mess with your head. Like Tax Attorneys, if they can see a loophole, they'll drive at truck through it."
ree though that sporting breeds get their brain cells in installments. Once a month, another clump arrives.'
Adolescents begins in dogs around 16-20 weeks. Other dogs recognize it long before most people do and will start to enforce social responsibility. People recognize this as the end of the "puppy license". Dogs will then mentally mature gradually over the next 2-3 years. We mainly fail our dogs in this period because we are not clear in our expectations to maintain responsibility. We need to be aware of not just training skills but on developing connection. Suzanne suggests we video tape a training session or other interactions (walking) with our dogs and then watch it as a silent movie. Show the video to a friend and se if they can identify what you are working on. Dogs guess their responses based on our actions so they care what is happening not what we intend. We need to make the information and permissions very explicit and consistant.
That is where "even though" training and connection is important. "Even though" that dog is walking across the street, or that nice lady has good treats or ....... you must still stay connected to me. We often silently permit our dogs to do whatever they please and justify it using human type excuses like oh, he loves that doggie friend and is just excited. The dog doesn't have any feedback so assumes that rules don't apply when he sees that friend or is excited. A good way to work on this is to make a list of thing that the dog knows how to do and a list of things we control (because we have thumbs!). Work these things a lot and change it up. When we do the same sequence all the time the behaviours become habituated and automated without thinking. Give one request and have a time frame and performance goal in mind. When the dog meets criteria then they get what they want. It is fine to help to remind them but then no reward. A dog's decisions need to have meaningful consequences especially in the adolescent years. They need to understand "Why should I ...." and when we train with positive methods we achieve results by smart use of access to resources. It isn't about controlling our dogs every moment of every day, it's about clear communication and understanding expectations.
This isn't new information but that seminar combined with a recent rally trial with a distracted Stella has me tightening up some things. I am trying to have much clearer expectations when we are training (no sniffing, visiting etc) and also doing things that make it easier for her to understand (on/off behaviours) when we are working. Day to day rules in the house are more consistant and if I get an "in a minute" response then I go and get her instead of calling a second time. She really is a very good butthead teenager so I am already seeing some results. Like Suzanne said ... "She isn't getting away with anything, she is just doing exactly what she thinks the rules are".