Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Puppy Training Foundation: The Flip

For my friends with new puppies...

Probably the most important exercise we learned in puppy class was the Flip. The Flip teaches your puppy many critical things: 1) that you are the alpha, 2) that you can be trusted to keep them safe when they are in vulnerable positions and 3) that it's nice to relax and let Mom or Dad rub your belly.

To do this exercise, sit on the floor with your back against a wall and your legs stretched out in front of you. Say the word "Flip" then pick up your puppy and gently flip it onto its back so that the puppy's head is resting against your abdomen and its body is stretched out on top of your legs. Hold the pup by grasping them around the middle under their front legs.

The goal is to keep them in that position until they are still for five minutes. The puppy may struggle at first, but they will eventually surrender and relax. After they are still you can rub their bellies to help them relax further. Katie and Louie really liked this exercise and frequently fell asleep while I was holding them. It's good to practice this every day for between five and ten minutes. The most important thing to remember is to NEVER let them up until they stop struggling and have been still for at least a couple of minutes.

The puppies quickly learn what the word "Flip" means and you can use it later on if you need to brush or inspect their belly. Also, just a reminder to never give them any reinforcement when they are crying or fussing. None of this, "It's ok baby. Awe poor baby" junk. So many people do this not realizing that all they are doing is reinforcing their puppies to be whiny, fearful dogs. Instead praise the dog like crazy when they are being good and during calm moments. It's truly amazing how much you can shape their behavior and make the whole puppyhood time easier on you and them. So, in the flip if she is struggling say no firmly and hold her under the front legs until she relaxes. Once she is still and quiet you can gently rub her belly and tell her quietly about what a good girl she is.

After your puppy has done the flip for you a few times and is comfortable with it get the other members of your household to start doing it with her at least a couple times a week. You want to be sure that she views you all as her pack leaders. If you don't establish your alpha position now she will challenge you likely between 6 and 12 months and it won't be easy to deal with at that point.

1 comment:

Louanne said...

This is extremely helpful! I'm planning to get a puppy when my move to Newton County is finalized - probably a Brittany Spaniel or a Golden - and I want to be a good alpha. Keep the tips coming!