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Raising a Puppy

As far as raising a puppy specifically for IPO, there are a lot of conflicting ideas and theories. In my experience, the key is to keep corrections to a minimum and to slowly introduce the puppy to as many experiences as you can. When socializing the puppy, try to keep the pup's focus on you, the handler, so that he is exposed to people, other animals and the environment, but that those things are not that important.

You can introduce a puppy to focus work and basic positions really easily, just by working him at his mealtimes. With the food rewards and time spent with you, the puppy will not even realize he is working. Puppies learn fast and are always hungry so puppyhood provides an excellent opportunity to start with the clicker. To teach your puppy to focus on you, simply click and reward for eye contact, it helps to sit down when starting this behavior so that the puppy doesn't have to move his neck so far. Gradually extend the time of the eye contact, and then vary it, one time ask for 5 seconds, then 30 seconds, then 2 seconds so the pup is never sure when the reward is coming.

We put together a youtube playlist of work we do with our puppies from 8 weeks to 5 months, click here to watch.


Get a crate Far from keeping the puppy "caged", this is a bed for your puppy, a place of safety, peace and quiet and food and chew toys. Keep in mind, dogs are den animals, they like small places to curl up in. In the beginning, throw a dog biscuit or treat in to entice your pup in, and occasionally hide a few pieces inside. Soon your pup will be going in quite happily. You will also need some peace and quiet periodically while knowing that your pup is in a safe place.


Get a clicker And learn how to use it - the best way is to go to a class and watch other trainers using the clicker. Reward-based marker training is a great way to start and experiment with your puppy - you will learn the importance of timing and begin to hone your skills. Even if you move to other methods later, the skills you learn with the clicker (such as timing) will be crucial with all training tools.


Go to puppy classes I would recommend selecting a class where they don't let all the puppies off leash together. You don't want to risk a bad experience with a boisterous larger puppy. Sometimes the best classes are those with a specific focus like beginners agility. A good class which does NOT emphasize letting the pups play together is excellent socialization and teaches the puppy from a young age that there are going to be other dogs around him all his life, and they are no big deal. In addition, joining a class will require that you take specific time out of your schedule to spend with your pup at the earliest stages of his life. The more positively based classes are best for a first time IPO handler. They help build confidence in the dog - avoiding harsh corrections helps build a good relationship between the pup and his owner. You will also learn basic dog ownership skills and theories of training.


Socialize, socialize, socialize Take the puppy everywhere with you. Take him to lots of places and see lots of people and objects, if your puppy is a little timid, do this gradually, don't overwhelm him at a park with numerous dogs off-leash. In the early stages, keep in mind that moving slowly with good experiences is more important than proving what a wonderful temperament he has! Socialization for IPO pups is more about exposure than actually interacting with new things. Ideally we want the pup to grow up and ignore everything around him because he has already seen it and it's not as interesting as his training and his handler. Don't encourage or reward the pup if he is showing fear, growling barking or backing up, in any new situations. Give him plenty of praise and/or food when he steps forward. Later in life, the benefits of socialization at a young age will evidence themselves in how well your dog works under distractions and off his home field.


Don't leave toys with the puppy all day Encourage your puppy to play with toys, but do not leave them with him. You can leave bones or stuffed kongs to keep him occupied when you are at work, but reserve special balls or tugs for playtime with you. You will want the dog to view the ball/tug as a reward and you as the "fun person who has the toys" to help you with your training later on.


Find a mentor Choose a trainer/handler whose dogs work in the way you would like your puppy to work, watch them and ask questions and try with your own dog. Choosing one mentor helps you get started without being confused about all the conflicting advice. As you learn, you can tailor the methods to suit you better.


Enjoy your puppy Have fun and take lots of photos and don't get too hung up on the details, do some basic obedience, sit, down, stand, article indication and most importantly focus. Do some scent pads and short tracks and encourage playing with balls and a leather rag. Then let him grow up.



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