by Doranna

“Oh, I know!” I told myself, all full of excited optimism, “I’ll blog about Baby Tristan’s learning process!”

tb.profile.297As usual, I didn’t take into account the fact that I’d be so caught up in the process itself that the blogging would take second place.  Or third.  Or fourth, because the other boys are still active, too!  And oh wait, that dastardly Real Life.  Oops!  Well, here I am.

Tristan’s been with us three weeks now, making him eleven weeks old (on the 18th, when I’m first typing this).  His nose has finished unfolding, taking him from baby-face to youngster-face.  His hind end has more leg than he knows what to do with, his feet are huge, and his shoulders are trying to decide just how they’ll sit on his body.  He’s still got baby belly, though!

We started training on Day One.  They’re never too young.  It’s just about what you’re asking and what you’re expecting and to some extent how you’re communicating.  At the earliest stages it’s not about “this is what I want you to do,” it’s about “here’s some life, let’s explore it!” and “here are your circumstances and daily patterns” and “here are your boundaries.”   Not to mention, “This is your potty box” (winter and his initially infinitesimal bladder capacity mean we’re training to a litter box concurrently with his outdoor time).

Along the way, the interaction helps to define (to me) his personality.  He is gleeful, toy-oriented, confident, sensible about new experiences, and to some extent already a mama’s boy (puppykisskisskiss!).  At this point he otherwise remains just exactly what he’s been since birth—perfectly willing to push every boundary right to the point of “you must be kidding,” which is when he’s finally convinced that it’s not a winning strategy.

Far better to establish these boundaries now, at the point they can become defaults.

s3So yes, Tristan will be a performance dog, but the things he’s learning now are the same basic things I taught baby Strider the Wonderhound thirty years ago when I lived deep in the Appalachians and had no twinkle of agility, obedience, rally…or heaven forbid, show stacking!

In his very first days, Tristan learned (or started learning) to sit if he wanted to be fed or picked up, to wait in his crate until released instead of dashing out helter skelter.  He learned that his name has incredibly high value—always paired with a cookie.  (We have a code name to refer to him in casual conversation so as not to dilute that value.  It happens to be “Toothmonster,” which tells you the other thing he’s had to learn—”no teeth!”)

He learned that I have value, too, and spent some time following me around our enclosed acreage, making his own choices to keep up with mom and get cookies when he did.  (Unfortunately, Human Mom has so much value that he’s also had to learn “no shrieking when she walks away from the crate.”)

In those early days he also learned not to growl at human fingers if they touch his bone, and that if they take his bone, either the bone will return immediately or there’ll be a cookie trade.  We’ll work hard to generalize this one because of how reactive he was when we started.

He’s learning impulse control with cookie and toy games—and to release his toys on request.  He always gets them back—or in trade for something of excellent value.

And of course he’s done leash and collar work.  We’re continuing to add layers to that, escalating the circumstances and difficulty, even while building new skills on top of it (eventually we’ll have come to side—both the left heel position and the ride “side” position—but a number of games will assist with that understanding.)

Most of these things he’s learned while simply being a puppy and going through his puppy day with his puppy play.  His humans are the only one bringing true awareness of the activities to the table.

That is, his humans and his packmates, including Mr. McKittypants.  They’re showing him the rules, responding with crystal clear consequences when he breaks them.  (It was a sad day when he first experimented with applying his little needle teeth to Dart’s Very Important Private Parts.)

Connery escorts him around the yard, chaperoning him and explaining things in a wise uncle way.  Dart plays endlessly with him, and Mr. McKittypants owns him, and will stomp around the house in fury, breaking every possible rule, if he’s ready to play with the puppy and the puppy is not *GASP* available.

So only now is Tristan beginning to see games that are preparing him specifically for his performance life.  Body awareness games and toy games with rules that will lay the foundation for the obedience and agility to come.

Body awareness work.  "Look!  I have feet!"

Body awareness work. “Look! I have feet!”

Tracking is something of a different matter.  I generally start with article games, building a high value for them so the dog, on track, is searching not just scent but the value of the article.

But I’ve never started a pup this young (I didn’t start tracking until Connery was six-ish, and Dart and Rena were past puppyhood when they got here), and sometimes they create their own path.  Tristan has most decidedly already done so!  The last time we were out in the tracking grounds, we decided to put him at the start flag of Connery’s track so I could build value for it.  Just to see what would happen, our tracking friend also went out 25 yards, putting out some initial cookies and then some cookies with distance between them.

You can see what we got.  Won’t this be fun?

Baby's first track...

Baby’s first track…

About Doranna

My books are SF/F, mystery, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. My dogs are Beagles, my home is the Southwest, and the horse wants a cookie!
This entry was posted in The Dogs!, Tristan Beagle and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Puppygarten

  1. EMoonTX says:

    What a very lucky puppy he is! HerdyShepherd1 on Twitter commented last year when he was first training his new pup, Tan, that he had been a very ignorant and ineffective trainer with his first sheepdog–but we watched as Tan became, in less than a year, a very effective one. By September he was working well with shepherd and the other sheepdog to move or hold sheep in the wide open spaces as well as enclosed places.

    Your experience has grown with every dog, and every subsequent puppy has benefited from your increased understanding of what’s going on in dog-brain and how to connect with it. So Tristan comes into a family with other dogs (Wise Uncle and Play Uncle) and a cat and a horse and a human trainer who is exquisitely attuned to him. Thanks for showing us the results of this partnership, which are impressive.

    HerdyShepherd’s Tan will be a papa in a couple of months, as Floss, the older one, is preggers. Much to everyone’s delight on that farm, Tan having turned out so well.

    • Doranna says:

      This makes me wish I was more Twitterful! I’d love to keep up with HerdyShepherd, by golly.

      Wise Uncle and Play Uncle. I love that!

  2. Morgan says:

    Third pic: OMG, the Cute! (said out loud x3)

  3. Anne Infantino Rinaldi says:

    There is nothing cuter than a beagle pup! Training is hard work!

    • Doranna says:

      Sometimes it makes my head spin, trying to keep track of all the layers and details. And some days it feels perfectly clear! We just fumble along… ;>

  4. Patty says:

    Wow that is a great picture! What fun! Baby training, albeit horse style: Indy is halter free now–I can go in an put it on without issue when we need to!

    • Doranna says:

      Quick, help me figure out to do with Tristan’s latest phase of exploration: The SHRIEKING phase!

      • Patty says:

        Excited shrieking? That is VERY funny! I am clueless on solutions! That’s what you get for having a vocal breed! Oh Coulson got neutered..he’ll be one in March, so I took your advice and waited!

        • Doranna says:

          I haven’t ever really found the “vocal” breed thing to be an issue–mine are no more noisy than any other, and in trial situations they’re considerably less nuisance noisy than most. She says darkly.

          Dart does have crate-shrieking issues that we overcome anew with each emotional stress, and that’s generated by separation anxiety–and in particular his extremely difficult transition from First Home to New Home when he was 10mo. (Right now it’s a problem again, because Tristan is fun, but his presence is also stressful for the older dogs as they adjust.)

          For now I’m working, fingers crossed, on shaping a more acceptable behavior for Tristan’s insane jealousy when I so much as *speak* to one of the other animals. My golly, the nerve of me!

          • Patty says:

            That is very interesting–jealous shrieking! Well, I know little about dog psychology, but there are dog psychology experts. I’d be curious what they have to say. I would expect beagles to “talk” more rather than just make noise (like Connery’s post run sings) and the shrieking did seem more like talking based on your description–she says in appeasement.

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