E305: Shade Whitesel - Raising A Pushy Puppy

There's raising a puppy... and then there is raising a pushy, drivey sports dog puppy. In this episode Shade and I talk about her experience raising bitey breeds and what she recommends for raising these puppies in a way that brings out their best selves for life and sports. 


Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau, and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast, brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high quality instruction for competitive dog sports, using only the most current and progressive training methods. Today I have Shade Whitesel here with me to talk about puppies. Hi Shade! Welcome back to the podcast.

Shade Whitesel: Thanks so much for having me on for one of my favorite subjects, puppies.

Melissa Breau: Well, to start us out, do you wanna kind of share who your current crew is and especially kind of that new edition?

Shade Whitesel: Yeah, I've got two old dogs, so I've got two 10 plus year old dogs that are brother and sister and that's One's and Bailey. And then I've got a middle dog, Talic, who is about four and a half right now. He's right in the middle of all his stuff, so he knows a lot. And now we're working on like trial prep and stuff like that. And then my newest edition is Ion, who is six months old and all of these are German Shepherds but Ion is so fun because he's at such a different level than everybody else who is either finished or doing trial stuff and now it's just learn all the, all the new stuff. So yeah, he's, he's been a joy and he's been a lot of work as well. He's very active. So he's also made me just, you know, having, every time you get a new puppy you think about things that you could do and what you do differently. And so puppies have really been on my mind for the last six months for sure.

Melissa Breau: So knowing that you were kinda gonna bring home a more pushy puppy, how do you usually prepare before bringing a puppy home?

Shade Whitesel: This is actually a big deal, at least to me because I have three other dogs and I also have dogs that aren't necessarily great with puppies. So, and they're big and powerful and puppies are so tiny, you totally forget how tiny they are and how fragile. So I really, really concentrate on making sure that everybody's excitement levels are appropriate for small spaces and in the house because I want calmness in the house. I want good role models for the puppy cuz the puppy's gonna be, you know, really active and not know what to do. So for my older dogs I really work on how to be calm and quiet and I brush up on their obedience skills and their release skills and their separation skills.

And I think that's a big deal because I'm gonna want one-on-one attention with my puppy and they're gonna be so fragile that it's very likely that especially that first week, my older dogs aren't gonna be allowed to meet the puppy. So I wanna make sure my older dogs are really comfortable with being away and comfortable and confident with that and that it's not a change in their daily routine the second the puppy comes home, you know? So I really work on brushing up on those skills, seeing, seeing what the routine, what the puppy's gonna be and trying to make sure that my older dogs are accustomed to that routine basically. So hopefully that makes sense. I kind of said a whole lot there.

Melissa Breau: So speaking of kind of those family dynamics and maybe not introducing the puppy right away, what do you, what do you think about in advance in terms of, you know, dog-dog dynamics and dog people dynamics when you're choosing and then introducing that, that new puppy to your existing adult dogs?

Shade Whitesel: Yeah, this is a great question because I am, because of the sport I do the bitey sport of IGP, I actually pick my puppies for the sport. If I picked my dogs for my current crop of dogs, I would definitely pick a different puppy. So this is a case where I would totally recommend picking a puppy that gets along with, you know, breed wise and sex gender wise with other, with the current crop of dogs that you have. But because in my sport I want males because there's people with female dogs are gonna kill me when I say this, but there's in Schutzhund a lot of times there's just more chance of having a dog that's gonna be successful if you pick a male. So I should get a female, I should get a more soft sensitive temperament to fit in with my current males. Unfortunately I pick strong males and I look for that in my puppies as well. The only thing I did do differently this time was that my middle dog Talic is not the most social of dogs, including even with us. So I did pick a dog that was very, very social and it was very apparent that he needed that people presence when he was in the litter. Two, have him be different from Talic because they're gonna be together as much as I can. And if one cares about being near me and the other one doesn't, then there's less conflict that they might have. So I did think about that when I was picking, but yes, if I was picking for my current dog, I would probably get a different breed and that's what I would totally recommend because it's, it's so much easier if you pick male female, male female. And if you really like don't have four adult german shepherds at a time,

Melissa Breau: Imagine that. Oh man. So I am far from your first kind of pushy puppy, right? So having raised a number of them at this point, what is there that maybe you wish you'd known that with that first pushy puppy that you've kind of learned since?

Shade Whitesel: Yes, my poor first German Shepherd, you know, you hear that you should crate train them. So I brought her home and I stuck her in this giant crate that I had bought in the bathroom completely isolated from me. Her breeder had had two litters at once, so she was basically running with like, I don't know, like 17 other puppies. So the poor puppy went from that situation in a kennel run situation running around with all these pups to being isolated in a crate in the middle of a bathroom with me, nowhere around cuz I'm trying to sleep in the bedroom. And it didn't go well at all. And I just was, I didn't know any better. So I can totally forgive myself, but I just would never advise that. So now what I would advise is that those first nights and that first week, you really have the puppy next to you in a crate so that you can put your fingers through. I oftentimes, if I can fit, I have it in a little crate on the bed with me. And that mostly helps, doesn't help everybody, but it helps the majority of the dogs. So there's definitely a lot of things I would do differently. I, that's just the biggest example I can think of. But that's for all dogs, that's not just for pushy dogs.

I think for my first Shepherd, I shut her down a lot more than I would dogs now. Like puppies now, like now I'm very into building value for what you want and sort of manage what you don't want. And definitely, you know, 30 years ago with my first puppy, I would've corrected her mouthing and her biting and then wondered why I couldn't get toy play later.

Well there was no trust around stuff in my hands and her mouth. So there's a lot of things that I do differently as far as building value for stuff and managing this stuff I don't like better. But you know what, she was an awesome dog and she turned out all right and she led me into the sport that I do now. So she managed to put up with me, and train me.

Melissa Breau: And we've all gotta start somewhere, right?

Shade Whitesel: Exactly. Yeah.

Melissa Breau: So tell us a little more about Ion, what's he like? How does who he is kind of influence, influence how you're approaching training with him and, and kind of the life that you're hoping to have together?

Shade Whitesel: Well, I'm hoping he's very good in Schutzhund and in IGP and I think he is, I think he's going to be, he's got a lot of the attributes and like I said, I kind of picked the dog with strong opinions and while that's hard to see at seven months old or I mean at seven weeks when you're picking them. It's apparent at this point at six months that he has very strong opinions. So that's good. But he's very active, he's very pushy, he's very, he could very quickly be hectic and frantic and vocal very, very quick. And so I'm really glad that I have him now at this point in my career with the goals that I have because he would be a lot of dog for me as a young trainer. And while I know that I could make him, you know, as a younger trainer, he, he would've been fine life-wise cuz he is a very good temperament. But I think that I would have had a harder time than now at where I am in my career at creating silent obedience skills. Really non-frustrated, non-conflict obedience skills. He's a dog that goes very, very quickly to whining. And I'm not gonna say that I'm gonna be successful because who knows, but I'm so glad that I have him now when I kind of know, okay, well you can only do two reps of something and then you whine on the third rep, so therefore we're not gonna do three reps of something when you're three months old. So whereas Talic was so different that I could basically do 10 reps and he would be absolutely fine, at least vocalization wise, but Ion's like he's in the front row raising his hand, frantically wanting you to pick him, he wants to do all the things all the time. His tremendous work ethic in spite of that low threshold for frustration. So he's very, very fun, very fun to be around and always tail, constantly wagging and yeah, so I'm very excited about his future. But you know, he is only six months old so we'll say we have no idea. I mean on one hand I'm like, I have all these goals. On the other hand it's like you don't really know them very well at six months old, you know, so you, that's part of the fun of getting to know the puppy and their individual personalities. So it's cool.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. You mentioned in there that he's very opinionated. Do you have an example that you wanna share?

Shade Whitesel: Well he, early on he had very, very big feelings about being crated and restrained and any, and you know, being towelled off, nails, he had very big opinions about that. And yeah, very vocal.

Melissa Breau: So tells you what you need to work on right away, right?

Shade Whitesel: Yeah. Oh man. Crating, well it's, so they're all different, you know? And so it's also like, and and even with the toys he would take, you know, he would take the toy and he would lay down for a good chew on the toy and, and then if you tried to get him to come to you, he would like run away. And you know, I mean I teach toy class, I'm used to changing this behavior, but I do remember at one point when he was about 12 weeks old, I was like, boy, it's a good thing I have faith in the process because this dog would be hard, you know, he was very hard puppy to convince to come back with the toy to convince that tugging was fun. And of course at six months old, he is whipping right around and, and that's not there. But it, it's been very interesting because I've kept such detailed notes on Ion and so detailed notes of me thinking that, whereas I probably wouldn't remember that now cuz all I would have in front of me was this morning's toy play where, you know, I let him have it and he rushes right back at me. But definitely there was a time when I was questioning how, how hard it was to get him to stop chewing toys and come back to me for more play. So yeah, the, he's, he's opinionated in some things. I did wanna circle back, I forgot to say that one of the things about like what I would do differently with puppies now than what I did is look, thinking back to my first dog as well, I created this adrenalized dog who played fetch, you know, chased the ball all the time. And I definitely use food a lot more in my puppies now and I create value for stillness and settling and that is super, super important to me. I have drivey dogs and so I work on the drive, I work on the toy stuff and the coming back and I, I do play toy with them and I, I want that, but I also want them to know how to learn with food, to have good food drive to value food and to value stillness and still behaviors. And I put so much more emphasis into that as a trainer than I used to. And I think that's really important to note because when we have a puppy that is good at one thing, we tend to work on that cuz it's reinforcing to us. So we get toy dogs that love to play fetch and we just wanna do that and then we wanna train the toys. Whereas I look at the strengths and I'm like, okay, that's cool you have that part, but I also want to make sure that you take food everywhere, that you take food in the presence of toys and, and that you could never tell it now. But that's definitely balancing those two motivations, those two reinforcement types is very, very important to my training nowadays and to balancing the mental health of the puppy as well. So I just kind of wanted to make sure I didn't forget that part.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, and I think that's super interesting to think about too, right? Because of course it's more reinforcing for us to work on the things that our puppy or even an adult dog right, is doing well instead of just the thing that maybe they actually need to balance them out so that we can have a great sports dog, right?

Shade Whitesel: And, and I often see it with clients when we have a dog that really, really likes food and we've struggled to teach them how to like toys and then we get our first dog that likes toys and then we forget about the food part, you know, because it's so fun that we finally have a dog that plays toys for whatever sport we need it for. But man, that food is important and it's, it's well worth working on. So really one of my, one of my goals is to get dogs that work equally well for food and toys and for me to go back and forth with that in this session so that I can use either, and it's different for every dog, you know, how they switch from reinforcement to reinforcement and how you work on it. So Yeah.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. So you described Ion a little bit and obviously that type isn't necessarily for everybody, right? What advice would you have to give somebody who's considering kind of bringing home just their first sports prospect?

Shade Whitesel: Well do your research, you know, and what puppy you get and that works out sometimes and sometimes doesn't because all puppies are who they are and you know, on genetic, on paper, they can be who you think and then you get at the moment and they're totally different and it happens all the time. But I have tons of advice and I think I'll probably have to like tone it down, but the first thing I do is, have fun. I think we, and I say that first because I think when we bring home a sports puppy, it has sport, we have sports goals and we're eager to try all the sports stuff, you know, and we want all the agility stuff. We just want whatever sport we bought the dog for, we want all that sport stuff. And I want you to concentrate on teaching the puppy how to use its body and its mind and, and not think so much about all the behavior skills that it needs for its sport, but more about how it can exist in life and the life skills that the puppy needs. And so, first and foremost for me that starts with reinforcement cues.

These are the first words that the puppy learns is what equals food. And so that's a huge thing for me because I want them, cuz reinforcement drives behavior, so I need to start working and teaching what is available when it is available to my puppy. And this would be regardless of sport or not, or pet, this would just be for training, how to access your reinforcement. And this of course is assuming that you've got a puppy that's eating right off the bat. Not all puppies do, but you know, they do for various reasons. But assuming that your sports puppy does eat this is, I wanna make those specific words that mean eat this way. So that's just a big thing. And then life skills, like how to exist, how to, you know, how to meet other dogs, how to, how to settle in the house, how to back up, how to stand square, all those things are just way more important to me than the sports skills that my dog has. Those are separate. And even though this morning I posted a Facebook post of Ion heeling and he's six months old and he's doing gorgeous heeling for five to seven steps, six months old, which is unusual for most of my dogs. I mean, normally it takes a lot longer to get where he's, where he is right now. But that's in addition to all the life skills that he's learning, which are very much top priority for me. So yeah, value for what you want them to do and don't fight them.

You know, some of these sports puppies or pushy personality puppies can be a little opinionated about what they wanna do. And so I kind of try to manage that, you know, like the chewing, the endless chewing Ion went through a phase of, we called it log rolling because I got this rug delivered. I don't know why I bought a new rug in the middle of house training. Okay, that's not the best choice. But anyway, I bought a new rug. I, it was like rolled up, you know how they come, they're all rolled up and I don't know, I was probably doing forums and he proceeded to rip the plastic off the rug and roll it around with his teeth, you know, like he's pushing and it was adorable.

Okay, but not what you want the dog to do. But I remember thinking to myself, you know, I'm exhausted, you know, you just put the puppy away and, and it's just like, I forgot why I was talking about this, but I guess what I wanna say is you manage the stuff that you can, but you also like, don't stress the stuff that's happening as well because he outgrew that phase. I created value for interacting with me to your legal chewies and every time he would go for the corner of a rug and try to pull it around, Dave and I would laugh and say he's log rolling again. But it was, it was just like, it was our little joke, but, and it was cute and we thought it was cute. We didn't reinforce it. I, or it reinforced itself a little bit, but I managed it, but also like built value for what he was supposed to be doing in the house and it went away. And I'm so glad that he's my ninth puppy and I have the maturity or the experience of having nine puppies to be able to go, ah, it's just a phase, you know, if you build all the other stuff value for playing with me with a toy next time he's going, it's much more fun for him to grab his toy and come and bug me with his toy, which is another whole problem. But still. So things like that along with having fun, realize how adorable they are. I am. How much fun that is too. So, sure. I have tons of other stuff that I do.

Melissa Breau: You mentioned in there kind of those reinforcement cues or the marker cues for, for food and for, for all that stuff. I know that's like a big thing for you. Can you share a little more about how you build consistent and clear communication kind of right from the start?

Shade Whitesel: Yes, it basically, it's location specific marker cues because I feel like we can dispense reinforcement in many different ways and I want the dog to have a clear idea of how they're gonna get it and how much they're gonna get and what they're gonna get. So kind of going back to the, you know, puppies want food and they want toy, you can't do much, you know, when they're young with the toy stuff. But you can start, you can start, you know, teaching them to put toys in their mouth and stuff. But what happens is that those are different values for puppies. They may like a particular way you reinforce them with food that may be more exciting to them than the toy at first.

And then when they're three months old, maybe the toy is more exciting. So I wanna have different reinforcement cues or marker cues that signify that. And that's very important to me because reinforcement drives behavior and that reinforcement needs to be very clear to my dog and not disappointing. So sometimes I feel like if the puppy was expecting, you know, to get his toy and instead I gave him food, then they might, there might be some disappointment there. So that's really why, I mean, this is the short version of why I do location specific marker cues because I want, want my dog to know exactly what they're getting and, and how to get it. So, and if you think about it, moving forward to get a treat from your hand is different than like getting all excited about chasing a treat.

And that's different from like sniffing a handful of treats on the ground. So all those are gonna be different ways of collecting reinforcement. I'm gonna use, I'm gonna name those different things. So they're gonna be different marker cues, different reinforcement cues. I'm using marker cue and reinforcement cue interchangeably here. And they're also gonna be used to strengthen different behaviors. So for instance, one of the things I want my puppy to learn early is how to settle. And I'm gonna use a scatter of food, sniffing out food because that's a calmer reinforcement for my puppy than chasing a treat or something. Which is gonna be hard to teach a calm down stay or a calm set on your dog bed with chasing treats where the puppy's like, yes, this is exciting. I do have a free webinar on that explains this in so much more detail than we can get into here. And you can find that on my website, shadesdogtraining.net. There's a blog that's titled Marker Cues, Reinforcement Cues. And if you sign up for my email list, you can get that hour long webinar all about location specific marker cues.

And that's gonna, if it's something that interests people, that's going to be a better way or a more involved way to learn about it than just my five minute talking about it. So yeah, so yeah, so there's that. Yeah, and kind of along those lines, a little bit of clear communication is I wanna build expectations and routines for my puppies so they know like what time they're going to bed, what time they're getting up, what to expect. And while I'm not a person that like feeds every day, at the same time, my life does not lend itself to that. I do want as much, especially in the first couple months, I do want a routine for the puppy that makes them feel safe. Like they know what's going on, you know, predictability as much as possible because I think those make us feel safe and puppies feel safe. And I, that's pretty important to me. Kind of on all of that. Right. You're doing a webinar on the 30th for us, specifically on surviving that first week with a new puppy. Do you wanna just talk a little more about what you'll cover in that?

Shade Whitesel: Yes, I was really working on it today just now. Cause of course I'm last minute. Yes, there's so much to cover kind of a little bit that we went over, you know, before you get the puppy things, things you might wanna think about before, but you know, how to meet a puppy's needs, creating routines, a little bit about crateing, house training. We'll be covering house training, of course because that's in the big thing. How to set up, you know, how to puppy proof what things to think about, how much to confine, how much to let loose, what do you want your routine to be, all those things. And it's, it's kind of a blur and expect to not have that much sleep that first couple weeks, but it gets better. You know, I just kind of completed the crating at night thing and I said, expect to get up twice a night. It's a rare puppy that can hold it through the night. Of course there's some that can, but Ion was, hey, I need to get up at 1:00 AM and 4:00 AM and so even though that's a blur, it's still in my mind. So things like that, those normal things and what your priorities are and boy, there's just so much that first week. I mean, just think how hard it is for the puppy, all this stuff. I mean, it's so hard for us, but they're the ones going from like one location to another. They're so new.

So, but puppies too are really resilient I think because I, I think we tend to think of 'em as fragile there and I, I'm astounded by how resilient they can be with all that change too. I bred one litter and before I bred that litter, so my two older dogs are, are I bred them and I hadn't put a lot of thought into as a trainer how traumatic the change is that day when they go from all their littermates in the environment that they've been in to the transport time to get to their new place, to just, everything is so different. And until I raised my own litter, I just didn't put a lot of thought into how traumatic that is for them and the fact that they're not scarred by that one day. I mean, the majority of puppies are just fine, you know, they might have, and even Ion like Ion didn't have a good transition. It was hard for him and he's absolutely fine about it, you know, all the things that were a problem were were are fixed now or he's used to, so, so yeah, it's, it's, it's fun, but it's also I think, easy for us humans to get overwhelmed and it will pass. And that first week especially is a stage.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. Are there other places that folks can go to learn more about Ion and kind of follow your journey together?

Shade Whitesel: Yes, I've got, so free-wise, I show a lot of training videos on Facebook. You can find me there at Shade Whitesel, I share a ton of videos on Instagram,

same thing. So you'll see a lot of videos of Ion growing up and things like that paid wise. There's a Patreon page that I have that is all about raising him and that's a subscription service and it's, it's, it's exclusively all about Ion and kind of all about how to raise puppies like that. And what I think is important puppy wise, like what we need to be concentrating on at specific, and I've divided it into weeks, like how, how old he is, specific times. So that is something that if, if you have a pushy puppy that I would totally recommend because it, I think it's helpful and valuable and we, and especially when we're getting our four first sports prospect, we don't quite know what to do. So there's that.

There's also, as far as training skills, which we haven't talked that much about, my Crucial Concepts class is starting in the April term. And I, that's, I'd love doing that as a foundation for my puppies. Just all the different ways to learn. So I like, I like that for puppies as far as skill-wise, not life-wise, so, so yeah, I think, am I forgetting anything? I think that's it. Oh, the webinar. The webinar that I'm doing, so is the end of this month. So yeah, so there's that too.

Melissa Breau: Yes. Awesome. Yeah, the whole big list of things. Yep. So I think we covered a lot of ground. Right? Are there any kind of final thoughts or key points you really kind of wanna leave listeners with?

Shade Whitesel: Again, have fun. They're so cute. Don't get so overwhelmed at all the stuff they need to know because it's easier than you think. And they're so changeable and I want people to stop in time and enjoy what their puppy is offering them rather than how fast they need to learn the weaves, you know, or how fast they need to learn to jump or all that stuff. Yeah, that, that's really my final thought. I know it's not like profound or skill related, but they're just little babies and it's really fun to see them experience the world and yeah, so they're adorable. Have fun with them.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Well thank you so much for coming on the podcast. Shade. Thank you for having me and letting me talk all about puppies. Absolutely. And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in. We'll be back next week with Erin Lyness to talk about shed antler hunting. If you haven't already subscribed to the podcast in iTunes or the podcast app of your choice of our next episode, automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available. Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast, music provided royalty for you by bensound.com. The track featured here is called Buddy. Audio Editing provided by Chris Lang. Thanks again for tuning in and happy training.


Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training! 

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