We’ve started short (2 minute) training sessions with the puppies this week.
Sometimes puppies take what we expect from our short training sessions. Other times, they run with it and make the session their own, learning far more (and much different lessons) than we’d been intending. The video associated with this post is one of those times.
During this stage of the Critical Socialization Period, before the puppies start to experience fear responses, we’re working hard to lay down a strong and broad foundation of positive experiences. By pairing food and positive experiences with experiences dogs are otherwise pre-programmed to dislike, such as body handling and nail trimming, blowing fans, loud noises, slippery surfaces, having choice items taken away from them, being disturbed when on someone’s lap, etc, we can re-program the puppy to have involuntary positive feelings when these things occur. Another trainer (I think either Hannah Brannigan or Sarah Stremming, both who have wonderful podcasts) once described these as “ball feelings” – as in the dog feels the same way with these things dogs normally dislike as they do for a ball. Though we try not to have PADS pups develop “ball feelings” for balls, we love for them to have the same happy, giddy feelings about things many dogs find unpleasant.
Instilling these feelings is called “Conditioning a Positive Emotional Response” or +CER.
In this training session, we’re trying to help Aretha develop a +CER to the bathtub. Tubs have slippery surfaces, so we start by just trying to condition a +CER to the tub. Later we can add in some running water and work on developing a +CER to that, and maybe later to being wet down, and so on, but this time it’s just being in the tub.
The LickiMat is suctioned to the tub and smeared with puppy mousse. We let Aretha lick it for a bit, then move it to the other end of the tub, so she’s moving around.
But Aretha took the exercise one step further, ripping the suction cups off the tub trying to get the food off. And kept doing it. So in addition to developing a +CER to the tub, she was also working on one for loud noises.