It’s been a while since I updated about Wilco. I’ve been teaching abroad for a couple of weeks, leaving my dogs at home with Thomas. I really missed them, and it was especially hard to leave Wilco. Things happen all the time, and a lot happened during the weeks I was away. Mostly good things! Wilco turned 4 months old yesterday, and I really, really like him! He is so easy going. He can relax ringside at agility competitions, he has such great skills with both dogs and people, he loves training with me. He also loves herding, and when I got home he started to go into the sheep field on his own. I had to keep him on leash around the farm for a while, but he seems to have better thoughts now and is more allowed off leash. His herding looks really good, I can’t wait for him to grow up so that he can be trained!
Yesterday, we went to the woods for some fun. I usually don’t take Wilco on my longer walks with the grown up dogs, but take him out on his own for 10-20 minutes before or after I walk the others. Our adventures in the woods are both for his physical development and for building our relationship. For relationship building, I try to do a lot of recalls and play fun games with him, like hiding his toy and letting him find it with his nose. Sometimes we just walk and he can sniff and explore. Other times, we do things together. I want to have a nice balance between the two.
For his physical development, I like him to work in different speeds. When we’re just walking, I love that he chooses a relaxed trot. Trotting is great for recovery. For strength and coordination, I like to walk my dogs slowly in brush and on uneven ground. In a slow walk, the dog has to use a lot of muscle to move his legs, especially when he is walking in brush that requires extra high leg lifts. This training builds great stabilizing muscle around hips and spine. With Wilco, he is just doing a little bit of it to get used to the idea and to help him coordinate his long legs. I reward him a lot, and I try to reward when he is looking ahead rather than at me. He needs to see where he’s going. Finally, I also want him to do some full speed running. Restrained recalls are great for this!
We also find fallen trees and work on balance and coordination. I haven’t done a lot of body awareness things with Wilco. My priority has been for him to find balance using his own body. Compared to my older dogs, he knows less about climbing things, but when he does (this was his first time on a fallen tree!) he knows how to balance his body. With him, my priority is quality in posture and movements. Less is more, I hope. What are your thoughts on puppy conditioning?
I think that free moving – fast and slow – in nature on varying ground is the very best rehearsal for puppy’s coordination and muscles. Not to mention the natural scent world that motivates him/her for sure too. I also think that the environment provides good oportunity to train the foundation for mindset control – from scent world that easily captures the dog’s mind to keep contact OR recalled to contact. This could be associated (in my mind) also as relationship training 🙂
We’re lucky to have a relatively large yard at home, mostly in natural shape. Every puppy has the freedom to train the body control every day from day 1 at new home, also by playing with older dogs on varying ground – in that have to look after a bit. During first weeks short walkings in forests nearby are also introduced to puppy.
So, I totally agree that walking in woods provides very healthy environment to puppy from many aspects ! 🙂
Fanny Gott ,
It’s such a blessing to have a big natural yard and to be close to the woods. I think it’s especially important when you raise puppies to allow them to move on natural surfaces.