I am amazed at how much a young puppy can learn. The past five weeks have been incredibly fun for me as I train and socialize Bolo to become a well-mannered and well-adjusted puppy. This 12 week old puppy is well on her way to becoming a Leader Dog. She has mastered beginner skills of FOCUSED ATTENTION, SIT (for everything- including polite greetings), DOWN, STAY (both at a distance and with distractions), GO TO YOUR MAT, SETTLE, LEAVE-IT, TRADE-IT, TOUCH/TARGET, STAND, and COME WHEN CALLED (both at a distance and with mild distractions). She is able to HEEL or walk with a LOOSE LEAD for the majority of her walks.
Many people marvel at how responsive she is to commands and direction. I stand firm in my belief that the best time to start training is the moment a puppy comes into your life. From the moment we brought BOLO home and into the office, I have made it a point to control her environment so she does not practice the very behaviors we want to avoid (jumping, barking, pulling on leash, etc…). With her environment strictly managed, I am able to teach her the new skills she must learn. These new behaviors have been followed immediately by a variety of reinforcements- attention, praise, kibble, touch, etc…The controlled process of management and training all BOLO knows. While maintaining consistency and discipline on my part can be demanding, it is paying off. Fortunately, I am not doing this alone. The great staff here at Dog is Good is on board and consistent in helping BOLO, too.
I am a HUGE fan of clicker training. I love demonstrating how quickly behaviors can be learned simply by using this acoustic device to mark the moment when correct behavior occurs. The click is always followed by a reward (I use her kibble). BOLO has learned all the behaviors quickly through this training methodology. During training, I speak very little. BOLO is an active participant in the training process and offers different behaviors until she hears the click. Because I have been using this since day 1, the “light-bulb” goes on quickly for her as she figures out what behaviors I am requiring of her. Once she is offering the behavior consistently and it is apparent that she understands what I want, I put the behavior on cue. By this process she has mastered all the basic skills. BOLO is now at a point where we can solidify what she has learned by adding more distractions and working in several different locations.
Finally, a great deal of attention has been given to providing her with proper and safe socialization experiences. It is incredibly important for a dog to be well-socialized, and it is particularly important for BOLO so she may perform her future job well. Socialization is not just about interaction with dogs, it includes positive exposure to numerous stimuli, people, places, sounds, and things. BOLO is taken everywhere she can meet a variety of people, walk on different surfaces, hear different sounds (busy traffic, garbage truck, UPS truck, big trucks at our office complex), and meet other safe and vaccinated dogs. Because she is a future Leader Dog, she has also been to restaurants, malls, and grocery stores. The two places she has not been to are the dog park and dog beach.
Our first month together has been extremely busy indeed. There is no question I am a little more exhausted than normal. It is challenging to raise a puppy properly, run a business, market a fundraising project, be an actively engaged mom, and take care of a family. However, the commitment we have made to do something greater than ourselves means we have a chance