Dashee's travels The Bravery Boost Puppy
Episode 5. Imprinting and Bad habits - Shaping your perfect dog!
Young puppies are generally perceived to be better behaved. And when they grow up, everything is getting more difficult! And I will agree to some extend - little pups are not that strong, not that fast... BUT most importantly - they don't have BAD HABITS. YET.
Once behaviours become habits it is really difficult to erase them from the dogs' (and humans'! :D) mind. Remember that even if there is no clear reinforcement (reward) after a particular behaviour, performing the behaviour stays in as an option. And we don't want that, do we? :)
One of the things that we definitely all do with our dogs is taking them for walks. So let's focus on that as an example. When we take a young puppy for a walk they tend to keep an eye on us, check if we are around quite frequently, they ask for contact... And then when they reach adolescence, many will say, they get more independent... But maybe, they never got enough response, contact and reinforcement from the owners when performing the good 'young puppy' behaviours?
What I would like us to focus on is IMPRINTING good behaviours and responses, so that they get to be our dog's habits. When walking my young puppy I am trying to pick all the natural puppy behaviours I like and reinforce them a lot. So if Dashee comes back to me, checks in as if to ask if I'm all right, I will definitely praise her a lot, play a bit, give cuddles or treats, fool around for a couple of seconds and then let her have her free time again.
And also the other way round - if I know that my puppy has a tendency to run up to every dog they can see (and I definitely don't want that behaviour in my dog :) ) I will put the pup on a long line to avoid behaviours becoming bad habits. Management (crate, long line, harness) is your best friend here!
Below there's a video of my and Dashee's very first woods walk in the UK. I have used only treats there as that was easier when taking a video :)