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 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.
Just so we are all on the same sheet of music, I found the classic graphic I believe most "pointer people" can agree on to define the various "levels" of steadiness.. The further to the right, the "higher" the level of steadiness.
In the world of pointing dogs this can be quite the debate. In Real World hunting situations, with all of the people I have hunted with and all the different dogs I have had the opportunity to hunt over I have heard a lot of things, mostly yelling, cussing, copious whistle bleating and even witnessed a tantrum or two over dog performance for one thing or another. The one thing I never heard a peep over is a guy complaining his dog was too steady.. Let that soak in for a quick minute. Hell, I'm guilty of this. Please allow me to digress...it is my blog after all...In fact my first real bird dog from puppy is Paxson. I thought knew a lot about dog training already, read a half dozen books on Bird Dog training - man I got this, I thought. I was living in New Mexico at the time, and The Poof was about eighteen months old. He spent his first year and change living in Amstenrade, The Netherlands and had only seen a few pheasant and Grey Partridge when I took him out for walks in the South Limburger countryside.... Back to New Mexico. It was a banner year for Scaled quail, the coveys out on the mesa where epic - hundreds of birds, just in a single covey! It didn't take long and Paxson began to point naturally, doing an amazing job really. People have paid more to trainers and got less - just saying and since I thought I knew so much I allowed Paxson to be hunted with my dear friend's yellow Lab, Drake. I love Jim, and I really thought the world of Drake, but he was no pointing dog! True to type, he'd blaze on in and the quail would fly. Soon this became a competition for Paxson and turned into a behavior I have never been able to completely rein in. I learned I couldn't hunt him with another dog and so Paxson, despite being an amazing bird dog, has never had his talents showcased to anyone wanting to run their own dog during the same hunt.
Here is an area where a little sacrifice and deliberate effort pays a dividend for a lifetime. We take it seriously pretty much from day one here at Two Gun. We have a house full of Drents and despite having the word “kennel” in our name, our kennel is our home. Having our home smell like urine and feces is for sure a full-stop-no-go around here. It is unpleasant, unsanitary and embarrassing to have guests over.
Potty training isn’t difficult, but it does take some diligence and we strive to set you up for success before pup even goes home. I’m not saying you have no work to do, but it is on you if your pup decides the inside is the place to go…let me explain.
We use wee-wee pads, and in a pinch will use fresh news print. Keeping the puppies’ area clean, dry and sanity is of the utmost importance for a number of reasons. One of them being for potty training, so from the earliest days we begin encouraging the pups to use the pads to do their business away from where they spend their time resting, nursing and playing. Once they become just mobile enough the pads are placed into rabbit trays to set a boundary on the potty area, and this is set back and away from where we greet and care for them, and like has been said where they nurse, rest and play which begins to reinforce the use of the potty zone.
This all goes to build the preference and habit of eliminating away from the desirable areas, and we will then begin to use this preference/habit to help transition them to using the great outdoors.
It has been said in just about every forum of dog training and ownership, lack of house training is one of the top deal-breakers for many...and learning to quickly house train your dog is a top priority for most dog owners – but they too often struggle with this task.
Once pups are getting more mobile, we will introduce the bell to help them associate and give them a way to tell us when they want to go out. This is fiendishly simple, and many dogs will learn the association very rapidly – it will become your job to be Johnny on the Spot with getting them out and praising them when “it” happens.
But before I give you the secret to the door bell, I need you to understand a few things about puppy plumbing and when they will need to go potty. This will help you to get out in front of them and get as close to a 100% success rate as possible. Pups will want to eliminate within a few moments of waking from a nap, after finishing a meal or a play session. The younger they are, the shorter this duration is. You need a Potty Diary. Write down when they did what and what time is was. This really helps you key in on what pup’s cycle is, how many times a day they do what and when they do it. Once you know Spot poop’s three times a day and it happens at 10, 2, and 6…and he’s only done two of the three and it’s 6:30PM, you my friend are on borrowed time. You then need to know your tolerance for risk, are you a gambler? When it comes to poop on my carpet the answer is: not at all – let’s get him outside on a leash and be ready to praise him when it happens.
Why the leash, and why praise? Well, here is the deal, your dog needs to be comfortable doing his thing near you. Do you travel? You will need to collect a sample for the vet eventually. Also, unless you have the ability to correct a puppy within 1/3rd of a second whatever you do to scold him will be lost on him. His ability to associate his punishment with what he did just isn’t there. All you are doing is damaging the trust you are trying to build. So, once YOU have missed the boat, put pup outside, or in his kennel and get your carpet cleaner out and get to work – it’s on all on you my friend.
Okay, back to getting pup on a leash and getting him out. Keep a slip lead around, or really keep a few around in areas you allow the pup, or better yet don’t let pup in an area you aren’t in. When you hustle to the door, with pup trotting by your side or tucked under your arm as the situation may dictate – give the bell a quick jingle on the way out. No fuss no muss, a simple quick jingle every time pup goes out to go potty. That will be seven to ten times a day for a while. My oldest Paxson learned this in barely two weeks, Booker in less than a week. Pup will ring that bell when he wants out. This is a huge help! However, if you are too slow, you will have a wet spot by the door. I can guarantee it. So, don’t let your guard down once the bell in in play. Once in a while a dog will abuse the bell having you be his butler letting him out at will…and that is a different conversation for a different day.
What else can you do to help set the stage? Well before pup ever comes home…
This one may sound obvious, but it’s one most likely the biggest one every dog owner has totally missed. Unless your home has new virgin carpet, deep-clean all accident spots in your home with an enzyme-based cleaner. I strongly recommend knuckling down and purchasing an upright Bissell, any of their pet cleaners really. It is a purchase you will not regret. They do way better than just surface cleaning, you can cycle water and or cleaning fluid through trouble spots and extract excess water and cleaner for rapid drying. Remember wee soaks in and can even penetrate the carpet padding and even the subflooring – and why blotting and other surface cleaning methods just don’t work. Surface cleaning a carpet still leaves odor in the carpet pad and on the sub-floor. If you have trouble spots like this consider using a product like Nature’s Miracle which works well. You should use enough cleaner to fully saturate everywhere urine penetrated – this can be quite a lot of fluid. Remember, a dog’s nose is thousands of times more sensitive than yours, and if he can smell any remnants, he will be tempted to return to that spot to eliminate.
It bears repeating, unless you catch your dog in the act of eliminating indoors and can make an effective correction within 1/3rd of a second (that’s quick pardner), just clean the mess and blame yourself for not managing him closely enough. Some people think, err ah rather, anthropomorphize a dog’s “guilty look” indicates he understands what he did wrong, most likely the dog is reading your hostile demeanor and trying to appease you.
Moving on to the next point, and why it is critically important for you to praise young Spot for doing his business outdoors. Chastising your dog “after the fact” (outside of the 1/3rd of a second window) can produce some negative side-effects. If your dog associates your harshness with his accident, he may become afraid to eliminate in your presence. Not only may he try to hide his accidents from you indoors, but he may not eliminate in your presence when you take him for a walk or go into the back yard with him which then opens the door to having other problems you will need to solve – let’s head those all off at the pass and not allow then to manifest in the first place.
I’ve mentioned it several times already, let’s say you are right there when it happens, and you have the opportunity to make a correction in that split-second window, what is appropriate? Simply interrupt the behavior with a finger-snap and a “no” and get the dog outside to finish his business. When he finishes, praise and reward him.
Another pro-tip is remembering pups rarely have all their stuff together and are easily distracted, so when you get him outside and he’s down one thing and you have praised him. Be sure to give him 5-10 more minutes to sniff around. Dogs often do not empty their bladders/bowels the first time. If he eliminates again, give him 5-10 more minutes if time allows, if not, then he should be kenneled and or closely monitored. Then again, if you have been up on your Potty Diary you may know your pup is fully done and might be up for a gamble – just remember if you lose it’s on you.
Another reason to not to quickly return pup inside right away after he’s done his business is it could begin to teach him that eliminating causes his outdoor fun to end, which could cause him to hold his elimination for longer than necessary periods of time. After his final elimination, keep him outside for a few more minutes before returning indoors.
When your dog is in the process of eliminating, quietly repeat a cue word you would like to use to tell your dog you want him to eliminate. I like to use: “Hurry up. Hurry up. Hurry up.” Later, you can use the cue word/phase to help encourage your dog to get down to business, which can be helpful when traveling or if it is cold out.
A great way to help win all the bets is to get your all your pup’s eating and drinking on a tight schedule. If you can control his input, you can predict his output. If you can predict his output, you can accumulate outdoor successes. And outdoor successes will lead to creating the habit of eliminating outdoors. This also includes getting him through the night without needing to wee at 0230… pick that water up a few hours before you go to bed and be sure to give pup ample opportunity to get it all worked out before putting him down for the night.
Be sure to restrict pup’s movements indoors. They cannot be allowed to have free run. I have an article on teething and this applies there too. You may need to tether pup to you or something initially, and has he becomes more trustworthy allow his area to increase. But out of sight is a recipe for getting acquainted with that new Bissell. Crates and play pens are also valuable tools in helping you to control the battle space, don’t be afraid to use them to your advantage.
The key to quick success with house training is managing the dog’s activity closely and rewarding successes consistently. It is not uncommon for dogs to have regressions once they’ve been completely house trained. If it happens, just take a few liberties away and rebuild from there.
If it isn’t you… you have seen plenty of people out “dog skiing”, being pulled down the sidewalk by their amazing canine companion… or tangled around sign posts, tripping over irregularities in the pavement, or heaven forbid there be another dog walking towards you on the other side of the road! If you are like me, with a with a bad back, putting up with this is not acceptable. Tolerating this behavior will become a matter of riding the sofa for weeks and choking down pain meds, so it’s a full stop, “no go”. So how do you prevent it? And how do you become that guy (or gal) in your neighborhood who is secretly the envy of all other dog walkers with your dog neatly at heel?
Showing off is one thing, but safety and security is another thing altogether and is a legitimate goal to pursue. I often walk all of my Drents together at once, so having their cooperation is quite important, as I could easily be carried away.
Safety and security, sounds pretty serious, but the health and welfare of you and your Drent are something of importance! Maybe you are accustomed to being dragged along by your dog and don’t realize the implications, and that there may be a better way. A leash-puller can run the risk of breaking away from your control, which can be a danger to your dog. Things such as continuing to run into traffic, towards some unfriendly animal, and of course the danger to yourself as I’ve already eluded to. Furthermore, proper leash manners minimize the risk of you injuring your dog in a moment of overzealous leash yanking and will make the time spent walking your dog more about walking and less about tug-of-war, or skiing, with the typical accompaniment of cussing and fussing.
“From a relationship perspective,” explains Sarah Fraser, a certified professional dog trainer and co-founder of Instinct Behavior & Training in New York City, “if your dog is walking nicely on a leash, it likely means that your dog is paying more attention to you, making it easier for you to provide direction and guidance as needed along your walk.” I find this quote to be very accurate and important to take note of. Fraser goes on to say, “Teaching your dog to walk nicely on a leash allows you to take her more places and for longer walks, because it’s more comfortable and enjoyable for the both of you.” Few truer words have been spoken I feel.
Tips for Better Walking Behavior
Adjust your attitude.
First, ask yourself: “What would I like my dog to do instead?” Instead of teaching a dog to stop pulling, think of teaching your dog to heel as teaching your dog how to walk nicely beside you.
Remember it’s all about the rewards - sorta.
Since a Drent is nearly always hungry you can use this to your advantage! One of the easiest and most effective ways to start teaching a dog to walk properly on a leash is to reward the dog for paying attention to you and for being in the desired position (next to you or close to you) when out for a walk.
“As the dog learns that walking next to you is a pleasant, rewarding experience, she’ll spend less time pulling and more time walking nicely beside you,” says Fraser. “Try using very special treats in the beginning, like small pieces of boiled chicken or roast beef, to really get your dog’s attention,” Fraser advises. I’m a huge fan of raw hotdogs cut to pencil eraser sized pieces. Just have your dog sit near you, say its name, and give half once he/she looks you directly in the eyes. The better your dog gets at this, treat him less and less consistently. Sessions should only last a few minutes at most a couple of times a week. If your dog “loses the bubble” with his consistent and prompt response just go back to being more consistent with treating. Keep in mind reinforcement behaviors on your part, positive or negative, need to be within 1/3 of a second.
Play the “follow me” game.
This is an extension on the game from above and how I prefer to teach a recall: ‘come’ or ‘here’. Doing this with a partner is ideal. Each person should have a store of high-value treats at the ready, and the pup with collar and line (you can use a 6’ lead, but a longer cord can be helpful). You both are within an arm’s reach of one another. Person one (P1) has pup nearby, and Person two (P2) says the pups name in an upbeat and higher pitched tone, once pup looks them in the eyes, they take a step back and say ‘here’ (or command of choice). While P1 allows the line slack, P2 holds the treat out to help entice pup in and allows pup to have the treat once he is in close. Tell him ‘good boy’ and be enthusiastic but not overwhelming. Wash, rinse, repeat. As pup becomes more and more responsive, add distance slowly. Keep sessions short, and use the line as needed to ensure pup doesn’t stray in the event he gets excited and decides to run if the game becomes too fun.
Once pup is pretty good at this, try this without an assistant. Hold on to your leash and take several backward steps away from your dog. The backward movement is inviting, so your dog is likely to turn and follow you. You don’t need to use your recall command, but it can be helpful if Sparky doesn’t find your step back inviting…also, he is accustomed to this from the earlier exercise. Say “yes!” as your dog approaches you, then immediately reward him or her with a treat.
“The game helps your dog focus and move with you,” says Fraser. Then back away several steps in another direction. Once again, say “yes!” as your dog approaches and reward him or her with a treat. Repeat this sequence a few times, until your dog is actively pursuing you when you move away. Remember to stay upbeat, and be sure to remain attuned to your dog’s interest in the game – better to go short than long. A few really good ones are significantly better than a bunch of so-so ones or worse yet ad handful of bad ones. This lure and reward technique is very low pressure, and you can become more and more selective as to what earns a treat as pups’ performance improves e.g. getting him to sit beside you versus in front.
Practice on your regular walks.
Once you’ve started your stride, each time your dog looks up at you or walks next to you, says “yes!” and immediately reward him or her with a treat. For those of you who like clickers, pop your clicker in leu of saying ‘yes’.
"Frequent rewards will help your dog figure out more quickly what behavior you’re looking for and make the learning process easier for her,” Fraser goes on to explain, “The trick to making this work is using very special treats at first, and keeping your rate of reinforcement high, which just means that you are marking and rewarding often — maybe every 4-5 steps at first — for any and all ‘good’ leash behavior.”
“Over time, you can thin out your rate of reinforcement, rewarding your dog less frequently throughout the course of the walk,” Fraser adds.
Consider additional assistance.
If your dog is already a practiced puller, there is still hope. Like nearly all training issues with dogs, going back to the beginning and using lots of treats can many times work small miracles. Sometimes you may need to consider employing more serious training aids for the job at hand. For these you may want to visit with an experienced trainer to learn how to correctly use these aids, but a properly fitted prong or JASA collar, while looking pretty rough, are generally much subtler in their employment than a traditional training (choker collar). I am not a fan of the various body-clip or head-muzzle harnesses, as most tend to give the dog leverage, or can be very dangerous to the dog. However, if your dog already pulls hard, consider working with a certified, science-based positive-reinforcement type trainer.
Finally, remember that walking on a leash is a skill that takes time and practice for everyone involved, so be sure to celebrate your incremental improvements.
Puppies are magnificent! Sadly they come equipped with milk-teeth, which are not. Adding to the situation, pups explore their world with their mouths. They will quite literally bite and chew on anything they can get even just partially into their mouths. This includes your hair, fingers, and the claw foot of the hundred-year-old table in your dining room.
I’ll start with mitigating puppy nipping, one of the biggest things you can do is to avoid making this a game by playfully squealing and pulling away rapidly (our normal sound and reaction). There are a few things you can do. One is a high-pitched puppy like squeal, one like your puppy does when he doesn’t like something or when something startles him, or he finds something uncomfortable. Additionally, you can make your fingers less attractive to chew on with these strategies. Keep a puppy Nyla bone handy with you always (you will need several of these, and the presence of mind to keep one or two with you). As soon a pup starts chewing on you, trade out your finger or toe with the Nyla bone, and praise as soon as pup transitions. This little redirect is subtle and works quite well. I’m a big fan of the puppy Nyla bone they work quite well since they put tons of flavor a smell in them, they don’t get nasty so keeping one on the arm of the sofa isn’t off-putting in sight or smell, and they offer an appropriate level of softness; to not hurt pup’s teeth and gums. The downside is an adult dog will gobble one of these babies down in seconds. You can also use this “swap” technique when pup is chewing the leg of your antique table or whatever else they are diligently working on e.g. your drywall, expensive hiking boot, etc.
Okay, so you have been caught without something to redirect with and/or pup is being very feisty. This is where you make your finger less desirable. This isn’t exactly nice, but done with some care you will not hurt pup, but your fingers will lose their magical allure. Start off with the puppy “pain squeak”, and if pup persists, instead of withdrawing your finger simply move it on in, and gently gag him. Yep, it’s not nice, but it works. Sometimes once is all you need. If you don’t like that, while pup is gnawing on you use you other fingers or hand to get his lip/jowl flesh between you and his teeth. He will then have to bite himself on the way to biting you – this also has a way of cooling off the party.
Puppies and young dogs are going to chew, Drents tend to not be destructive and if yours is odds are you aren’t exercising him enough. But they are dogs and they will chew. Antlers can be good for some chewers, as raw bones and a myriad of commercially available products can be good as well. However, when pup has loose teeth and sore gums a well-trained chewer can suddenly stop chewing on approved items and move to things on the unapproved list; wooden table and chair legs seem to be go to items. Why is this? Well, their mouths are tender, and the items they were used to chewing on are probably too hard. Fortunately, solving this can be done on the cheap! Take an old sock or two, tie a knot in them, wet thoroughly, place individually in zip lock baggies and freeze. The sock(s) will thaw and be soft enough, but offer some satisfying chewing and being frozen it will also be soothing to their gums. You can also freeze carrots, they can provide for great chewing and soothing comfort.
I use both JASA collars and e-collars, but only after a very deliberate introduction. I'm using the JASA collar more and more these days, since the dog controls the pressure, I am better able to focus on my timing and posture. The e-collar works well as a reinforcing agent, but only after I know the dogs knows the command, and failed to observe the correct response by choice versus a judicious use of enforcing commands from the start. A great example of this is to watch George Hickox use an e-collar for teaching a dog to kennel. This is NOT a good example of productive training technique for a Drent, for 99 of 100 people training 98 of 100 Drents. That method is way too much pressure for a Drent, even for a Pro like George. A Drent is not a remote control car so training him like one, or to be one doesn’t suit the breed or its character.
Drents are great all-rounders, and I am confident there isn't much you can't train one to do, so as long as you have patience and a willingness to turn work into play odds are you will be successful. That is what they do – so when in Rome…
I'm just a guy suffering with an infatuation with gundogs since childhood. Fourty some years later this is what you get.