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Posted on 04-01-2013

Hope everyone had a Happy Easter weekend, the lucky ones have today off as well.

The saga of Rue continues, I have decided that raising a puppy is exhausting, even a good puppy. The past week has been geared towards increasing attention span and focus. Mostly impulse control. Sometimes I must control the impulse to strangle her. Lucky I think she is cute.

Attention span in a puppy is short at best. They can be sitting and paying attention to you, then the thread on a mat is much more interesting, and they are gone. Keeping your voice animated and interesting helps, along with good rewards. We no longer lure our pets into behaviours but very much reward them when they choose the correct one.

We have been playing a game called "It's Yer Choice" which you can also find on You Tube. This game teaches puppies to look to you for direction and only to take a treat when you give it to them. Think of how great it would be if you drop something that is not intended for your puppy and they do not touch it until you give it to them.

Rue plays "It's Yer Choice" for her breakfast. I place food on the floor and keep some in my hand. When she goes towards the food on the floor I cover it so she can't get it. She will sniff, dig and bark at my hand. She often gets really mad! Then, when nothing seems to work, she gives up and looks at me as if I am crazy ... YES, I say and give her a couple pieces from my other hand. By the end of the game, she seems to understand that she only gets the food if she looks at me as if to say please first. Remember I said attention span is short, the next time we play it seems like we have to start all over.

It may be a little embarrassing to say that Rue does not have a food bowl. She plays games for all of her meals. It is a great way to bond and have her "Learn to Earn".

With limited focus at this age, it is important to repeat things over and over again until they seem to get it. There is always that glimpse of hope when they seem to already know how the game works. Yes, they are learning.

The same rule goes with socialization, they may have seen an object or person once and were not fearful but it is important to continue to expose them to many people and situations. It takes many times for them to feel confident.

This week we are going to prepare Rue for grooming. She has a coat that needs to be hand stripped and she doesn't really like to be touched, let alone pulling on her hair. She has had her nails trimmed twice but still is weary. It will be interesting to see if we can teach her to love grooming. I have described how to counter-condition many of my patients to nail trimming. Now let's see how I make out with my own pup.

Try teaching your pets a new game this week, and enjoy the fun.

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