Puppy Selection and Training
The training of A.C.T.S. puppies starts with puppy selection. Most of our puppies are donated by breeders who responsibly test both parents for healthy hips, hearts, eyes, and elbows. We use, primarily, golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers. We occasionally accept standard poodles and other breeds. We greatly appreciate the importance of the work a breeder does with the litters, prior to being handed over to us. Puppies that are adaptable to a variety of life situations are more successful, and breeders who expose puppies to their busy households, loud noises, different surfaces, and lots of people are preferable.
Whenever possible, we test puppies between the ages of 7 and 8 weeks. We use the Volhard Puppy test, which gives us a picture into what type of personality each puppy in the litter has.
Once puppies are selected, they are placed with one of our volunteer puppy raisers. Puppy raisers have puppies anywhere from six months to two years. Most raisers keep the same puppy for two years, but some raisers prefer young puppies and some prefer older puppies. In an effort to utilize raiser skills to the utmost, we sometimes move puppies to different homes throughout their training.
When puppies first come to us, we spend a great deal of time on socialization. Socialization includes both people and situations. We take puppies out on controlled outings to give them a chance to be exposed, in their early months, to everything the big world has to offer.
Since young puppies learn quickly and retain so much from their early months, we also start basic obedience training immediately. During basic training puppies also start to learn the foundation skills, like attention, targeting, tugging, and fetching, that they will later need for task training.
As the puppies start to get older, their public access lessons start to become more “professional”. As they get older they are no longer allowed to visit with strangers or play with children. We start to work more on focus around distractions, and we begin to expose the puppies to increasingly more difficult situations.
At this stage, task training begins to move from foundation skills to actual tasks. Puppies move from just targeting with their nose to actually flipping on a light switch. Task training is ongoing, moving from the basic foundation skills they learn as young puppies, to fine tuning skills to the needs of each client.
As the puppies pass the age of fourteen months, we start thinking about a match for each puppy. Human and dog teams are matched based on a number of criteria including temperament, lifestyle, and required skills. With a match in mind, we will start to work on the specific requirements of each client. Dogs generally complete their training at the age of two. Once the dogs are ready to meet their new partners, the dogs and clients train with us for two weeks.
Each year we celebrate all our graduated dogs at an annual graduation ceremony. This gives each person involved with the breeding, raising, training, vetting, grooming, and financially supporting of the puppies, an opportunity to meet the teams and celebrate their new independence.