Note: I wrote this post about two weeks ago, but haven’t been able to find the time to publish it. I think you’ll still enjoy it, though. Also, I’m happy to report that we’ve found what I think is going to be the perfect forever home for DaVinci!
When DaVinci the old English sheep dog puppy came to stay with me, he was eleven weeks old and already had some pretty intense behavioral issues. We have been working hard daily to address these issues and he is making lots of progress already! He is getting much more comfortable giving up his toys and is doing great with the food aggression training that we have been doing. (I’ll share some more specific information about this training process in a future blog post.) He also is becoming much more trusting of me and is becoming much more calm and cooperative in situations where he previously would feel unsure or uncomfortable. Only very rarely, does he still feel the need to growl.
With dogs such as DaVinci, it is really easy to get completely focused on the problem behaviors. And this makes sense, not only are DaVinci’s “problem” behaviors frustrating and annoying, they are also potentially dangerous. We certainly don’t want him to grow up to be a dog with aggression issues and these behaviors also make him a more difficult puppy to adopt out.
However, we aren’t just focusing on the unwanted behaviors. I’m also spending lots of time doing proactive training with DaVinci. He is learning behaviors and skills that will help him in lots of different situations later on. One thing in particular that we have been focusing on is getting DaVinci comfortable with various tasks related to vet care and grooming. DaVinci’s fluffy coat is quite handsome, but it is going to require a fair amount of maintenance to keep it looking so nice!
One of my friends has been coming over several times a week to help with DaVinci’s training. So, she has begun teaching him that it is fun to be brushed! At first, he was a bit unsure about all of this. What was this strange object and why did we keep running it through his coat? Was it is a new kind of chew toy? Or was it something to be avoided?
However, we’ve practiced this a handful of times now and he is getting much more comfortable and relaxed with the process. I would even say that he is starting to enjoy it! Of course, we are slow and gentle and DaVinci gets lots of treats and praise during the brushing sessions. And, after just a few brushing sessions, his coat is looking much nicer and we’ve been able to get most of the mats out.
Over the past handful of years, I have met quite a few long-haired dogs that absolutely hate the groomers. I’ve even met a few that have to be sedated if they need to be groomed or shaved, or even just have their nails done. I think a dog can unfortunately end up like this quite easily, if he has a handful of bad experiences with grooming early on.
Hopefully, this proactive training can help DaVinci have many good experiences with grooming and vet care early on, which will help him learn to be calm and relaxed in these sorts of situations, rather than scared and defensive.
Especially with puppies, it is so important to think about all of the experiences your dog might encounter later in life and start early on training for these situations. It is much easier to teach your dog that something like brushing is lots of fun when he’s had no previous experiences with it, then to try to have to do training after your dog has already developed a fear or dislike.
Looking forward: February 2016
And no, that wasn’t a typo… The conference will now be two days!
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably read some of my notes from the past Art and Science of Animal Training Conferences. They can all be found here.