The ability to sit, stay and retrieve begins with youWORTHINGTON — Many of you know that for years I have owned and trained Labrador retrievers. My house is home to the three musketeers. They are three black labs, all males, which range in age from 3 to 8 years.
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Many of you know that for years I have owned and trained Labrador retrievers.
My house is home to the three musketeers. They are three black labs, all males, which range in age from 3 to 8 years.
Decoy, Ace, and Gunner have been a big part of my outdoor experiences. All of these dogs have come from a local breeder at Round Lake Kennels, Thad Lambert.
I have associated with this kennel evenings and weekends in what I call a passionate amateur status. I have learned a lot about dog training and can now see what it takes to succeed in molding an animal into your greatest hunting partner and inseparable friend.
I have an opportunity to visit with many of the other puppy buyers when they pick up their purchase, and I share with them the two most important things they need to know when they go home. What you do with your puppy in the first six months of its life will have more affect on the outcome than anything you do after that time.
This statement should be carved in granite. You, the owner, have a gigantic impact on the outcome of your dog. This outcome can be immeasurably improved or irreparably damaged by your actions.
The first thing that you need to know is that a puppy is a puppy and should be treated like one. Puppies mature over time just like kids. There are only two things that a puppy needs to learn in the first six months of its life. These two things are not to relieve themselves in your house, and the other is not to bark.
A puppy is mature enough to learn these things, and can do so, in about six weeks on average. Puppies are the babies of the dog world, and when you try to move to training that is beyond their maturity level you create a puppy that will forever be changed, and most of the time it is not for the better.
You would not try to teach a third-grader the ins and outs of some advanced algebra formula. These advanced attempts fail, and the student looses confidence and then just gives up. If the advanced training continues, the student might not recover.
Obedience in the first six months is what I call non-reprimand obedience. You can start on the here, sit and heal commands, but there is no negative consequences if the puppy does not comply. All obedience is ‘take it if I can get it’, but is not in any formal setting. The dog will mature as it ages, and the level of training will increase as it does.
The second thing that every new puppy owner needs to know is that almost anything you expose your puppy to when it’s little; it will not be scared of when it’s older.
For an example, I take all of my puppies down the parking lot at Runes Furniture in Worthington and then wait for the train. The train starts its whistle blowing at the intersections over a mile away. As the train nears I hold my puppy in my arms and talk to it, calming and reassuring it as the loud noise gets closer. By the time the train reaches the intersection a half of a block away the puppy is accustomed to this really loud noise and has no fear of it.
This is the same experience as exposure to other dogs in controlled environments or other people on a trip to the hardware store. Take your puppy with you everywhere you go, and expose them to anything and everything. This is called socialization and will result in a confident and calm dog in almost any setting.
That is the kind of dog I want.
The most consistent problem I observe is the owner of a new puppy sees that the animal has learned this or that and has an uncontrollable urge to continue to advance the puppy beyond its maturity level. The end result can be a giant step backward to the point when some retrievers will even lose their desire to retrieve. Once this happens it can take a professional hand to fix it, if it can be fixed at all. There is nothing neater than a seven-week-old lab puppy sitting in you lap taking a nap and knowing that with your help they can grow up to do things that will amaze you.
Let your puppy be a puppy, and take it with you everywhere. These two tips can be critical to the success of your new addition.
My house is full with three labs and a rat terrier named Skeeter, but there is always a chance that my life could contain the four musketeers. I will just have to try to avoid temptation.
To read Scott Rall’s column and other outdoors stories online, visit www.dglobe.com and click on “Northland Outdoors.”