Spice and her siblings are 8 months old now. Over the past month, I’ve noticed definite changes in Spice’s behavior and energy level. From the reports I’ve gotten from their people, her siblings are going through the same phase.
Spice has gone from a cuddly puppy to a very active, more than a little pushy, bundle of energy. While this bodes well for a successful dog sports career, she is a pet and member of the family first and I’m not buying into the theory that a dog has to be rude and obnoxious to have enough drive for agility.
What this means is that right now a lot of training is happening in day to day life. It’s really easy to get busy and ignore the calm puppy lying in a dog bed and chewing a bone , but those are the things that need to be rewarded and encouraged. Lately I’ve had to remind Spice that jumping into my face and chewing on my nose isn’t such a good greeting in my culture, but that cuddling next to me on the couch will result in petting and attention.
The upside to increased maturity is that Spice has much more attention and engagement in training sessions. Until recently I had to keep sessions to 1-2 minutes (never a bad idea, really) and tightly control the environment with gates, leashes, etc. This morning when I turned off the video at the end of a lesson (you do video your training sessions, right?), I realized we had been working for more than 6 minutes. Spice was off leash in my basement training area, with the door at the top of the stairs open, and never really left work. Some of my transitions between activities could have been smoother, there was a little sniffing there, but she came back to work readily. I don’t have great toy play with her yet, but am happy with the way she is willing to play with just me.
This is an unedited video and unfortunately I moved one of my props outside of the camera range, but it gives you the idea. I know there are 8 month old puppies running agility courses, but I’m not in a hurry to get there. This session is pretty typical of what I’m doing with Spice now- agility foundation behaviors, shaping, relationship building, and body awareness. If you’re a Susan Garrett groupie like me (and if not you should be), you may recognize some of the things we are doing. Anyway here’s Spice’s training session.