The Reliable Recall is a Life or Death ‘command’ for any dog that will be allowed to run off leash. In fact, if you were to wash away all of the extraneous things we will teach a dog there are literally only three things a dog must know: to go away from the handler, to stay put, and to return to the handler. House training is right up there, as is having a dog who knows how to turn it off, aka Impulse Control. But let's get back to topic.
Why have I not written about The Reliable Recall skill yet? Afterall, I think it is so important we begin working the recall into our puppies as soon as we begin to wean them from their mother! Well, to be honest, I just haven’t thought of it until recently. In recent months I’ve had two internet friends lose their dogs due to being hit by a car because their dog wouldn’t come when called. In one instance during the chaos of trying to get his dog back, the gentleman slipped on some ice and hit his head so hard he awoke in the Emergency Room, which is when he learned of his dog’s fate. Again, just yesterday in Belgium a young female Drent was lost due to the lack of an effective recall, their other dog is still at large. For the record, I also lost a dog in 2014 a few months after rescuing her to similar circumstances. I, for one, hope you never have to use your GPS collar to locate a mangled or dead dog, as I have had to do, to appreciate how important a rock-solid recall is.
As mentioned, here at Two Gun, we start teaching the recall when we are weaning pups from mom at feeding time. We use their insatiable appetite to our advantage, and even use some good old-fashioned Pavlovian conditioning with a whistle while they are eating. But let’s assume your breeder didn’t do this, or you have an older dog you need to ‘get right’. For that older dog I’d recommend tossing the ‘command’ you have used, after all Fido only knows to blow that cue off. The verbal cue I prefer to use is ‘here’, but you could use ‘hot dog’; it really doesn’t matter so as long as you are consistent with the cue you choose.
Mindset & Learning
Before we roll our sleeves up and get to the meat and potatoes of teaching a reliable recall, I need to segue for a moment to discuss the mindset of the dog. This is important in all training, but with the recall mindset can really work against you, since the dog is, or will soon be, off-leash, and your ability to physically control him goes to zero. These generalized mindsets are more or less like a heater with a rheostat that gently moves from one end of the spectrum to the other without clearly defined detents. ‘Calm’ is where a dog can really soak up a well communicated message. A calm dog is a dog that can really learn. Next is ‘Alert’, which can also be a useful training state, however it is better the dog be at the calm end of alert so that they are not being reactive to their environment. ‘Alarm’ is when the dog has become reactive and this can apply to virtually anything - a kicked pinecone, a squirrel, etc. an alert dog is not paying attention to you it is paying attention to whatever has its attention. This is not an effective state of training and why impulse control is so important. The last state is ‘Fear’, and this state is also useless to you as a trainer/handler. A dog in fear will withdraw, not meet your eye-contact, etc. Old School obedience methods can get you there (E.g. generous use of choke collars and heavy handed handling techniques), worse yet Old School field training methods (E.g. high-stim e-collar use, toe-hitches, and ear pinches) are almost guaranteed to put a dog in the ‘fear’ state. There is no place for this, and any methodology advocating for its use should be abandoned immediately. So now we have a deeper appreciation as to why the calm dog is pretty much in all ways a better dog.
The Recall Game
With a young pup all you need is a friend or family member and maybe even a hallway. Sit an arm’s length apart each with a small pouch of ‘high value’ treats nearby. One person starts with the pup, and the other a treat. If you have been working on impulse control, then you have been playing the name game. Pup knows his name being said and looking to you is a good thing. So, the person without the pup says his name, cues ‘yes’ once the pup’s attention has been gotten then takes the treat and instead of giving it to pup, uses it to lure the pup to their lap. Once pup begins to follow use the cue ‘here’. Use the cue once and only once. If pup isn’t wanting to follow your lure you need two things: One: a much better/more exciting lure, and two: put pup on a leash so you can gently encourage him to come into to you, never reel him in like a fish. But don’t go giving a ‘command’ and heaving on the line, you must let the dog decide (read more on this in the next step), besides this is only a game. Now, wash, rinse, repeat five to ten times every day, twice a day for at least a month. Pup will love this game and is very likely to just start running between you and your helper. When this occurs it’s time to only treat the pup once he has offered a more acceptable behavior such as sitting or standing still – your choice. No ‘command’ or cue needs to be given for this at this time.
We want this to be fun for pup and adding too much structure is a sure way to kill the fun! Now that we have this working well, begin by adding a little bit of distance each session. If there is any drop in performance just go back to when pup was last successful and start again from there. Once you are unable to use luring effectively or you have outgrown your hallway it’s time to move to the back yard – probably a place where pup listens very little. Our challenge now is to break some old associations for that location and generalize the association with ‘here’ we have made in the hallway. You should close the gap down, and have him on the longest lead you have, at least 12’. That may mean joining two or more shorter leads together. Please, never use a retractable lead. Once he gets this, you can really have fun with this game and try playing it in new and novel places. Once pup has it down really good you can start gradually upping the distractions. Just be careful to not go to fast and keep it fun. If you get frustrated, just stop.
The Higgins Recall
Wait, what!? Yes, that’s right, you aren’t done, you still have work to do, and the next step is the Higgins Recall. If you have an older dog that has a sloppy recall and is familiar with being on a lead, you could start here and use the Recall Game from time to time to help up the fun of being called in, but the game is a wonderful thing for young pups. Either way, this highly effective method is simple to learn and use. If your pup already has a grip on ‘here’ this is going to be a good tool to use for when you don’t have a helper or need to work ‘here’ in some new or novel situation so there is definitely merit in learning and using the Higgins Recall. First, you will have needed to familiarize pup with the Higgins Leader Walk. The Higgins recall relies upon having pup on a lightweight check-cord approximately twelve feet in length and having some patience. I’ll quickly explain the video. Pick a quiet distraction free place to walk pup using your check cord. Allow the dog to walk freely and once they are out a little way simply give the cue ‘here’ and only see what pup does. If you have been playing the Recall Game odds are, he’ll come right on in. When he does give him a ‘yes’ and once he is in be sure to offer praise and possibly a little reward. But if he doesn’t, that’s okay as we want the pup to make the decision to come in on his own – this is the critical step. So, pup didn’t come in. Depending on your dog, don’t be afraid to take your time before gently ‘nagging’ the line and calmly repeating the cue when pup turns to you. Also, don’t be afraid to vary the amount of time between cue and ‘nag’ if needed, the dog will come in, we want to be careful to avoid establishing an association where the 'nag' is the command to come in. The only part I like to add is ‘yes’ once pup is really moving in since we have built a strong praise association with that cue. This is one of the few times it is okay to repeat the ‘here’ cue, but soon enough the extra ‘here’ will be dropped – you may not even need it. Once pup is coming in reliably it’s time to take this act to a new location, then to another, and then begin to layer in distractions. This is why the Higgins Recall is so important. It offers you the ability to safely build the association with ‘here’ without the need for help, and more importantly in multiple new locations. No matter what, keep this exercise short - maybe five minutes is all you may want to go with in particular with young and/or softer tempered dogs and ten minutes if you can keep the session moving and upbeat. The recall must ALWAYS be a taught when you are not in a rush, having a bad day, whatever. Coming in to you needs to be much like winning the lottery for the dog. If you can’t be in that place, you will be better served to skip or cut the exercise short. Okay, so now pup is recalling like a champ, here, there, and everywhere, and you feel it’s time to ‘go off leash’. Think again.
You are now ready to move on to the advanced level of the Higgins Recall, and it’s the one thing an e-collar is used for, but only at very low levels. Simply put, your dog needs to be used to wearing an e-collar before employing it. You will want to put it on a fair bit before you plan to use it and take it off an hour or so after using it. Vary times some, we do not want to create an association here where the dog will only recall with the e-collar in place. Find the lowest setting on the collar where the dog acknowledges the momentary button being pressed, it is likely to be well below what you can feel. Now go back to a quiet place where the dog has been successful before, carefully lower the check cord and allow the dog to drag it. Give the cue ‘here’ and if he doesn’t come in, in stead of giving the gentle nag, simply press the button and if necessary, repeat the cue. Your dog may realize that he is free. At this point your job is to kneel down, smile and wait. If he comes in, give a ‘yes’ and praise once he is in. If pup just stands there, offer the ‘here’ cue again, and if nothing happens, a moment later tap the button again. Whatever you do, don’t panic, rush, or run towards the dog or check cord – just be calm, and smile. Be very aware of your tone of voice, be inviting. Be patient. He will come in, and when he does praise him. Also, be sure you have line of sight on your dog when using the e-collar, you don’t want to tap the button if he has already started in or if something unusual is happening, you could make a association you really don’t want. Like before you will need to work this up over time, using new places and distractions. Once pup has that down, start over and leave off the check cord. Then once pup is iron clad you may consider not using the e-collar. Be prepared to “step back” a step or more, as setbacks can and do occur. Progress can come quickly, or it may hit a snag once you learn of a distraction pup really has trouble with. Take your time, be patient, be positive, be upbeat. Soon you will have a dog who will run in, straight in, every time.
A quick checklist
Impulse Control, is pretty much as it sounds - puppies and some (too many, perhaps?) adult dogs lack an appropriate amount of impulse control a.k.a good manners. Once a dog has learned impulse control, quite literally everything which follows is much easier and tends to come along at a much quicker rate. We humans tend to make raising a puppy much more complicated than it needs to be.
Impulse control could even be called distraction management, but that is even more to say and type, either way it is a skill which will help a dog to concentrate and remain focused to a task, be it running an agility course, going your local pub to chill, running some field work, and all points in between. Teaching dogs this skill isn’t harsh, but it does require consistency.
I’m guessing you have taken a moment to see how long this article is and might be thinking about jumping ship because you think you might not need to read all of this. I’ll make you a deal. You are free and clear unless you answer yes to one or more of the following questions. If you do, you need to make some time and read the whole thing. Here we go: Do you find yourself competing for your dog’s attention? Is your dog easily distracted by other dogs or people? Is he more likely to follow his nose than you? Does noise or movement get him excited? I’m not a gambling man, but I’m guessing you are with me for the long haul, so I’ll try to make this easy.
You answered yes, so let’s get started.
Like most undertakings, start with realistic goals. You’ll need to break the process down into bite-sized pieces to keep from becoming discouraged or putting undue pressure on your pup. Secondly, you don’t need any special tools or skills. If you can say ‘yes’ with a smile on your face and can stock some ‘high value’ treats you are all set.
Since I mentioned ‘high value’ treats let’s take a quick sidebar to be sure we are on the same sheet of music. You can’t be offering your dog kibble or frankly most of the over-priced stuff offered at the pet store as it just isn’t good enough (unless of course you need a low value treat…). I prefer to use hot dogs; you could use string cheese. I split them lengthwise with two cuts (making three pieces), then rotating 90 degrees and making two more cuts (making nine pieces). From there these hot dog strips get cut perpendicular to make as many little squarish pieces as I can get. Basically, anything approaching the size of a pencil eraser is too big. Training treats do not need to be big to be useful, they need to be small, tasty, something the dog can just ‘inhale’, and be very compelling for the dog!
First Step, The Name Game:
Alrighty, let’s start small by having your pup nearby and your high value treats in a small pouch by your side. You will begin the Name Game. Take your puppy and go to a quiet place devoid of distraction, say pups name. When he looks at you, say ‘yes’ immediately and treat him – that’s it. It’s just that easy. If pup looks around a bit before he looks at you, that is okay. Just be sure to expect this, and only say ‘yes’ and treat once he does. If you need to repeat his name, you can, but be calm and wait a few seconds before repeating. You must refrain from using a machine gun burst of his name. Once he understands looking to you gets him a reward, do the exercise with him a few more times. As he improves, you can gradually add some distraction in the distance, use things that aren’t too enticing for him and as he progresses with the Name Game, you can ‘up’ the distraction. This is applied in the same way with all the exercises I am going to talk about here. In the early weeks of training don’t be shy with “loading the name” as many trainers call it, which means once he really gets it, and holding your eye, you can pump him up with a few extra treats and even add some verbal praise. Once he becomes bulletproof consistent with the Name Game, start to break up treating him by make treating him inconsistent and then less and less frequent. Be sure to always reward him with a ‘yes’, in the early stages and as you taper the food reward. You can always affirm his correct/appropriate response with a happy ‘yes’ as you see fit. The key to how this method of training works is giving pup a chance to decide on their own and making it easy for the pup to decide that following your lead is the way to go. The ‘Name Game’ has has a few layers, besides teaching pup to look to you when his name is said. Eventually his name can act as a preparatory ‘command’ of sorts by letting him know something else is likely to follow. But for now, we just need to see how this progresses. Ultimately, pup might figure the game out quickly and decide to become pushy about his treat, this too is a great situation and learning opportunity for pup. Always say ‘yes’ when he looks at you, but only treat pup when he is calm and looking at you (standing or sitting, whichever is what you want to reinforce). If he is being pushy just be calm, say and do nothing, simply wait him out. Give him a ‘yes’ once he calms and treat. Eventually you will want to extend the amount of time pup needs to look at you before being treated. There is no real need to set aside special training time to do this, just a moment of deliberate thought and preparation is all that is needed. As pup progresses with this exercise, try new locations, and gradually introduce a few distractions. We want to strengthen and generalize this association.
Getting more from the Name Game…
Bonus round one! While playing the Name Game, you may find that your pup chooses to move closer to you and offer to sit for you. Bookmark this, for after he has gotten a solid grip on the Name Game. Then one day, just as pup offers his ‘sit’, give him the verbal cue (aka for you Old Schoolers out there, the command, sit), once he has sat, say ‘yes’ and treat. You are now beginning to build a new association. If you happen to not have treats with you, you will always have your ‘yes’ handy. Remember, with Name Game play, you have built an association with ‘yes’ and he knows and associates ‘yes’ with praise and reward. This is what I like to call ‘knocking ‘em down’. All these skills are all dovetailed together and building on one another making each skill easier to teach the next. Please resist your temptation to tussle pups ears and rub him up excitedly. This only adds energy to the situation, and most likely to get pup bouncing around, or even more depending on how reactive your dog is. Remember we are teaching him how to be good citizen here – to be calm, assured, and pleasant. Your dog will tend to mirror the energy you are putting out.
Getting pup out the front door
Like having a toddler, with a pup, you need to plan to get ready before you intend to be ready…this gives you the upper hand. It gives you the time to do what is necessary; to be consistent, set the pup up to win and you to be the victor. All without needing to flex a single muscle! So, you want to take pup for a ‘Leader Walk’, or load him into the car… Go to the door and grab your leash. Odds are pup will begin to bounce around like a fool. If you were in a rush, you’d be grabbing at him, telling him to sit fifteen or twenty times, and maybe even get a little bit frustrated. If so, all you have taught your dog in that moment is to act like a fool and that preparing to go is a game where not listening is okay. The Leader Way would be to approach the door and grab the leash. Turn to the pup and wait. Don’t say a word, do not encourage anything. You could say calmly, ‘when you’re ready’ or my favorite, ‘what do good dogs do?’ – honestly it doesn’t matter what you say, what’s more important is your tone of voice. Odds are he will react by calming down and possibly sitting. Be prepared. If he hasn’t built an association with going out the door, you could just say his name and see what happens, if you are well into the Name Game and starting his sit work. Either way, once pup is nearby and offering a sit, say ‘sit’. Follow-up with ‘yes’ and then gently attach his leash. If your movement is too much for the situation, just start from the top and take your time. It will not be long; he will sit calmly and allow you to leash him and without fanfare head out. Now he has learned how to go through the door and that you are in charge.
Thoughts on Shaping & Luring. One hand washes the other and back.
He will also begin to associate his actions with rewards and verbal cues and later on verbal cues with actions. Yup, the dog is training himself, and you are only facilitating the experience. A big part of your job as handler is to simplify situations by removing distractions and thereby improving the likelihood of pup making the correct association you are intending to make. Offering toys while pup is excited, talking excitedly or yelling, and moving your arms to push pup away when pup is jumping up, only serve to muddle your message and add energy to the situation – making it more difficult to get the desired outcome. Additionally, blurting out random or rapidly fired repeated ‘commands’ (E.g. sit, sit, sit, sit, sit - you’ve seen it, and likely been guilty of doing so) and telling pup ‘no’ to just about any and everything is as equally as futile (and useless). ‘No’ isn’t a command: sit, here, down, stand, leave it, place, kennel all are commands, but only after the association has been made. Remember, the key here is to catch pup doing what you want and offering an affirmation to build the association you desire.
Claiming Space, not as advanced of a move as you might think:
If you have been following the Dutch Dog Blog, you know we are big fans of the Higgins Method. Part of the Higgins method of associative dog learning is Claiming Space, and this can have a rather surprising and profound impact of how a dog chooses to manage its energy. Claiming Space ties into teaching your dog impulse control. You will do this during a Leader Walk (detailed below) with pup, but you can also Claim Space in your home, and doing so can really simplify a few things. At mealtime how does pup behave? Is he like a rubber ball that has been launched into an empty swimming pool, bouncing, spinning and acting a fool? Even if you have been blessed in this area, Claiming Space is another exercise to help pup build control and focus. For pups that are pure crazy sauce, you will want not do this at mealtime starting out. You need to build success, not failure. Place pup’s kennel in a place where you can put a chair about an arm’s reach and squarely in front of. Put pup in his kennel and close the door. Remain sitting in front of the kennel, with the door latched, and wait for pup to become calm. This can look many different ways, but ideally, he will lay down and maybe even go to sleep. After calm has been achieved, open the door, but don’t allow pup to bolt out. Be sure to square your shoulders with the opening of the kennel, keep your head in a neutral position (at first) and use your hand to, as gently as possible, give pup a push to keep him in the kennel if required. No word needs to be said. He may be persistent, and you may need to be firm. You will need to be resolute, and you may need to lower your chin, giving yourself a little more of a serious posture. In most cases after a few attempts, pup will simply lay down and accept being in the kennel with the door standing wide open. This is when you can start a conversation with your friend of family member if you have someone nearby – always being attentive of pup. He may try to sneak out on you, and you will need to arrest this, but more than likely you will find he will simply remain in place. If so, perfect! Let him rest a while, then you can let pup know he may leave his kennel. From now on, when you open the door, the door opening is no longer the cue to bolt out. His cue is your release word. Consider using ‘okay’ or ‘let’s go’, some like ‘free dog’. In the beginning you will need to vary the amount of time the door is opened before offering the cue. The association we broke is door opening = bolt. The association we built and want to maintain is your cue = you may politely exit your house.
Applying all of this to mealtime to create more Impulse Control.
You have now Claimed Space in your home. Pup knows that when you are in front of him, that space is yours. Let’s help him understand this further. I’m guessing you have a carpet in the area where you feed your dog, if not you will want one as it will make this easier for pup to understand. Using all of the things we have talked about so far: the Name Game, the polite offer to sit or stand, and space claiming, pup knows to be on that carpet and knows that he must be there once his food bowl is in play. This will need to be done in small steps, but can be accomplished rather quickly if you have worked up to it… At first the bowl is placed near to the pup once he is calm and ready. Plan on using a similar stance you used with the crate and need to gently claim the space in front of pup where you intend to place his food bowl. Initially the waiting period should only be a second or two, give him a release pat on the flank (later you may build in a verbal cue) and let him enjoy his meal. As this exercise progresses, you may add time and or distance to help build the pup’s focus and association of waiting for your release.
The effectiveness of teaching ‘leave it’
We mentioned teaching ‘Leave It’ near to the beginning of this article. So now let’s spend a little bit of time on the concept. ‘Leave It’ can be taught passively and is a simple variation of what we have been doing so far. Start by putting a lower value treat in your hand e.g. some kibble, then as success builds work towards using your ‘high value’ treats! Begin by having your pup sit or lay down. Whichever you choose, the dog should remain in posture for the duration of the exercise. Have a modest handful of treats in your off hand. Start by holding your baited hand open and above the dog’s line of sight as well as being a few feet away. You sit calmly and if pup stretches towards the treats, simply close your hand. Once pup has relaxed, re-open your hand to start the exercise over. If instead of investigating your baited hand and he looks at you, say ‘yes’ then take a treat from the baited hand and reward him. As the game progresses, the baited hand gradually moves closer and lower to pup. Please note, once the treats get at or below line of sight this game will get much more difficult for pup to maintain posture, so be mindful to not progress too rapidly. You do not want pup to be able to raid your baited hand and self-reward. You should always quickly and quietly close your hand anytime pup shows interest in the baited hand. Some dogs will learn this quickly, others may need several sessions. Once pup has this pretty good you can up the value of the reward and then when pup goes for the baited hand simply add the cue ‘leave it’ when you need to close your hand. Reward once pup looks to you for guidance and/or praise. If your dog really struggles to stay in place to make this exercise possible you may need to recruit a helper to hold his leash. Again, the intent is to set pup up for a win.
Teaching pup to Settle:
Some dogs are naturally pretty chill, but most need a bit of assistance with learning how, and more importantly when to hit the ‘off switch’. Being reactive or overly excitable isn’t much fun for anyone, to include pup. This really comes down to teaching pup a ‘place command’. This can be his kennel, a bed (in one or more locations), or your sofa – it only matters to you. Pup will chill out pretty much any ol’ place. Figure out where you want pup to go. Generally speaking, you will lure pup to his spot using your ‘high value’ treat and once he offers the behavior you desire (lay down), calmly reward and give the ‘command’ you have decided on what that is to be i.e. ‘bed’ or ‘place’ once pup has made it to the targeted place, reinforce with ‘yes’ immediately and treat as soon as you can. Like most things this can progress quickly. To increase the challenge, slowly wean him from being lured into place and then create more and more distance from his ‘place’ when you give the command.
It is never too late to start teaching this stuff, but the sooner the better (and easier) as you might expect. Here are some additional resources on teaching impulse control to the distracted dog. I hope you find them helpful. A dog with a greater ability to concentrate, and stay on task will make everything you currently do easier and make all those plans you have for the future not just possible but easier as well.
The Brad Higgins Leader Walk method: http://www.twogunkennels.com/dutch-dog-blog/teach-your-dog-to-walk-nicely
Some of the inquiries we get might surprise you. As you might guess in this day and age, many lack basic common courtesy – the worse of which we simply don’t even acknowledge. The better of which will we provide at least a reasonable, if not short, but professional response. However, recently we fielded an inquiry about how to bring a new puppy home. The answer for this question is best provided by the breeder you have acquired your pup from, or even Google vs some random breeder or person. After all it's not a short answer. A rather odd request from someone who you have not had nor plan to have any future interaction with. I provided some basic info, then reviewed our own puppy related materials and realized it wouldn’t hurt to add to what we have started. So, for that, thank you random person for your questions. This also this helped to make good on a client’s request on putting all this stuff in one place – I didn’t really know how to do it, but this is what I came up with.
Part 1: What is the best way to acclimate a new puppy into the home?
A great place to get setup for success is to review each of the articles highlighted by the hyperlinks throughout this article. Getting Set up for Success is where we talk about all sorts of things ranging from general physical concerns and needs for a rapidly growing puppy's joints & bones, as well as puppy proofing your home & yard. Oh and not to forget, how do you plan to manage the messes that will happen, during your potty training adventures? Additionally, have you nailed down a teething management strategy,? Some pups will chew like a beaver, and others hardly any, but knowing what to do in advance can help shape all of their desires. Have you considered coat care, and the tools and time required? For Drents it’s pretty easy, but still it’s something you should have thought about.
Extending this thought process, you will want to be sure you have a veterinarian selected, if you don’t have one already, well in advance to bringing pup home. Also, what do you plan to feed pup? You don’t need to feed the ultra-expensive stuff to have a happy, healthy dog, but if you are considering to feed Old Roy, you should consider putting yourself on a diet of corn and rice hulls seasoned with charcoal, and for a big night out you guessed it – Top Ramen.
Next, you will also want to have a socialization and training plan thought through in advance. At the minimum we strongly encourage everyone to update what they know, or think they know about dog training. A lot has changed with the advent of the scientific study of Canine Behavior: Example 1, Example 2, Example 3. The old concept of Alpha/Dominant v. Submissive is quaint. The old techniques of traditional obedience training are at best boring and repetitive. These methods tend to be unkind, bordering on inhumane. Not even thinking about the old ways of bird dog training which if we are to be frank can be quite barbaric. We can and should do better, by looking towards trainers like Brad Higgins and Stonnie Dennis, for example. You should seriously consider enrolling pup in a certified AKC S.T.A.R. puppy course and shooting for achieving an AKC Canine Good Citizen certification.
Part 2: How do you Introduce pup to your other dogs?
So, if have been caught be the Drent virus, you are likely adding to your clan. Or if you are recently afflicted, you may still have another dog as part of your clan. Either way, you need to integrate. If you don’t already have a dog, my initial reaction is to pass this up…but my better sensibility says take a moment to read, and let it marinate for a later time – after all, you have the Drent virus, and there is no known cure.
Alright, okay, enough shenanigans – I’ll get to it…well, not to be special, but you are here on my blog so endure. You need to introduce pupski to an established adult dog. So, let us consider the established dog for a moment. Is he a model canine citizen? Let’s be honest, you know him far better than anyone so there is no need to tell any stories or make excuses. Does Fido-1 have separation anxiety, excessive barking, destructiveness, house training issues, aggressiveness/shyness towards other animals/people? If so, you should really work on getting those issues remedied – puppy will not help any at all. What you can expect pupper to do is to pick up some, if not all, of these less than desirable traits unless YOU have a clear and decisive plan, which is likely to involve external onsite assistance. Because the only thing worse that one canine terrorist, is two (or more, God forbid).
Okay, so your current dog is more or less well-adjusted and well behaved. Finding balance is likely the path to success. This doesn’t mean if your dog is a total couch potato you should add Hellfire the Tasmanian Spaziod to the equation - what is or will be complimentary? What temperament and personality will compliment, coexist, or coincide with what you currently have? With some deliberate thought you can create some amazing canine partnerships.
Alright, so The Pup is en route - what to do? Each dog should ideally have its’ own handler – this really can make it or break it if things were to slide sideways. Both dogs should be restrained by a leash initially. Allow them to sniff one another. Expect pup to maybe be a little bit timid or restrained. If so, it may be appropriate to allow the pup off leash to make its own introductions on its’ own terms. In this case restraining the adult dog can be important as they can get over excited and without meaning cause harm to the pup, in particular if much larger and stronger. With a little care, some calmness and patience, introducing pup should be fairly quick and painless. However, pup and Fido-1’s interactions will need to be supervised for the next few days. Play sessions will likely need to be supervised for the next several months, remember avoiding serious injury to pup is paramount – when in doubt call a timeout.
With that in mind, here are a few other tips for success: Be aware and don’t leave yours dogs alone and unsupervised. Avoid free feeding and encourage waiting when it is feeding time. When you offer special treats e.g. chews and/or raw hides, ensure there is enough for all, supervise, and pick them up long before they are fully consumed. Please be sure to have an ample supply of toys and beds. If one toy becomes a point of contention, retire it. Monitor play time be aware of body language and if/when needed redirect and give timeouts as appropriate. To the greatest extent possible give each dog a little bit of its own time.
We believe through daily, structured walks; your dogs will respect you as the boss and look towards you for guidance and direction. Daily, structured walking is a great way to establish your leadership.
After a month of careful supervision, correcting misbehavior, structured walking, and supervised feedings, your dogs will know you are the boss and the new/old dog is not a threat. Once your dogs begin to feel safe with one another, their true personalities will come out and you will have two wonderful pack members to entertain you and love you for the rest of their lives.
Part 3: Crate training - what is that all about?
Some people want to think a dog crate is a punishment tool, when in reality a properly sized crate is your dog’s home inside of your home. This, as you might imagine, has a few benefits like helping to potty train pup, keep pup safe when you can’t supervise him adequately, to name just a few. It is important to have the crate properly sized and built to be safe and secure.
A dog’s crate should be a happy place. The training process can go quite rapidly, or it may take a couple of weeks. Always have in mind, the crate is the dog’s house, and it should be a pleasant place for him. Generally, this can be accomplished without too much ado by breaking the process down into a few steps, just be mindful not to rush.
Introduce pup to the crate. Do so calmly and be sure the door can’t slam around or close. Put some of pup’s favorite things into the kennel along with a few treats. Drop a few treats near the kennel, then just inside the door, then toss a few treats in. Let pup take his time to go in. We familiarize our pups with kennels in the whelping box – so this should be super easy. However, at first, this will be new in his new home, so a little bit of patience will serve you well. Once pup is going in the crate well on his own, be sure to feed him at least once a day, or possibly all his meals for a little while in the crate. At first with the door open, then gradually work towards shutting then even latching the door for short periods. Work up to 10 minutes or so after eating. Here is where things can get tricky, and you will need some will power to get through this. If pup whines in the crate, you did too much too fast and here is the catch, you can’t let pup out while he is whining or crying. You can sit by the door, even place a finger in for pup to smell and help calm him. Once the whining has stopped, and this could be a while in some cases, you may then open the door. If you open the door while the pup is crying it very well may make the association and begin doing much more crying and whining – just what we want to avoid. You may need to have pup close by in his crate at first, and just like ‘playing with the door’ you can adjust proximity. Evening TV time, or some other calm time is perfect for working on building familiarity and comfort.
Crating pup overnight:
Alrighty, now it is really time to start to work with longer crating periods. We have found doing this while you are at home really is best as you as easily start adding some structure to an already familiar event. Here are your marks:
Yes, this can appear to run a bit contrary to to the whole training process, and frankly can be the most difficult part of crate and potty training – the night shift. Leaving pup out all night is surely going to result in a mess, damage to something, pup getting into things which might harm him, or for a real banner night all or a combo. Crating at night is a must until pup has proven himself reliable in all ways.
Generally, it’s a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom if space permits or nearby in a hallway. Young puppies will need to go potty during the night, and you'll want to be able to hear your puppy BEFORE they whine to be let outside. Put pup in the crate using your regular command and a treat, know what pup’s potty schedule is (going potty just before bedtime is an absolute must), so that you can set a gentle alarm to take him out just before his normally scheduled time. Expect to get up at least 2 times each night for the first few nights. As his day schedule lengthens his night schedule should as well. One bit of advice here is to pick up the water bowl about 2-2.5 hours before bedtime. Soon your dog will be sleeping comfortably through the night with the crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet.
Whining - If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether they’re whining to be let out of the crate, or whether they actually need to be let outside to eliminate. If you've followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from their crate. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, they'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at them or pounding on the crate will only make things worse.
If the whining continues after you've ignored them for several minutes, calmly take the pup out of the crate and carry outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. Give your “go potty” command and give pup a few minutes to get the job done. If he goes potty, give a calm “good boy” and carry back to the crate without a fuss. If he does not potty, then without drama take pup back to his crate. Potty or no potty ends with the same outcome - trips in the middle of the night are for necessity only, and the crate is a requirement until it’s time to start the day. If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don't give in; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what they want. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again.
Separation anxiety - Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but they may get injured in an attempt to escape. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counterconditioning and desensitization procedures. You may want to consult a professional animal-behavior specialist for help.
So how do you do this, help your dog teach itself? As I have mentioned in most of my training articles I have been moving more and more towards shaping techniques for a myriad of reasons, but mostly because they work and work well. The technique is easy to employ, sometimes a bit of forethought is needed - in particular if you are used to doing things the old way. The dog becomes much more predictable sooner, and becomes even easier to "train" because of it. Brad Higgins allows 'the bird to do the training', but really he guides the dog through some scenarios where the dog teaches itself what to do, we just happen to help set the stage, and provide the right reinforcement(s) at the right time to help set the behavior in the dog's mind. Here is a nice video by Stonnie Dennis which help illustrate what I am trying to say (his videos from this period are his most informative):
So as it is we are likely to call this 'heeling' and/or 'leash manners', it is both and not at all, at the same time. We have been getting more and more into the Higgins Method of dog training, and frankly it is a direction I have been pointed in for years and didn't realize it. Brad really doesn't like using the words we have assigned to conventional tasks and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this about it. Those old commands come with a lot of baggage and the baggage can be hard to leave behind. I mean after all the use of 'heel' has just as much been ingrained into our minds and how we employ it.
I wrote an article on this topic not long ago "Stop your dog from pulling!," and I am not disavowing what I wrote. Rather, I am going to build on it since I have learned more in how to put these things together. The title of the article reeks of disciplinarian style obedience (which wasn't intended and rather unfortunate). Having a dog that knows how to walk nicely with you is right up there with having a dog with a bullet proof recall. It can save your dog's life and on the lighter end of the scale make walking with your dog so much more pleasant.
Allow me to digress a little - over the years we have been using more 'classical conditioning' methods vs old school dog training, also known as 'operant conditioning', as outlined in 'Super Socialization' I recently posted. With Ila we have pushed further into this and have achieved some really nice results without any pressure.
Both methods I have highlighted here are very similar to using a JASA collar to teach this, without the expense or need of a JASA. In practice the 'figure-eight' you make in the lead ensures it is in the correct position to do its job. Through this it allows the dog to teach itself how and where to be when walking with you.
Your dog does need confidence walking on leash in order to employ this method. So if she is pulling hard at the leash, she is ready. The dog controls the 'pressure' it takes on. The dog really does all of the teaching it needs vs you pressuring the dog into position. Now that Ila's confidence on the leash has made her a bit of a nuisance, her 'leash work & heeling' has moved onto the phase of using Brad Higgins' 'The Walk' method and with really good success at that. So get ready to add another layer of teamwork and trust:
Kat from StandingStone Kennels uses essentially the same method, and she explains the use of the method a little more and maybe a little better. You will see she uses an EasyLead which in comparison to the light line Brad uses, I feel, is slightly less effective. Make your own mind up:
We have all read at least something about the importance of socializing a puppy. The need to get pupper out and about, while being aware if not slightly paranoid about the ‘fear period’. Well, that isn’t too far from the truth. One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, when do I start training pup? And my answer has always been and will continue to be, right after you take possession of your pup – that is when it starts. With no pressure, some selective extinction, and positive reinforcement you can head so many bad behaviors off at the pass. Allowing, aka fostering, annoying puppy behaviors only serve to set your pup up for a lifetime of some unbearable habits. Somehow people with toy breeds find this cute, but for us, our Drents will be too big, too strong, and too smart to allow these habits to persist.
From age 6 to 16 weeks pups are super impressionable. We, your breeder, do the best we can with the two weeks we have of that time with visitors, oddball sounds, water, and so on. What have you planned for the following 8 weeks? This is a critical investment period. Just like putting money on Sun Microsystems, or Facebook at their Initial Public Offering…it doesn’t take a lot to really become something noteworthy and lasting. What is the investment that you have made? If you have spent your ‘money’ on Coors Light, there is still time to turn it around if you are ready and willing. But it will take some sacrifice and a bit of discipline on your part.
By and large there are nine factors to consider: Socialization, Adaptation, Exploration, Puppy Play, Social Dominance, Separation, Fear, Training, and Imprinting.
Take a moment to study this super sweet chart, it will serve as your road-map to either stay on course, or to find a successful path.
I am guilty as charged with oversimplification and incorrectly calling the bulk of puppy development ‘socialization’. Some old habits just refuse to let themselves go. None the less, Socialization is currently defined as allowing your pup to adapt and explore its environment. Ideally you set everything up to be as positive as humanly positive. Keeping a sack of hotdog nubbins handy can really be useful of making these, sometimes surprisingly challenging situations, into positive fun experiences. In this Play Socialization period pup is learning how they are supposed to behave. Are you teaching pup to sit quietly before feeding time or before greeting a new person? Or is this time of chaos, clawing, and yipping? And all it takes it to wait until pup settles and then offer pup its bowl, in no time at all, pup will sit quietly for feeding time. This is the foundation you are allowing to be built, these are the coping behaviors pup is learning at the same time pup is building confidence and learning basic decision-making skills.
Adaptation is how your pup reacts to the different stimuli you have presented to him. It is the other side of the coin so to speak, it is what we see, the reaction from the socialization. This window begins to close around 12 weeks. If you have missed this, there is still merit in designing positive experiences which involve vacuums, the terrifying fire hydrant across the street, bikes, and so forth. Use those high value treats to get pupper to accept that Dyson, the cardboard box you have randomly placed in the middle of the living room, or what have you. Take it slow and incrementally. Show pup its okay, and it might even be fun. You will not regret the time spent.
Exploration, this is when your pup starts to socialize itself. They have the confidence to step out and explore on their own. This too happens between 7 and 12 weeks. Expect pup to not want to be too far from you. After all, who doesn’t want to be too far from their security blanket? Your job here is to simply support them, and help ensure their exploration is safe, fun, and positive. Also expect pup to try to consume the damnedest things during this time – be on the look out and be ready to fish the craziest stuff out of pup’s mouth. This is also when they start to explore chewing, and you will need to be able to redirect pup to what is acceptable. Shouting ‘no’ across the room is simply not adequate. Offering pup an acceptable alternative is an absolute necessity. Your pup may be very trustworthy, but allowing them unsupervised access would be a rather poor decision. Encourage his exploration, but also be ready to redirect.
Puppy Play, yes, it is also important to let your puppy to be just what he or she is. A puppy. Yep, that’s right just play with your puppy. This is much more important than you may realize, this seemingly unstructured time helps to build trust, and with trust comes affection. This is the foundation of what makes a Drent super awesome to own. They love to please their boss. Use this time to help shape boundaries. With very little effort this play time will serve to support the manors you have been working on in the other areas of his early puppy development. You get to control the intensity of 'what right looks like', so do so. Use treats, and toys. Relax, have fun. But keep your head.
Social Dominance takes place between 10 and 16 weeks and this is when pups begin to identify where they are in the pecking order. Recognized by most, are the three categories of the social hierarchy: Aggressive-Dominate, Sub-Dominant, and Inhibited-Submissive – there are other subcategories, but that would be a whole other thing to write about… Most dogs tend to be somewhere in the Sub-Dominate element of the social dominance spectrum. Meaning they are confident, capable, and able to display both dominate and submissive behaviors based on different situations. The Inhibited Submissive pups are not able to assert themselves and tend to be the target of the more dominate dogs.
Whereas the Aggressive-Dominate dogs learn their behaviors while playing with litter-mates, and will continue to practice their behaviors, generally through play, with you. It is important to recognize the signs and do your part to temper these behaviors early on. Behaviors like mouthing, nipping, or biting need to be redirected and focused in more appropriate ways. Generally, through constructive play, and having a positive redirect is all you need.
Separation, a dog has to be okay with not being by your side constantly. This is where crate training pays its dividend over and over. Get that puppy Kong loaded with peanut butter (and freeze it) or freeze carrots, and/or pups’ favorite toy and have pup sleep in its crate, even if this is right next to you as you write an article, or Facebook with your friends. At first this may only have to be for a few minutes at a time, and work towards extending it as they get comfortable. Also, you may need to shorten the time as you move pups kennel further away from you. Just play with the variables. Set pup up for success. You want to avoid traumatic events, leaving pup in the crate for extended periods, and you want to really avoid allowing pup out while it’s crying. If you must, use a distraction if pup is squalling and move quickly once it has stopped – you want to avoid having them make the connection that their protest was the key to them getting let out. A nice sharp clap of the hands can be just what the doctor ordered. Don't be afraid to put pup on a schedule. In short, like all thing’s puppy, when in doubt create positive experiences. You will not regret it.
Fear. More or less between 8 and 10 weeks is the famed and feared ‘puppy fear stage’. In short, don’t force a puppy. Do what you can to control and shape the situation to make it positive. Do your best to not coddle, as this only serves to reinforce their fear reaction. Your best bet is to practice ‘extinction’ aka, ignore the fear response, and devise a way to get a positive response. Break the situation down into steps. Sometimes those steps may need to be further broken down. Be sure to then reward each step that has been conquered. If you can’t make it positive – just stop. It should go without saying putting the pup into a situation where you have little or no control is just a bad idea – don’t do it.
Training. Yes, you have to train your puppy starting right away - even Drents. Everything you do or don’t do is training him something. You do have to understand that puppies have attention spans which aren’t that spectacular. However, once you come to realize puppy training is all of the things you have read thus far. From getting them out and about, play, familiarization with their crate, waiting until they settle before putting their food bowl down, doing the recall game, and of course potty training. Puppy training works best when it tends to be play centric, rewards for the desired behavior are regularly offered. Negative reinforcement with young pups needs to be refrained from. If they are doing wrong guide them to what is right, and praise once the correct behavior is offered.
Imprinting is really what all of this is about. With a constant and consistent message of what is appropriate, and welcome will become imprinted upon the pup. This is why correcting some bad behaviors in older dogs can be nearly impossible. It’s like a stain on a favorite shirt, it isn’t coming out, no matter how many times it is sprayed and washed. So, don’t be careless with how and what you do with pup. Be deliberate, take advantage of the malleability of these early weeks shape the dog you want to live with for the next ten or so years.
Great, so what kinds of things should I be doing? Well there are 12 things which should be done before week 16 comes to a close:
1) Meet 100* strangers: 40% Men, 40% Children, 20% Women, and of as many different races and ethnicity as possible.
2) Body handling: Make sure that puppy enjoys every inch of his body being touched and poked and prodded.
3) Meet 100* dogs: all breeds, sizes, ages, sexes, and reproductive status. Just make sure the dogs are healthy and friendly. It is perfectly fine for a dog to gently correct your puppy for being rude, but we do not want the dog attacking or over-correcting your puppy.
4) 10 Different floor surfaces: From wet grass to metal exam tables to rickety old decks. Think about all the different textures puppies will experience in their lives.
5) New environments: Parking lots, busy streets, children’s parks and playgrounds, vets’ offices, pet supply stores, cafes, etc.
6) Household noises: From dishwashers and pots & pans to vacuums and blow dryers, as well as thunder, fireworks, and cars whirring by on a busy street. Don’t forget babies crying, children laughing, and people shouting! YouTube can be your best friend...
7) Children’s toys: From remote control toys and noise-making toys to balloons and kiddie pools.
8) Things with wheels: strollers, bikes, skateboards, shopping carts, etc.
9) Costumes & appearances: everything from hats and helmets to beards and masks, lab coats and hooded jackets to high heels and big boots, canes and walkers to umbrellas and people carrying boxes/big bags e.g. mailman/UPS/FedEx. Have you chatted with your mail delivery person? Maybe it is high time to meet the actual mailman with your puppy. Don’t forget the treats!
10) Household objects: computer printers, stairs (both open stairs and solid stairs), step stools and ladders, trash bags (both black and white – it does make a difference), exercise equipment, lawn signs…
11) Smells & scents: From grass to gasoline at a gas station or window cleaner, perfume, pizza… whatever you can think of. Obviously you don’t want your puppy breathing in chemicals, but you also don’t want your dog to freak out when he does a ride-along at the gas station, when you wash the windows, or when you get dressed up for a date. New smells can freak a dog out.
12) Dog stuff: Leashes, collars, harnesses, crates and gates, food dishes of various types, car rides, and TOYS! Toys of all types. Yes, you actually have to teach them what toys are appropriate, or they won’t know what to do with them.
*100…really, it’s a nearly impossible goal for normal working people. The point is, push yourself to get pupper out and about. Be smart, be safe with where you go. Just be sure to make the time, because soon the 16 week door will close, and you will not be able to reopen it.
I recently sent a Standing Stone Kennels YouTube channel video link to my current list of clients. In general, Ethan and Kat do a nice job of video production, and demonstrate effective methods of training. Just as important, their method would easily work on any Drent. Low stress conditioning equals more fun, which in turn generates more positive responses. Once a dog knows what the command is you can begin to apply consequences for non-compliance. As the dog improves, the consequences for non-compliance can be increased, but only if done with care and full knowledge that the dog clearly knew what it was supposed to do and chose to not do it. Their video for teaching a recall is a nice example of this, see below, and if you take the time to review the video, they do a nice job of only rewarding and acknowledging the pup’s correct behaviors to their desired action and more or less ignoring sloppiness and/or when she gets it wrong. This is a critical step in the development in a young pup! It teaches them to learn, explore, and to look to you – their boss – for leadership. The dog must want to look to you for leadership and guidance, otherwise you are likely in for a difficult time. This Old School "yard work" applied with modern training principles and techniques is your start to building the all important relationship of trust and respect with your pup.
Do I use a clicker like Ethan and Kat? No, I don’t. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it. When you are rewarding or correcting your dog you have 1/3 of a second to get that done in order to have the best chance for the dog to associate the reward/correction with the action. Using a clicker can help you to get the timing of reinforcing a “good job” within that small window of time. It can also be easier for the dog to discriminate as a positive stroke, in particular, if you are very conversational with your dog. Clicker use has a few down sides, and for me, remembering to have one with me is generally the one that gets me. There are lots of great resources out there, and if you are thinking to use a clicker in your training efforts, now is the time to start learning and practicing the technique – it does take some learning, but it may be well worth the investment of your time.
In the field I use a whistle. I love it and find the whistle to be a valuable and powerful tool. I dislike hollering a dog’s name anywhere, and in the field isn’t any different. Plus, it is very likely that conditions will seriously limit how far your voice carries. A whistle will save your vocal cords, keep you from looking like a raving lunatic, and generally the tweet of a whistle will carry further in more conditions than your voice ever will. The only trick is to not be the person who is constantly bleating their whistle like a maniac, like I said it is a powerful tool, and so it must be used with judgement. So, when to start with the whistle? We will begin tweeting a whistle at feeding time shortly after the pup’s ears have opened. They will soon associate that glorious tweet with meal time and this with a little reinforcement from you, will help cement this foundational Pavlovian conditioning as something as strong and irresistible as the Siren’s song is to a sailor.
My Answer: No need to send any crates in advance, we have so many crates it would boggle your mind. Literally, we have a stack of them consuming a corner of our basement. We will begin acclimatizing the pups to crates shortly after they get under their own power. Primarily we will use plastic airline kennels to get the pups started since they will be more likely to chew wire crates, and this isn’t a behavior we want to get ingrained at the start.
That Orvis crate looks to be a nice one, but with a pup...I have a hard time recommending it as an initial investment. You could get lucky and It could be just right the right size, or it could end up being a bit small. All of our adult dogs have quite large wire crates so they can lay comfortably when we are away, but when they are pups, they aren’t given such luxury. I did recommend recommend looking on Facebook marketplace, or any other comparable source, for used crates, in particular "life-stages" crates which have a movable panel which will help with potty training. With these "life-stages' crates you can make the puppies space smaller when they are tiny and move the divider to make their space larger as their needs evolve and their bladders strengthen. Then you can either fold it up or sell it once you are done with it.
As I have mentioned in my book, Drents will be really close to full size at around 11-13 months of age. Boys, in particular, will still be filling out: gaining bone and muscle mass up until possibly 3 years of age, and his coat will continue to develop pretty much his whole life, but his adult coat could take until he is 3 or 4 years of age. Females will be done much closer to 18 months but will also likely see some coat development as they age, but to a much smaller extent than the boys. With Drents, it is important to realize a certain amount of Sexual Dimorphism is common in the breed, with the boys being larger.
With our 2019 Powder X Joeri litter most of the litter will be close to the size of the parents as I have posted on the litter page. But with the Drent, there is a lot of variety, and some bloodlines have more than others and in this case on the father's side of the family, there is a greater amount of uniformity in size 23"-24" at the shoulder. On the mother’s side there are some really big boys. So, while it is unlikely, it may be possible we could see a 25" boy.
So for the home, in short, I think buying an adjustable kennel, or a series of the plastic bodied kennels is your best option for his first year. Clean, used, but well-maintained kennels are the best way to go until you know for sure how big he is going to be.
In writing this, I see where I totally failed John. I didn’t even touch on the travel part of kenneling your dog. When it comes to airlines, really, these requirements have become a moving target, and so checking with your airline of choice several months in advance is critical to ensure what you purchase meets their specifications.
What I will touch upon is crating for overland/highway travel. I am a huge fan of having my dogs crated while rolling down the road, it just solves so many problems before they even have a chance to rear their heads to become one! For road travel with Drents I am not in favor of wire, or folding wire crates. I have a friend and mentor who uses them, his dogs are small, so he has never had a problem. I used them and stopped after having the crates collapse at the least opportune time - they provided only an illusion of restraint. Another travel kennel to mention is the soft sided kennel. Like the Jeep Dog Kennel, I have used similar products in the past and I'm not a fan. Let me explain, a fabric kennel will only contain a dog that is okay with being contained. Zippers are easily popped, the mesh and fabric will only fascinate a chewer as they buzz saw their way through like a hot knife through softened butter. As far as using a fabric 'kennel' for travel to protect and contain your dog while traveling, they will most likely offer even less in the way of restraint and protection during hard braking or worst case, a crash than a wire kennel.
This is the reason I use Ruff Tough kennels, now called Ruff Land, kennels. I use their intermediate size, which is a bit small for our larger boys, and about right for the girls and they are strapped down to the “Hell for Stout” Carty Vault with 2,500# cargo straps. These days you can buy even tougher double walled rotomolded kennels, and you can spend as money on these as your budget will allow! I’ve never had a problem or heard of a problem with a “Ruff Tough” – they are tough as wood pecker lips. The smaller size I use isn’t the best for long road trips but does keep the dogs from being tossed around in the back country. Everything is a compromise, and I went a bit towards safety over comfort.
I'm just a guy suffering with an infatuation with gundogs since childhood. Fifty some years later this is what you get.