A Little Puppy Training for Buck the Australian Shepherd

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 29, 2016

Buck (Australian SHep Pup)

Buck is a eleven week old Australian Shepherd puppy. His guardians set up a puppy training session with me to stop him from nipping the kids, spend time teaching a puppy to heel or walk with a loose leash, listen better and some basic potty training.

Buck was pretty well behaved during the greeting. He showed a healthy curiosity and playful energy; not shying away or cowering when meeting us.

I sat down with Buck and his primary guardian to discuss his day-to-day routine and what she wanted to achieve during our puppy training session.

Buck’s guardian had been following along with the Quest Ed posts on my website and had to already taken a couple of the tips to heart. One of these tips was to set him up with a puppy play area that surrounded his kennel.

After checking it out, I suggested that she get a wire crate instead of the plastic one that she was using as you can attach the play pen fencing to the sides of the wire crate. The way Buck’s guardian had things set up, the plastic kennel in the middle of the play pen occupied over half of the available space.

Next we went over some puppy potty training basics which is a high priority for any new puppy guardian.

Recognizing when a puppy needs to go outside to potty, as well as how long they have the capability to hold their bladders can make potty training much easier.

After covering the basics of potty training, I went into a greater detail in a separate video.

Potty training a puppy can be frustrating at times, but if we are observant and introduce a command word at the appropriate time while simultaneously delivering a reward, we can give the dog an incentive to hold it until they have an opportunity to go outside. That’s why it’s so important that we take our dogs outside frequently while we are potty training a puppy.

One of the other main things that Buck’s guardian wanted to work on was his habit of mouthing and nipping at his family. This is especially problematic for the two young children who share the house with Buck.

I spent the next few minutes going over some tricks to stop puppy nipping as well as a strategy that helps the dog learn to only chew on appropriate items.

Utilizing a puppy playpen and providing the right kind of chew toys will make it easy on Buck’s guardians as he should not develop a habit of chewing the wrong things. Of course, as a puppy he is going to try. That’s why it’s important that we either keep our puppies under constant supervision or in a puppy play pen area so that the pup does not have a chance to chew the wrong thing.

Next we started discussing positive puppy training and why it is so effective. Sam took a couple of minutes to share something on the subject that she learned at a dog behavior conference she recently attended.

While positive reinforcement in the form of treats can go a long way, some dogs are not very treat responsive. Later in the session we found out that Buck is in this category. That’s why it’s so important that we get a pup accustomed to receiving rewards in the form of affection rather than lavishing it on them with no structure.

This is why I developed my Petting with a Purpose strategy. By asking the dog to sit, lay down or come on command, we can help it learn that it has to earn its praise with obedience being the currency.

A great way to utilize positive reinforcement is to ask the dog to earn freedom or access by sitting first. We call a dog who understands this concept “Operant.” I spent the next couple of minutes showing how Buck’s guardians can incorporate a little bit of structure into releasing him from his puppy play pen.

After releasing Buck from his play pen area, he was energized and wanted to romp around a bit so we headed outside. Remember, taking a pup outside right after waking up is always a good idea. Because we were ready and had a treat in hand as we headed out, we were able to reward Buck for doing some business.

After going potty and burning off some excess energy, I had Sam demonstrate how we could teach the dog to heel without using a leash.

Buck responded really well to this exercise; especially when Sam transitioned from the treats to using affection as the reward. I was really tickled to see Sam make this realization and transition to affection on her own. She is going to be an amazing Bog Behaviorist.

I recommended that the guardian practice this very short exercise multiple times a day. If she can go outside with 10 to 15 treats and spend 1 to 2 minutes practicing this heel exercise, Buck should start walking next to her in a heel when on leashed walks without much effort at all.

I am a big believer in making puppies earn affection and rewards. A great way to extend this strategy is to ask the dog to work for his food.

Many people don’t realize that in the wild dog spend up to 90% of their time looking for food. When we provide it in a bowl that takes no time whatsoever to access, we rob them of a very primal important daily activity.

Buck didn’t catch on to the food dispensing ball right away so I had Quest show him how it’s done.

By the end of the session Buck was pretty tuckered out. Puppies need a lot of sleep and it’s always advisable to have them go to sleep or take a nap after a training session so that their brain can absorb and categorize the what they learned. Its a safe bet Buck’s brain was working overtime after we left.

We shared a few tips to help, but enrolling Buck in puppy socialization classes will go a long ways towards helping him stop nipping and mouthing the kids. Practice at the heel exercise as well as asking him to sit before petting him or releasing him from his play pen should help him develop more self-control as well.

I strongly recommend that the guardian download the critical socialization checklist that I uploaded to a Critical Socialization post I added to the Quest-Ed section of our website. Buck still has a few weeks in order to pack in a lot of experience. The more of these that his guardian checks off the critical socialization list, the more confident Buck will be later in life.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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