That pup has a lovely willingness to mouth, pick up, and carry items…
A puppy that gives up easily struggles to learn the complicated and behavior chains that service dogs are so remarkable for. Tencacity is part of a work drive, the will to accomplish for a person they love, and for themselves. Yes, I believe dogs can feel pride in accomplishments.
But learning tasks is not always an easy endeavor. An attentive puppy that wants to do things with you will need some encouragement to keep trying on occasion, to keep putting the smaller steps together that make a task like finding, bringing, and spreading a blanket over you.
Clicker training is a wonderful method of training because it encourages a puppy for every little thing they do right. Take for example what I call the “sit n spin”: it is a technique for an adult Dane to turn around with me in a tight space. Since they are so tall, I don’t lose the harness handle when they sit, and their long bodies don’t bump into things getting turned.
They have to sit, then move their front feet until they are facing the opposite direction. This is hard for a pupy to learn. But a clicker trainer will reward one foot moving without the rump breaking the sit. One step at a time a puppy can learn to keep at it because each movement in the right direction is recognized and promptly rewarded.
Never underestimate the power of positive encouragement!
A good side effect of clicker training the more complicated tasks is that the trainer doesn’t get discouraged either! You (I) develop an eye for seeing the things a puppy does right, and the positive encouragement given to the puppy is also positive encouragement for you and me.
With that in mind, how do I build on a new puppy’s natural inclination to keep trying? Often I use self rewarding toys, like the ones you can stuff treats in that come out as they play with it, or puzzle toys that drop out treats when they get it right. I also like clicker games that encourage a puppy to say, flip over a box for a treat.
Then I make the treat harder to get to, by putting it in a small pocket inside the box with the treat end just barely out of the pocket. Then maybe they have to move a bigger box or open a cabinet to get to the smaller box with the treat pocket. Letting them build on their past success limits frustration, which can make a pup give up like it does us.
Making what they want gradually harder to get to, requiring more problem solving on their part will build a keep at it attitude. At the same time I’m increasing their frustration tolerance, I’m building their curiosity, intelligence, and willingness to manipulate items in their environment.