I think maybe I should qualify what I did in Bass Pro. I took him out to walk around first (he was barking) to get some top energy off and to potty. We went in. I didn't demand he look at me or anything. I wanted to take him somewhere he'd never been. New sights, sounds, things, people, etc. He was heavily rewarded for every new surface he went over, and yes, if he happened to throw me a look while he was checking everything out. He was also really rewarded for never pulling on the lead. A couple times when I stopped to look at something, he'd sit (BIG reward) on his own, and even laid down (another jackpot) when I was looking at boating stuff. I never asked for him to sit or down at any of those times. Less than five times I asked for a 'sit' or a 'down' while we were there. When he did, he got a big reward. That's it. The rest of the time I was watching how he interacted with people, how well he walked with me (not in a heel, either.. just walking nicely), and I watched him looking all around and taking it all in. He wasn't acting spastic about it... he was just checking it all out. A woman on a motorized scooter went by us, and he just gave a brief look. Months ago, he was wanting to give chase to a lady in a manual wheelchair....so I was interested to see what he'd do with that.
I (more than anyone else) KNOW he's a baby. On another thread, I argued this point to the death. All my previous shepherds had next to no training until they were a little older. Then the 'focus' was able to be gotten easily, they were already interested in balls and tugs, and teaching them to 'heel' didn't seem like I was pushing them. I know I'm not the best handler for a dog I want to do IPO with. However, I'm what he's stuck with. My main concern was "what do I do to get his attention" because yes, I see lots of videos of very young pups that seem to have a very long attention span for their handler. When Grim was younger, he'd follow me everywhere in the yard and at home. His attention span was longer for me. Now he's growing up, and I'm not the most interesting thing out there. I don't expect to have his undivided attention for any long period of time. I'd like to at least be able to play with him, though, with something that is of interest to him. The tugs and balls on rope I had weren't something he wanted to play with. Even in the house with no distraction. The new tug (a soft, leather puppy tug...unwrapped at the end) has been something he's actually tugging with. I don't tug for long periods of time. Just short... and I believe that finding things that he wants to play with will make me 'more fun' in his eyes which will make it easier to get his attention and focus on me... if even for a few minutes of play. He finds it much easier to play with his pug. That's great, but *I* want to play with him. I want him to learn to enjoy tug. He's learning that now, finally.
I am enjoying every single second of his puppy hood. It's gone too fast, and once it's gone you can't get it back. I want to be prepared as his handler, though, as to what to do with him when he's past that. I want to know in advance the best way to do things to get the results. IMO, waiting until he's older and then saying "what should I be doing?" is too late. I would have known it was coming... and that would be just stupid of me. Also, living in a small house with a small fenced yard, I need to have new ways of interacting with him. We had a long hall to play 'hall ball' in the house we moved from. I don't have that here. So balls on a rope are not only good for attention, but good for just play for us. Tugs become more important than they were before, because I can't just go throwing something across the house for him.
I'm not trying to rush him, I'm really not. The only person I'm trying to rush is myself. Socking away info. to use at a later date. I did explain how he is now... hoping that it's all just totally normal. Sounds like it is. Yes, I saw a ten month old at the club who was able to sit at the side of the handler and look non-stop at the handler. Yes, I saw that same pup sit in front of the handler and stare at the handler. I didn't think "I wish Grim would do that", I thought "It will be great when Grim is old enough to do that". I've had that attention from previous dogs.. primarily my bitch. However, she was an adult before we ever went there.
Although I'm dedicated to going to the club, doing the work towards his IPO, etc. he is NOT a 'club dog'. It's not my only aspiration for him, and if he doesn't cut it I'm not going to be home crying or wishing for another dog. I'm not going to sell him or buy a 'club dog' to get titled. He's MY boy. I think it's a really cool thing to do with him, but it's never going to be more important than he is. I LOVE who he is. I have never punished him for not paying attention to me. I've never been disappointed in him for his behavior. He's a baby. Sure, I was embarrassed when he barked like a madman during class the other week... but he got better as class went on, and he'd just found his bark. He's also very bull headed and wants what he wants and doesn't give up easily. It's one of his qualities I find endearing. I'm still exploring his personality, and what that will lead him to do. I never want to see him so obedient that I quash his personality. Never. That, to me, would be the biggest failure ever as his handler.
He's a good boy. Crack puppy or not. I am proud to be his handler. The advice I'm looking for is to (hopefully) not fail as his handler. I'm sure that if he was handled by someone else, he'd have more focus, etc. He's not, though. So please don't think I'm not letting him be a puppy. I am. I am enjoying every second of it. I'm not envious of anyone at the club. How could I be? They don't have Grim. I do. He is hands down the BEST shepherd I've ever had. The mistakes I've made along the way were giving him too much latitude. Not enforcing what I don't want. Not 'laying down the law' because I love him so much that I don't want to get after him for anything. So while I have goals for him, they will NEVER be goals that would harm him or push him past his ability or want. Could that change? Could I come down on him for not doing what I want him to do? I guess anything's possible. Right now, though, he's a puppy who has been drawing breath for less than 7 months. I don't have too high of expectations for him. I'm sorry if it came across that way. Yes, we're learning together. I'm not in a rush, though. I'm deeply in love, and I want to do everything right that I can. However, no one is going to push me to push him. Even if we repeat the foundation class. Big deal. I didn't get him as a status symbol or as something to make me look good or as something to get titles for me. He's my friend. He's my partner.
Wrath of Grim z Dragon
"Mr. Grim"- Threaten my handler. I dare you.