What happens in the second stage of a puppy’s training?
Once a hearing dog puppy has completed their Puppy One Star, they move on to the next stage of their training. For our adorable pups, the Puppy Two Star begins at around four months of age and we aim for them to finish when they’re about seven months old.
This period of a pup’s life is similar to primary school years for a human. Here, we teach them almost everything they need to know about the world around them, good behaviour and social interactions. It’s very important to us that our puppies are comfortable, relaxed and able to portray good self control during this stage, too.
We also want our puppies to learn how to make the right choices with our guidance – which is crucial for a well behaved hearing dog. Find out more about what a puppy learns in their Puppy Two Star below.
The 7 steps to achieving Puppy Two Star
There are seven different areas of training that we focus on in this important stage of a puppy's training.
1. Basic Commands
These commands will be practiced throughout a hearing dog puppy’s life – from the young age of three weeks old. We are building on the amazing training they received in their Puppy One Star here – and introducing a few new aspects of each command like:
- Learning their name – and it’s used only for praise and not when they’re up to mischief!
- Sit – this is now practiced in new environments and when it’s unexpected
- Down/Stand – the same as a ‘sit’ command
- Wait – their puppy socialising volunteer now backs off and drops food or treats
These commands are all key to a hearing dog’s training as there will be lots of occasions when each command is required. From out and about on public transport, to waiting at a restaurant to be seated – our clever canines need to be on their best behaviour. This comes from the crucial training they learning in their Puppy Stars.
2. Walking behaviour and recall
Our hearing dogs also spend a lot of their time on a lead when they’re assisting a deaf person so we make sure a puppy feels comfortable on a lead in lots of busy and new environments.
We do not want to overwhelm a puppy by taking them into a busy city straight away, so this training starts off in the family garden during their Puppy One Star, and we will now bring them around a local residential area on lead in this stage of their training.
Our puppy socialising volunteers will also practise walking a puppy off lead in this stage – ensuring the puppy learns to walk by their side in what we call heelwork. We usually practise this somewhere a bit quieter – like the pup’s favourite park – to make sure they stay safe and feel relaxed.
The puppy socialisers also make sure our puppies are improving their recall – using a mix of their voice, a whistle and a hand clap – which they will be tested on during their Puppy Two Star assessment.
3. Leave it
It is very important for any dog to learn they cannot just do as they please – as tempting as it may be. We help the puppy make the right choices through our ‘leave it’ command. It’s an important aspect of impulse control as it prepares the pups for the everyday distractions of assistance dog life.
There are two ways we help to teach the leave it command:
- Walking past food or their favourite toy
- Responding to ‘leave it’ when they want to explore something new and exciting
4. Playing nicely
It might sound a little strange for play to be a part of a hearing dog’s training, but there are lots of benefits to playing with our adorable hearing dog puppies. It:
- Provides excellent mental and physical stimulation for our developing hearing dogs
- Helps to develop bond, trust and friendship between the pup and their puppy socialisers
- Develops on impulse control, patience and relaxation techniques they’ve learned in training
- Teaches a puppy that games with humans are really fun
- Helps us to discover what that puppy enjoys to play with
- Will create a stronger bond between the hearing dog and their deaf recipient in the future
As you can imagine, it’s a terribly difficult part of a hearing dog puppy’s training – but someone has to do it...
Our hearing dogs are always going into new places like restaurants and cafés with their deaf recipients, and they do really well at lying quietly at their feet. This is known as a ‘settle’. It’s a crucial part of our dogs’ training and we start to teach this at around four months old.
Once they have learned how to quietly lie in a bed at home, they will also get to visit a quiet dog friendly café, given a bed by their puppy socialiser and told to ‘settle’. This is brilliant practice for when they are a fully trained hearing dog – and the puppy socialisers get a well-deserved cup of tea and a cake too.
They’ll also learn how to be alone for a period of time without getting nervous or anxious during their Puppy Two Star. This starts during their natural tired times when they aren’t expecting much interaction, and will slowly build from there. Again, this is a really important part of any dog’s training and most of our puppies handle this really well.
6. Meeting new people and dogs
For a hearing dog puppy, behaving well during social experiences is vital. We give them a number of different social scenarios to play out to see how well a puppy can handle them.
The meet and greet with people
This is where a stranger comes up and speaks to the puppy socialising volunteer for about 30 seconds and then interacts with the puppy. Another scenario would be a stranger having a 30 second conversation with the socialiser and not giving the puppy any attention at all.
The meet and greet with other dogs
Meeting other dogs, both on and off lead, is also a huge part of a hearing dog’s training. It’s important that our dogs aren’t too playful or nervous around other dogs, so we try to make sure we monitor their reactions closely from a young age.
Children behave differently to adults, and therefore it’s essential we introduce our puppies to them so our pups can develop a relaxed attitude towards them. We make sure they meet one-to-one initially and not in a big group (like a school visit) as that could overwhelm a puppy and could make them a little bit cautious of children in the future. We also make sure it’s a short, 10 minute positive experience for the pups – as some children can get carried away and play too much (and so can some adults!)
Practice with another handler
A puppy will not just be training with a puppy socialising volunteer for the duration of their life – they will work with our training team for a few months and will then be working for a deaf person. So we like to get them used to practising some basic commands with different people for about five minutes at a time during their Puppy Two Star training.
7. New experiences
Any new experience for a puppy is approached with care as they could be nervous of new things that are introduced too quickly. This is why we make sure everything we show them is done in short, positive sessions.
During their Puppy Two Star, our pups will be introduced to new items like hair dryers, walking sticks and bus stops. Puppies will also explore more and more objects with their senses in our sensory zone like in Puppy One Star as well.
Passing the Puppy Two Star
Once our trainers assess a puppy’s progress at the end of a Puppy Two Star, these adorable pups will move on to the Puppy Three Star! Just like in their Puppy One Star, they will note down areas that the puppy is not as confident in so they can focus on them a bit more in their next stage.
You can find out what happens in the next stage of a hearing dog puppy’s training here.