Sound, Vehicle, and Swim Conditioning. When?
I was reading up on gsd puppies and training and really like the info from this site Articles / Puppiest 1st Night, 1st Year
I know the dogs discussed here are protection dogs, not what the breeders of my pup were shooting for but I still thought it would be good to conditiont her as well as possible so she is more confident and less likely to become scared. She is 8.5 weeks old and that site suggest conditioning the pups to startling sounds, vehicles, and water. However, it also says that at this age the pups are entering a fear period where "traumatic experiences have a profound effect. Keep the puppy in stable circumstances, and keep the puppy safe from trauma." Conditioning them to frightening but ultimately safe stimuli and keep the puppy in stable circumstances seems contradictory
I was wondering people who frequent this forum think that means when it comes to conditioning. I figure as long as she is only softly whining it is not too tramatic. I take my pup on car rides and she whines a little at first but eventually stops and then I reward her. I try not to comfort her while she's whining but sometimes she trys to crawl into my lap and I have to hold her back. Pretty much the same with putting her in the tub. I have not tried any additional noise conditioning, other than normal house appliances, yet. Just wondering you all thought.
It's not something to focus on per say but you might have to. A well bred GSD...any GSD, doesn't have to be protection, won't be scared of cars, loud noises, swimming, different walking textures...whatever you can think of. They will see that their handler isn't worried about it, so why would they be?
Cars are easy...the dog should be around them all the time on walks and not react. If the dog does react, you have something to work on. Loud appliances/noises...as long as you don't freak out and just go about your day, your dog should do the same. Swimming...some dogs like it, others don't. My dog loves to swim...creeks, ponds, pools, lakes...you name it he's diving in. But he hates baths. He'll go in there, but he's clearly not happy about it. It used to be a struggle when he was younger, now that he's more obedient he does it, but I know he doesn't want to be in there.
When I have a new pup I try to take it somewhere new (or a new environment) *every day* for the first 2-4 weeks. For me it's easy because I work on a college campus. I can expose a puppy to just about everything - people, other dogs, all sorts of stairs, floor surfaces, bridges, elevators, pond, construction equipment, wildlife, busy traffic and parking lots, loud music... For me it's mostly about bonding and observing my dog's reactions. I'm not really conditioning the dog not to respond, just making sure the dog has a sound temperament. I don't mind a dog that shows some reluctance of something brand new and has to "figure it out" first, as long as they will try eventually, and then be happy and instantly recover from any hesitation. For example if I show the puppy a metal grate, I don't care if the puppy has to sniff at it before being willing to walk over it. I'm not really looking for a dog that is *so* complacent he would step off the edge of a cliff without checking, lol. If the pup hesitates I just help it keep going and not make a huge deal out of it. My last two GSDs were very reluctant to jump into water at first but now they both have dock diving titles and it's one of their favorite sports.
Conditioning is definitely required and helpful. Some things are natural and genetic such as drive but that doesn't mean you can't do things to optimize and make your dog the best it can be. A dog born with weak nerves and low fight or defense drive can still be conditioned to not care about loud noises or bangs, etc. if it's been exposed to those things all its life.
Exposure is everything. The key is to provide enough exposure to well, expose the puppy to the new experience and learn to get over the fear or uncertainty by himself/herself but also to not overdo it and create a fear imprint.
Just remember this rule, end on a good note. I learned this from Cesar Millan. I don't worship the man but certain things when it comes to fears and conditioning he's very good at.
When I first got my puppy, I exposed her to all kinds of stuff. She was about 7.5 weeks old and I turned on my music loud with 15" subwoofer (not directly at her but just at the volume I listen at). I remember distinctly she was unsure but not afraid and was continually sniffing the subwoofer. After day 2, I tried playing jarring music like dubstep and heavy rock and roll and she didn't even seem to notice.
next, she was afraid of the loud vacuum cleaner. She would run to her cage or hide behind my legs. But being that we vacuum almost every day or every other day, she no longer fears it. It took her only a few times before she started to chase it around.
Next, I wanted to condition her to not fear a RC car so I can have her chase it. I wasn't sure because she was young and it was a gamble being that RC cars cost lots of money. I bought a small test car for about $50 and she was hesitant and would jump around and bark at the car. I started without moving the car or turning it on. You want to start SLOW. First have her smell it. Then touch it yourself and pat it and hit it, flip it over. Let her smell it again. Then forget about it. Leave it there. Now it went from a new weird object to something that just remains in the room. She will get used to it. Then what I did was I turned it on and slowly moved the car. She was scared at first but after a day she started chasing it and barking at it.
At 4 mo, I was able to sell that car and get a real RC car that costs $1000 that runs well on grass and even though it's bigger than her, she will chase it and its good exercise.
I think the most important thing is to introduce her properly. You never want to throw the dog into the deep end. Don't shock the dog. once the dog can smell and you can see it is okay with the PRESENCE of it (whatever it may be). Do it 3 times and move on to slowly animating the object. (if it's something that moves, such as my RC car). Make sure you praise but end on a positive note where he or she learns that nothing bad happened. Treats can't hurt. And stay calm yourself, present a calm relaxed energy and demonstrate to the dog that it isn't harmful or fearful by touching it yourself.
My puppy freaked out when she first met 2 big siberian huskies on the other side of the fence. I went in by myself and interacted with the dogs to demonstrate that it is okay. She faired better after that. So leading by example is very crucial.
How easy or fast the dog is conditioned depends on their temperament but I'd say for me it's one of the easier things to do. Conditioned her to a bike today, this large metal thing that moves around fast. She ran behind my legs at first, being that she had no idea what this thing that approached was. Then i made her smell it and patted the bicycle, gave her praise, sat on it, had her come close to me and smell it, etc. No problem. Took about 2 minutes.
I have another conditioning coming up and that's a stun gun. I ordered one on ebay not as a toy or a self defense tool (cause they're lousy at that) but for dog deterrents. They're extremely loud and shocking. the electrical sound is terrifying even to humans. i ordered it to carry around on walks so if a stray dog or an aggressive off leash dog comes towards my puppy, I switch it on and scare the dog off. Obviously this would be moot if my own puppy was scared of the noise cause then my puppy would freak out and try to run away AND associate this loud terrifying noise with the other dog. So conditioning her to this noise and sight by turning it on randomly (starting slowly from far away) will allow her to not mind it. thus only affecting the other dog in case a situation like that arises.
I pretty much did as Liesje. My breeder gave me a list of all the things she did with my puppy before he even came my way. She did a lot of environmental exposures off her property but in areas not frequented by dogs.
Genetics still plays a VERY big part IMO because I have seen some dogs raised with all the exposures, very socialized etc. that are nervebags and other dogs who were shoved in a basement or raised in a crate who are mentally fine. (Saw a rescue at a SAR seminar who had been so raised in a crate and never socialized is legs had virtually no muscle, carpals down, etc...and it was amazing how much good nerve and temperament the dog had). Obviously not something ANYONE should do but a testament to good breeding.
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