(Thanks to Christy Hill for this great post on how to select a good dog. Her post was specifically in regard to service dogs; but is so applicable to all areas of dog training and behavior that we have re-posted it here.)
Posted by: “Christy Hill” email@example.com
Sun Jan 13, 2008 7:33 am (PST)
Outside of picking a good line, health checks and good temperament testing screening….now not really selection, but a VERY important part of training a service animal….let’s look at us, the handler…
I have been training my own hearing dogs for 20 years and right now on my 5th hearing dog. I’ve worked through SEVERAL dogs over the years. What I find with self-trainers (me included) that with young dogs we expect WAAAAYYY too much out of them. When they don’t do “model” service dog behavior, our emotions and mood changes which I believe goes right down that leash to the dog. Self-trainers tend to start over analyzing and flop back and forth when they see “ONE” behavior…oh, they did that and it was bad…maybe they shouldn’t be a service dog, then we see them do something good…OH!!! they did that perfect, maybe they can be a service dog. I’ve seen this back and forth with SEVERAL people.
I think what is important with a young pup is to LET THEM BE A DOG!!!! Let them EXPLORE their environment to learn what works and doesn’t work. It isn’t the time to expect them not to interact with their environment by being good well behaved dog. I’m not saying the dog should be a maniac and shouldn’t learn “basic” manners, but shouldn’t be pushed to be perfect little service dogs. Don’t have them be in second grade and expect them to act like an 8th grader.
If they do something you don’t want, DON’T get upset! We may THINK we are not showing our dog our disappointment, but dogs can read our emotions better than WE do! I’ve learned a lot about myself by watching my dogs since they are responsive to my actions. It is amazing.
During the ages of about 7 months to 9 or 10 months is about the second fear period. They will do weird things at this time. This isn’t grounds for washing out, this is time to chill out and let your dog figure things out with CONFIDENCE. The more you expect them NOT to bark and try to suppress this behavior, the more they will do it and get stressed. This isn’t the time to be taking a pup EVERYWHERE! Nor is it time to expect your young puppy to act like a service dog in training. This is the time to LET THEM BE A PUPPY! You do train and channel behaviors, shape them, nurture them and let them EXPLORE their world to learn about it.
I can’t stress the importance of this because again, I’ve seen myself, many friends and many other people wash (out) dogs or stress dogs out because the handler put too much expectation on a dog too young. Now training a behavior is one thing, expecting a dog to do this in a stressful working environment is another. I wouldn’t expect a pup to do model service dog behavior until about 18 months.
Enjoy life with a young pup, let them grow up and have fun, then when the time is right, about 18 months, then do the right assessment of your dog. DO NOT over analyze before hand. (This does not include a dog that has developed very serious behavioral roblems, then yes do a career change for the dog).
Now go out and play some FUN puppy games!!