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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday's Training TIP: Puppy Group Meetings

FLD Gus and I take advantage of every puppy group meeting we can.  Working your puppy with other dogs around is a great way to socialize your puppy, and teach him to pay attention to YOU instead of distracting doggies.

On Saturday, May 14, FLD Gus and I drove to Sault Ste. Marie, MI with puppy-counselor Tammy and FLD Kepler to meet with a group of eastern UP (Upper Peninsula, for you non-Michiganders) puppy-raisers (plus one from Ontario, Canada).

Our UP Puppy Group posing in the Antlers Restaurant banquet room:  Gary and FLD Liberty, Mary and FLD Toby, Frank and FLD Stoli, Leah and FLD Austin, me and FLD Gus, Tammy and FLD Kepler, Dave, Paula and FLD Alphie.

Prior to our group meeting, nine of us (and seven FLDs) had lunch at the Antlers Restaurant, which in itself is a great socialization experience for the pups.  Most of the puppies were more interested in the live dogs entering the dining room than the menacing stuffed wolf lunging from the corner.

FLD Gus ignores the stuffed wolf.

FLD Gus under the table, trying to ignore FLD Alphie.
If you've never been to the Antlers, it is worth the trip.  Great food, excellent staff, and...they allow Future Leader Dog puppies!

After a lively lunch (I highly recommend the pecan-encrusted Lake Superior Whitefish) we met at the Eastern UP Intermediate School District (EUPISD) building, thanks to the mother of puppy-raiser Katia (with FLD Atlas, a sweetheart German Shepherd).  Katia's mom is the director of Special Education for the Eastern UP.  Here we practiced recalls, "mat" coupled with a door-knocking distraction, and "meet and greets" with each other inside.  

Katia and an alert FLD Atlas.

The morning rain gave way to blue skies, so we ventured out to the parking lot for some loose-leash heeling over various surfaces, interspersed with commands such as "sit" and "down."  The squirrel on a fishing pole and the whirling skunk tail tested the puppies, but they all did well.  Tammy also brought her agility tunnel to demonstrate how running through an obstacle can build a puppy's confidence.

FLD Gus avoids lunging at the squirrel distraction!

A calm FLD Gus in the EUPISD parking lot.

Both FLD Gus and FLD Kepler crapped out in the van on the drive home.  A tired puppy is a good puppy.  (Tired of me repeating that yet again?)


  • Ask questions and share concerns.  Your puppy counselor is here to help you!
  • Don't permit your puppy to play with the other puppies.  I felt bad the first time I attended a group outing and my eight-week-old FLD Rosie couldn't play with the other puppies, but if the puppies can't interact right from the get-go, then that is what they will learn.  Working vests or bandanas ON = NO PLAY.
  • Tire out your puppy prior to the meeting.  If you don't have time to walk your puppy before your puppy group meeting, try a few minutes of obedience work for mental stimulation.  Our long drive to the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie) made it difficult to exercise Gus and Kepler before the group meeting, but Tammy and I practiced loose-leash heeling and a few "sits" and "downs" when we took them to "park" before entering the Antlers; controlling themselves during lunch also helped to take the edge off.
  • Socializing is for the puppies' benefit, not ours, so pay attention to your puppy's behavior.  Group meetings can be helpful in diagnosing issues and problems with your puppy counselor and peers, but only if your puppy is settled and calm.
  • Take what you've learned at your group meeting and practice on your own at home.  Your puppy needs consistency!

Attending puppy group meetings can help you with raising your puppy--and they are fun, too.  Just ask FLD Gus.  And if you want to join us in the Soo sometime, let me know!  We're more than happy to have you.

FLD Gus squinting his way through the tunnel.  I think I can, I think I can!


  1. A stuffed wolf? Waw! I'd love to see that, to give me an idea of exactly what a wolf is like, since its unlikely that I'll ever get a chance to touch a real one!
    Good boy Gus :)

  2. This stuffed wolf is very big, and mostly white! I doubt if I'll ever get a chance to touch a live one either. Thanks for your comment!