Teaching your Labrador puppy to handle correction, discipline, and pressure.
What characteristics do you look for in a great hunting dog?
Great prey drive.
Strong retrieving desire.
These are all good and important characteristics, but what if I told you there is one more thing your dog needs to become a great hunting or competition dog? The ability to handle correction, discipline, and pressure with grace.
Why it’s important to teach your puppy to handle correction, discipline and pressure
Hunting and competition dogs are working dogs and through training become the best version of themselves. Training or teaching dogs requires the use of correction, discipline, and pressure. A great hunting dog must be able to handle correction without holding a grudge, without falling apart and without wanting to roll over and give up. They need to be able to take correction, figure out what they are doing wrong and move on.
Handling pressure very important for working dogs
If you puppy’s sole purpose in life is to be your steadfast companion, then teaching them to handle correction or pressure may not be a top priority. But if your dog is a working dog, whether hunting or competition, then it is vitally important that they learn to handle pressure or correction.
How does correction, discipline and pressure help my puppy?
Discipline and correction are tools used to teach dogs. Without these tools, you are left with positive reinforcement or treat teaching. And while these methods can work in some instances, there are usually limitations as to how far you can get with training using these methods.
Here are some ways your puppy will benefit from learning to handle pressure.
Helps them deal with new situations
Hunting and competition dogs are constantly exposed to new situations. And they are expected to adjust quickly to these new situations and perform well. A dog that has been exposed to correction and pressure, as a young pup and throughout his/her life, will respond better to new situations because they have learned to handle pressure and stress and adjust.
Gives them confidence and tools to deal with new challenges
Puppies that have learned to handle pressure tend to go into new situations with boldness and confidence because they have learned to deal with adversity and change on other levels. The experience of pressure and adjusting can now be applied to any new challenge that comes their way.
Helps them work in difficult conditions
Teaching a dog to handle discipline and pressure creates a more mentally tough dog. This mental toughness is needed since hunting dogs are expected to hunt in all kinds of weather and conditions. They expected to hunt when they are tired, when it is cold, and when they don’t really feel like it.
Creates a more forgiving dog that doesn’t hold a grudge
When a dog learns to handle correction at a young age, they also learn to move on after the correction and are more forgiving. Dogs that have not learned to handle pressure may feel like their whole world is rocked when they are corrected and they often take much longer to recover.
Creates a more mentally stable dog
Nothing creates a happy and mentally stable dog better than teaching your dog boundaries and enforcing those boundaries each and every time the dog tests them. Dogs want to know what they can and cannot do. They want to know what to expect in their world. Firm and consistent correction will help your dog quickly adjust and understand his/her position in life. These dogs bounce back after correction instead of shutting down, freezing, or trying to run away.
How can you train your Labrador puppy to handle corrections, discipline, and pressure?
Believe it or not, teaching your puppy to handle pressure starts when your puppy is incredibly young. A 7–8-week-old puppy will test you. They will get into things they should not. Your hands and feet will be considered chew toys. They will chew up your favorite shoes.
These are natural things for them to do, but the way you respond is what will make a difference in the way your puppy handles correction.
Many puppy owners are so enamored with their new puppy that they do not want to discipline the puppy. Some may think it is cruel. Others just think everything a puppy does is “cute”. But if your goal is an obedient, well-adjusted hunting or competition dog, the training must start as a puppy.
What do I need to do to teach my Lab to handle pressure?
Teaching your dog to handle correction and pressure is not hard. But it does require you to be firm and consistent in your expectations starting with your young puppy and continuing throughout the life of the dog.
Different kinds of pressure to teach your puppy
Here are some simple ways you can teach your puppy to handle pressure.
Teach your puppy NO
A firm NO is usually a puppy’s first introduction to correction. It is an important step in teaching your puppy about correction or pressure. It is your responsibility to teach your puppy that there are acceptable behaviors and behaviors that are not acceptable. You do this with words or commands, the tone of your voice, and at times your hands.
When your puppy has an accident in the house, the first word out of your mouth should be NO. For more information on housebreaking your puppy check out this post.
Another time you should use the NO command, is when your puppy is biting on your hands. The NO command should be followed by a correction such as grabbing the puppy’s muzzle and firmly squeezing it while saying NO BITE. This is an appropriate introduction to correction.
Your puppy may whine or cry out when you do this. That is fine. Ignore his reaction. This is the best way to teach a puppy to accept correction and move on. Never coddle or apologize to your dog for a well-earned correction or discipline.
Teaching your puppy the OFF command
Most puppies like to jump, and they often jump on you, the owner. Or, anyone else who will let them. Correcting jumping is easy when a puppy is small. Unfortunately, many people do not want to correct their puppy for this behavior. And by the time they decide that the jumping is a problem, it is a much bigger issue and harder to correct.
An easy way to introduce your puppy to correction is by enforcing the OFF command with your young puppy. You do this with a gentle knee, foot or hand correction and say the command OFF. The correction should be hard enough to knock your puppy off you. Depending on the size and age of your dog, the correction may need to be stronger and more forceful. Labs are strong and resilient, so a firm knee to their chest of a 6–12-month-old Lab will not hurt them. If the puppy is incredibly young, like 7-9 weeks, you may just need to use your hand to push them firmly off you. But you must be very firm and consistent to end this behavior.
Teach your puppy leash and collar pressure
Another easy way to teach your puppy about correction and pressure is to put a leash and collar on them. Walking with a young pup on lead is challenging, but the pressure of not being able to go wherever they want and do whatever they want is a great introduction to pressure.
You can tug on the lead, or use a puppy-sized chain collar and do some quick, shark jerks. This is great of teaching your puppy obedience and correction at the same time.
Another good way to add pressure to your puppy’s training is to let your puppy drag a lead and then occasionally step on the lead. The puppy will get an abrupt halt to whatever they are doing (pressure). Then, let the lead go again. Doing this several times will teach a puppy to handle correction and then move on as if nothing has happened.
One thing we do here at the kennel is put our dogs out on tie outs during training. During this time they must watch other dogs train and that can be very upsetting to some dogs. The pressure of being tied up and another dog getting to retrieve is an important lesson for hunting and competition dogs.
Teaching your puppy to handle hands-on pressure
Hands-on pressure is exactly what it sounds like. You should be able to grab the scruff of dog’s neck and tug on it without your dog throwing a fit. (The pup’s mama does this to keep them in line, so they understand the correction well.) Putting hands on your dog is an important lesson about pressure and correction. It does not injure the dog in any way and makes for a better adjusted puppy.
Sometimes we get dogs in for training that have never been grabbed or handled by their owners. Those dogs often react with aggression, such as trying to bite us. Sometimes they cower or run away. This is a result of poor socialization and lack of exposure to correction and discipline, and it makes training harder for us, and the dog.
You can also teach some hands-on pressure when teaching your dog to SIT. Simply say the SIT command and push down or tap your pup’s bottom.
Teaching your puppy to handle stick pressure
Stick pressure is often used when training obedience. A heeling stick is used to tap the dog or puppy on their bottom when teaching SIT. This replaces the hand as the dog gets bigger, and it is a slightly different form of pressure. Many dogs freak out with stick pressure, even gently taps. Exposing your puppy to this early can help them learn to adjust quickly to different types of pressure and learn faster.
Teaching your puppy to handle everyday stress
Every day your dog should be exposed to new and challenging situations. The more exposure and socialization your puppy gets, the better hunting or competition dog they will be. Learn more about socializing your puppy.
Here are a few ways you can teach your puppy to adjust.
Put them in a crate. Letting your puppy learn to spend time in a crate is an especially important part of socialization and it also teaches them to learn to handle pressure. Learn more here.
Delay feeding and taking food away. Teach your puppy to SIT before eating and make him/her wait for a few seconds before you release them to eat. Also, occasionally reach down and take their food away. This will help your puppy learn to handle pressure and will avoid a dog that is food possessive which is a dangerous behavior.
Do not shelter them from loud noises. Loud noises that happen naturally are good exposure for hunting dogs. Dropping a pan on the floor, slamming a door, or stomping your feet. And if your dog reacts to the loud noise, ignore him/her. Whatever you do, do not coddle them, or speak apologies to them. This will only encourage their reaction, something you want to avoid. Instead, just let them work it out by themselves and act like nothing happened. Do not console them for overreacting.
What not to do when teaching your puppy to handle correction
If you want your dog to be a great hunter or strong competitor, you must teach your puppy to handle correction, discipline, and pressure. But you also must not give in to babying your dog.
When you give your dog a correction or expose him/her to a new situation, the best thing you can do is let your dog work it out. They need to learn that getting discipline is not the end of the world. That they can keep on performing, to the best of their ability, even when something unexpected happens. This is how you develop your puppy into a mentally strong hunting machine or top-notch competition dog.
Do not humanize your dog. Giving yourself the impression that your dog thinks and reasons as a human is not true. They do not. They are beautiful and wonderful creatures, but they are not human, and it only confuses the dog when you try to reason with them. Give them clear commands and keep your expectations consistent. That is what your dog understands and what makes them feel secure and stable.
Don’t make excuses for your dog’s behavior. This does not help anyone. Your dog will raise their behavior to your expectations. If you have no expectations, your dog will run all over you. Acknowledge how smart and capable your dog is and then teach them to act like it.
Final thoughts on teaching your Labrador puppy to handle correction, discipline, and pressure
Beyond obedience and socialization, the one thing you can do to help your puppy achieve his/her true potential is to teach him/her to handle correction, discipline, and pressure with grace. This is a particularly important element that is missing from many dogs that come to our kennel for training. It is something that is quite easy to teach a young puppy but is much harder to teach an older dog. So, it is something that you should incorporate into your socialization and obedience training as a puppy so that your dog will grow into that awesome hunting dog you want or the fierce competitor you crave.
If you really want your retriever to grow and progress in his/her hunting this year but doing the training yourself sounds overwhelming or maybe your schedule is just too busy to get it done, I am here to help! You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.