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Skills to teach a puppy.

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My puppy, Natasha, is 11 weeks old. I decided to get a Border Collie since my daughter (age 12) loves agility. What should we be working on that would keep Natasha's mind busy and help her to learn the skills she will need to be an agility dog and a happy family pet? Natasha has "sit" down really well and we are working on "high five" (because she lifts her paw on her own and my daughter thought it was really cute).


My main concern is that Natasha will be kept busy with lots of mental exercises. We do take her outside in the evening but since we live in the southwest our temperatures in the summer are too high to go on walks (it was 108 today). Our home is an open floor plan so we have plenty of room to work with Natasha indoors. I really wish we could take her on more walks but that is not going to work until she is fully immunized and the weather cooperates.

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Proofing those behaviours


Recall work


Its yer choice and other impulse control games


Circle work


Body awareness: back up, sit pretty (take it slow), targeting, picking up objects, 2o2o, give paw, give back paw, side paws, 4 feet in an ever smaller box, slamming cupboards (helps with teeter), cross your feet, are you shy and so so so So many more. Circling around a standard/pole


Meet many many many new people. When shots are done, have positive experiences with puppy friendly, well mannered dogs.


Crate work. Drive into crate, only release when told, stay in crate even when door opens. Relax in crate in many different and new environments.


Puppy jump work (check put susan salo)


And there is much much more to do

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I think "leave it" and "drop it" are pretty useful commands to work on. Toys that will let her work for a bit of bait (busy buddy makes some great ones) will work her mind. Kongs filled with yummy stuff and then frozen will, too. Also, I'll make a plug for enjoying her as a puppy and letting her be a puppy. They are babies for such a short time and it's such a precious time.

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I am thinking of the skills that I am working on with my puppy in two categories (although, of course, there is some overlap): manner and sport skills.


For manners, we are working on basic impulse control. Manners at doors, eating manners (in a multiple dog household), up-up and off (for getting on and off furniture, for jumping up to greet or staying off to greet, depending on what the person might want), leash manners. And, of course - sit, down, stand, stay, come when called.


For sports: targeting - nose to hand, nose to object, paws to hands, paws to objects. Platforms - both pivot and four paw. We will be starting some basic shaping soon. We will also be doing basic CU mat work. With these particular skills, I can teach any specific behavior, so we are working on mastering them before getting into a lot of particular behaviors.


We are going to be starting on the Kyra Sundance Novice level tricks, starting next week. You might want to take a look at that. A lot of the Novice "tricks" are basic behaviors that can be applied to a of different sports. Most are puppy-appropriate, and the ones that aren't can be very easily adapted, or simply saved for later.

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All of these suggestions are wonderful, but IMHO the most important skill an agility dog, and especially a border collie, can learn is relaxation. Teaching a dog to settle, which you can teach by imposing regular nap times/crate down time, makes a dog a pleasure to live with. A competition dog who sleeps in her crate during the course of a 4 day trial preserves her energy for the runs themselves.

And I really like it that even my hyper guy knows how to settle down when I'm on the computer or on the sofa with a book.

Teach your pup how to chill as well as other stuff. I don't think you'll regret it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you for all your suggestions. I admit I had to look up a few of the suggestions on Google because I was clueless. I have a lot to learn! I purchased 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance. I told my daughter she was not allowed to teach any trick involving the refrigerator. I have faith that our puppy would take advantage of us if she knew how to access the refrigerator.


We have been praising the pup when she is quiet. Often when it is puppy nap time my daughter will let the pup sleep next to her while she reads. My GSD is great at "chilling". People are often amazed at how relaxed my GSD is when I have him out in busy public places. I have seen how good it is for him and want the same for our puppy.


Don't worry, I am not a hyper trainer! I am giving our pup plenty of time to just be a puppy. I am so amazed at how fast she learns! I want to be prepared when pup is ready for something new!

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