Dog’s Eye View: The best is yet to come
February 23, 2017
Sandra Kruczek and I will finish this semester's Head Start Puppy Class this week. I can't think of too many things that make me happier than spending six weeks watching these amazing puppies grow, both physically and "intellectually." I use that word light-heartedly. They are puppies, after all.
We've been teaching these classes for 25 years. We continue to learn from both the puppies and the people. Science and technology have brought canine development to a new understanding during the past two decades. We know now that starting a puppy's learning process as early as 5 weeks of age stimulates brain development and helps socialize puppies to new and novel sounds, textures, tastes and temperatures.
There is mounting evidence that healthy puppies participating in a structured puppy class become more confident and social throughout their lives. Teaching families to read body language, set expectations and introduce the beauty of good management skills add to the lifelong trust bond between human and canine.
We continue socializing our puppy class participants to novel sounds, toys and textures and stimulate healthy puppy interactions by managing play time. We have puppy agility toys and a wading pool filled with empty plastic water bottles, so the puppies are exposed to noise as they learn to root through the bottles to find the hidden treats. Piles of used packing paper with kids rolling and romping with the puppies builds confidence and increased sound desensitization. This will certainly help these puppies accept the rumble of summer thunderstorms.
We were fortunate to have three awesome kids in this semester's class. They were polite and attentive and made great progress with their own new family dog. Our other puppies also benefited by the social interactions and playtime with these special children. You can't buy that experience. The puppies in our class that have no kids at home benefited from the group play sessions, learning to tolerate the wonderful chaos kids bring to play time. And they all did great.
Oh, and did I mention learning basic cues using hand signals? Yep, we worked on basic manners — some would call it "obedience" — and our puppies excelled. Each of the puppies learned to go to their special mat and settle down. We passed the puppies to each other so everyone could see that the training they did with their own puppies will transfer to another puppy trained using the same techniques. The puppies were confident and relaxed enough to accept instruction from someone other than their owners.
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These families will have the skills to continue training at home and weather the trying terrible teens. Communication and expectations have been set. Now, maintaining skills each day and integrating training into daily life will be important and meaningful. The stage has been set to choose dog sports to participate in or trick training, or continue education toward therapy dog teamwork or advance their skills in our next series of classes. Even if the family goals are just to have the best companion possible, these families are on the right track.
I would accept any of these puppies to be my family companion. With Head Start Puppy Training, the best is yet to come.
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with more than 25 years of experience. She has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, as well as Certified Nose Work Instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She owns Total Teamwork Training, LLC, here in Northwest Colorado.