Schutzhund Training & Development
The Development of Power in the Young Dog
By: Lori Rodriguez


The First 16 Weeks
The first sixteen weeks of a puppy's life will have immeasurable impact on his future. A puppy not properly stimulated will never reach its fullest potential intellectually, emotionally, or physically. Pfaffenberger reminds us "We have the old saying 'You cannot teach an old dog new tricks.' This old adage could well be reworded to read, 'An old dog, if he has never been taught anything, cannot begin to learn when he is old.' For we are now finding out that a dog who has learned to learn when he was the right age can always be taught other things later."
During the first twenty-one days, the puppy's physical well-being (survival) is the main objective; environment has very little emotional effect during this period. Beginning on the twenty-first day, the puppy can see, hear and smell. Because the senses have just awakened, the period of twenty-one to twenty-eight days is so strange to the puppy that at no other time in a puppy's life can he become so emotionally upset, nor could such an upset have such a lasting effect upon his social attitudes. In this time, when the learning stage began, to sixteen weeks of age, the character of a dog is formed. No matter how good his inherited character traits, if they are not given a chance of expression during this period he will never be as good a dog as he could have been. There is no way one can go back and make up to a dog in later life the things he failed to do for him at this age. The emotional side of the puppy goes along with his physical and mental development in a parallel course. By sixteen weeks of age all of these important developments are fixed in a way that they will continue through life, says Pfaffenberger.
Behaviors that provide the foundation for all other behaviors will be established to a great degree within these first sixteen weeks.  They won't be easily altered in later life. The time is so short - from twenty-one to one hundred and twelve days in all (thirteen weeks all together) - and once it is gone it can never be retrieved. The implications of what this short time means in the development of a dog are so great that it well behooves puppy-raisers to employ this time wisely. It can never be made up at an older age.

As Your Puppy Grows
Once the puppy leaves the breeder, his physical and mental well-being become the responsibility of the new owner/handler -- you. As the puppy is transferred from his place of birth to his new home, he is in stress. Some puppies handle this situation well, but many puppies will resolve the stress through avoidance behaviors because they have not learned to handle it positively at this time. The new handler needs to make this experience as positive as possible by planning ahead:

- Make sure you have allowed plenty of time to spend alone with your new puppy -
- Take him to an area that would be most pleasant for him -
- Avoid further stressing the puppy, (i.e. wait before introducing him to family, friends or animals) -

If the puppy is in serious avoidance (he has urinated or defecated on himself and / or is shaking) you must help him to reach security. He has sustained a negative experience, but all is not lost. Take the puppy to the most secure, quiet place in your home. Don't let anyone interrupt. Place the puppy on the floor. If he came in a crate, put that in the room, open the door and sit or lie down on the floor nearby, making yourself approachable, and wait. The puppy should come to you when he is feeling a bit more comfortable; you may entice him with food or a plaything if he is up to it. Try not to stare at the puppy as this may be interpreted as threatening. When the puppy comes over, allow him to check you out. If you sense the dog is fine then gently stroke and encourage the dog with soothing vocalizations. When you feel the dog is comfortable, either let him alone to rest or begin to play with him, whatever you judge is best at that time. The dog should recover fairly quickly, within minutes, hours or a day or two. If not, call the breeder to discuss possible problems and solutions as well as check in to see how the other puppies in the litter are doing in their new homes. You should visit the vet to rule out any physical problems. If the puppy continues to react to stress poorly despite your best effort, perhaps you have not chosen your puppy well. The puppy needs to experience man-dog relationships. He should be introduced to people outside his pack (your family). However, there are rules you should adhere to, to make the experience a positive, confidence building one. Do not let other people pick your puppy up or otherwise constrain or intimidate him. Excessive petting by strangers is also to be avoided. If someone is afraid of your puppy or does not want the puppy to jump on him, you should not allow physical contact between the two. When you introduce your puppy to a stranger, let the puppy make the first contact. It is best if the person acknowledges the dog with a smile and a kind word without touching the puppy. Let the puppy check the new person out at his will; instruct the person to ignore the puppy. By not lavishing attention on the puppy, the stranger will allow the puppy to become disinterested and return to his master. You should praise him and shower him with attention when he returns to you.
You may allow others to pet and play with your puppy -- but it should be done properly and in moderation with the dog feeling in control, never overwhelmed or intimidated. If an outsider is allowed to play with your puppy, he should get down to the puppy's level, play ball or tug of war, and allow the puppy to dominate the play. Petting should be done under the chin, behind the ears, or at the base of the tail and is more of a scratch than a petting motion. The puppy should feel that he is always in control of the situation.
If a puppy is constantly manhandled, the puppy will learn that humans have power over him and are to be feared and respected. This may sound good to many people. Those people should own a Golden Retriever. But for someone who is serious about titling in Schutzund, you need to raise your pup a bit differently. Sport dogs are bred for intelligence, confidence, and protective instincts. If there are other dogs in your household, it is important that the puppy establish itself within the pack. In the wild there is sometimes a canine that is allowed to follow the pack at a distance, but is not allowed the security or social aspects of the pack itself. This loner, develops serious emotional problems. If a puppy is kept on the outside of the pack he is being forced to assume the role of the loner. Also, a puppy can learn a great deal from constructive play with members of its own pack or household. Every dog knows its rank within the pack. As long as no member of the pack is allowed to be overly socially aggressive, this rank is not a threat to the canine's health or ego. However, canines within the same age group battle separately to establish rank. This ranking will have an affect on the canine's mental attitude. Therefore, it is best to keep dogs within six months of age apart, especially those of the same sex or litter.
Keeping puppies in kennels together for great lengths of time should be avoided. The pack should know that the handler is the pack leader and look to you and you alone for direction. If the dogs are allowed to run together for great lengths of time without you being there, your leadership will be usurped and their loyalties swayed.
The puppy can also be introduced to other dogs outside of his household. However, do not allow your dog to come in contact with an aggressive dog, and always ask the owner of the dog if you may introduce your dog to theirs. (Dog shows provide an excellent environment for puppy/dog socialization.) Do not force the dogs to meet, allow them to investigate each other at their discretion. Limit the encounter to a few moments, avoiding excessive play. Lavish praise and attention on your puppy when he returns to you. There is no place for dog-aggressiveness in a working dog.
Playgrounds are an excellent place for you and your puppy. During busy times the puppy can learn how to handle the commotion of a crowded park. During off-times the playground equipment serves as a means to build trust, agility, and confidence. Take the puppy over and under all the objects, as he gains dexterity and confidence, make him do more and more difficult things. If your pup shows a certain amount of avoidance or nervousness about a person or an object, gently encourage him to investigate it. Pulling or forcing the puppy will usually create more harm than good.
When your pup is hesitant about something, either walk over the the cause of his concern gently encouraging and reassuring him that it is all right, or confidently approach the object as if you see no reason to be afraid. Remember he is keying on your actions and attitude. Praise the puppy if he overcomes his avoidance. Don't make a big deal out of it if he does not. If the puppy refuses to investigate something, let him alone and try again at a later date. You set-up situations where you feel your pup may need to overcome some mild fear and encourage him to overcome it. For example, take your puppy to the park during off hours. Find potential fear inducing objects and place pieces of food on them (the smellier the food the better). Get your puppy and allow him to investigate these objects on his own. Encourage him if you have to. When he checks them out he will find the food and will be automatically rewarded for going through his fear. That is a reward for positive behavior.
You must learn to read your puppy's reactions to people and things. Remember you do not want to overwhelm your puppy by putting him in a situation above his ability for positive reaction. This is particularly true when you are trying something for the first time. You want to establish a habit of positive behavior to new situations. You want to change the dog's natural urge to default to avoidance behavior to a learned response of positive behavior. (Default behavior is the behaviors a dog will default to when either confused or panicked.) You want to avoid encouraging fear responses (avoidance activity) because the "emotional responses concerned with fear are so organized physiologically that they don't extinguish readily...fear responses in animals are extraordinarily persistent once they are developed."
These "games" can be started as soon as the puppy feels secure in his new home. As you and your pup work together, you are creating a bond of trust and establishing pack order. A dog should respect and be obedient to his handler. He should not be fearful of him. A puppy should grow up to believe his handler is 100% trustworthy. If the bond between puppy and owner is established properly, he will be less apt to challenge the owner's authority and will work enthusiastically and without conflict when he matures.
As discussed, you do not want to push the puppy too far too fast, but you do not want to baby the pup either. The young dog needs to be allowed the opportunity to get into stressful situations in order to learn how to resolve stress positively. Like a child, a puppy is going to learn. If it does not learn what you want it to learn from you, it will form habits which may be contrary to what you want to teach it.
It should be kept in mind that because of a few high profile incidents involving dogs (outside of our sport) and because of fear and ignorance, the general public has a negative view of our working breeds and many towns and cities are trying to pass potentially harmful legislation. It is therefore important that you realize when in public, you and your dog are ambassadors of our sport.

More Games to Play
A few people might find some of these exercises familiar and I would like to thank those who, over the years and miles, have been kind enough to share their thoughts and training ideas.

Get your puppy interested in the ball. Tease him, roll or bounce the ball away from the puppy, when he gets to it and looks back at you, run away teasing the puppy to bring it to you. When your puppy reaches you, play with him. Get him to drop the ball (without taking it from him) and throw another one. If the puppy is possessive of the ball and won't drop it on his own, entice him to give it up for a small piece of food. Use only a small nibble of food and stop using food as soon as the puppy gets the idea.
Teach the puppy the "out" command by repetition. Always have two balls. Teach the puppy that the "out" gets the game started again. Make the puppy bring the ball all the way to you by not standing in one place. Run back so the puppy gets into the habit of not slowing down as he approaches you. This game should be done fast, going in all directions. Introduce the command "bring" when you throw the ball. This exercise seems simple enough, but if you look at it from a behavioral standpoint you will see its benefits magnified beyond just a simple game of retrieve, and it is good exercise to boot. If you taught your dog to bark for things, get him to bark for the ball so that it is the puppy's incentive that gets the game started.

Always reward proper behavior. Whenever your puppy is out with you be prepared to reward proper behavior. The reward can take any form be it praise, food, or prey. If you play retrieval games in the same area, the dog should become pumped for this exercise as soon as he gets there. When the handler senses that the dog has developed enough drive for this exercise then you should get him to initiate the game by hiding the ball in your hands or pocket and ignoring the puppy. The puppy should be so pumped that the lack of reward frustrates him, building more drive. The puppy should begin to bump you, jump up, bark and even bite at you...anything to get you to play the game. When you feel the pup is in high drive, then throw the ball for the puppy and start the game. In this way the puppy is learning that he controls the situation.

Search. When the puppy understands the retrieve game and has developed a strong drive for the ball, the handler can add another twist. Throw the ball into ground cover or into the woods just out of sight. The first few times the ball should be thrown so that it easily found. As the pup learns to sniff and find the ball then throw the ball further and further into the brush. Make the game more and more difficult. Use the words "find it" or "find the ball". As the puppy works to locate the ball, stand quietly. Should the puppy stop and look back at you, give encouragement and repeat the command. When the puppy returns with the ball give him hearty praise, make him happy and throw the ball again. Repeat this game in different terrain. Get the puppy going into areas that are uncomfortable but not dangerous. If the puppy loses the ball and returns to you, go with him to the area and help him find it. Repeat the command, give him words of encouragement, then search intently. If you find the ball first then encourage the puppy to find it as well. Then throw the ball where the puppy can easily find it a time or two so that you end the game on a high note. Losing the ball occasionally is okay.
This searching game not only teaches the pup to work on his own but teaches the handler to read his puppy. You must take notice of the puppy's behavior and body language when he is working well and when he is in trouble. Knowing the difference between these two things are critical to good tracking. This exercise also (1) shows the puppy to work difficult terrain and under stress without panicking, (2) to accept encouragement without distraction, and (3) to understand the command to track.

Ground Scent. To get your puppy started on ground scenting, use food. Hot dogs chopped into nickel size pieces work quite well. Find a nice grassy area or freshly plowed dirt - something that holds scent and foot impressions well. Step out in an area about four feet square. Place the food around the perimeter and throughout the entire area so that the food drops are spaced out about eight inches apart. Don't use all the food. You'll need some later. Let the track age for about twenty minutes. Exercise your puppy a bit, then put him on a long line and walk him slowly and deliberately to your large square.
Calm the puppy as you go. Exude the atmosphere you would like your dog to assume on the track. Lead the puppy to the food drops. He should put his nose down as soon as he gets there. If he doesn't, show him the food that you have dropped with your hand. Use the command "such". As the puppy goes from one food drop to another praise him every so often in soothing tones. Repeat the command.
If the puppy raises his head, give him a gentle verbal correction like a soft "eh, eh" "Find". When the puppy puts his head back down praise him gently "Good" and repeat the "such" command. You may add food to the scent area when the puppy is searching an area that is bare of food. Throw the new food down in a manner that will not distract the puppy's work. When the puppy's attention begins to fade or when you run out of food, call the puppy. Praise him and make him happy. Leave the scent area immediately, play with the puppy and then put him away. The puppy is learning the proper behavior in response to the command "such" and that the reward is in the ground scent.
To make this beginning tracking exercise more challenging, distractions can be added to the track:
- other people nearby -
- distant noise -
- the gentle touch from the handler -
- add more age to the track -
- extend the scent area forward so that the area gets to be two feet by eight feet -
- add turns -
When your puppy gets bored of this or begins to race down the track he has reached the point where you must begin formal tracking training. If your puppy is not mature enough to start formal training, you must put him away. Through this exercise you have established a habit that the dog will draw on when you return to formal tracking training. If you continue to work the puppy when he is bored the drive will diminish and bad habits (such as excessive speed on the track) will develop.

Test your puppy's ease with the handler. Your puppy should be comfortable with you. Time should be spent loving your puppy, getting him used to being touched by you or being very close. Test your pup's ease with you by gently approaching him while he is eating or drinking. Does this make him nervous? Touch him. Stroke his side and his head. If this makes him move away or flinch, this uneasiness will show up on the training field.

Acceptance of strangers. We have already established the importance of good dog-human relations both within the pack (or family) and with those outside the pack. The relationship with strangers should be established within the home as well as outside the puppy's turf. The puppy should allow invited guests (good strangers) into your home without being nervous, overly aggressive, or timid. He should be comfortable with strangers wherever he meets them. However, many working breeds exist for their intelligence, versatility, and protective or guarding instincts. Protective behavior is an integral part of the character of the working dog. It is an asset to be regarded and properly developed. Our schutzhund training exists to develop and test the balance between the working dog's protective nature and its acceptance of non threatening strangers.
If your puppy has developed a solid relationship with strangers and is approachable and confident, rather than shy, nervous or aggressive and if you notice that your young dog is maturing in a defensive manner, the natural defense drives can be developed without encouraging indiscriminate aggressive behavior. The defensive traits would be his alertness to sudden noises or strange voices; barking at the doorbell or in the car, and similar behavior. The handler must pay close attention to what stimuli arouse the pup's defensive drive. Then set up a similar situation in which you can control all the variables in order to encourage this drive and reward positive aggressive behavior. One scenario could be as follows:
You and your puppy will be relaxing or playing in a room of your home. You have a helper (one who can follow your directions and read the puppy correctly) play the part of the "bad stranger". The helper wears bizarre or inappropriate apparel and behaves in a threatening or suspicious manner. The helper makes a sudden noise from outside the room. The defensive instincts will motivate the puppy to perk up and attempt to locate the sound. Without distracting your puppy you should react to the sound as well. Remember your puppy is looking to you for guidance. While the puppy is still alert, the helper can either repeat the bothersome noise or appear acting in a threatening or suspicious manner. As soon as the puppy reacts to the stranger in an aggressive fashion the helper should respond by being fearful and retreating. After the puppy has scared off the helper, he should receive lots of happy, hearty praise. Then allow the puppy to check outside the room where the helper was as you show him your full confidence in him.
As in all good helper work, the "bad stranger" should be a bit bold but nervous at first, then weak and frightened in response to the pup's aggression. Once the puppy is confident in his defensive drive this game should be discontinued. (Note: This game must ONLY be played at the appropriate level of maturity. Different breeds and individual dogs vary in their development of defense drive. This could be anywhere from eight to eighteen months or more. Do NOT do this exercise unless defensive drive is present or you will only confuse your puppy).

Other Considerations
Excellent nutrition and proper exercise are so important to helping your pup reach his potential that they are often taken for granted. There is no way that your puppy can perform at his top level if he is out of shape or physically handicapped by lack of nutrition. Your puppy cannot be confident and exuberant if he feels lousy. If you can't afford to feed your puppy the best or if you don't have time to exercise your puppy, you cannot ask him to perform well.

Summary
One of the most critical elements to your success or failure as a trainer is your selection of the breeder. The breeder's skill in breeding and the breeders knowledge of puppy rearing will determine whether you start out with a potential powerhouse or a potential problem. Once in your home, the responsibility for the puppy's physical and mental welfare is passed on to you. Great care and thought - as well as time - must be spent ensuring the puppy's proper upbringing. As simple as the games described here are, they are serious business and must be approached as such. Whether you like it or not, your puppy will learn. It is your responsibility that he learns what you want to teach him and not bad habits that will stall his training. The temptation to skip over the foundation becomes greater as your puppy matures and you have nothing to show for all your efforts. The dog down the street completes his CD and is two months younger than your puppy. Your puppy's littermate is "ready" for SchH 1 and you're training basics. Do not succumb to peer pressure. Your time will come. When formal schutzhund training begins you will be pleasantly amazed at how quickly you and your dog breeze through what would otherwise be long and tedious sessions. Building a good foundation, preparing your pup well and caring for his physical need will help you and your pup be best friends.


 

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