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Rall introduces Ghost the puppy to the household

The Outdoors
Lead Summary
Scott Rall, outdoors columnist

My new Labrador puppy recently joined our family that already includes three Labradors at my house. They all live inside and are all topnotch pheasant hunting dogs. They are Tracer, age 8, Sarge, age 6, and Raider, age 4.
My new puppy is called Ghost. My son served in the United States Marine Corp and we have had a bunch of dogs over the years with names coming from a military background. We decided on Ghost as it is a special operations term used by many of our nation’s top military defenders.
I have been associated with a professional training kennel called Round Lake Kennels since 1996. We have trained well over 400 dogs for hire for our customers since that time.
A pro trainer can help you make the most of your dog’s talents, but I have said it over and over that what a customer does with a new puppy from the age of seven weeks until we get it in for training at eight months has at least as much to do with how the dog turns out as anything we can do with it afterward.
We have a puppy-training packet that we send home with every new puppy customer, and you would be surprised how many new puppy owners won’t take the time to read it.
There only two things a puppy truly needs to know in the first few week when they first get to your home. The first is not to do its outside business on the carpet inside your home, and the other is not to bark.
Does this mean that this all you can teach a puppy? The answer is by all means no. What it does mean is that everything you teach a puppy, including house training cannot have any corporal element to it.
Puppies have the attention span of a 2-year-old toddler. It is short and always looking to see what it can get into next. You can work on the command sit. If the puppy sits, then great, but it cannot get into trouble or receive negative reinforcement if it fails to comply. The same can be said for all of the obedience commands.
Gentle encouragement and repetition are the key. So why is the previous statement true?  A puppy has a body that grows a lot fast than its brain. I have seen dogs with a full-size adult body that still have not matured enough to undergo a formal obedience-training regime.
We don’t usually start on formal training until the dog is at least eight months old. This gives the brain time to catch up with the body. Why does a puppy sleep all the time? It is using tons of energy just growing. They can double in size almost every month. That’s why it takes them only about seven months to look like an adult.
Don’t try to rush your puppy into becoming an adult too soon. They are only puppies for about six months.  They will be a young adult for about six more and then spend the next 10 years in as a full-grown dog.
I have seen many good puppies’ natural talents injured by owners who think just because they have mastered one thing that they are ready for the next. I will use math as an example. If you have a sixth-grade student that is just knocking it out of the park in their math class, how many would thrive in a modern introductory analysis class in high school? Very few.
Dog training starts with the basics but jumps to more advanced and difficult training efforts. The dog has to be ready mentally and physically to make that jump. A super smart five-month-old puppy is rarely one of them.
The best training for young puppies is socializing them. This means taking them everywhere you go and introducing them to every sight, sound and differing environment possible. This is training.
Let all of your friends hold them and handle them. Introduce them to as many other dogs in controlled situations as you can. Exposing new puppies will help them be ready for the rigors of more formal training later.
Remember, you can work on “sit,” “here,” and other obedience commands with your puppy, but do so on a non-negative correction basis if it does not comply.
Ghost has what it takes to be great, but it will take me and the right introductions and the right timing to ensure his success.
Scott Rall, Worthington, is a habitat conservationist, avid hunting and fishing enthusiast and is president of Nobles County Pheasants Forever. He can be reached at or on Twitter @habitat champion.

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