Basic Training: Week Three

Kitto is 11 weeks old.  He has a vet checkup / vaccination coming on Monday, and it’s the big one that will let us take him outside with more safety so we’re really looking forward to it.  The world of our house is getting smaller as he is getting bigger.  He knows little of the outdoors, just a bit from the short walks we take with me holding him.  We are as excited to have his feet touch grass as he is.

I’ve lived with older rescue dogs before, but never a puppy.  Weeks 9 to 12 are a golden time in a puppy’s life, part of the critical socialization period which ends at 16 weeks.

The training book we’re using is Training The Best Dog Ever.  At first read, the goals for each week are intimidating.  In practice, they’re set up just about perfect.  We are introducing new skills at a comfortable pace, not more than one or two every day.  This period is more about bonding and learning to communicate with your dog than it is about perfecting skills.  Looking back over the first three weeks, the whole family is ecstatic about what we’ve accomplished.

Week Three Exercises / How We’re Doing

  • Informal “Let’s walk” on lead
    • Fine on a lead inside.  We’ve tons of “be a tree” practice and he doesn’t pull.  We need to get a good harness he can’t escape from on Monday as the couple we have are for larger dogs.
  • Sit
    • 80% mastery with eye contact from 6 feet.  Almost automatic.
  • Cookie-Sit
    • Very early stages. Sitting still is very difficult, and doing it with bait is worse.
  • Sit-Stay
    • 50% mastery.  If we insist, he will sit for 1 – 10 seconds but normally breaks at 2 or 3.  He will self-correct, back off and sit again if we say “no” gently or hold up the “sit” hand gesture.
  • Down, Down-Stay, Puppy Push Ups
    • Kitto is about 60% on Down.  He understands what is being asked and tends to stay down once he’s there.  Starting from Sit, he can do Down and then Sit again (Puppy Push Up) 20% of the time.
  • Off
    • Kitto is good about backing off of most things.
  • Take It / Take It Trades
    • Kitto will accept most toy trades even if they’re not as good as what he has.
  • Look at me and general eye contact
    • Excellent.  He does this naturally so the exercises that ask for it are easy.
  • Recall and Sit with “Go Play” release
    • With AllProvide as bait in the house, he will zoom between two “players” at full speed from 50 feet away.  It is hilarious fun.  “Go Play” happens at the end of every training session so he knows what it means.
  • Catch your dog doing something you like
    • We do this as often as possible, but we’re probably only catching 60% of them.
  • Potty training
    • More miss than hit, this week.  Looking forward to grass training next week!
  • Baseline behaviors: hand-feeding, crate training, bite inhibition, handling, gentling
    • All four of us hand-feed (no food or toy guarding issues, even when engaged)
    • Kitto likes his crate just fine, but typically he’d rather be between my feet while I work.  Zero overnight demands to get up, and only one accident in 3 weeks.
  • Games and socialization
    • Favorites: Anything with chewing, pouncing, hunting, running.
    • People Met:
      • adult man (with, without beard, hair, bald, 20s, 40s, senior)
        • door-to-door salesman, uniform
        • (seen only) men on roof, different ethnicity, reroofing
      • adult woman (long, short hair, 30s, 40s, senior)
      • teenage boy, girl
      • child boy, girl
    • Vehicles:
      • car rides (irregular) in crate and Sleepypod
        • girls to school (40 min w/ stop in middle)
        • to vet (5 min each way) 2x
      • (seen only) many cars, trucks, work vehicles, lawn mowers
    • Animals:
      • met (from 4 feet away, held) dog next door
      • seen (while held) birds
    • Sounds:
      • house (quiet, noisy, 10-people get together, kitchen, appliances)
      • TV and video games (varied genres, soft, loud, “jump scares”, backfires, gunshots, explosions, music)
      • Music (piano, piano lessons, guitar, ukulele, acapella)
    • Things:
      • Trees, bushes, flowers, wind, morning (dark and day), evening (while held)
      • cardboard boxes, packing “balloons”
      • exercise wheel (this is awesome)
      • quite a few dog toys, including some brain game types like Bob-a-lot
  • Spin (clockwise)
    • Alyssa taught Kitto this in 5 minutes and he does it 100% for gesture + “Spin”

Commands We Invented

  • “Kisses”
    • Kitto touches a hand with his nose, and/or licks.  We do this a LOT as it helps him to learn how soft we like to be touched (and without teeth).
  • “Licklick” and “Licklick for down”
    • We ask any time Kitto is feeling affectionate or in grooming mood and when we have AllProvide in hand for training.
    • “Licklick for down” is our response when Kitto uses his mouth to tell us he wants to stop being held.  He is developing a gentle, soft mouth but we enjoy holding him more when he licks our hands when he wants down.  We notice that Kitto is increasingly happy and gentle to be around as we learn to communicate well with each other.
  • “Petpet”
    • Sometimes Kitto doesn’t want to be (incessantly) petted, and he uses his mouth to warn us off.  “Petpet” means we’re praising him for gracefully allowing petting.  It is REALLY cool how fast he to use a new behavior in place of another, but it’s up to us to think up a replacement behavior that we will all be happy with and then be consistent with it.  Every day he wakes up, it’s as if he’s learned and adopted everything from the previous day, plus added new “grown up” behaviors of his own.

Offered Behaviors

  • Sit (Pretty)
    • Kitto offers a pretty “at attention” sit all the time, a few feet from whoever or whatever he is interested in.  The distance is probably because it’s easy to give eye contact that way, a side effect of wanting to do that.
  • “Gosh, thanks!  I like you, too!”
    • Kitto puts his ears halfway back and his head down just a little when we go overboard with praise, like when he uses the potty on command.  He uses the same body language when he meets us after waking up, and any time a family member comes home.
  • Eye contact
    • Kitto is giving eye contact very often.  He knows we want it and like it and that he’s good when he offers.  Plus, he gets rewarded for it.  If there is one behavior that is most helpful to us, it’s this one.  It shields against distraction and is the basis of good communication.
  • Short leash working naptime
    • I have a home office next to Kitto’s kennel.  Sometimes he can be fine with run of the room and the next (master bath).  Other times he insists on play after we’ve already finished our morning play and exercise.  I attach his 6′ lead to the bedpost and move the food, water, and his “place” (a special purposed giant bath towel folded to 15″ square) close, and he curls up on it happily.  He’ll entertain himself with toys or just sleep for a couple of hours in the morning and again in the afternoon.






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