Lyra is six months old now; a lot has happened in the four months that I’ve had her.
I’m delighted to see that she appears to be through her “wierd puppy” stage. She’s consistently social with people and confident in new situations – indeed I consider her overall temperament and stability to be her greatest strength. The advantage of a genetically sound puppy is simple….you can put your energy into training rather than working through problem behaviors or a low threshhold stress response. Lyra is emotionally stable and confident; this is the temperament I saw at ten weeks of age, and it appears to be her true nature.
In terms of work, I haven’t tried to teach her many new behaviors in the past month, because I don’t have the drive that I want and I don’t want to inadvertently create a ‘habit’ of working in a calm manner. To move forward, I need more energy and drive.
Three things need to take place in order to make that happen. First, Lyra needs to mature. It’s not clear when this maturity will come, but since I’m a believer in genetics, and since her genetic package is good, I expect she’ll get there when she is ready. She’s not ready yet and pushing her would be counter productive. Second, I need to continue offering lots of fun opportunities to play and work for me in as many environments as possible – I shoot for five seconds of excellent work with energy and drive rather than several minutes of mediocre work. Every time she works hard for me I give her another chance to choose – more work or….taking a break. Third, I spend plenty of time with her every day, simply interacting at whatever level she is capable of. Sometimes we work. Sometimes we walk and observe the environment. Sometimes I scratch her head and cuddle with her in the house. This is always one on one quality time with no other dogs around to compete.
In terms of what she does know….she knows all of the elements of heeling (left, right, fast, slow, etc.), but she lacks the coordination to perform them well at higher speeds or with less help from me. She has a very nice, straight front. She can finish both left and right, but requires a hand signal. She knows down and sit most of the time, though lately she’s been confusing them at times, especially if she’s at a distance from me. I’m adding in stand now, but I give her plenty of help. She retrieves her dumbbell to front but without a sit. Her dumbbell retrieve is good; nice grip on the bar; now she needs to increase her speed. Lyra’s send around an object (usually a garbage can) is getting there; she almost always runs back and is starting to canter a little on the way out. She understands scent discrimination and I can use a variety of different objects as the correct or incorrect ones. She has a basic understanding of “go” to a target or a platform – now I want speed and drive.
I did teach her the beginnings of a stay, so she can sit or down with my dogs for about 30 seconds or more. I don’t plan to use a “stay” command in her work until her drive has increased – stays are boring unless the dog is anticipating an intense release.
I’m working on her informal retrieves; sometimes she brings a ball or a toy back and sometimes not, but clearly we are headed in the right direction. It will come eventually.
Her bite quality for schutzhund remains good; she has a full, quiet bite. She has started schutzhund with a helper; only three sessions so far, but very good improvement between them.
Soon I’d like to add in tracking; something tells me she’s going to be quite good at it, and I want to get started this season.
With my other dogs, she has managed to get everyone to play with her; an exceptional feat since I haven’t seen Cisu or Raika play with a dog or puppy for several years. At this point she is the prime playmate for every doggy member of the household and everyone plays with her on a daily basis.
Her recall is reasonable but definitely not reliable. She chews up stuff in the house; my fault for leaving it where she can get it. She is not housebroken – I have to remember to bring her out because she does not let me know when she needs to go out. She still asks to go out once a night so maybe she has a slow developing bladder. In spite of these shortcomings, Lyra is probably the easiest dog I’ve ever had to integrate into my household.
So there it is; one six month old puppy with lots of good stuff and plenty to work on as well.