I am a stickler about good “manners.” There are no excuses for unruly, out of control dogs or children, neither of which I tolerate well or for very long. I happen to believe that training starts from the moment you bring a new dog or puppy home and baby Bruno was no exception.
Playtime, crate training, feeding time, vet trips, socialization, potty training, etc. are all training opportunities. If you are not teaching your dog or puppy from the start your dog or pup is training you.
Bruno came home at seven weeks and was already a sweet yet cocky little guy. He was very eager to please, food motivated and came genetically equipped with a lot of prey drive, high pain tolerance, and lots of little pointy teeth. It was now up to me to channel and develop his natural instincts, drives, and genetics into a well-mannered companion, family member and working dog.
Sharp teeth were calmly and indifferently re-directed from human body parts and skin to appropriate chew toys. Prey drive was encouraged by chasing balls, sticks, toys, humans, etc. Food was used as bribery for crate training. Food was also the motivation used for obedience basics like sit, down, here, look and speak. Good behavior was rewarded with positive rewards like praise, play or food. Unwanted behavior was ignored and Mr. Bruno is not one to tolerate being ignored.
By week eight, Bruno hit the field to start his foundation work for Schutzhund training. Small tracks in straight lines were laid with hot dogs carefully placed in each footstep. A mini jute puppy tug was made especially for Bruno to focus his prey drive and get him comfortable to a helper “playing” tug with him.
Implementing “training” from day one benefited both Bruno and me in numerous ways. It provided Bruno with boundaries, confidence, his acceptance, and place within his new pack, and focused his energy and drive into being productive instead of destructive. It gave me a well-mannered, well-liked dog that was a pleasure to have around others.
Lastly and most importantly, early training provided a quality focused time that built an unspoken trust, bond, and respect between the two of us. Through good and bad, thick and thin, Bruno is my boy and has my back with no questions asked and no explanations needed.
*Originally posted November 5, 2009*