Don't Put It Off!
There is nothing like a great, in-person, 6-week dog training class. But if all the good classes are full, please don't put off training! Pups are ready and eager to learn right from the get-go. (4-week-old pups quickly learn to sit; 4-month-old pups easily learn touch, spin, down, wait, leave it, and even heel.) The earlier you get into the swing of working together, the more amazed you'll be at the transformation in your relationship.
Second step: Watch a few videos! Sometimes it helps to see things to understand them, so I started making short videos to reinforce what I teach in my classes. I have a regular supply of adorable students at my house, either foster pups or Camp Callahan boarders, so I it's simple to film what real training from scratch looks like.
Here are the key components of successful positive training:
* yummy food rewards in tiny bites
* great timing on your feedback to pup
* happy, stress-free energy from you
* patience and a sense of humor
The more you train, the better you'll get at it. The better you get at it, the faster your pup will learn. (Hint: If pup isn't getting it, look at how you're teaching. Back up, break it down, and put it at the level where pup can succeed.)
Get ready to be surprised at:
* how tuned into you your dog becomes
* how a lot of previously annoying behaviors magically diminish the more you train
* how beautifully tired out your pup is when you add the mental stimulation of training into the daily schedule
My fantasy is that you'll get hooked on dog training once you jump in and realize how fun it can be.
I miss my in-person training classes, held at the beautiful EMMAVet office. One of these days we'll get back to that . . .
A great class with a wonderful positive trainer is ideal, but until then ... get started at home! These 1-to-3-minute videos will give you a sense of what a little session can look like. Give it a try! Remember to leave your worries behind, and be present. Keep it short and fun. Quit on a high note.
"Come" is the cue that may save your dog's life. Start teaching it the second you get your puppy! Just do this every night after dinner.
Once your pup is responding beautifully at home to the "come" cue, it's time to take this show on the road. Remember, it's likely "off campus" that you're going to be frantically calling your pup at some point, so be sure to practice recall lots of places other than home!
"Touch" is a surprisingly game-changing cue, and I wish I'd known about it decades ago! Now it's my go-to, and I hope it'll be yours. It is super easy to teach to even a 5-week-old pup, and dogs love it because it's an easy "win." Touch is a gateway cue to teaching so many other things -- heel, off, through, weave, etc. And its sneaky super power is that often dog's who aren't responding to "come" will come to "touch." (Just remember that if you use a flat hand as a signal you want to be sure to differentiate that from your "stay" signal which is likely a flat outstretched hand with fingers facing up.)
Beginning Leash Walks
So many people absolutely expect their puppy will love a walk, so they plop a big fat leash on him on Day 1 and head to the street. They are shocked when he resists, pulls back, sits down. Oy. How would you feel if you were stolen from your own family and then these new creatures put a big heavy thing around your NECK and then pulled you god knows where? Okay, so now that you're in the right headspace, here's how to start.
Practice walking with your pup without a leash before expecting her to stick with you on leash.
One of the reasons it's so important to get your puppy comfortable with the leash is that that's the only way to get him out in the world. THE most important job you have before your pup hits 4 months of age is to expose him -- in a happy way! -- to all sorts of sight, sounds and smells. A walk in the park can do that and offer lots of chances to train "off campus."
Folks get frustrated that their puppies are so distracted on walks. Of course they are! So you need to step up your game in order to compete. Have GREAT treats, be surprising, lean in, dance around, get close, reverse directions, go fast, then slow. I know, you just want to walk. That day will come, if you put in the work now.
Why All The Treats?
Right about here on this page, if you've been scrolling and viewing, you may be thinking: "OMG what's with all the food? I just want my dog to do what I say." Here's the answer.
Beloved foster alum Captain knows down, but forgot it for a minute. Watch him remember, and learn why it's important not to rush your training.
Sit, Touch & Through
Use "touch" to teach your pup to go through your legs.
Here's my Puppy Class 2 practicing "stay" with distractions.
Do You Give A Treat Every Time?
When you're teaching a new behavior, pup gets a treat for every success! But as those behaviors become absolutely solid, it's time to move to an "intermittent" reward schedule. Here's camper Mango, enthusiastically training with intermittent rewards.
Linking Behaviors Together
Here is my Puppy Class 2 doing our little obstacle course designed to set them up for success at their next vet appointment.
Typical Daily Session
Don't turn training into a huge thing that you end up not having time to do! Sometimes I just do a minute or two, like this, if that's all I have. Here's Mojo in our backyard -- where there are sometimes distractions, which is a good thing once the behaviors you're working on are pretty solid.
Here's 5-month-old Scout at Camp Callahan, again demonstrating the kind of one-minute training session which, if you can do it every day, will transform your relationship with your dog! Note that I'm using a clicker, but you can also just use a sound like the word "YESSSS!!!" as the instantaneous marker that tells your pup exactly when he's got it right.
Play With Your Food
Are you pouring your dog a bowl of kibble that he snarfs up in two seconds? Consider using that kibble to train, or play. Here's Captain playing a simple but effective game the Sexier Than A Squirrel folks teach.