Dog Training/Clicker-Training with new puppies
I adopted 2 puppies a week ago. I already have an 18-m/o black lab that was abandoned, and saw these two and felt the strong urge to adopt. Supposedly they were 19 weeks old (the vet says 6 weeks), and beagle/lab (the vet says Australian Shepherd/beagle and JRT/beagle).
I trained my lab with clicker-training, and he is VERY intelligent, and picked up clicker-training incredibly fast. However, I'm not sure how to go about clicker-training when there are more than 1 dog to teach. For example, when house-training, if I were to click for Maggie going potty, how does Tory know it's not because she was eating grass? Does that make sense?
Also, is their age too young to understand clicker-training? Given that they cannot eat hard kibble yet, and are going potty more frequently than every 2 hours, I find it very unlikely that they are the 19, and agree with my vet that they are 5-6 weeks old instead.
On a slightly different note, my lab is being trained for service-dog work to help with my PTSD, anxiety, depression and arthritis. The biggest hurdle we've encountered so far is picking up an item. He balks, and even with clicker training, is -very- reluctant to obey. More often than not, he just nudges it, and refuses to pick up. Is there another way to go about teaching it?
Thank you for your time and patience!
Congrats on your new pups and thank you for rescuing!
When training in a multiple dog household, the first thing I urge people to do is to teach each dog their name and to precede every cue with the name of the dog you are addressing the cue to. That way when you cue and click Maggie to potty outside ("Potty, Maggie! *click* Good potty, Maggie!") the dogs will discern who the cue was directed at and who the click was for. I also like to teach a group name (All Dogs! or Crew!) so that I can cue them as a group, as in "All Dogs Come!".
When working on specific cues rather than capturing and clicking naturally occurring behavior, separate the dogs. They will be too much of a distraction to each other if they are all competing for your attention and the treats. Crate the puppies with Kongs while working with your Lab with his retrieve. I'd start with things he is willing to pick up (his Kong maybe, or a ball?) and put that on cue ("Take" or "Bring") as well as cuing the Drop. If he isn't picking up anything at all, present an item and click a few times for nudging, then hold your click. He will likely nudge it more insistently in an effort to earn the click when you don't mark it right away. Click the harder nudges a few times then wait again. He may then mouth the object, wanting the click. Do this a few times a day, keeping the mood light and the sessions short. When I was training my Lab to identify objects by name and bring them to me I made the mistake of being very serious about it and as a result she wasn't having any fun. When I started being silly and doing very short sessions (4-5 repetitions 3-4 times a day) she progressed much more quickly.
As to the age question; they are not too young to clicker train! Be realistic about what they can do (no long sit stays!) but certainly the clicker is appropriate and useful at any age.
I hope that answered your questions. Good luck with that full household! :)