[00:00:00] Hey, everyone. Welcome to fostering excellence. Inability the podcast. I'm your host competitor, coach and mentor Megan Foster. I help agility enthusiasts focus on the small details of training and behavior while still having a clear understanding of their big picture. Join me as I take you through key elements of dog agility, training, competing, and teaching, and how you can take action today to start improving your skills within the sport.
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Hey everyone. Welcome to this mini series on puppies. I'm gonna take a few episodes to dive deep into what. All of my community members are thinking about and are curious about when it comes to raising puppies and training them for sports, but [00:01:00] particularly dog agility. This first episode in the mini series, I want to kind of touch on raising puppies and kind of thinking about their life outside of dog sports and how that is going to directly impact their life in dog sports.
I'm going to start with what I find is to be just such an excellent jumping off question from a community member, and then I'm gonna ramble on about that for a while. And then I'm gonna answer some more specific training questions that are more specific to life with a puppy. So first, this question comes from community member Abby, and she asks, if you encounter a behavior challenge, how do you decide if you should make a plan to address it immediately or manage it, manage it and kind of wait for the puppy to outgrow it.
I love this question because it comes up a lot and it's something that's on [00:02:00] my brain. all the time, especially because I have a, an adolescent border calling in my house right now. And anytime that I saw a behavior, when she was a very young puppy, I would observe it first. I would then kind of telescope outwards and observe what else had gone on in her life that day.
is, were her needs met in that moment? Was that a new experience for her? Is this something that I am even likely to encounter again? Or is this something that I need to put effort into changing? Do I think that this was a one time thing? Or could I see this becoming. A bigger problem kind of based on the life that she'll live or the genetics of the breed that she is and who she is as an individual.
So I take a lot of [00:03:00] things into consideration before I kind of have that full on panic of, oh my gosh, what am I gonna do about it? So for instance, when she was a very young puppy, we would walk around. This public park and, you know, kids are playing soccer and people are playing basketball on courts and there's playgrounds and there's people.
And the one thing that she really had a strong reaction to was the basketball hitting the pavement. And I'm certain it was the sound and the movement in combination that really caught her attention and she really wanted to chase it. And it really amped her. So on this surface, do I really care about her reaction to people playing basketball?
Absolutely not. That's not something that I foresee she having to deal with long term in her life. However, I can see and connect [00:04:00] that things moving very fast and maybe making loud noises. are attractive to her amp, her up warrant, some sort of movement reaction. She wants to watch it. She maybe wants to bark at it a little bit.
I can definitely see that being a longer term problem that I don't wanna just manage because it could quickly be. A dog running or a dog barking or a Teeter banging. So while I've managed that situation in the moment, because one, that's all I can do in the moment, but I didn't choose to train through that particular thing with basketball.
I chose to make a training plan for how am I going to address. Her reaction to things moving very quickly or loud noises catching her attention. So it's always trying to focus on the big picture. [00:05:00] If that's not a theme yet, start over at episode one and get with the, get with the theme here of focusing on the big picture of who they are as an individual.
That includes their. and maybe even their parents and relatives, and also what you need them to do in real life. Another example I have that is a little less agility specific. Was getting into her crate. When I brought her home, her crate was on top of a cot at the end of our bed. And so she always would turn right into the crate to get into it.
Because of just where it was. That was really the only way she could access the crate. When I upgraded her crate to the crate that she's in now, I attempted to move the crate in a way that she could no longer access it in the same way that she had been accessing it for months. And that [00:06:00] blew her mind a little bit.
It was, she had a little bit of creative version. She wasn't quite sure that it was the same thing. Like, do I really know how to get into this box? I knew that this was not an issue anywhere else in her life, because she gets into the crate in the car from different directions. She gets into different crates in my car.
I knew that this wasn't a big deal. Uh, she has been stationing and cring in other places and other locations. And getting into them from all sorts of ways, everywhere else. But at home, she was like, ah, I really just want to get into my crate the way that I've been getting into my crate, my entire life.
And after a couple of days, it was kind of like, is this something that I want to fuss with? Do I want to go through this whole thing? Or can I just let her get into her crate? The way that I. [00:07:00] or the way that she wants. And the answer is I didn't have to fuss with it. I moved her crate B in a, in a way that's a little bit inconvenient for me and the way that I want my bedroom set up, but that she can access it.
And so over time we have, we have started to kind of like changing where the crate is and the problem is solved, but it wasn't. necessary to make a huge training plan about it. It wasn't a big deal. It wasn't going to going to impact her in other ways. And it, it didn't, it didn't need to be stressed out about, uh, and so we moved on, she's fine with her crate, regardless of where it is.
And life is. so I guess my answer to the original question is how do I decide if it's, you know, address it with a training plan or let them outgrow it? [00:08:00] I suspect my answer is that they're never going to really outgrow those things if they are allowed to rehearse them. So I can't really say specifically what it is that makes me decide if I'm just going to manage it.
Versus train out of it. I think the most important fact is, is this a reality of this Doug's life? Is this going to be something that I can manage for the rest of its life, if need be, because there's always a risk, they don't mature out of it or grow out of it. So if it's something that I feel okay, managing the rest of the dog's life, then sure I will manage it.
But if I. at all. Don't want to have to do that, then I'm going to address it. Or if I at all think it is connected to maybe a bigger, more important issue. Like the first example with sprint watching basketball, then I'm [00:09:00] definitely going to address it. And that's kind of the major point that I want to start out.
This puppy series with is that usually. Clients come to me for help with their agility problems. And if, especially the last seven years, if not the last 10 years, the biggest lesson I have learned is that most of our problems are not starting on the agility course. There's some communication. Thing.
That's not going quite right. Or there's some, you know, behavior thing outside of sports that we haven't quite connected to what's going on in sports. So while I, you know, my dogs are like pets first and they're only sport dogs, a [00:10:00] fraction of their lives. But they're both a hundred percent of the time, right?
So even though we're only training for sports and doing sports, a small amount of the time, they're the same dog. The dog that I spend my entire life with is the dog that I'm going to be doing sports with and competing with. So I need to be aware of the communication that I'm using with them throughout their entire life.
It needs to be consistent. So if I'm using. You know, primarily positive reinforcement or if I'm using that force free label in their life, but then not applying that force free label to dog agility or vice versa. There's a communication conflict in what, in who your dog knows you to be from one situation to the next.
And that can cause a lot of problems and, or usually it's not a, an agility skill. [00:11:00] Causing the agility problem. It's not a lack of agility skill. So there's usually a non agility answer to a lot of these agility problems. And so I want that to start and be made aware of when I'm raising my puppy. I told y'all that I was gonna ramble on a little bit about that.
So apologies if I lost anyone there I'm going to now kind of address the. puppy life related questions that was, that were asked in the community. And one of them was specifically on how to teach recalls. And I don't have a recall program. I completely defer to Sarah streamings recall program, and I try to do my best by that philosophy and that.
I don't call my puppy unless I am [00:12:00] pretty sure that they are going to respond to their recall queue, which means I'm setting them up with mentor dogs and, you know, I'll call the mentor dog and then the puppy and the puppy's chasing the mentor dog. And I'm paying for every time the puppy checks in with me when we're out and about.
And I'm making that when I do call them and it's successful, that's usually starts with the puppy stops, what they're doing and looks at me and then I will call them and I will make a big, huge deal out of it. Um, it just so happens that sprint really likes punching me in the gut, on her recall and barking when she gets to me and jumping and leaping.
And so it's, it's not the greatest. Recall experience for myself, but it's very effective with her and it appears to be very reinforcing. So here we are. Um, and if I'm not sure that I can get my puppy to [00:13:00] recall, because I'm in a certain situation where I don't think it's going to happen, they're dragging long line, um, or I'm attached to that long line that they're dragging just to keep their success rate up.
And that has been successful now with. I, I wanna say that smack in shock were pretty easy to teach recalls too. They didn't ever really leave. Um, but kind of taking that recall approach with Shrek and also torch when I raised him, his recall is, you know, when he was here with me was like so fantastic and I'm pretty sure it's holding up, uh, and sprint has a fantastic recall as well.
So all I will link to Sarah. Podcast episode on recalls in the show notes, but moving on the, there was a, an additional question about how much contact do I allow my puppy with my other dogs and this [00:14:00] one, I, I'm gonna kind of defer back to kind what this whole podcast is about. And it is as much. Possible, as long as it's promoting the behavior that I want to see in my dog long term.
So if my puppy is pretty neutral about the other dogs in my house, and they're not pestering the other dogs or. They're not getting, uh, they're not learning any bad social habits. They're, they're not kind of overwhelming the other dogs or they're not afraid of the other dogs. Then they're going to probably get like free access to the other dogs in my house.
Um, but if I do see any problematic behavior, like getting to over the top, Pestering not taking over an answer. I'm going to intervene and kind of manage those situations while the [00:15:00] puppy learns how to work through their social skills. And I will work through those social skills as if my own dogs are strangers that we're meeting on a or dogs that they meet anywhere
out and. so just kind of wor working towards that neutrality of just because that they're, there does not mean that they're there for you to pounce on and lick incessantly and roll over in front of and things like that. So as she learned socially, how to be a member of this household, she gets more access to those other dogs and vice versa.
I'm not saying my other dogs are absolutely perfect. Um, So the same goes for them. If my other dogs are encouraging behaviors that I don't wanna see in my puppy, I'm not going to let them hang out together and repeat those behaviors. So it's definitely a big picture approach. It does [00:16:00] take a little bit more time in the, in the transition times when we're getting ready.
When we're doing meal time, it just takes a little bit longer. When I'm having to do a couple of groups at a time, but in the long run, I'm pretty sure I'll successfully have them all together. And it, it will be a more peaceful life for everyone involved. Another question came up about unleashing. So removing the dog's leash kind of resulted in some biting mouthy behaviors.
Puppies are bity puppies, mouth puppies, like to explore the world through their razor sharp teeth. That's just one of those realities that we do have to deal with. Unfortunately. So when the puppy is young and this is happening all the time, I really do just manage this to the best of my [00:17:00] ability. So it might be that I'm doing a treat scatter.
before I remove the leash so that the dog is busy sniffing for cookies, and I unhook the leash and they don't even know what's happened. So it's been redirected before they have that feeling. And then eventually I should be able to kind of put my hand on their collar and then do the scatter and then unclick the leash and then do the scatter.
And so forth and so forth until the dog is just when the leash comes off. Or when you go to remove the leash, they're expecting a scatter or they're expecting food, they're expecting something other than to meet your flesh with their mouth, and you should be able to change that pattern, um, without knowing anything else.
That's kind of the approach that I would take is to. Via [00:18:00] management produce a different behavior that then you can reinforce later on, right? Because when they're puppies, they don't know anything. So a lot of the behaviors that they end up learning long term, and that create habits are ones that we've manufactured.
Via management and setting up the environment. Just so, so if it, it, to me, this biting, when the leash comes off is kind of no different than chewing on something illegal in the home. So finding contraband and chewing something that they shouldn't be, we would set the puppy up for success via management and showing them a different way to live.
And then eventually that becomes a habit. and that's really what raising puppies for life and for sport is all about, is focusing on the habits that you want them to have in the long term, and thinking about [00:19:00] how you can set those habits up from the very beginning so that they practice and rehearse those things.
And. Then they become second nature. Just like most of your habits are now second nature to you. If you have a brain that has the ability to create a habit. Um, so basically if you can manage it, manage it for life. If it's something that you're going to have to deal with frequently, I would address it immediately.
And see how it goes. The one thing that is for certain is that behavior is fluid and always changing. And especially with puppies, they are growing and learning and changing rapidly. So give something a try, give it a try for a few days, observe that behavior and kind of make some notes of any changes that you're noticing.
Take a look at. What's going [00:20:00] on elsewhere in that puppy's life, are there needs being met? Is there, you know, can you increase exercise? Can you increase enrichment? Um, did what they do that day, you know, is your puppy particularly bity this evening? Well, what did they do that day? Sometimes the exercise or the enrichment that we're choosing for them is not.
The right type of exercise or the right type of enrichment for them. So there are some things that we can play around with that was definitely a learning curve with me for sprint. I just put her into the exercise and enrichment rituals that my adult dogs were doing. And I was still seeing some behaviors that I didn't wanna see, or I was like, wow, this is just so hard for her.
And when we kind. Looked at it from a big picture point of view, uh, Sarah strumming and I were able to kind of reroute [00:21:00] where and how she got her exercise and where, and how she got her enrichment and how we could improve those areas. And a lot of those tiny little annoyances throughout throughout our day completely went away with just those adjustments.
Always be observing, always be reviewing, always be willing and open to kind of play things, play with things and change things around and ultimately love and enjoy that puppy and enjoy that opportunity to grow and change with them. That is going to be all for episode one in this many series of all things, puppies, talk more next.
Before go. I just want to let all of my listeners know how grateful I am that you [00:22:00] take time out of your week to listen to my ramblings on dog agility. And I wanted you to all know that my coaching program. Fostering excellence and agility will be opening to new members in July. And if you are interested in learning more head on over to www dot synergy, dog sports.com/fx agility, and you can learn more about it.
Join the wait list so that I will send you all of the updates. And I really look forward. To working with you in the future. If you think that it's a good fit for you. Thank you all so much.