Wednesday, August 26, 2009
White Feather and Topa got their first round of shots last week which made them safe to go to puppy socialization class or just puppy class, as we call it. Puppy class is so important for any dog and even more so for dogs living in a relatively large pack of dogs that all look like them. They need to know that there are other dogs out there that we may run into while out and about that look a little strange but it's not so scary. Our training facility also has a donkey, horses, a pig, a couple llamas, cats and chickens which can all be used as training tools for young pups. Not to mention the adventure of traveling too and from class!
There were many firsts this evening for the girls. They were loaded into a crate in the back of the truck for the first time. They were trained for an hour each in different classes. This was the first time they have been completely separated from their litter mates. They had to sit in the crate all alone for an hour while the other was in class. They were in a large room that echoed, filled with strange people and other strange puppies doing very strange things.
When loaded into the crate, not a noise was made. No accidents happened while in the crate on the 30 minute journey to class except for the last minute when White Feather threw up just as I was about to remove her. Car sickness can be typical with young pups. To avoid accidents, it helps to feed them 4 hours before class then let them run around and play within a half an hour prior to leaving for class to get rid of everything that might create a problem later.
Both pups were walked around the training facility property prior to class together so their confidence could be built up then one went in the crate and the other in class.
Topa was first. She wasn't the least bit frightened and sat with eyes fixated on the other puppies and people. She was soaking it all in. Initially, she had no desire to work for treats. She was too busy analyzing the situation so I just let her, occasionally praising her when she did a behavior I liked such as sitting, going down or reacting in a calm manner with other puppies. And each word of praise was followed by the command associated with it. She has no idea what any of those words mean yet, but with consistent praise and naming of the behavior, she will. Her first friend was a cross between a Boston Terrior and a Pug. Now, you can't get much different in appearance than that! Puppies were let free to play after each round of "work". Topa sat and watched each time. Within three quarters of the way through the class she became interested in treats and focused on me instead of the crowd. She even decided it would be alright to address the advances of the other puppies with a lick to the nose. She walked away with a very good experience.
White Feather was next. She came in with a less cautious attitude and immediately went up to check out the other puppies. Neither Topa or White Feather behaved in a puppy manner all evening. Both seemed like "old souls" as they intensely analyzed every movement made by the others. White Feather's head would cock to one side now and again and she would get up if it seemed worth the energy and check things out further. Otherwise, she too, would sit and watch. White Feather showed no interest at all in the treats that were offered in exchange for work. So, just as Topa, she was allowed to take her time and take it all in without any pressure. And again, positive behavior was praised and named. During the final play period, White Feather did head out again and do a bit of socializing. The only time I provide treats, in addition to verbal praise, in exchange for work is during puppy class. It helps, in most cases, to cement the foundation. After puppy class it is all verbal praise. When you've got a team of dogs on the gangline, the last thing you want is for a dog to come back to you looking for a treat.
Neither pup did any yawning or lip licking which are calming behaviors indicating that they might be concerned. They just sat. The other puppies didn't seem to quite know what to make of these two little huskies that acted so much older than their young ages of 8 1/2 weeks. Their classmates appeared startled when out came a quick lick to their faces while the sled dog puppies' body language remained calm and collected.
I was fascinated just watching these two little girls. Their behavior this evening is exactly the behavior I see over and over again with the Hedlund Husky pups at puppy class which is a very good indicator of line consistency. These are the type of dogs I want in my kennel. These are the type of dogs that make the very best sled dogs for me and the work we do here at Points Unknown. I couldn't be happier at how well these two did this evening and I look forward to watching White Feather and Topa as they mature into full working members of the team!