|The Pilgrim Bandits|
Those who saw our Blog last week after we'd picked up Bandit for a trial, will know he's been living with us for the past week now. If you haven't read it, it's probably worth reading before you carry on!
One thing I must say before I carry on is, a HUGE thank you to everyone reading our Blogs. We hit the 10,000 reader mark of our Blogs today - so I really, really appreciate everyone reading them & interacting with 'us' on Twitter too. I really hope you find the Blogs informative, helpful & a worthy read too!!
As you know, we've had the pleasure of having Bandit staying with us for the past week, and I must say it's gone really well - actually he's been brilliant! It's been much better than I expected it to be.
He's settled in really well, has been great in his crate & he has been brilliant with Taylor. In fact he's better with Taylor than any of our past puppies have been! He's slowly getting used to our kennel set up at home, and he's quite happy to be outside in his kennel too.
|Bandit in his crate|
These were the most important things for us - was he OK in the house? Did he get on with Taylor? Could they be left in the kennel together while we are out - without barking the place down? Everything else is workable, but without these we couldn't have kept him - especially if he didn't get on with Taylor.
All of the above have been satisfied over & above our expectations. Naturally the kennel situation needed a bit introduction, but he's settled into his kennel & being outside really well.
As I said in my last Blog about Bandit there are areas he needs work in, but this past week has been all about him settling in & basically just building up a bond between us.
People must thing I'm stark raving mad when they see me out with the pups. I'm always talking in a ridiculously high pitched voice, telling them how wonderful they are, before picking them up & giving them big cuddles in the middle of fields! All of this helps build a bond with the pup though, and for me this is what really gets us results - it's our relationship with the dogs.
There's 5 key basic exercises I teach my pups right from an early age, because without them every other exercise you do is impacted. As well as these key exercises, I also want a great bond with the pup, along with having control of what they're doing.
Bandit came here with absolutely no control whatsoever!
The exercises I believe give dogs the best foundation to learning are a RETRIEVE/RECALL, SIT, LIE, STAY & LEAVE.
If you're only going to teach your dog 5 commands - these are what you should be doing. If your dog hasn't got all of these, at some point, I'd say you're going to hit a problem.
Bandit on day 1 would snatch at toys, every time he sat he thought it was a bite work exercise so he was barking, he wouldn't lie & wouldn't stay. He had a good recall, but if it was retrieving a toy it was a bit of an issue. So it made life difficult because he was like a box of frogs every time a ball came out. Added to the fact he wouldn't release/leave his toy, we just couldn't do any 'Police dog' exercises until we've got the basic foundations in place.
So this week we've just simply worked on the basics - as I say, I'm taking him completely back to the start & treating him like an 8 week old puppy in a 5 month old body. So here's his week one update . . . .
When I first took Bandit out, we'd play with his ball but he wouldn't retrieve it back to me nor would he release his ball on command. He'd come so far back to me and then back off every time I tried to get near him.
Part of our bonding process over this past week has also focused around Bandit trusting & interacting with me too. When I have a baby puppy, whenever we play fetch games, I always have the pup running into my arms for a big cuddle. I never get the pup to come into me & then me take the toy straight off him.
It's always the pup coming into my arms, a big cuddle, lots of fuss & praise for coming back, whilst also allowing the pup to hold onto his toy. Once he's had lots of fuss & cuddles etc I let him run around with his toy.
By getting your dog to come into your arms, it means you are in complete control of the dog. You may need to recall your dog away from danger. You may need to recall your dog to get him on his lead quickly. If the dog doesn't want to come in close to you, you have a problem.
So all week we've worked really hard to get him coming right into us for a cuddle. He's not completely there yet, but 8 times out of 10 he'll come in close enough for you to be in control. He gets lots of cuddles & I pick him up for cuddles lots of the time too. Just so he's learning that coming back close to me doesn't always result in him losing his toy.
To be fair to Bandit, he already had a sit command. However, throughout the week it's become apparent that his sit action is actually his answer to everything you asked of him. Whenever you gave him any kind of command he'd always sit & bark.
So he'd got the basic part of the command, he would actually sit - but I didn't want him sitting, barking at me. That's a completely different exercise altogether. We've worked on getting a nice clean, quiet sit in front - and to be fair it didn't take a lot of work to stop him barking in front.
He's got an absolutely 100% perfect sit now!
Down has been a little bit of a challenge for Bandit (I always use down instead of lie as a command) because he just wanted to keep sitting & barking! However, he's absolutely nailed it these past 2 days. We can get a down every time now.
We started off with food for his down. I'm a BIG believer in 'lures' when working with dogs, I don't really go for the 'capturing' element. If you've read our Clicker Training Blog you'll know what I mean. So the food was working pretty well, although since I've swapped back to a ball reward, the results have been much better. (Lesson learnt for me - stick to the ball!)
We use lots of hand gestures for all of our commands, which helps lure the dog. Initially we had to help guide him into a down position, by using food on the end of his nose, whilst slightly pushing his body down. But now, he's got a perfect down - either by verbal command or simply using hand gestures.
Bandit didn't have a real grasp of what stay meant at all (again I use Wait as a command). Wait is a MASSIVE command & exercise for him to learn. I'd say it's probably one of the most important commands to teach your dog. I need to have control of the dog at all times, so if he's running off ahead of me or if he see's something he might run after, I need to be able to stop him & quickly.
So not only is wait a command used for him staying in a particular position like a sit or down, there is also the practical element of the exercise.
Again, lots of hand gestures help with this exercise and he now knows that a flat palm out towards him also means wait.
He's brilliant at waiting in a sit or down now, and I can walk 15/20 meters away from him for around a minute or so & he'll stay in position. He's slowly getting the wait command while we're walking too. I want my dogs to basically freeze still when I say wait at any time. This comes over a bit more time though, once the wait command is really instilled into him.
As I mentioned, another little problem we had with Bandit was the non release issue. It makes playing & interacting with your dog so difficult. If after every positive interaction, you then have to fight the toy off the dog for a few minutes, the game always ends in a negative for the dog. It also makes exercises time consuming. So we've really had to work hard on his release.
Again, to be fair to Bandit, I've had pups out of his dad before, and unless you work on a release from an early age it's very easy to run into problems later on. It's very much a trait of their breeding line.
Initially you'd literally have to prize Bandit's jaws open to get him to release his toy. We're still not at the point of him outing 100% of the time instantly, but I've got him doing it well enough to work with him - and more importantly I never have to fight or prize his jaws open now either. (When I say fight - I don't literally mean fighting him people - don't worry!!)
For this issue I've had to use a 2 ball system. I HATE using this system, and never do so with any of my pups. With this method, the dog can soon learnsto second guess you, and will start to spit the ball out miles away from you as he's running back, in anticipation for you throwing the second ball. However, because Bandit's got such a release issue we don't actually have that problem!!!
|2 Ball Bandit|
I've got him to a point now where he'll out, if he's anticipating a second ball. So, as long as I can make him think another ball is entering the game he'll release. Slowly over time, I'll reduce the introduction of the second ball - but for now he's doing it brilliantly & well enough to be able to start some more 'advanced' stuff.
One thing we really need to work on is his overall manners - because he's got absolutely ZERO of them!!! In fact, moments before starting to type this Blog, I took a few malted milk biscuits out of the biscuit jar & he'd jumped up & nicked them straight out of my hand!!
He also jumps up when people walk into the house & jumps up at the kitchen work surfaces etc.
He is a bugger on his lead with other dogs around. He's actually really sociable around dogs & he'll ignore them if we're playing in the park too - which is really great. However, on the lead he's like a lion!!!
So there's a few bits & pieces around manners he needs to learn - especially as he's now staying here too.
Now he's got the basic key exercises, we can also start to do a bit of basic property searching & basic tracking work with him.
As I said previously, compared to our pups he's got a bit of catching up to do. At this age, had I have had him since a baby, I would have expected him to be a bit more advanced in terms of exercises & ability.
He should have been coming up to what I call the Phase 1 level.
However, what I must keep reminding myself is . . .he's an 8 week old pup, in a 5 month old body!!
Everything we've done this week has been around using the clicker & whistle. It's such a valuable & important tool in dog training. The most time we've spent on things this week, has been around the conditioning of him to his clicker & whistle. If you've never used a clicker before take a look at my previous Clicker Training Blog's
His general recall with his whistle is brilliant - in fact he did go tear arsing after a little Shih Tzu in the park yesterday, and if it hadn't have been for the whistle I wouldn't have got him back! One quick blast of the whistle was enough for his recall.
He's quickly learnt that every time he hears the whistle or a click, he knows he's getting his ball, lots of interaction and lots of fuss & praise.
One quick blast of the whistle & he comes back to me at 100 miles an hour!! It's absolutely invaluable - especially as I don't really know Bandit 110%. One thing I do know, is that he's 110% conditioned on the whistle now.
One thing's for sure, Bandit is an absolutely lovely dog. He's really loving, has a great temperament & has now started to settle at home too. He's very happy lying on 'his' doormat in the house too. He's got a lovely 'on,off' switch between 'home mode' & 'work mode' too. He loves playing & interacting which is the most important thing for him.
|Bandit & 'his' mat|
Everything has been really positive, and there's no better feeling in the world than seeing your dog develop, pick up new exercises & excel in them. I've got absolutely no doubts that Bandit's going to make a great Police dog - more importantly. . . .my reputation requires him to be!