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Training Tracker: The SPCA gives advice

Posted July 18, 2009

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— The Wake County SPCA's trainer gave some tips on teaching manners to puppies like Tracker, WRAL's newsroom dog.

Training Tracker Training Tracker

Tracker can be found licking anchor David Crabtree, eating out of meteorologist Greg Fishel's hand or just exploring the studio, greeting everyone he meets.

The 4-month-old basset-hound mix is all puppy. Often, that means he jumps up on people and uses his teeth to say hello.

"He's just doing things that make sense to him as a puppy. We have to help him learn to be a dog in a human world," said animal behavior specialist Molly Stone, who volunteered to help train Tracker.

"We've got to remember he's a baby, and we have to keep our expectations reasonable," she said.

Stone's first task was to teach Tracker to be more polite with his greetings.

"When you're playing with him and he starts to chew on you, if he's gentle, that's OK," she advised. "But if it gets too hard and he hurts you, the game has to end right away."

Tracker greets Dave Sweeney, with WRAL.com Creative Services, by chewing on his hand when his owner, Operations Manager Leesa Craigie, brings him by each morning.

Stone gave Sweeney and Craigie a new plan: Craigie puts Tracker on a leash, and Sweeney sprays his hands with foul-tasting Bitter Apple. When Tracker jumps up, Dave turns his backs and ignores him. But when Tracker sits and doesn't bite, Sweeney rewards him.

A lot of praise and a few treats go a long way. After a few practice rounds, Tracker gets the lesson.

Stone said that training a puppy is a process that requires a lot of patience. Don't fight the puppy, she advises. Being a good, kind leader to a puppy early will make it easier on both owner and dog later.

"When we suggest later in life, 'Why don't you let me clip your toenails?' he says, 'OK, you always know what you're talking about. And he'll hand you his foot," Stone said.

Bored puppies tend to make bad choices, so be sure to keep them busy with toys they like, she recommended.

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