Novelty games – texture and proprioception

Although in an ideal world we would all love to have a well-balanced, well socialised dog that has no fears and has the perfect behaviours all the time, we all know that puppies are not blank slates. They come to us with their genetic predispositions and their experiences since their prenatal “life”, which will affect the puppy’s behaviours and character.

My objectives with the training are to help the puppies develop into well-balanced dogs and to also to teach them that new experiences or novelties are OK.  I do this by introducing novelties.

Certain novelties, for certain puppies, may create stress and can end up developing as a problem. As owners, we should make the novelty into what I call a “Non-Event”.

Introducing novelties can be done by adding new objects and textures into your environment. The result is a confidence building and proprioception exercise (Proprioception is the sense of the orientation of one’s limbs in space). By walking your puppy on various surfaces in new environment you are introducing new challenges that can surprise your puppy and help it to build confidence. When you play this type of game, make it a positive experience. Do not push them, let them explore and discover the objects.

This is also a particularly good exercise to help your puppy develop better spatial awareness and proprioception. Without proprioception, a human would need to consciously watch its feet while walking; instead, we can walk without thinking where our feet are positioned. Puppies, like babies, need to learn and develop proprioception and we can help them by doing simple exercises such as walking on different surfaces. It is fun for both us and our puppies.

  • Create a “bridge” of objects of different textures and stability and then invite the puppy to walk along it or across it by luring with food
  • If the bridge stresses the puppy too much feed it on the bridge and give time for the puppy to get used to this new environment.
  • Try to make the exercise easy and fun
  • Lure the puppy to try walking on the bridge, click a reward when your puppy puts even just a paw on to any of the objects
  • If your puppy is feeling confident then lure it along the bridge
  • Never force your puppy: if your puppy shows signs of wariness at any of the objects, let your puppy investigate them at its own pace and use luring to encourage your puppy a little bit. Remember to keep the exercise as a “non-event”.
  • Sometimes simply placing food on the bridge and letting the puppy find it is a good starting point.
  • You will witness your puppy building confidence quite quickly which is a great experience to teach your puppy to recover from a “stressful” new experience.

To teach the ladder and make the puppy move slowly through the rungs I start by offering food in between each rung, then after every other one then I increase the distance. It is a very good proprioception exercise