The dreaded 3-month-old puppy
I really enjoy young puppies. Seven- to 10-week-old puppies can be so much fun and while they can be trouble, it is easy to contain them. But when a puppy turns 12-weeks-old…. oh boy, let the games begin. Three-month-old puppies start feeling good about themselves. They think they have the world all figured out and they will get into everything and run circles around you, even after being scolded or punished. Here is what you need to know about training your 12-week-old Labrador puppy.
Training and socialization for 12-week-old Labrador puppy – week five home
Bubba should have been named Spunky because she is a handful. She runs around our home with her head and tail high, like she is all that. She pulls our shoes out of the organizer, chews on closet doors and digs and splashes in her water dish. So is the life of a 3-month-old Lab puppy.
Patience is required to raise young lab pups. They will give you a run for the money. Even the well-behaved ones. No one escapes the terror of the 3-month-old Lab. So, how can you survive this time.
Firm and well-defined boundaries that are enforced endlessly. Now is not the time to give up on training your puppy. It is the time to buckle down and show your puppy that there are rules and boundaries, and they must be obeyed.
You puppy can and will learn the rules if you are firm and consistent in your corrections. If your puppy is driving you crazy and not listening, put him/her in the crate. And you don’t need to feel bad about this.
Whatever you do, do not allow the puppy to do whatever it wants with no corrections. If your puppy does not learn about rules and boundaries now, it will be 10-times harder for him/her to learn about them when older. That is not being a good puppy mama or dad and it is really not fair to the dog, because training will require much more pressure and correction when the dog is bigger and stronger.
Here are the things we worked on this week for training of Bubba.
Bubba is now completely at home in her crate. She remains in her crate a full 4-hours at a time without accidents, is quiet while in there and walks into her crate on a KENNEL command from 2-4 feet in front of the crate. Bubba will come to me when called, even when she knows that she is going into the crate. While there are still some consistency issues to work on, Bubba is well crate trained at this point.
Housebreaking is such a difficult job. You will have periods when the puppy is doing so well that you will think you are done. And then, when you least expect it, your puppy will have an accident right in front of you.
Bubba has been good at housebreaking. She has had less than a half-dozen accidents in the house and all of them pee accidents. She has never pooped in the house. So, we thought she was pretty much house broke. Then suddenly, she just up and peed right on the dog bed.
Housebreaking is always an ongoing process, and we know that over time the accidents will become less and less. But we probably won’t have her 100 percent housebroke for a few months yet.
Obedience training your 12-week-old puppy
With any dog training, obedience is key! We continue to work on Bubba’s obedience training this week and our standards will be higher than they have been in previous weeks. The two most important commands at this point are SIT and HERE, and we work on them daily.
Bubba is doing very well on the SIT command. She will SIT on command about 90 percent of the time. The only time we really have issues is when there is a lot of distractions. That is normal for a puppy of her age, but that does not mean that we just allow her to be disobedient when there are distractions. Rather, we look for distractions and then train through them.
This is very important because you do not want your dog to just be obedient when everything is calm. You want, even need, your puppy to be obedient when the everyday distractions happen. So don’t make excuses for your puppy when they get distracted, but instead use the distractions to make your dog more obedient.
As I have already stated, twelve-week-old puppies are cute, but they can also be little terrors. This is the age when they start to get very independent. With that independence comes the desire to run away from you, run around you, play keep-a-way and just generally terrorize your life.
We get lots of calls from owners of puppies this age. They all want to know if we can take their dog now for training instead of at the usual 5-6 months of age that we usually require for hunting dog training.
All the issues I am talking about come from a lack of obedience on one command – HERE. The HERE command is one of the hardest commands to enforce with puppies, because you MUST never let your puppy get in the position of being able to NOT obey.
This is very hard, even for professional trainers. Sometimes we just want to let the puppy run around outside and don’t want to always have her on lead. But that is almost always a mistake since Bubba will decide to make a game out of not coming to us.
Getting your puppy to come to you
There are some techniques to help with this matter. Sometimes this is a good time to start treat-training your dog on HERE. This is a short-term fix that we will not continue for long, but it can sometimes help to get us through the next month or two. Labs are almost always driven by food, so it can help you get a better response to the HERE command.
You can also have the dog drag a long check cord. The check cord gives you something to grab onto if the dog tries to make a game of coming to you, but you must be careful since the lead can get caught on something and injure your dog. It is vital that the check cord is just a straight rope with no loops, and you must be always watching your dog while he/she is dragging the rope so that you can be sure that you can step in if the dog gets caught on something. Remember that each time you say HERE, you need to pull your puppy towards you. You need to associate the HERE command with coming towards you.
The best way to get your dog coming to you is to spend a lot of time calling your puppy to you, petting him/her and then release him/her. You need your puppy to understand that coming to you is a good thing. That is why treats can help with this. If every time your puppy comes to you, you put her away or take something away from her, soon your puppy will not want to come to you. You must work hard to make coming to you a good experience for your puppy.
Introducing your Lab puppy to hunting elements
Your puppy is at the right age to start introducing him/her to hunting elements. Last week we introduced Bubba to water and got her swimming. Since then, she has been swimming a couple more times and she is very comfortable retrieving in the water.
We also introduced her to decoys on land. We have been doing assistant marks through the decoys and she doesn’t even pay attention to the decoys anymore.
Introduction to live birds
This week we introduced Bubba to a live bird. We do this using a pigeon with the flight feathers pulled out. The pigeon can walk around and flap its wings, but it cannot fly.
When we do these introductions, we are trying to determine the puppy’s prey drive. We ultimately would love to see the puppy chase down the bird, grab it in their mouth and bring it to us or at least prance around with it a bit.
For some dogs, this can take a bit of encouragement the first time. But generally, once the puppy grabs hold of the bird, we see their whole demeanor change. This was the case for Bubba. Once Bubba picked up the pigeon, she pranced around the yard with her tail high and a spring in her step. She was so excited and proud of herself. This is a great response.
Introduction to gun fire
As I stated in last weeks post, we do not want to rush the introduction to gunfire. We have never had a dog we have raised and trained become gun shy and that is because we introduce gunfire is a very slow and painfully methodical way.
The first step is that the dog or puppy is in a box on our dog trailer. While in this box, our other dogs are getting marks in the field. The gunners for these marks are anywhere from 80-120 yards away from the dog trailer and they are using primers or starter pistols.
The puppy is hearing these shots, but they are a long way away and are muted by being in the dog trailer. Our puppies hear these shots for weeks, or months before they ever hear anything closer.
This is our first introduction to gun fire. Bubba was exposed to this last week and will be every week for a while before we move anything closer to her.
Continuation of assistant marks
Bubba will continue to get assistant marks most days from now until she is done her training. The marks will continue to increase in distance and complexity but all our marking scenarios for our afternoon sessions involved gunners out in the field throwing marks for Bubba. No gun fire, just a HEY-HEY from the gunner before the throw.
Final thoughts on training for your 12-week-old Labrador puppy
You are really in the thick of it if your puppy is around the 12-week mark. The next month or two will likely be the most challenging of your time raising a Labrador puppy. Once the puppy is older, we will introduce an electronic collar for corrections for HERE and SIT. That will make obedience training easier and faster, but that is still a bit of a ways out. Hang in there and push through. Keep your commands and corrections firm and consistent and you will make progress with your puppy.
If you are struggling or need additional help with your new puppy, you can email me (email@example.com) or just give me a call (651-303-6459). I would be happy to discuss your goals for your retriever and tell you about the programs I offer.
Until next time, happy retrieving.