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Lyra 4.5 months – I Want My Good Puppy Back

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Right now, Lyra has about one great session for every three mediocre ones.  There seem to be several things going on.

For starters, she’s teething.  I think that makes her feel a little off.

She is also in something of a fear period.  I can’t work her in the dark because she thinks the boogey men come out after dark.  I have tried working her through that,  but recently I realized that she needs to sit and stare into the dark while I give her the occasional cookie.

Dogs barking in the distance upset her and critters rattling in the bushes are to be watched carefully.

Smells are…fascinating.  It feel like she’s just disovered how fabulous her nose really is, and she can’t get it off the ground.

Until yesterday, I was trying to work “over” these things.  That means trying to be more exciting than what is out there.  But then I realized that I was working too hard….it’s not my job to get more and more interesting when she’s distracted.  My job is to be interesting when she shows the interest and ability to work.  If I start begging, pleading or demanding, I’ve reversed our roles and I’ll be begging or demanding for life, so last night I vowed to relax and let her work through it herself.

What a difference!  After ten minutes of Lyra sniffing, worrying and visiting, I started to see glimmers of my old puppy.  We spent about 25 minutes together, which was just enough to remind me of what I tell other people all of the time; “Patience, grasshopper.”

Today we had a really really great training session. Where’s the video camera when you need it?

No way to know what the next session might look like, and in my head I know it doesn’t matter.  I just needed my head to remind my heart.

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

13 responses »

  1. Excellent advice and something I need to remember with my own puppy some days :o).

  2. LOL! Baby brain. Sounds like what worked best was a version of a CU game. I’ll have to apply this more often to my training sessions. I find myself in the ‘just try harder to be more exciting’ role. Not where I want to be!

  3. “But then I realized that I was working too hard….it’s not my job to get more and more interesting when she’s distracted. My job is to be interesting when she shows the interest and ability to work. If I start begging, pleading or demanding, I’ve reversed our roles and I’ll be begging or demanding for life.”
    I really like the statement above. Does this philosophy lead to the dog being interested when you want her to be, e.g. at a trial?

  4. I have been following your training with Lyra since your first blog entry and am enjoying the learning I take away from your work with her. This post was delightful. It was nice to hear of your struggle, the insight and the subsequent breakthrough.

  5. Yes, you have to think about, “What would I tell a student, with this not problem?” Dogs have to take time to grow up and take in the environment.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family; and that outstanding son.
    You have done more than an awesome job with Lyra. I look forward to the New Year with the two of you.

  6. Bri’s about to hit that stage, so this advice is a must remember!

  7. Thank you for this post! I’ve been there and slowly learned the hard way that it needs to be my dog’s choice to interact with me, not because I’m suddenly “more interesting” than a cat or a squirrel in response to the dog’s obvious distraction or fear. I don’t want to be trapped in the role of having to be “more interesting” or demanding or forceful for the dog’s entire life and performance career.

    I’m happy to work hard to bring enjoyment and reward to our training sessions but no way can I compete with a cat or a squirrel, no matter what I try.

    Thanks for all your great posts and merry Christmas!

  8. This is excellent advice and something I try to remind myself often. One of the lessons it took me the longest to learn was to train what you have, not what you want or think you should have.

  9. I had to smile when I read this. Five months is a tough age & students in my puppy classes hear me remind them of that often. Teething, hormones, gaining independence – someone once commented that a 5 month old puppy has none of the cuteness and charm they had just a few weeks ago :-)) At 5 months I am usually ready to send my puppies back to their breeder, but since that is me, they get to stay and we get through it.
    A great reminder about working with the dog you have – and not begging them to work – “The 3 Ps” = poking, prodding and pleading – will set you up for a lifetime of the same. My youngest needs her time to look around in new places before she starts working and while that time has decreased, I get in trouble if I try to rush her.
    Denise, thanks for another fabulous post. I recommend your blog to lots of people !
    Happy Holidays!

  10. This post is appropriate to so many situations we can find ourselves in with our dogs! If I remember even part of it my training will improve!

  11. Thanks for that post, Denise….my 10 month old is often like that and I needed the reminder to not beg, plead or cajole….additionally it occurred to me the other day that I hadn’t spent enough time teaching her to be operant with me. Her mother is a bit operant and it’s bitten me in the butt for competitive obedience (can you spell “experimental”?), so I was starting to go too far the other way with the puppy. DOH!

    It’s really interesting watching your videos with Lyra as my puppy seems very similar in temperament and drive.

  12. That’s so nice to read – when my puppy was teething she just wouldn’t tug but I was told I wasn’t interesting enough – I was worried I was going to hurt her teeth and put her off tugging all together! I was urged to carry on but deep down I really felt that if I just backed off it would come good in the end. She does tug really well now and often brings me a toy and asks me to play with her which is really all I want! I just wish you’d written this at the time, I’d have felt much better!


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