Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Training at 9 Weeks Old

     This week, we will be continuing to hone the last two weeks of  "tricks/skills" training we began with Cinder and adding a couple new ones.  This system of honing and building will continue throughout Cinder's next couple years of life.  Each new trick is either building on previous ones or completely new for a little variety and as a means of testing her "learning style."
     Many people don't think about their dog's capacity for learning or learning style. They never have a real plan on what they hope their dog can do or learn beyond the basics of  sit, down, stay, walking on a leash; and things like chasing balls and sticks.  If you have Border Collies, you know [or should know] that you really are better off with a plan to teach your dog as much as you can to keep their minds as busy as their bodies.  Border Collies really do require a LOT of mental stimulation and usually, the earlier in their lives that you provide it, the better outcome for all. Puppies of all breeds can start learning as young as six weeks or whenever they're weaned. The difference between breeds is the amount of time, repetitions, and types of tricks or skills they can learn and the pace at which they learn.  Border Collie puppies seem to be hardwired from birth to be fast learners-which is both blessing and curse!
     I've been spending about 5-7 minutes at a time working with Cinder to teach her some tricks; three times a day. I've never taxed her attention span so I know we COULD work a little longer, but it's better to break the sessions into smaller time frames and maintain her attention the whole time than to push her to her limits-yet.  We've worked on some basics: sit, down, watch me, sit up, crawl, roll [over], give paw [shake], touch.  She's learning each thing very well and very quickly-usually less than three tries and she's got the idea of each thing. Once she has the idea, we repeat the lesson at least six times and stop. Each time we have a session, I vary the area, time of day, and the order of things I ask her to do.  She does quite well so far. Her drive to learn is obvious-she's HIGHLY food motivated!  Again, both blessing and curse, the food is the only thing she understands as a reason to do her tricks right now, even though I always give her lots of general praise.  However, she is only nine weeks old so hoping for her to learn to do things just because I ask is pushing things a little, but definitely clues me that I need step up my game on handling the whole "reward for work" system.  In review, I guess she is  starting to make some connections between our lessons and her playtime actions: I have called her to "come" from outside or other rooms successfully; I've diverted her attention from Buzz a few times recently by saying, "Cinder, watch me" and breaking her focus on him to give her a toy to get her to stop chomping Buzz (for a fleeting minute).  She is learning to sit as part of the process before and after going outside and at dinner time.  All things considered, I guess she really is starting to connect some of the dots aside from our training sessions.
     What is my goal for Cinder's education?  I'm not entirely sure beyond teaching her as many fun things as I can that I know will be good for her no matter what else she learns.  She will be put to work on learning obedience and once we achieve that, we'll have a better idea of her personality to decide what else to try with her.  We will do some agility work, but it's doubtful we would ever compete because of my own limitations.  We won't do herding because we don't now and never will have anything for her to herd-we live in a small midwestern city so our outdoor activities are done at friend's farms and parks. I'd like her to try disk dog and maybe flyball, although the nearest flyball trainers and teams are at least an hour away. Again, we have to wait to see what her personality and temperament seem best suited for to decide where we'll end up.  Right now, we just learn as much as her little brain will tolerate and go as far as I can with her.  It's all part of the adventure in raising Cinder!


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