Training Charlie Brown
Training Charlie Brown
Weeks 8 Through 12
Weeks 8 Through 12
Charlie has been with me now for four weeks. It’s hard to imagine that he is already twelve weeks old! The last four weeks have been packed full of training. Most training classes like to wait until the puppy is at least four months old, to prevent an under-vaccinated puppy from getting sick, but that shouldn’t mean waiting until four months to start doing any training. Every interaction you have with your new puppy, (or dog) especially in the first four weeks, influences their behavior for the rest of their lives.
Weeks 8-12 are not all about obedience, but they’re instead all about setting your dog up to be successful in your home. Charlie doesn’t spend most of his day awake yet, he is still a bit of a baby. To make the most of the time I have with him when he’s awake, I spend the majority of my time right now focusing on socialization. This area is so important I’ve dedicated a blog post to it; please click here to read it. It’s a VERY important part of puppy training.
I spend less time that you would think on a formal obedience session with Charlie. At his young age, he has a fairly small attention span and is distracted easily. I focus on simple but very important commands, and finish up the formal obedience session with some fun tricks. My sessions are about fifteen minutes; the first five minutes I spend on obedience commands, then I spend five minutes on tricks, the last five minutes are dedicated to something fun like fetch. I get in at least one formal session a day, but try for 2-3. We work on obedience throughout the day; a short sit-stay to go outside, before meals, to get out of car, or while I’m putting his collar or harness on. I work on recall (come) all day long, and I work on heel (walking next to me) when moving about the house. Outside I’ve worked with him on off leash recall by using a dog whistle paired with a high value treat. At nine weeks Charlie was coming off leash from about thirty feet using the dog whistle. So far Charlie has learned come on leash, sit, one minute sit-stay, down, thirty second down-stay, and indoor/outdoor heel. For the most part, I save the treats for tricks. Charlie has lots of fun learning the tricks, and they are a valuable way to increase your dog’s ability to learn and level of intelligence. At twelve weeks Charlie has learned to spin in both directions, sit-up pretty, roll over, army crawl, give me a kiss (on the cheek), give me a low five and high five, fetch the ball, and drop an object. Tricks we are building up to over the next four weeks are wave goodbye, play dead, say your prayers, and jumping through hoops. He still needs a bit of luring, and hasn’t quite gotten the commands consistently without them, but he is well on his way to showing off his skills to those that will watch.
Crate training is a must with puppies. There are many options when considering what type of crate to use. I recommend a simple open wire crate to begin with. It would be your preference how many door openings it has, or even what brand to use. The size of the crate depends on the size of your adult size dog. When they reach adulthood (at 2 years old for many dogs) they should be able to stand up, sit down, lie down, and turn around easily, but for a puppy the crate should be small enough so your puppy won’t eliminate in it. (more about house training later) Many crates are sold with a divider so you have the option to make the crate the size that best fits your needs. Charlie is using a large size open wire crate, with one door opening, and no divider. Charlie was introduced to a crate at the breeder, but not confined to a crate before coming home. The breeder had a crate set up in the whelping pen, but it did not have any doors on it. When Charlie came home we
played a game of going in and out of his crate to help him associate fun things with the crate. I also started having him eat all of his meals in the crate, and slowly start taking more and more naps in the crate. One of the hardest things about putting a puppy in the crate is when they whine or cry. When Charlie would whine, for the first few days I would sit on the floor near his crate and when he quieted down I would take him out. I would reward him for his calm behavior in the crate (letting him out) and not rescue him when he was upset. (not letting him out) I also didn’t want him to feel abandoned, so I sat near him to comfort him. In the crate with him were toys safe for chewing and I would rotate them often so he wasn’t bored with what he had. I use the crate anytime I cannot be 100% focused on what he is doing. If I, or anyone in the house, can’t have their eyes on Charlie, he’s in the crate. When he’s out, we’re keeping him very busy, so usually he’s quite happy to rest in the crate. We worked on Crate Training for almost two weeks before Charlie was left home alone.
These are a couple of photos of Charlie growing up. His first name tag, campfire, and practicing the sit-stay.
Puppy training begins before the puppy even comes home to you. It starts with the breeder. Dogs naturally don’t like to go to the bathroom where they eat and sleep and they especially don’t like to stand in it. However if they’re conditioned from birth to live in a filthy whelping pen they soon lose this natural aversion. (this is common with puppy mills, and some backyard breeders. Even an unplanned dog litter can run into this problem if the owner doesn’t know much about raising puppies) When puppies leave the litter and go to a place like a pet store, poorly maintained rescue, understaffed animal control or humane society where they continue to live in filthy conditions, it can make house training very difficult. To prevent your puppy from having accidents follow these simple steps.
- Take your puppy outside often, to the same spot every time, on a leash, and reward them while they’re in the act of going. The first two weeks I had Charlie, I took him out close to 20 times a day! (at almost 12 weeks old on Friday the 4 of November Charlie went potty 26 times and poop 4 times) I took him out after he woke up from a nap, following a training session, exiting the crate, going into the crate, after any exercise, a busy game of catch, after he ate, drank water, about every 3-4 hours overnight, and about every 20 minutes while he was awake and busy in the house. When he did go out, I would take him to the same area every time. I chose an area that does not get much foot traffic, covers about a 14ft diameter, open grass, and is quick to get to in the middle of the night. While he was in the act of going, I would tell him he’s a good boy and I avoided going over the top with my praise. When he finished, I would give him lots of praise.
- Use the crate when you can’t watch your puppy. In Charlie’s case, he was raised with a clean whelping pen, so I was able to use the crate he will eventually grow into. However if your puppy is used to unclean living conditions, you should use a crate with a divider or a small size crate to begin with. Charlie has only stayed in the crate for a maximum of two hours during the day in the last four weeks. In general, most puppies can hold it for one hour for every month they are old when confined to a crate. It’s important that you don’t leave your puppy in the crate for a period of time that is beyond their bladder control. If you need to leave them for longer than two hours, try to find someone to stop in at the halfway mark to let them out.
- Clean up! Make sure to regularly scoop solid waste from the outdoor potty area, and if there are any accidents in the house or crate, clean it all up. Use a cleaner that removes the scent entirely from indoor accidents to prevent your puppy from going again in the same area.
Preventing behavior problems comes with every single interaction I have with Charlie. The way we behave around our dogs greatly influences they way they behave around us. Planning ahead is essential part of prevention. A few examples of this:
- If I don’t want Charlie to jump up, I can’t pick him up. As tempting as it is, I have not picked Charlie up for the sake of cuddling. There were a couple of times in his first week with me that he was too sleepy and tired to continue walking as far as I needed him to, so he was carried back to the car. I’ve needed to give him a boost to get up in the car, and by now (almost 12 weeks) he almost has it down to getting in the car unassisted.
- If I don’t want him to chew up my kids stuffed toys, I don’t provide him with stuffed toys to play with. Rawhide (while unsafe for a variety of reasons) can easily cause dogs to chew shoes.
- Play biting is a very common behavior with most puppies. If we feel teeth, we stop interacting with Charlie, but we also try to prevent him from play biting by redirecting him before he has the chance to bite.
Finally a tired dog is a good dog, but an exhausted dog is a nightmare! Charlie needs his rest. Sometimes he doesn’t always know when he needs it, so it’s up to me to schedule nap times. When he becomes downright naughty, it’s a big red flag to me that he needs some time to rest. In the crate he goes, and usually he falls asleep right away. Having a consistent schedule for him helps him know what to expect throughout the day and allows for a much happier family. So our daily schedule at almost twelve weeks old looks like this…
4:30am wake up, potty and poop, breakfast in the crate
5:30am potty break, training for 15 minutes
6:00am potty break, fun play time
6:30am potty break, back in the crate
7:30am potty break, off to take kids to school
8:00am sleeps in the car
9:00am potty break, walk outside, then depending on the day we usually keep busy with socializing, training, walking, or running errands.
11:30am pick up from preschool
Noon stop at houses to let other dogs out to go potty, Charlie will sometimes get to play with these dogs. Or we run a couple of errands.
1:00pm potty and poop, lunch time in the crate
1:30pm potty break, training for 10 minutes followed by fun time
2:00pm potty break followed by a long nap in the crate
3:30pm potty and poop break, bus drop off, and fun play outdoors for an hour
4:30pm crate time while I make dinner, help with homework, and do chores around the house. If I have to work that evening, Charlie will usually stay in the crate until I get back home. He will still get potty breaks and dinner as he needs them.
6:00pm potty and poop break, dinner in the crate
6:30pm potty break, 15 minute training session and fun time
7:30pm to bed for the night
9:30pm potty break before I go to bed.
As Charlie continues to grow our schedule is going to change, he won’t need to be in the crate as often, and he won’t need to go out as often. Even though he goes potty close to 30 times a day, as an adult dog it will be only 4-5 times. He won’t require as much rest time, and I’ll be able to trust him and not need to watch him so closely. Of course there’s a lot I didn’t cover. It sure would be a long post if I went over everything. I tried to touch on the most important. If you think of any questions, please ask! I love to talk dogs. Life so far with Charlie Brown has been a lot of fun. Puppies are a lot of work, but are very rewarding. Happy Training!!