In my last post I introduced you to the idea of socialising green dogs, these dogs are typically young dogs who are still in a steep learning curve with regard to life skills. Managing the green dog is not only about socialising them appropriately it is also about spending time training the right behaviours.
All skills must have a strong foundation. Spend time building a solid foundation of skills in easier places and around easy distractions before expecting your dog to perform in the heat of a very exciting moment. Remember, you have three years before your dog matures so do not rush foundation work.
Organisation is key to training a green dog. Your dog should be hungry when you train him so adjust feeding schedules to help with this and take very high value food out with you for the first three years of his life. Keep the treat pouch with your dogs lead so it reminds you every time you walk him you have to take food out with you. Organise your thoughts too, think about your long-term goals and break them down in to smaller behaviours.
Every skill can be broken down in to teachable parts then should be put together again. For example a recall is made up of two parts.
a) reliable focus when your dog’s name is said and
b) coming towards you.
Recall will only work once A and B are proficient on their own.
Your green dog will be hard work in the beginning and if you are not feeling up to managing him on a particular day there is nothing wrong with occasionally taking the road of least resistance. For example, if your dog is difficult to train around other dogs you can walk late at night or an on lead walk might be fine for that particular day. Better to avoid a situation than allow your dog to continue learning poor behaviour.
Set your dog up for success. For example, only give him access to the home when you can actively supervise and direct behaviour appropriately (and when he is tired). It is a mistake to allow a green dog free run of the house. Use baby gates, play pens and keep doors shut to prevent your dog learning how much fun it is to steal and chew the toilet paper. Most dogs have crazy times at sun rise and sun set, redirect chewing and energy in to appropriate items and activities such as rawhides, hidden dinner to find around the yard and stuffable chew toys. Chewing is going to happen regardless because green dogs lack impulse control so better to redirect the chewing to more appropriate items.
Use rewards to shape your dogs behaviour. For many dogs access to other dogs, off lead time, and access to the humans in their life is a big reward. For example, before giving your dog a free run at the dog park wait for him to offer calm behaviour or a check in, the instant he does unclip the lead and let him go free. Another example is when you arrive home, go out and greet your dog when they offer any sort of calm behaviour, as soon as they try to jump up simply go back inside and close the door, repeat as many times as necessary, you will soon turn your impulsive green dog in to a thinking dog. Access to such things as these is a huge reward for a dog and if he gains access to rewards while behaving poorly there is no reason for him to change his behaviour.
I have worked with many green dogs over the years and have spent the last two years living with my own green dog, as I look at him now laying at my feet he seems to have become a shade of yellow- we are slowly on our way.