Surprising Puppy

by | Mar 17, 2021

… with obnoxious moments

After introducing the Obnoxious Puppy as a youngster I am knocked over by the delightful Young Man he is turning into.

I never expected to be glowing over a 7 months old, male (let me says this loud MALE and teenage) puppy. It has been my past experience that this is the very moment to put them back in the cupboard for a few months.

We can be sure seasons will change, lambs will be born and dogs will continue to roll in poo, and remind us that we should not expect anything, least of all that we know what we are doing. They have the highly developed skill of taking us back to the land of consciously incompetent.

Added into the mix of hormone explosion, the girls have been in season for 5 weeks. Our time together has been more limited than I would like, but quality time, with plenty of dreaming away from me in the outdoor world.

Quiet walks, and I mean walking, not blasting, in the woods, for browsing.
Just the two of us, useful quality time for any teen, but especially when girls are in season.


For the moments I bask in the pleasure of a Delightful Young Man (DYM) I am aware it has fleeting regression to obnoxious. Turn my attention to a beautiful sunset and he has my coat on the floor and is sucking the treats through the pocket outer.

There is a guide line on the time/redesign ratio:

30 seconds for reading glasses
60 seconds for car keys
2 minutes for a TV remote
5 minutes for a laptop

First choice will always be those with your hand scent on, or most likely things you need several times a day that you handle the most. This does imply that if you fondle a chew bone for 3 hours whilst watching TV that will go to the top of the list.

Let me know if that works.

The appetite to learn something new every second is not diminishing, nor would I want it too, but I am regularly reminded that I need to keep this surge channelled in a useful direction. Useful for both of us.


Learning to wait for the slow old lady as we head home

Fade out the management

This is the period when I consciously fade out the management that has allowed me to relax in another room knowing he is not experimenting with death by electricity or reaching for sharp knives off the worktops.

I make the extra effort to be aware of the temporary nature of the equipment – crate, door gate, lead, collar, and strongly bring the words, signals, consequences to the fore and employ the equipment only in the background.

A bed replaces the crate, but we still practice the “in your bed” and add on the “wait there” for increasingly longer periods and whilst I am busy. Well, pretend-busy at this stage, one eye is certainly locked onto the what he is looking at when waiting. In dog terms “looking at” means wondering if it can be dispersed into a 1000 pieces, how good it will feel on the down-crunch, method by which it can be reached and would it fill the tum. He has not conquered the skill of “looking at” and monitoring what I am looking at at the same time. I am still leading by a nose.

“Here to my hand” is replacing the offer of food, and is rewarded by more variety. Sometimes a play, sometimes a food chase, sometimes plain bone to work on.

Bowls to the floor are moment to add to the “wait there” repertoire, along with opening doors, gates and his particular peculiarity of drinking the last millimeters of cold tea at the bottom of my cup.

Yes, I fell under the spell there.

Since the day he arrived – a passionfor Yorshire blend. 

Affection conundrum

I have known a few collies in my lifetime and this DYM is the first to regard affection in the form of ears rubs, or a good coat flattening as just something weird that I like to do. In class we always enjoyed the “want some more …..?” game with a 3-4 second melt with magic affection that is the Something Special unique to hands. It is the Golden Ticket that people have and dogs don’t. Then a gap of 3-4 seconds and we offer the open hands again to see if that was good for Pup and would they like some more? It is a lovely way to be sure that tactile contact IS pleasure for the recipient and not just the person.

Todd? Well, if it makes you happy you can mess with my ears, but reward? Really? Jolly good…. now let’s play?

There was not avoidance, but neither was there any evidence of pleasure.

I’m sure you all recognise that moment when they are fast asleep, nearby and within reach, that you steal a quick stroke whilst trying not to wake them. My enjoyment, my reward. We can only seem to indulge with the very young that sleep deeply, otherwise it evolves into a never ending want-more nudging session.

Secretly planning their gate strategies …..


Yep, that arrived. Expected it, there will be a moment when we have done all the right things, rewarded all the good responses, the recognition of cues: “in the kitchen”, the compliance with enthusiasm, and then out of the blue [cough] ….. “No, why should I? don’t want to.”

Well let’s discuss this deeper.

There will be things that you have a right to say “no, not right now” and “sure, but can I just finish this”, and “I’m on my way, but going via this tree first”.

There may be the odd occasion when I have not prepared you that you say “No, not a chance in hell am I doing that”.

Even moments when I forget how young you are and you say “Sorry, I haven’t a clue what you want”.

But there will also be moments when you have been prepared, rewarded, practiced daily, that your choice in the matter cannot be discussed. Recognise them. I will normally give you space to consider the consequences, remember the last reward (yesterday), consider if it is worth it.

But right now – look at my face. “Shan’t” is not an option.

This is the moment when you are in urgent need of compliance, the greatest hurry, when you are asleep on your feet and would least embrace a discussion. It is going to happen, so if it happens when you have time to look at all viewpoints then embrace it, you will need a good memory secured before urgent arrives.

“In the kitchen”.

Shan’t. You are going to shut me in and go to bed, I would still like to play more, eat more, race around more”.

Uh huh.

Don’t arrive at this position UNLESS YOU HAVE A PLAN. This is the very age when unless you know you can back up your request with the correct answer, DO NOT ASK. I was fortunate, it happened in a small hallway and I could step behind him and shoo him into the kitchen. No probs.

No one wants to get into a position where any youngster learns that you do not have a back-up plan. We do not want to be cornered into forcing compliance, repeating with no result, or taking the avenue of resorting the bribery.

You can use the FOMO card, if you have other dogs/children/people around. Even an old sock will do. Find a way of engaging with them that rubs the “Missing Out” point home. Design a consequence for “shan’t” that becomes one of the lesser choice. But be careful not to reward compliance under these conditions otherwise we graduate to the yo-yo situation and start talking to trees when out on a walk. .

On the next occasion, when “shan’t” does not occur reward with sincerity.

It may happen more than once in different situations. If you know this not a moment for discussion go back to the management strategies.

DYM speciality is gate diving. My knees are pretty handy at blocking this, but he has evaded me more than once. The consequence was some time spent through the gate, where he desired to be, but alone. I, and the other dogs, all decided some ball games would be fun without DYM.

This strategy can also work for cold November nights in the garden.

Build the future – we need to live together in this world. Some instructions, signals, cues call them what suits, will be about safety and never under discussion. Some will be suggestions where you can take your time, and some simply open choices and invitations. We do not want these to become muddled.

When you have your “now” voice on, always have the plan for compliance before you open your mouth.

Lots of Practice

You know that there can never be enough practice – learning your words, learning what they mean, which response is expected and what reward will be on offer. The more we invest in these learning sessions the less likely the “shan’t” moments will occur.

All of us are going to ask “why… ?” to an instruction at some point in our lives. Understanding why, is part of our motivation to respond, but this is often beyond our communication and “just because I said so” doesn’t cut it.

“Why” is because we all live together, we enjoy doing stuff together, it will make our lives more pleasant, and if you stay in the garden over night the tiger might eat you.


Learning Activities

Brains are likely to go on vacation once puberty takes a firm hold. The operating system will need regular updating which can take power downs during the day time to install. This may happen at wrong moments.

Activities should be focussed on build bodies rather than brains.

Here is DYM learning how his feet work, again, because Wednesday’s feet don’t seem to be the same as Monday’s feet.

Walking seems to be a daily need. I mean truly the action of walk, not trot, launch, stalk, shove, blunder, crash, punch and all the other ways of getting from A to B.

Walking and The Lead only come together after we have burned off all the pop and fizz and zoomed around the field a couple of runs. I then gear up, collar and lead, and we do The Walk together, which includes some gate etiquette.

Stairs are still part of walk-learning practice. Slower is so hard when speed gets results. Slow is the discipline of learning.

Investment in the puppy months, obnoxious or otherwise, prepares the pup with skills and boundaries that will pay off during the next stage. You should have a series of management strategies to employ, built your resilience to puppy-eyes and be able to think forwards and not indulge the right now expectations.

Keep going. The sun will rise again

The teenage months are a turmoil. It is not enjoyed by the victim or the surrounding environment. It does have a purpose and is a necessity for maturation into Delightful Companion Friend to share your life with. Try not to blow it and make it last longer than necessary or worse than it needs to be.

Keep the management equipment handy, life has a habit of flipping upside down unexpectedly. Do some planning for the Why moments, do not expect miracles and invest in lots and lots of learning activities.

You can find inspiration on the Build the Learning course  here …..


Delightful Young man

Delightful Young Man, a graduate of obnoxious Puppy school. 

The Affection Switch went on – oh yeah, late to the party but fully immersed. He is a lad who will take those rewards all day alongside the cup of tea!

Maybe it’s a Welsh thing.


Some nifty footwork from budding young Jive Rock and Roll:

Key Reading

When we train a dog it grows

Most training starts from necessity. Management is a necessity but it usually benefits all parties by a reduction of conflict. Are they expanding their skills to benefit us or for their benefit?

The Fade-in Protocol

Even though today we are surrounded by many available protocols for teaching with positive reinforcement, there is still a persistence that a dog should be set-up to make an error. An error is simply the difference between my expectation and the dog’s response. No more “distractions”, but faded-in environments.

The Cost of Cherrypicking

When we admit that the ideas we’re sharing are derived from the work of others, we demonstrate our own commitment to learning

It’s Not Training

A carefully planned learning pathway, paced to suit that particular learner for their life ahead.

Do you see what I see

Doing better is the reward from doing the work. This work needs to be the right work at the right time with the right intent done in the right way.

In praise of naughty dogs

.. a desire for solutions to problems that weren’t problems until someone else outside of the relationship suggested they were.

What’s Cooking? A Warning About Recipes

Recipes for “training” dogs are so prevalent in how we live with and talk about them that their existence often goes unquestioned.

Back to Basics?

The word “basic” is often derided as synonymous with “shallow,” but in its origins it is the very opposite: foundational, profound, supportive.

What Words Conceal

The language across all kinds of media paints a picture of dogs and our relationships with them.

The Right Bed in the Right Spot

Resting and sleeping are not necessarily the same state. Good sleep where we feel safe and comfortable is important for us all.

Top Training

Duration: sustaining movement

Continuing and maintaining a specific movement

Duration or is it Breakfast in Bed?

Teaching duration has become a very muddied understanding or what it is and how to teach it. This is partly due to how we use words that are the same but have entirely different meanings.

Reasons to use a clicker

The concept of “being a clicker trainer” is always going to lead to argument and misunderstanding because it cannot exist alongside the science and technology. It is a “fakery” of our time. The clicker itself is a simple tool that when used in conjunction with technology provides clarity and understanding in teaching.

Cue Seeking

Being an active learner and seeking opportunities for more rewards

Going Shopping

This is a joint travelling adventure. It completely resets the learning and can easily extend the reinforcement process.

Obnoxious Puppy

The delight of your new puppy is probably going to last a few weeks, maybe four if you are lucky. When 12 weeks old hits, and you will feel a slam, the Delight is going to demonstrate ungrateful, obnoxious traits.

Not all lures contain food

“the direct use of the reinforcer to elicit the behaviour”
This should always be foremost in our mind, in that many alternatives lures are available.

Nose Target. No thanks

Nose target is a popular behaviour taught to many dogs, and other animals. It seems easy to teach and have practical application, but it is often not such a pleasant experience for all dogs. There are many other options available that give the same practical benefit, without the unpleasant extremes.


Preparing before you train and the final check list

Release cue or stay cue

Many of us begin with teaching sit or down, and this is one of the earliest experiences of training with reinforcement. Is the sit, or down, going to be a terminal behaviour, or a temporary position?


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