Pete’s Puppy Principles is a three part series discussing how to leverage a puppy’s instinctive behaviors as part of your pet’s training regimen.
#3 DRIVE TAPPING
Every puppy is born with ancient inclinations or drives. These drives are essential to them as a species and many of them based in being a predator species. Some of these drives are:
Pack drive: This is all about pack structure, placement, etiquette to higher pack members. When you use this drive with a puppy you are using the pup’s natural tendency to follow orders. Ways to accomplish this would be to drag a long knotted rope or fuzzy toy and have the pup follow you. Then pull the toy up in the air and give a command “sit”. The pup looks up at the toy, their butt goes down, YOU have now taught “sit” and the game continues. Once the pup knows “sit” this is an awesome way for you to stay in charge of your environment as the pup learns to “sit” for all good things. The alpha of the pack always provides but at a price!
Prey drive: Pups will always chase anything that moves. It is natural and the greatest of all survival techniques. Tapping into prey drive is how we teach “fetch” and this special game. The Recall Game- LOVE this one. This is a staple in my puppy class. It is totally prey driven and every game should be controlled by YOU not the dog. This game is all you and the pup reacts blissfully. Start by grabbing a handful of treats (they should be soft and round so they roll). Place the treat on the dog’s nose to get their interest. Then toss a single treat directly in front of you, but far enough for the pup to see and chase. When the pup grabs the treat, back up, spread your legs, hold out the next treat for the pup to see and call the pup. When he comes, toss gently between your legs. As the pup chases that treat, about turn, call pup again and toss between legs again. Repeat three or four times and the final time you call the pup ask for a sit. This game is great for kids who would normally be chew toys. As the pup gets better at the game you can throw farther and back up quicker. It’s also great exercise!!
Hunting Drive: Many would include prey drive in hunting drive but the hunting drive requires more involvement of your pups other senses. So here we will be tapping into “hearing” and “smell”. This first game involves two people and is essentially the puppy form of hide and seek. It can be played indoors or in a fenced your with bushes/trees (you need something to hide behind. One person holds the puppy and keeps the pups attention while the second person hides. The “hider” then calls the puppy and claps till the puppy finds the hider and gets a treat and an ENORMOUS amount of praise. The second game only requires one person and taps solely into the “scenting” drive, hence the name “find it”. Get a bunch of old shoe boxes (at least 4) and cut the end off. Place the boxes randomly around a large room. Under one box you will put a special treat. Now here I recommend something high value and smelly. Boiled Chicken in Garlic Powder is usually good. Then put the pup on leash and in an excited voice ask the pup to “FIND IT!!!”. Move quickly around the room and bring the pup up to the boxes till the pup shows interest in the one with the food. CHEER and flip the box so the pup gets the reward. This game evolves so that eventually boxes are in different rooms and you won’t need a leash. Once the pup gets the hang of this, you will just need to say” FIND IT”!! and the pup’s nose will start the game. Another form of indoor exercise on a rainy day.
It is astounding to me that this principle that is so key to a puppy’s learning, and as humans we are using it all the time with our kids, students, employees, yet we do not enforce this concept as much as we could with our puppies. The results are always HIGHER with the dogs. Think about it, if you have anything important to say to people you start with “can I have your attention please?”. If you are warning your kids of eminent danger (watch out that soup is very HOT), you make SURE they are hearing you. In other words, you are always making sure that in order to maximize communication with other you have their full attention. Why no one does this with pups makes me pause (and sometimes throw up). The poor pup is at the end of the leash and time and time again I see the handler shouting command to an oblivious BABY. This reminds me of the hoops we all jump through, to get a human baby to notice us. We make silly noises, use rattles, make faces… anything so the baby looks at you. Now, puppy people, apply that concept to your new pup. By engaging the pup in your communication, you open that communication to teaching. Teaching what is right, and teaching what is not. But you cannot teach without engaging the pup to pay attention to you. Depending on the pup, typical methods can range from simply using a high pitch voice (in dog culture, high pith is fun, low pitch is serious) and clapping, or using a squeaky toy, or treats. Any of the principles discussed can create engagement. But realize you cannot “talk” to your puppy without them knowing you are trying to SAY something. Engagement in its simplest form is how you teach a pup their name. You call the dogs name in an excited voice, maybe clap your hands, when the dog looks at you praise and throw a treat. Now you have taught the pup when they hear their name to look at you. Once they are looking you are communicating. It’s like dialing a phone.