A Hoot and a Howl: The Importance of Life Skills

Recently, I introduced my youngest dog, Hoot.

Hoot IS a hoot and boy, does he make me laugh.

Although, at times he does make me scratch my head with his antics and there have been a few times now he has also completely stumped me in my attempts to teach him certain things.

I'll admit, in the picture above he looks quiet grown up physically...


Mentally is another story. I'll admit there are certain things he takes VERY seriously, food, keeping tabs on me, hiking, wrestling with his sister and food (and in that order). While with other things, there is just too much of his personality to try and corral it all at once, at least for the time being.

My focus with Hoot since I brought him home has been LIFE SKILLS. I really can't make that any bigger or bolder to emphasis how important those skills are for the two of us.

Those life skills take precedence over Agility skills (SHOCKER I KNOW!) and will continue to, until we have each individual skill polished to the degree I want.

What exactly does the term "life skills" encompass?

Well, that depends on the dog I am working with...

For Hoot?

Well, to start:

- He needed to be able to control is vocalizing

- He needed to be able to control his licker

- He needed to learn a replacement behavior for his flailing/leaping/flinging behavior he did when he was excited.

Now those things listed above? They were just from the first few days after Hoot came home. The longer Hoot has lived with me, the longer that list has become. It has also morphed and changed almost weekly. To keep track of those changes I have piles of notebooks laying around. Those notebooks contain notes, ramblings, goals and even some poor excuses of sketches.

All to keep US on track.

Our current notebook is this fancy little number below (Come on who doesn't like owls and get it hoot?)

For clarity, I typed out what our current list of "Life Skills" in that owl themed notebook, so you can get an idea of what we are working on at the moment.

Hoot's Long List of Life Skills - Control Hoot's vocalizing - Control Hoot's licker

- Housetraining

- Hide and Seek Game

- Hiking etiquette

- Go Potty on Command (on and off leash)

- Travel well in the car

- Body awareness

- Understands clicker

- Understands verbal markers

- Handles collar/harness without issue

- Recall - Replacement behavior for flailing/leaping/flinging = Fist Bump

- Automatic "Settle" when home

- "Place" behavior (on cot while other dogs's are working)

- Loose Leash Walking

- "With Me" behavior (off leash)

- Socialization to other dog people (Don't get distracted)

- Impulse Control (crate, front and sliding doors at home)

- Take food nicely

- Release items on command

- No bulldozing other dogs when hiking

- "Off" Behavior

- "Up" Behavior - Nail Trimming

- Grooming

- Build in a "Stay" behavior

- No icky boy behavior (no leg lifting/marking)

* Bold = On going training, a skill that will be worked on for life.

Black = On going training, he has a grasp of what I want but we are still working on solidifying the desired behavior/response

** Green = Skills that Hoot has since mastered.

As I already stated, this list continues to morph into something new as we go along (since I'm always adding to it) but for the time being these are our focus. If you started at the beginning of the list, it also gives you an idea of what has been at the forefront of our training goals and as we have gone along, how they have either built on previous behavior or you can see that some kind of behavior/situation popped up that put emphasis on "new" things we needed to work on.

With Hoot, I'm not in any hurry to start our "Agility skills" as I know the more he understands his "Life Skills" the more prepared he will be for Agility. To be honest, he has needed time to mentally grow up. Again, that great BIG personality of his somehow managed to get squished into a body far too small for it, so we've had to let the rest of him catch up a bit.

As we check more and more of those skills off, the more and more we will shift towards his needed Agility skills, which I hope to post here on the blog to give my students and inquiring minds an even better idea of how Hoot and I are learning together. As I do feel we are doing a bit less meandering on our journey and a bit more focused learning.

As it is Hoot's life motto...


#AHootandaHowl #LifeSkills #Puppy #PuppyAgility #Hoot


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