I guess I should be happy not having more time to write on my blog, but in time coming I hope to be able to update more often and also read through everything I have missed on other blogs I follow. There is just so much to do, and so little time.
The winter is finally here. It’s been a warm and beautiful autumn, but now I’m glad the snow is falling covering the earth like a big, white and spotless blanket.
This is Garm’s first real encounter with snow beside some icy spots found up in the mountains. Almost two feet dropped in just a little more than 24 hours making this the day of his life.
Living in Norway has it’s benefits, wherever you live nature is never far away. Within an hour from leaving home, by foot, you are standing at 1250 meter above sea level all by yourself.
For Garm this means running around free more or less every day. Exploring, bathing in the rivers and lakes, being stupid and doing whatever dogs like to do.
Off course there are some limits to what he is allowed to do, and a lot of training is necessary to be able to let him loose like this. If I can’t trust him I cant let him loose, and on the other hand the moment I start trusting him things may go wrong fast.
Local farmers are not very forgiving if they see a dog chasing their sheep.
Garm is growing fast and already weighs more than 20 kilograms, all his teeth have been replaced and his colors are closed to developed.
At 4.5 moths old this is way ahead my last dog, Otello.
To my delight Garm, as Otello, loves fishing. After the first trout is caught he sits patiently, staring at the lake, waiting for the next trout to bite the fly and find its way to land so he can examine this strange creature. He has yet to decide if this is food, a toy or something that can eat him and should be treated as an enemy.
It’s been a while since my last post, but time is moving way too fast.
Garm is now nearly four months old. He loves peoples and other dogs to that degree it’s almost impossible to take him for a walk. Every time he sees someone he wants to meet them. It doesn’t matter how far away they are, if he can see them he tries his best to get to them.
His reaction to meeting people is over excitement and biting. Combined with his natural urge to bite because of his teeth itching there is a lot of biting. Thankfully, with a lot of help from my friends, he lately seems to calm down and the biting gradually stops.
Like other puppies he is very curious and everything needs to be checked out. A few days ago he saw his first airplane when a small plane flew across at low altitude. He sat down staring at the plain like a kid would stare meeting “batman” for the first time. Only after the plane was way out of sight I managed to regain his attention.
Yesterday Garm decided to investigate the bottom of the river. I’m not sure how for long a dog can hold his breath but he stayed under for quite some time.
A puppy’s curiosity is also the biggest obstacle when trying to train him. The best thing to do is just let them investigate until they settle down, and then continue the training.
Garm has now been part of my little family for a month. In this time he has doubled his weight, his ears are now standing straight, he has not had an accident inside for two and a half week and he masters the basic commands… when he wants to.
Like any puppy Garm has two sides. A man’s best friend, and man’s worst nightmare. Most of the time he eats, sleeps, play’s, looks like the sweetest little angel and everything is fun and joy. But if you push it a bit too far he soon turns to a four legged little devil who try to suck the life force out of you. Typical scenarios are disobedience, biting, eating anything he comes across, running around like mad, barking, itching all over, whining and biting some more.
There are several reasons for your puppy to disobey you. Most of them are your own fault.
The dog may want to test you for position.
His natural curiosity demands his attention somewhere else. A puppy needs to explore and you should let him do so as long as it is safe.
Your commands confuses him. He doesn’t understand you.
You have pushed him to far and now he’s scared or angry.
He need a private moment behind some bushes to relive himself. He is sick.
He is stressed. He is tired.
Whatever the reason you should stop the training immediately. Trying to force a response will probably only get you both frustrated and ruin earlier training. Training should be done only when you know your dog is up to it and you have his complete attention. If you have a failsafe command/situation where you know your dog will do as expected, use that to finish in a positive manner for both dog and trainer and then figure out what bothers him.
Normally some hours with quality sleep fixes most of the issues above and you as the trainer should use the quiet time to figure out what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future. It is no use in getting angry at the dog. He only reacts as any puppy/child would do in the given situation.
A dog needs physical exercise to build muscles, strengthen the bones and develop fine motor skills. A healthy dog is also happier and most likely to live longer. Physical exercise is an excellent way to remove a lot of the mental stress that make your dog restless when alone, chewing on your shoes, barking at the door bell and so on.
You should, as much as possible, stay away from hard surfaces like asphalt when walking/exercising your dog. It is very tough on their joints and it only challenges a small amount of their muscles. Are you lucky enough to live close by a park or forest you should spend as much time there as possible. To a dog it’s close to heaven.
The rough terrain(puppy standard) forces the puppy to use all his muscles just to prevent him from falling. Hi is building strength much faster compared to a dog walking on asphalt only, and the soft surface works as a cushion preventing impact damage to joints and muscles. I prefer to let my dog go free so he can challenge the terrain at his own pace. Doing so he will soon start exploring the surroundings and build self esteem at the same time. You can hide treats or toys around the terrain to help him get started.
As a rule I have an imaginary limit(30 meters) as to how far he can go before I call him back or demanding his attention. This worked perfect with my last dog Otello and he never left the “safe zone” when running free. I’m not yet sure if this was just me being lucky with Otello or if it actually works, only time will tell. After only two weeks with Garm it looks promising. Every time he get to the limit, he stoppes and looks back to check on me before proceeding. That is all the time you need to connect to him so you can give a command. Be sure to give lots of praise when he make that connection with you.
To find the right motivation for your dog can be quite tricky, and you may have to change your tactics ever so often to keep your dogs attention at a level suited for the task ahead.
When starting to learn a new trick, or command, I prefer using treats and kind words. For me this works wonders with puppies. Puppies eats everything they come across and they are on a constant search for something new to taste. Treats get their attention, keeps them away from eating everything they shouldn’t and don’t work them up to much. I always have with me two, three different kind of treats in my pocket so I can take advantage of every opportunity presented to us. As soon as the dog understands the command/trick, I reduce the use of treats gradually until I stop all together.
Later on, when the dog gets older or he has learned the correct response I rather use a tennisball or any other kind of toy. The reason for not introdusing the tennis ball too early is simply because it works too good. Throw the ball once, and the puppy is all “ball”. You need to find a balance between the reward and the energy level you need your dog at to keep him focused on you. One thing I love about the ball is it gives me a chance to reward my dog instantly at greater distances. With a ball, or any kind of toy you should not let the dog play for more than a few seconds before taking it away from him and try again. Otherwise he will loose focus and get bored of the toy.
This works great for me and my way of training, but may not work at all for others. Learn to know your dog and find what work for you. Some dogs needs a lot of motivation to get started and then maybe the tennisball should be introduced from the beginning. Others are so high on energy that a gentle “good boy” is more than enough.
The clicker training is quite popular for time being, but I find it cold and it doesn’t help me build a relationship with my dog. I belive the reward, and response should be given directly from you to your dog. Use your voice to tell the dog he’s done good, give him a treat from your hand, make sure he knows the reward/response is coming from you. Later on his motivation should be to make you happy, not the treat, tennisball or a clicking sound.
Finally, after 30 hours of more or less continuous driving I managed to pick up Garm at Oeygarden(outside Bergen) and bring him home. I was afraid 13 hours stuck in a car, just separated from his siblings and mother, would be a challenge but after 10 minutes of crying he relaxed and fell asleep. We stopped to pee and get to know each other every 2 hours, the rest he slept like a baby.
A few characteristics already stands out. He is confident and curious. It didn’t take him more than a couple of minutes to search through the house and settle in when we arrived for the first time. A minute later he was running around playing with one of the toys left from Otello.
This will make it easier when introduced to new environments and socializing, but also means I have to be smarter during training sessions to keep his attention and his attempts to challenge me for position.