My sweet boy is 19 weeks old — 4.5 months. I love this age. He’s still a sweet, gawky, mama-focused puppy, but he has adapted to the household and learned enough English and human body language to get along. He hasn’t yet succumbed to the inevitable madness of intact-male adolescence, and he’s also big enough to play rough with the big dogs, which makes Pflouff extremely happy.
His first puppy class ended on November 1, and he started his second class the next night. The new class is “Continuing Basic,” and its goal is to work more on the basic skills before moving up to Obedience II. Obedience II focuses more on behaviors for competition obedience, and it’s intended for dogs a year old or older — dogs who are mature enough to handle both precision and corrections. River is a clicker dog. He’ll be able to handle precision work younger than one year, and he won’t be receiving physical corrections, so I could have moved up to that class. But, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to really focus on the basics during these last weeks before adolescent-brain kicks in. Obedience II can wait until he’s older.
My plan is to finish this new class in December and then take a break through the winter (and through the first couple months of his adolescence). Even if he weren’t about to undergo a massive brain change, we’re supposed to have a crappy winter, and that will make getting off the ridge iffy a lot of nights. So no regular classes for a while. I’ll let his brain — and the weather — tell me when the time is right to move on.
I won’t waste the time, of course. If his first “Continuing Basic” class is representative, he’ll be learning lots of new stuff that we’ll need to practice. I can also get a jump on the Obedience II behaviors, when his brain is functional enough for new stuff. When it isn’t, we can focus on drilling the basics. The recall, especially, needs to be worked during adolescence. So do impulse-control behaviors (which I haven’t done enough of yet). Adolescence is the time when nature demands that “Because I said so,” isn’t good enough, so it’s the time when reinforcing correct choices becomes paramount.
I *may* drop in on a conformation class or two during our winter break. I haven’t decided to show River, but I’m considering it. He’s a nice looking pup, and I don’t think he’ll be the challenge that Pax would have been. I haven’t suddenly developed a love of conformation — thought it was boring when I did it with Pflouff — but I have an alterior motive.
I’m thinking seriously about trying competition obedience with River. The primary challenge when showing in obedience is being able to train in a show situation. I figure, if I sign him up for conformation but not obedience, I can use the time to work with him and get him used to the stress and chaos. Not that I think it will bug him too much. He is so different from Pax!
Pax, up until the moment he was neutered (at age 6!), was an extremely outwardly-focused dog. It gave him great attitude; I think he would have shown beautifully. But getting him to focus on me was HARD work.
River is much more focused. He notices and (so far) isn’t stressed by events around him, but he’s able to concentrate and work, even when there are strange dogs working around him. I’m not sure he has the attitude to do well in conformation (even if he has the structure), but you never know!