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Fifteen Rules for Getting Started with the Clicker
Puppy HeadStart Week 1 (orientation) Homework
Welcome to Puppy HeadStart!
Before joining the class at 6:30, you must attend orientation. Orientation will be Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. Please bring your puppy and the items listed below with you to orientation! The following Tuesday, you will join the regular class at 6:30 for 5 weeks. Topics are rotated weekly, so you will want to attend all 5 weeks to ensure you get the most out of class!
Please sign the attached release form and bring it with you to your first class. We have also attached a map to our location at 39 Main Street, College Corner, OH 45003.
In addition, please bring a copy of your puppy’s shot records.
- Vaccinations required to be current are rabies (if the puppy is old enough) and DLP (distemper-leptospirosis-parvovirus)
- The puppy should have been in your home at least ten days prior to the first class.
Early puppy training is essential to a well-behaved adult dog. Puppies tend to grow into bad behavior, rather than out of it, so the earlier you begin training, the less time your puppy has to learn undesirable behaviors.
Puppy HeadStart will focus on helping your puppy learn skills that will help him grow into a well-balanced adult. In this class, we will:
- Address common puppy issues such as housetraining, destructive chewing, socialization, play biting, and jumping up
- Lay the foundation for obedience training by teaching your dog how to perform his most important job — to pay attention to you
- Begin some simple obedience by introducing sit, down, come, and leash manners
- Teach your puppy to accept basic handling such as grooming, nail trimming, and veterinary exams
- Discuss strategies for solving common behavior problems
- Have fun!!
Puppy HeadStart will also include off-leash puppy play, dog-human socialization, and socialization to different sounds, surfaces, objects, etc.
When you have completed Puppy HeadStart, we recommend continuing onto Basic Obedience 101 right away so your puppy can continue with his obedience training! In Basic, we do much more with sit, down, come, greeting manners, and leash manners, and introduce leave it and stay. If you attend all 6 weeks of Puppy HeadStart (including orientation), you will receive a $20 “star pupil” discount off of Basic Obedience 101; if you attend 5 weeks you will receive a $15 discount! (Discount applies to any Basic Obedience class enrolled in within 6 weeks of graduating Puppy HeadStart.)
Things To Bring To Class:
Your puppy ☺
4 to 6’ non-retractable leash
Buckle collar, harness, or head halter (no metal collars will be necessary)
Small soft dog treats (e.g. hot dogs, cheese, jerky treats . . .no biscuits!), cut into very small pieces
Shot records (please bring a copy that we can keep for our files)
Treat bag (such as a fanny pack or carpenter’s apron – if you don’t have one already, we have some available for sale at our training facility)
Between now and the first night of class, instead of focusing on what your puppy is doing wrong … notice and reinforce him for what he does right! See you in class!
Recommended reading for bringing up puppy (available at amazon or www.dogwise.com):
- The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell
- Clicker Training for Dogs and Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor
- How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks and After You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar
*With the exception of extenuating circumstances, should you not be able to continue classes, no refund is available. However, credit can be issued towards a future class. Amount of credit to be determined by Training Tracks. Please see attached refund policy.
Basic Training Information
We will review some of this information very briefly in class, but please read through this handout before the first class. If you have any questions, please feel free to email or call. Practicing the included exercises a couple of times before class will help your dog focus more in class, too!
What should I bring to class?
Your dog, a copy of his shot records that we can keep for our files, payment/forms if you haven’t already sent them, a regular leash (not a retractable one), 3-4 types of high-value treats cut into very small pieces (bring more than you think you’ll need!), and a favorite toy if you think your dog will work for it. Bring a ‘trail mix’ of several different types of treats, to keep your dog excited. You will also need a treat bag to clip to your pants or to go around your waist – we sell them here, or you can find them at any pet supply store. You can also use a regular fanny pack or carpenter’s apron.
The number one rule of training: behavior that is rewarded will be repeated.
If you reward your dog for good behaviors such as sitting, lying down, being calm, ignoring the cat, keeping four on the floor for greeting, etc., you will notice these behaviors increasing in frequency. Don’t worry at first about naming the behaviors – simply reward your dog for offering them.
Just as important – don’t reward behavior you don’t want repeated! If the dog is pawing at you, don’t pet him until he stops; if he is barking at you, don’t give him what he wants until he is quiet. Always ask yourself, “What behavior am I rewarding right now if I give Fido what he wants?”
If you reward your dog with a tasty treat every time he comes when you call, he’ll start coming more reliably. But if coming when called usually yields nothing or worse (like a bath or something else icky to the dog), he will learn that coming when called usually isn’t worth his while.
The same principle can be applied to jumping up – if you stop rewarding him for jumping up (i.e. withhold all attention, even eye contact; turning your back is ideal), and start rewarding him with attention for Four on the Floor or even sitting, he will soon learn that jumping doesn’t earn him attention, but sitting or standing does.
The number two rule of training: be consistent.
If you occasionally reward behaviors you’re trying to stop, the dog will learn “it works sometimes!” The more consistent you are with either rewarding or not rewarding particular behaviors, the quicker your dog will learn.
For example, if you sometimes reward your dog with petting and attention for jumping on you, but then get mad at other times (especially if the dog has muddy feet), the dog will not learn that these are the rules, but only that you are capricious and can’t figure out what you want ☺. However, if you and your guests all follow the same rules and have the same responses to jumping up, Fido will learn quickly that “this is the way it works”.
What types of rewards should I use?
Vary your rewards and tailor them to the situation. Your dog will determine the value of a reward in a certain context. For example, your dog may go nuts for carrots at home, but they might not be exciting enough in class. In some situations he may really want a belly rub; in others, it may be the last thing he wants. If what you are using isn’t rewarding enough to get your dog enthused about training, try something else!
In most cases, a small piece of food is quick and easy to deliver. At home, many dogs will work for their kibble (dry dog food) or other low-value treats such as Cheerios. But when the environment is more distracting, such as on a walk or at class (or when you have exciting guests over), increase the value of your treats. High-value treats might include small pieces of freeze-dried liver, roast chicken, hot dog, cheese, or beef. The treat should be about the size of a pea (a little smaller for tiny dogs, and a little bigger for giant dogs).
Set up treat stations around your home, so that you can easily reward your dog at any time. Fill them with treats that won’t go bad, such as freeze-dried liver and kibble, and place them where you can reach them easily but your dog cannot. This allows you to always have a reward at hand, as well as teaching your dog that you can reward him at any time, not just when you are wearing your treat bag or have treats in your hand or pocket.
If your dog loves to play fetch or tug, these can be fantastic rewards for training. Simply ask Fido for a behavior, then reward with a toss of the ball or a 10-second round of tug. If using tug, be sure to teach your dog to “drop” or “out” the toy. Here is a video on the rules of tug: http://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/tv/part-2-mel-bussey-real-life-rewards
Real Life Rewards:
Use whatever your dog really wants at that moment as a reward, and you can train all day long! Other rewards might be petting, opening the door to let him in or out, putting down a just-filled water bowl, snapping the leash on, or the opportunity to greet dogs or people. (Dogs are very social creatures; the reward of a greeting opportunity is one that is very high-value!)
Praise is sort of rewarding, but usually isn’t enough for most dogs as a reward on its own. If praise were a great motivator for dogs, nobody would need a training class ☺. Praise is, however, excellent feedback, telling the dog “that was good” or “excellent, keep it up!”. Praise often, and praise with enthusiasm.
You can be the reward, too! Find ways to interact with your dog that he loves so you can use them as rewards. Get silly and dance around. Use a very animated voice to praise him. Run around and let him chase you. Get down on the floor. Experiment and see what he enjoys. Be genuine in your praise and enthusiasm, and your dog will respond!
When Should I Reward?
Timing is everything! Ideally, the reward should happen *as* the desired behavior is occurring, or immediately after it occurs. Sometimes it is hard to get the reward to the dog right away, so we use a marker during training. This marker is either a click (from a clicker – you will receive one of these at your first class) or a word (we use “yes!”), and that sound will mark the behavior your dog got correct, and tell him he has earned a treat. For example, if you were teaching ‘sit’, you would click or ‘yes!’ as the dog sat, and then deliver the treat. Think of your mark (click/yes) as taking a picture of the correct response – you would mark at the same time that you would be pressing the shutter button on a camera to capture that image.
The click and the ‘yes!’ are interchangeable; they are both markers. You will use one or the other, but not both at the same time, as they mean the same thing. Dogs will learn that BOTH the click AND ‘yes!’ mean they have earned a treat. The ‘yes!’ is easiest to carry around with you, and is a good marker to use when you don’t have enough hands for the clicker, or when the behavior is well-known. The click is unique and very precise, and as such is an excellent marker for distracting environments, learning new behaviors, or when you need precision.
Randomly ask for behaviors such as sit or down when the dog is not expecting it, and say “yes!” when he responds correctly, and then run to the treat station with him to deliver his treat! This teaches him that you can produce rewards at any time.
If you are rewarding a long-duration behavior, like stay or settle, you can randomly reward with praise and/or treats throughout the exercise. Make sure you release your dog at the end of the behavior with either a click/treat or yes!/treat, or a simple word like “free!” or “ok!” to let him know the exercise is finished.
Rules for Using a Marker
There are only a couple of rules:
- The click or “yes!” means reward, always. If you click by accident, you still must reward.
- The click or “yes!” ends the exercise and says “good job, you got it right, come get your reward”.
- Only click or “yes!” once for a behavior; you can, though, give extra treats if you think the performance warranted it.
How Long Should My Training Sessions Be?
Break your training up into small sessions of 5-10 minutes. If you can get four 5-minute sessions in each day, you’ll have great success! Setting a timer can help make sure you keep it short. You can also train throughout the day – going into the bathroom? Take along 5 treats and do 30 seconds of training. 10 seconds left on the microwave? Get 3 sits in a row, or a 10-second down-stay. Watching TV? Do a little training during each commercial. Letting Fido out or in? Ask him for a sit/stay first. You can also do “one-offs” where you simply ask him for one thing, reward, and then go about your day.
Remember – if you have your treat stations set up, you don’t have to have treats on you to do one or two repetitions – simply say “yes!” when the dog gets it right and run to the treat station to deliver his reward.
Practice these a few times before your first class – it will help you get the most out of the session!
- Charge up your ‘yes’ (and your clicker if you already have one)
Say “yes!”; deliver a treat. Repeat. It should only take a few repetitions before your dog gets the idea that click/yes! means treat! If you have a clicker, do the same thing – click, and then treat. Practice not picking the treat up until AFTER you’ve clicked or said “yes!”. This will teach the dog to work without seeing anything in your hands.
- Play the eye contact game
Teach your dog that checking in with you, and focusing on you, pays off. If your dog is not paying attention to you, he is not likely to respond to your cues, so this is an important foundation behavior.
Stand still with your dog. Say nothing. Do nothing. Just wait for him to look at you. This may take a while the first couple times, but that’s OK. As soon as your dog looks at you – even just a quick glance – click (or “yes!”) and treat (C/T). If he walks or looks away, that’s fine. Just wait for him to return to you or look at you and C/T. Practice your timing until you click at the exact instant your dog looks at you. Practice this game in lots of new places, so your dog learns to focus on you anywhere.
If at first he’s not making eye contact, that’s OK – simply C/T him for looking in your direction. As he is successful, gradually raise your criteria – wait for him to look at your face before C/T, and when he can do that well, start waiting for him to make actual eye contact.
- Play the name game
This is another important foundation exercise. When you call your dog’s name, his job is to look at you immediately. If he won’t look when you call his name, he probably won’t come when called either!
First, simply say your dog’s name, and immediately give him a treat, to create an association between his name and Good Things. Do this 5 or 10 times in a row.
Next, call your dog’s name and C/T as soon as he looks at you. Do this often, so your dog learns that his name means “Look at me!” Start in a distraction-free environment; make sure you have a reasonable chance for success before you call his name. If your dog does not respond to his name, it might be too hard for him in that situation. Don’t keep repeating his name. He’ll just learn to ignore it. Instead, do something else to get his attention. Become more animated; clap your hands; say “pup-pup-pup!” in a high-pitched voice, whistle, stomp your feet, whatever you need to do to get him to look at you so you can reward him. If even this does not work, you need to practice in a less distracting environment or use a better reward.
As your dog’s response becomes more reliable, start asking for his attention in gradually more distracting situations. Always practice this on your walks and in new locations.
Here are a couple of good videos on eye contact and teaching your dog his name:
Other helpful tips:
Whenever you have more or different distractions than usual, ask and reward the dog for less, at least at first. It may simply be too hard for him at first. Build the behavior back up as the dog is successful. (Sometimes you may need to simply go back to kindergarten and just play the Eye Contact Game for a while to get your dog focused!) You may need to practice in many different environments with many different distractions before your dog is truly reliable.
Place a meat treat (chicken, hot dogs, etc.) on top of a bed of kibble on a paper plate, and microwave for 20 seconds. Juice from the meat will drip onto the kibble, giving you ‘super-charged’ kibble! You can also crush up some freeze-dried liver (available at most pet supply stores) into a powder and put some in a bag with kibble, and shake it up for a tastier kibble.
Thanks for reading – we hope that this information and these exercises help you get the most out of the first night of class! Any questions, don’t hesitate to email or call. Mel’s cell is 513-839-0863; Jeff’s is 513-839-6528.
Never, ever hit your dog.
This will only make a problem worse, and the dog will associate the punishment with you.
Never call your dog to you for anything unpleasant.
A reliable recall is very important and could save your dog’s life
Coming to you should only be associated with great things
Behavior is reward-driven. (Or: behavior is under the control of its consequences)
Control the consequences, control the behavior
Positive reinforcement is the most effective way to control behavior
Always ask yourself, “What behavior am I rewarding by providing x right now?”
Consequences must be immediate to have an effect on behavior. Period.
Whatever behavior the dog was doing when he gets the reward will increase
If you don’t catch the dog in the act, forget it!
If you do catch him, don’t punish; interrupt – redirect – reward! (See #6)
Positively reinforce behavior you like.
Behavior that is reinforced will increase in frequency, duration, or intensity
Behavior that is not reinforced will extinguish
Interrupt – redirect – reward when you see behavior you don’t like.
Punishment merely stuns behavior and has many unintended consequences
Train an alternate behavior you do like to replace the behavior you don’t
Don’t interrupt with a reward; reward after dog has been redirected
Once a behavior is reliable in every situation, put it on a variable reward schedule.
Vary the rewards you give
Vary the number of times the dog must perform a behavior to get a reward
You can also vary the rewards by increasing the standards for a reward
Don’t do this until your dog is responding correctly 99% of the time. This doesn’t happen overnight! Don’t rush going to a variable schedule.
Management is half the battle! Set your dog up to be successful!
Crate when you can’t supervise if you have a housetraining or chewing problem; puppy-proof your house so he can’t make the wrong choice when it comes to chew toys
Exercise, exercise, exercise! A tired dog is a good dog!
Mental stimulation is important – provide this through training, taking your dog to new places, giving him stimulating toys (Buster Cube, etc.)
A tired dog is a good dog; a bored dog is not!
Examples: If your dog pulls on lead, walk him when he’s tired; if your dog has a problem with “stay”, work on that when he’s tired; the off-lead recall will be much more likely if he has an opportunity to get off-lead often and gets enough exercise; etc.
Set your dog up to be right so you can reward appropriate behavior; then the behavior will increase!
Train what you can, and manage what you can’t yet get perfect until you’ve trained it enough to be perfect.
Dogs don’t generalize well.
Just because your dog knows “sit” in the kitchen doesn’t mean he knows it in the front yard. When you change anything, especially the surroundings, it becomes a whole new exercise
You must practice in many different locations before the dog will start to generalize the command
You must add distractions gradually
Don’t buy into the alpha/dominance hierarchy bit to train your dog.
Yes, dogs do use rank among each other to some degree; but you aren’t a dog! You are part of the “pack”, but dominance theory really has nothing to do with training.
Dogs have hundreds of different levels of threat displays which enable them to communicate in this way. We cannot duplicate this subtlety. Trying to establish dominance through force can create major problems, especially aggression.
Dogs do what works! Your dog just needs to know that obeying you gets him all the good stuff.
Dogs don’t disobey you because they think they’re dominant – they disobey you because they’re either a) undertrained or b) undermotivated.
Dogs are happiest indoors.
Dogs are highly social and want to be where you are
When you are gone, they want to be where your scent is – inside – not relegated to the back yard
Dogs kept outside all the time can pick up a lot of behavior problems – digging, barking, etc.
Dogs kept outside all the time can become aggressive, especially if chained
Dogs are time-intensive, not space-intensive
If you have problems that preclude you keeping the dog indoors, fix them! If he has accidents or chews, crate him when you can’t supervise him.
12. Don’t anthropomorphize (attribute human characteristics to) your dog
Dogs do not have a sense of shame, guilt, or spite
Avoiding eye contact, licking, etc. are appeasement gestures – dogs are experts at reading body language, and they usually react to anger by offering submissive behaviors (this is why he “looks guilty”)
Dogs are self-interested (they do not come with a built-in desire to please!)
Dogs are amoral – they don’t understand “right “ vs. “wrong”
They do understand “safe” vs. “dangerous”
If one member of the family allows a behavior, and another does not, the behavior will be difficult to get rid of. (It will be on a variable schedule of reinforcement – the hardest type of behavior to extinguish.)
Dogs are predators and are hard-wired to chase, grab, shake, dissect, bite, chew…
Read about your dog’s breed to find out what they are bred for. You will learn a lot about why your dog acts the way he does. For example, learning your Border Collie was bred to run 25 miles a day or more herding sheep will alert you to the fact that this breed needs a great deal of exercise or you will have problems.
Fifteen Rules for Getting Started with the Clicker
Reprinted with permission
Clicker training is a science-based way to communicate with your pet. It’s easier to learn than standard command-based training. You can clicker train any kind of dog, of any age. Puppies love it. Old dogs learn new tricks. You can clicker-train cats, birds, and other pets as well.
Don’t worry, at first, about getting rid of behavior you don’t like. Instead, start with some good things you want the dog to learn to do. Keep notes. The refrigerator door is a good place. Jot down what the dog was doing when you started. Once a day or so, jot down what you have achieved with each behavior. You will be surprised at the progress! Reward YOURSELF for the dog’s improvements. Here are some simple tips to get you started.
1. Push and release the springy end of the clicker, making a two-toned click. Then treat. Keep the treats small. Use a delicious treat at first: little cubes of roast chicken, say–not a lump of kibble.
2. Click DURING the desired behavior, not after it is completed. The timing of the click is crucial. Don’t be dismayed if your pet stops the behavior when it hears the click. The click ends the behavior. Give the treat after that; the timing of the treat is not important.
3. Click when the dog does something you like. Choose something easy at first, that the dog is likely to do on its own. (Ideas: sit; come toward you; touch your hand with its nose; raise a paw; go through a door; walk next to you.)
4. Click once (in-out.) If you want to express special enthusiasm, increase the number of treats, not the number of clicks.
5. Keep practice sessions short. Much more is learned in three sessions of five minutes each than in an hour of boring repetition. You can get noticeable results, and teach your dog many new things, by fitting a few clicks a day here and there in your normal routine.
6. Fix bad behavior by clicking good behavior. Click the puppy for relieving itself in the proper spot. Click for paws on the ground, not on the visitors. Instead of scolding for barking, click for silence. Cure leash pulling by clicking and treating those moments when the leash happens to go slack.
7. Click for voluntary (or accidental) movements toward your goal. You may coax or lure the dog into a movement or position, but don’t push, pull, or hold it. Work without a leash. If you need a leash for safety’s sake, loop the leash over your arm or through your belt; don’t use it as a tool.
8. Don’t wait for the “whole picture” or the perfect behavior. Click and treat for small movements in the right direction. You want the dog to sit, and it starts to crouch in back: click. You want it to come when called, and it takes a few steps your way: click.
9. Keep raising your goal. As soon as you have a good response—when the dog is voluntarily lying down, coming toward you, or sitting repeatedly—start asking for more. Wait a few beats, until the dog stays down a little longer, comes a little further, sits a little faster. Then click. This is called “shaping” a behavior.
10. When the dog has learned to do something for clicks, it will begin showing you the behavior spontaneously, trying to get you to click. Now is the time to begin offering a cue, such as a word or a hand signal. Start clicking for that behavior if it happens during or after the cue. Start ignoring that behavior when the cue wasn’t given.
11. Don’t order the dog around; clicker training is not command-based. If your dog does not respond to a cue, it is not disobeying; it just hasn’t learned the cue completely. Find more ways to cue it and click it for the desired behavior, in easier circumstances.
12. Carry a clicker and “catch” cute behaviors like cocking the head, chasing the tail, or holding up one paw. You can click for many different behaviors, whenever you happen to notice them, without confusing your dog. If you have more than one dog, separate them for training, and let them take turns.
13. If you get mad, put the clicker away. Don’t mix scoldings, leash-jerking, and correction training with clicker training; you will lose the dog’s confidence in the clicker and perhaps in you.
14. If you are not making progress with a particular behavior, you are probably clicking too late. Accurate timing is important. Get someone else to watch you, and perhaps to click for you, a few times.
15. Above all, have fun. Clicker-training is a wonderful way to enrich your relationship with your dog.
Karen Pryor.(copyright 1996 by Karen Pryor)
Your dog jumps up on you, and guests, as a greeting ritual. This is a totally normal canine behavior. Dogs jump up on people to get closer to their faces, and because they are excited. When dogs greet each other after being apart, often one dog will lick the face (often the chin) of the other. Why? Because as pups, they would lick the chin of their dam (and, if wolves, other pack members) to solicit food. The lick on the chin became a request for the adult to regurgitate food for the pup. Although regurgitation for pups rarely happens in dogs, the behavior of chin-licking persisted from wolf behavior. This behavior becomes ritualized in adulthood – the lower-ranking dog will lick the chin of the higher-ranking dog when they meet. Far from being a “dominance” ploy, this is actually a submissive gesture and a ritualistic greeting behavior.
Punishment will usually make matters worse. Remember, for dogs, negative attention is better than no attention! Contrary to popular ‘wisdom’, methods such as kneeing the dog in the chest, stepping on his back paws, giving a collar correction, etc. are ineffective. So is pushing the dog back down (the dog probably thinks that is quite a fun game) or yelling at the dog (he’s getting what he wants – attention).
What do you want the dog to do? Most people simply want Fido to keep four paws on the ground when greeting visitors. Thus, the solution is simple – completely ignore the dog while he is jumping up (turn your back if necessary) – no eye contact, no yelling, no touching – just turn into a boring human statue when he jumps. The second he has four on the floor, give him what he wants – attention! If he jumps again, turn back into a statue, and come back to life when he has four paws on the ground. Over time, Fido will learn that the way to get what he wants (attention) is to keep his paws on the ground.
Timing is important – you must time it so that you turn away at the instant he jumps, and give him attention the instant he has four on the floor. You want him to associate his behavior with your reactions.
You will find that your friends are harder to train than your dog! Since dogs don’t generalize well, many people will need to take this approach with your dog. If some people reward him for jumping and others don’t, he’ll try jumping with every new person “just to see if it works”. The solution? Have a “puppy party”. Have your guests arrive at staggered times (so the dog is not overwhelmed by too many visitors at once), and tell them in advance what their job is. With each new person, Fido should get a little better at not jumping. (You can also keep the beer on the front porch, so that people he’s already met are coming back in through the front door more often, giving more opportunities for practicing.) It might take several puppy parties, but over time Fido will learn not to jump (providing everyone is consistent). You could also hand each guest a baggie of treats, with instructions to give the dog attention for four on the floor, and a treat every time he sits for greeting. After a number of parties, you’ll have a sitting fool!
If you know visitors are coming over, tell them in advance what you want them to do if your dog jumps. (Don’t hit them with instructions when they arrive at your front door!) People are more likely to help if they know beforehand what is required.
Remember: you will have extinction bursts – the behavior will get stronger before it starts to go away. Fido will think, “Well, this has always worked before . . . I just have to try harder!” Eventually he will figure out that jumping doesn’t work any longer . . . but four on the floor does. Simply be consistent every time the dog tries to jump, and soon enough, he’ll learn that four on the floor is the way to get attention!
Dogs pull because we walk much more slowly than they do, and they are eager to see what’s ahead. In addition, the pressure of the collar on the neck elicits an opposition reflex – the dog resists the pull backwards. Please do not use a choke collar to try to teach him not to pull – you can possibly cause trachea damage. Prong collars (also called pinch collars) also can have unintended consequences, such as increased aggression. Prong collars are painful to dogs – and whatever the dog is looking at (or pulling toward) when he receives a “pinch” will likely be associated with the pain.
You can manage the problem by using a front-clip harness or head halter to walk your dog. We prefer the Freedom Harness, but the EZ Walk Harnesses work well for some dogs too. The best head halters we’ve used are Gentle Leaders; they are similar to a halter for a horse – the collar part fits snugly behind the dog’s ears, and there is a loop which fits over the dog’s nose. If your dog still pulls on the Freedom Harness, you may want to consider a Gentle Leader. Most dogs initially resist, but your pet professional should teach you how to properly acclimate your dog to the head halter.
You can also train your dog not to pull on lead. This is a time-intensive process that requires patience, but it can be done!
It’s most helpful to teach your dog 3 distinct behaviors:
1) “Let’s go” (or “manners” or whatever you’d like to call it): Dog walks nicely by your side. This should be the default behavior (i.e. if you start walking without saying anything, your dog should default to this behavior unless told otherwise). I like to also pat my leg when I give this cue.
2) “Free time”: dog has entire length of leash to roam, sniff, and do what he wants as long as he doesn’t pull.
3) “Be a dog” (or “mush” or whatever you’d like to call it): dog can pull (as long as he’s not trying to yank your arm out of the socket). This behavior is great for when you just don’t have time to train (or just don’t feel like it) – it gives you an “out”. (Remember, every time you let him go forward when he’s pulling, he is reinforced for that pulling, so putting pulling on cue can help – this gives him a distinct signal that “it’s ok to pull now”.)
Ideally, you will practice your leash manners on his regular collar, and use a harness for “be a dog” time. The collar will be his “magic” collar, where pulling never works, and the harness can be used when you can’t train (you’re in a hurry, you’re just taking him out to potty, etc.). Otherwise, if he can pull some times but not others, every time you let him pull you’re undoing some of the training you’ve already done.
If you are using a Freedom harness, with both a front and back clip, you can choose which clip is for “be a dog” time and which clip is for “you can’t pull” time. Dogs will learn which is which! You can switch the leash back and forth between the collar and the two clips of the harness as you switch behaviors, as well – this could speed up learning.
Training leash manners: Remember what the reinforcement is for pulling – you move forward. You can take away the reinforcement by simply turning and going the other direction as soon as your dog pulls (make sure you praise and/or treat him for catching up with you!) I like to say “uh-oh” as soon as the dog pulls, to mark exactly what made you turn around, and also as a cue that you will be going the other direction. I do this for both walking at my side and free time (since the dog isn’t supposed to pull much during free time either).
You can also give “penalty yards” – as soon as the leash gets tight (or the dog is a certain predetermined length ahead of you), take small fast steps backwards until his attention is on you. Back up all the way to your starting point if you need to. After a few walks, the dog will begin to get the idea. If you are always consistent, over time your dog will learn that the only way he goes forward is to have a loose leash. Timing is crucial – turn as soon as the leash is tight, and resume moving in your original direction again as soon as the dog is back at your side. The key: never let your dog get reinforced for a tight leash.
It is extremely helpful to teach your dog to respond to pressure on the leash. If the dog is pulling towards something off to the side, continue walking. As soon as he relinquishes whatever it was he wanted and yields to the pressure on the collar (i.e. gives up on pulling and moves toward you), click and treat. Over time, you will find he gives up more and more easily. If he is pulling towards something ahead of you, you can turn to the right and just keep walking. Again, timing is everything – click as soon as he “gives up” and stops pulling.
Adding treats to the equation can help speed up the process a great deal. Every time the dog is by your side (even if only for a fleeting second), click and give a treat. Give the treat from your left hand (if your dog is on the left) in the exact position you would like his head to be. As soon as he eats the treat, he will likely still be by your side – click and treat again. At first, you will find yourself bridging and treating constantly – that’s OK. If your dog continues to pull, you either are not reinforcing often enough, or your treats are boring. Try cheese, turkey, etc. – really good stuff Fido will want to work for. At first, you will want to treat every step. After he begins to get the idea, occasionally ask for two steps for a treat, then three, then four, etc. Keep it random so he doesn’t know whether he needs to walk nicely for one step or for 10 steps to earn a treat. Don’t ask for too much too soon or you could lose what progress you have made. If you are treating every step, you can skip the click if you’d like – he’s getting the treats immediately, so the click isn’t necessary.
If the environment is so exciting that he can’t seem to focus, stop, and play the eye contact game and name game until he is focused, then continue. When your dog isn’t eagerly working for treats, you will have to turn and go the other direction with a lot more frequency than when he is more interested in food rewards. You can do this without food rewards, too – it just takes longer ☺.
You can practice this indoors (without a leash) by lining up three chairs. Start with the dog on the inside (between you and the chairs) and you on the outside. Have a handful of cookies in your right hand. With your dog on your left side, walk around the chairs. Each step, reach down and give a treat with your left hand, at your left side. If the dog steps ahead of you, simply stop and lure the dog back to your left side, then reward. If he continues to forge ahead, you need to increase your rate of reinforcement – give the treats faster. As the dog gets better, you can gradually increase the amount of steps between treats. Once the dog is proficient at the chair exercise, you can practice without them, rewarding the dog for being at your left side as you walk. Remember, as soon as you move this to a ‘real walk’ situation, you’ll have to go back to reinforcing each step at first.
“Walking With A Goal” – When you see a distraction the dog wants to pull towards, use that distraction as reinforcement. If he’s pulling towards a friend, for example, simply back up as described above every single time the leash gets tight – until you can walk all the way towards the friend without the dog pulling. His reward is to get attention from the friend. Try to avoid letting him pull that last little bit of the distance! The more practice situations you set up (you can even toss food on the ground 10-20 feet in front of you, which will be his reward), the better he will get. If he’s pulling toward his eventual reward, you don’t need to click and treat for walking nicely – going forward towards the reward is reinforcing enough.
In addition, practicing in non-distracting locations, such as your back yard or inside your house, will also help the dog learn faster. Inside or in the backyard, work without a leash – simply reward the dog every time he walks at your side, and ignore him when he doesn’t. Once your dog is walking nicely by your side without a leash, add the leash into the equation.
Another exercise that helps the dog learn to walk by your side is this: in your backyard (or other fenced, safe location; you can do this indoors too if you have enough space), simply start walking, either in a large circle or in a straight line. Ignore the dog. At some point, the dog is bound to appear at your left side, even if only for a second. Click, then treat (use your left hand, and deliver the treat at your left side). Turn around and walk the other way. As soon as the dog is at your left again, click and treat. Turn around, and repeat. The dog is learning that your left side is a “magic cookie spot”, and you are rewarding him for finding this spot on his own.
When it comes to loose-lead walking, be patient – and generous with the treats. It takes consistency and time to train, but the results are well worth it!
- Do not ever call the dog to you for anything unpleasant. If you need to give a pill or a bath, or anything else the dog doesn’t find rewarding, go get the dog.
- If the dog has had many negative associations with the word “come”, and thinks “come” means “something bad is going to start or something good is going to end”, you may want to use a completely new command. This is highly suggested in cases where “come” only means one of two things – “you’re about to be punished” and “get in the house, I’m leaving for work”.
- Do call the dog to you for fun things like dinner, walks, games, treats, etc. The dog should have a completely positive association with the word “come”.
- Don’t use the dog’s name for anything negative. The dog’s name should also mean only good things. Never use the name with a reprimand such as “no”.
- “Come” should not be associated with the ending of anything fun or the beginning of anything unpleasant.
- If in the park or other outdoor location, call the dog to you several times to give him a treat and some attention, and them send him back out to play. That way he learns that come doesn’t mean the end of fun. If the dog fails to come to you, then the fun needs to end so he learns that ignoring the come command is not in his best interest.
- Set yourself and your dog up to be successful. Only use the command when you’re sure your dog is going to respond. Establish a reliable response before building up to any distractions, and add distractions gradually. When your dog comes to you on command from a particularly distracting situation (during play with other dogs, chasing a squirrel, etc.) the reward should be HUGE. The reward you give him should be superior to the reward you called him away from. And remember, frequently allow your dog to return to the fun activity after he comes to you.
- Don’t overuse the come command. That way it retains its intensity and value. If it is not heard too often, and the rewards associated with responding are large and valuable, the dog is much more likely to respond in an emergency situation.
- In fact, you may also want to have an “emergency recall” command. I use “here” in a high-pitched voice. This should be used sparingly, again only when you are positive the dog will come, and the reward should be enormous. Pull out the big guns for this one – hamburger, steak pieces, a walk, whatever the dog goes crazy for.
Think of teaching the recall as building a wall. The foundation must be solid, or the rest will fall down. Think of each exercise as a layer of bricks – each layer must be strong enough to support future layers.
Exercise #1 – Attention
- Stand or sit quietly. Every time the dog makes eye contact, click and treat (C/T). Be careful to click while dog is looking at you, not as he looks away! Don’t call the dog’s name, make noises, or otherwise entice the dog to look at you. Just wait until he does (it will happen eventually!).
- Once dog is looking at you regularly, select (C/T) only for eye contact of 1-2 seconds. Then slowly raise the standards for the dog to earn a reward.
- For longer durations, you may want to help the dog by telling him “good” at various intervals (this tells him he’s on the right track), at least at first; you can gradually drop the help.
- Occasionally, C/T after only a few seconds, or at various intervals between initial eye contact and your goal. This keeps the dog interested, as he doesn’t know when the click is coming. If he always only gets rewarded after a certain amount of time, he may be more likely to become distracted and break eye contact.
- Once you are reliably getting longer periods of eye contact, you can add the command “watch”. When you first introduce the word, go back to expectations of only a few seconds and work up gradually from there. You will need to pair the word with the action many, many times before the dog makes the connection. Once you are getting decent intervals of eye contact on the command “watch”, you can begin using your no-reward mark when dog looks away, and you can begin adding distractions gradually.
- Practice “watch” in different locations to help the dog generalize. In addition, continue to practice attention/eye contact without a command – this teaches the dog that paying attention to you, even though you didn’t command “watch”, no matter where you are, can be very rewarding.
- Add distractions (like your arm waving around, someone else walking by or talking, etc.)
- Put on a variable schedule of reinforcement.
- Whenever dog looks at you instead of a potential distraction, be sure to reward! Give extra special rewards for attention during difficult distractions.
Exercise #2 – Name Recognition
- Call your dog’s name. As soon as he turns his head to look at you, C/T. Repeat several times in an area without distractions. (You may have to throw the treat away from him to get him to look away from you!)
- Begin to C/T only when actual eye contact is made. Repeat several times.
- Begin to C/T only after eye contact held for a few seconds.
- Increase distractions. Change locations. (Remember to lower your standards when you add distractions or move to a new place.)
- If you are in a location where it’s safe to leave your dog (e.g. fenced-in yard, etc.), once you have reliable responses, wait until the dog is completely occupied with something fascinating. Call the dog’s name. If the dog doesn’t look, sneak away quickly and hide where you can watch him. After a while, he should start to wonder where you are and get a little anxious. Once he finds you, praise or reward. When he does turn and look from a highly distracting situation, C/T and jackpot to make a big impression, then let him go back to what he was so interested in.
- You can also play hide and seek – from somewhere in the house, call the dog’s name. When the dog finds you, C/T, and use lots of physical and verbal praise.
Exercise #3 – The Recall Game – with 2 or more family members, take turns calling the dog down a long hallway or across the kitchen. You can use prompts such as slapping your legs, kissy noises, waving a treat, etc. Praise enthusiastically as the dog approaches you.
- Each time he comes, hold his collar and then C/T while holding the collar; this teaches him to come and stay by you. Or, instead of a treat, you can play a round of tug or fetch.
- When the dog is doing it perfectly every time, start asking him to sit in front when he comes.
- Gradually start phasing out the prompts and the praise during the approach. You can also start gradually phasing out the command to sit, as the dog will start doing it automatically.
- When this is happening every time, start gradually decreasing the times you reward until you’re rewarding only about half the time.
- Reward the best efforts; terrific responses should get a jackpot!
- Increase distractions and change locations.
Exercise #4 – Hide & Seek – one person holds the dog while the other hides somewhere in the house.
- Release the dog after the hidden person yells, “Spot, come!”
- When the dog arrives, initiate a huge greeting celebration and game of tug or fetch, or lots of yummies
- During this time, other person hides; game starts again when they call the dog
- Increase distractions and change locations
Exercise #5 – Random Recalls – like Hide & Seek, but only with one person; call dog when he is least expecting it, and give an extra-special reward! Only do these once, and in situations where the dog is likely to respond.
- If dog doesn’t come, go get him and bring him gently to where you were when you called him, and then praise and treat. In this situation, try again, so you can have a chance to jackpot the dog for coming to an unexpected come command.
- Increase distractions; change locations.
Exercise #6 – Associating Recall with Great Things – precede all enjoyable activities with recall, from meals to walks to games to rides in the car.
At this point, start phasing the “come” command into your regular practice routine.
Occasionally, surprise the dog and click before he gets to you – when he turns to come to you, or when he is en route.
- For example, you can click when he turns to come to you from an enticing distraction, or you can click during the approach when the dog is running faster than usual.
Exercise #7 – Distraction – use two people, the handler and the distracter. The distracter has all toys and treats, the handler has nothing. The dog knows this.
- Handler moves a short distance away while dog tries to convince the distracter to give up his treat. Distracter ignores dog’s efforts. Handler keeps trying to call dog at various frequent intervals.
- Eventually, dog will come to the handler (give much praise during the approach) and sit in front. The distracter should then run over and give the dog the treat or give the tug toy to the handler to initiate a round of play.
- Dog learns that the way to get what the distracter has is to do what the handler asks
- Be patient! Eventually dog will fly off the distracter when commanded.
- Alternate roles so dog learns to respond to the command, not the person; also alternate distracting toys and treats so dog doesn’t anticipate. Try using as many different distracters and locations as possible.
Exercise #8 – Competing Motivation – start a game of fetch. Throw the ball; after the dog starts to chase, give the command to come. The dog will probably ignore your command. Run after dog, giving a continuous loud NRM. Don’t let him get the ball, or take it away from him if he already has it. Really put a stop to his fun. (Or yell, “OOPS!” and go back into the house, slamming the door, so the dog sees the game is OVER.)
- Try again. If the dog doesn’t come, and hasn’t slowed down at all, you need to be more dramatic with your interruption.
- As soon as the dog stops or turns toward you after the command, praise enthusiastically and heavily encourage dog towards you, using clapping, a food lure, crouching, high-pitched voice, etc.
- When the dog gets to you, click and give an incredible treat, or play a game of tug. Repeat.
- Or you could C/T as soon as dog turns to you, and gradually delay C/T until dog gets to you. When you first do this, you may want to have something really yummy, like hamburger pieces, and let the dog know you have it so he will come to you to get your treat as soon as you click. Or, you could just use “go get it!” as a reward.
- At some point, the dog may not try to retrieve at all. Just play a little fetch without a recall to build his confidence back up. Alternate throws with and without a recall.
- When you are getting perfect responses, one reward would be the command “go get it!” so he can re-chase the object he was called away from
- The dog learns that failure to comply ends the chase, and compliance means permission to play
- Use different objects; practice in different places; vary the point in the chase at which you give the command
- Also occasionally vary the place you reward the dog – usually when he sits front, but sometimes when he turns to you, and sometimes when he’s on the way to you (choose the best of these to reward)
Puppy HeadStart Homework – Week 1 (Orientation)
Click on the underlined links to take you directly to that page in this document!
Hit Control+Home to go back to the top.
Goals Eye Contact Game Handling Exercises
Getting Started Name Game Exercises
Socialization Greeting Manners Sit
Training a well-behaved family companion is about much more than obedience commands and stopping undesirable behaviors like jumping up or play biting. Good training affects every aspect of your relationship with your dog. Training means learning to communicate clearly and consistently with your dog in ways he can easily understand. It means teaching him the rules for getting along in human society and establishing a level of trust that will lead him to look to you for leadership. It means meeting his basic needs and teaching him to help meet yours.
You – the humans – are the students in this class. Our trainers teach you how to train your dogs. You do the actual training at home. Training isn’t something that happens only in class, or during formal training sessions. It isn’t something that you do for a few weeks and you’re done. Training is a lifelong process. Every time you interact with your dog, training is taking place. The only questions are: who is being trained, and what are they learning?
Lifelong training sounds like a lot of work, and at first it is. Before long, though, you and your dog will learn to work as a team without even thinking about it. “Training” will simply provide the structure for a wonderful daily relationship with your dog. The effort you put into this class over the next few weeks will lay the foundation for that structure and help you build a close cooperative relationship that will make your dog a joy for your family throughout his lifetime.
The most important basics are in these homework handouts, but for more detail, check out this great website: www.DogStarDaily.com. The whole site is full of fantastic articles, videos, online TV episodes, and blogs from some of the best dog trainers in the world. A few of Jeff’s blogs provide some important context for how to make our program work in your real life:
For a description of how to be an effective leader to your dog read: http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogs/nothing-life-free and
To learn how to make training a natural part of your day instead of another chore on your to-do list read: http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogs/lazy-mans-dog-training-six-weeks-chaos
To learn how to help your dog understand what you are communicating and to understand what he is communicating to you, read: http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogs/you-talk-too-much
Goals for Puppy HeadStart
- Socialization, Socialization, Socialization: This is by far the most important goal of puppy class. See the socialization handout for details, and get your puppy out into the world as much as possible.
- Bite Inhibition: Dealing with play biting correctly is extremely important with young puppies. We must teach them to be gentle before we teach them not to bite at all. See the attached Bite Inhibition handout for details.
- Housetraining: Also very important! See the handout in for tips. We will talk about all of these issues in class as well.
- Focus and Attention: Getting and keeping your dog’s attention is half the battle for anything you want to teach him. Much of our course focuses on teaching your dog to focus on you whenever you ask. We will teach your dog that, whenever you put on his leash or call his name, his job is to pay attention to you and wait for instructions. The Eye Contact Game, the Name Game, and other attention drills will make paying attention to you second nature for your dog. That habit will make teaching obedience commands easy.
- Basic Manners: Nobody wants to be around a dog who jumps on people, nips, whines, or demands attention when you’re not ready to give it. We will cover techniques for teaching your dog polite ways to greet people, how not to be obnoxious around food, and how to ask for things without being a pest.
- Handling: We’ll cover techniques to teach your dog to love being handled for grooming or veterinary care.
- Obedience: While most of the course focuses primarily on attention and basic manners, we do introduce the sit, down, and come commands. When trained to a high level of reliability, these commands, along with stay, (introduced in the next level class – Basic Obedience 101), can solve almost any problems you have with your dog.
- Develop Your Skills: Learning to train a dog – like learning a new sport or musical instrument – means developing mental and physical skills that take practice. Our instructors will coach you to help you learn to understand what your dog is telling you, communicate clearly with him in return, and set training criteria, and perfect your timing.
Pay attention to what your dog seems to really like or get excited about.
Make a list of these items and rank them according to how much your dog likes them. This allows you to increase your arsenal of rewards! Rewards can be anything your dog really likes: food, toys, play, praise, attention, going outside, getting to interact with a person or dog, being invited onto the furniture etc. When teaching brand new behaviors or working in distracting environments, you’ll want to use his favorite foods. In less demanding environments, you can user lesser treats or play as a reward.
Tips for Treats
- Use small soft treats that your dog will swallow almost immediately. The size of a pea is perfect.
- Get a bait bag that is easy to take treats from quickly and easy to wash.
- For at least the next several weeks, your bait bag is your American Express of dog training: don’t leave home without it.
- Put treats around your house in bowls where the dog cannot reach them. This allows you to train without having treats on your person, thus avoiding the “show me the money” dog.
- Never keep treats in your hand or your hand in your bait bag while training. The only time you should have a treat in your hand is for the second or two it takes to remove it from your bait bag and give it to your dog after clicking.
- Always use something appropriate for the situation; your very best treats (chicken, hot dogs, cheese, roast beef, etc.) in class or on outings, and items of lesser value in less distracting environments.
Tips for Training Sessions
- Keep your formal training sessions short: 5-10 minutes 2 to 4 times per day. You can also train in mini-sessions too – in the bathroom, while you wait for your microwave dinner to finish cooking, asking for one behavior before you give him something he wants, etc.
- Keep your sessions happy and fun. If you’re getting frustrated or just in a bad mood, take a break and train later.
- Be generous with your praise and treats. Most new trainers are too stingy with their treats. We will fade treats as training progresses, but beginning dogs need lots of feedback.
- Keep sessions fast paced to keep your dog interested and motivated.
- Have a clear goal for each session.
- Divide the behavior you would like to teach into little pieces and work on one at a time.
- If your dog is not successfully performing your target behavior at least 4 out of 5 times, you’re pushing too hard. Find a way to make it easier.
Teach Your Dog to Say Please
Ask your dog to sit before getting anything he wants: petting, dinner, going outside, coming inside, getting on the furniture, etc. This teaches him that sitting – not barking, pawing, or whining – is the best way to ask for things. If your dog engages in obnoxious attention getting behaviors, pretend he is invisible. Ignore him completely until he gives up, then praise him, ask him to “say please” with a sit, and then pay attention to him. Eventually, wait for him to *offer* a sit in these circumstances!
Practice your timing with the clicker.
Think of the click as taking a picture of your dog doing the behavior you are trying to train. Time your click to coincide perfectly with the desired behavior for best results. This takes practice. Get a partner and practice clicking something at precise moments. Have your partner watch and give you feedback on your timing. Then reverse roles. Ideas for timing exercises:
- Drop a ball; click exactly as it hits the ground
- Throw a ball in the air; click just as it reaches its top height
- While watching TV, pick a character and click every time he performs a particular behavior (e.g. lifting an arm, laughing, etc.) Try to time your click at the same time the action starts happening.
Remember, if you don’t have your clicker handy, you always have your ‘yes’! If you have your treat stations set up, you can always reward – simply ‘yes!’ and then run to the treat station. Your dog will learn that training can happen at any time, and that you can produce rewards at any time even if they are not on your person!
The Eye Contact Game
Experiment with playing this game both on and off leash in a variety of environments. These may not be the most exciting or impressive exercises we do in class, but they are crucial to everything we teach afterwards. If you don’t have – or can’t get – your dog’s attention, you won’t get a reliable response to the more impressive commands either.
Week 1 Eye Contact Exercises:
Step 1) Stand still with your dog. Say nothing. Do nothing. Just wait for him to look at you. This may take a while the first couple times, but that’s OK. As soon as your dog looks at you – even just a quick glance – click and treat (C/T). If he walks or looks away, that’s fine. Just wait for him to return to you or look at you and C/T. Practice your timing until you click at the exact instant your dog looks at you.
Step 2) Soon your dog will probably continue to stare at you without walking away after you give him the treat. You don’t have to click again if your dog continues to look at you, but you should give him another treat. Start off by giving a treat every 2 or 3 seconds for 10 seconds. Again, don’t worry if you lose attention. Just wait for him to come back. As your dog becomes increasingly focused on you, slowly increase the time between treats until your dog continues to look at you for 10 seconds. If your dog sits at any point during this exercise – and most will – you can also C/T that.
- Variation: if your dog won’t look away, try tossing the treat behind him after you click – that sets him up for another repetition right away, as you can C/T again as soon as he looks at you after getting his treat!
- Another variation: you can also make it harder by asking him to look at you for gradually longer periods of time before you C/T.
Step 3) As your dog gets more reliable at giving you eye contact, you should continue doing the simple eye contact game by practicing it in gradually more distracting situations.
- Try to reward attention as often as possible, especially on walks and in other distracting places, as it forms the foundation for training.
- Whenever you’re working with him and he loses focus, REWARD him when he chooses to turn his attention back to you.
- Do this exercise in at least 3 new places each week – you will find your dog much more attentive in class the following week
- Another game you can play: if you are in a fenced yard with him (especially a yard that isn’t his), let him off-leash and to wander around. Every single time he approaches you to check in, click and treat. If he even looks at you from a distance, C/T that as well. If he decides to completely forget you’re even there, hide behind a tree or shed and wait. Eventually he will come looking for you. When he finds you, click and give several treats! (This will teach him that you have a habit of just wandering off, and he’d best keep an eye on you!)
Bonus Game: Walking Backwards! Get your dog’s attention and have him sit/stand facing you. Take a step backwards; C/T for him walking forward with you, and immediately step backwards again. Once he is reliably walking forwards with you as you walk backwards, start only reinforcing if he is doing this with eye contact. Once he is good at walking with you in this way with eye contact one step at a time, start increasing the number of steps you take backwards (while he stays focused on you) to earn a C/T. Once he’s great at this game in the house, practice in your yard, your driveway, and in different places on walks!
The Name Game
This game is quite similar to the eye contact game, but it is important that you practice them both. If your dog won’t look when you call his name, he probably won’t come, sit, or stay either! If you practice this exercise enough – with gradually increasing distractions – you can create a “whiplash head turn” when you call his name that is so conditioned that Fido doesn’t weigh his options – he just automatically responds. This is insanely helpful in so many situations – from calling him away from the goose poop he’s about to roll in, to getting his attention off of the squirrel, to calling him out of a dog-dog greeting situation that’s looking a little tense.
Week 1 Name Game Exercises:
Step 1) Call your dog’s name and C/T as soon as he looks at you. Do this often, so your dog learns that his name means “Look at me!” Start in a distraction-free environment; make sure you have a reasonable chance for success before you call his name.
If your dog does not respond to his name the first time, it might be too hard for him in that situation. Don’t keep repeating his name. He’ll just learn to ignore it. Instead, do something else to get his attention. Become more animated; clap your hands; say “pup-pup-pup!” in a high-pitched voice, whistle, stomp your feet, whatever you need to do to get him to look at you so you can reward him. If even this does not work, you need to practice in a less distracting environment or use a better reward. If you find you have to continually make extra noise to get his attention in a certain environment, take a step back and just practice the eye contact game until he is a little more focused.
Remember that tone counts. Try practicing in different tones to see what gets his attention. Try a falsetto-y “Fiiiiiiidoooooo!” in a happy, high-pitched voice! The more animated you are, the more exciting you are.
Step 2) As your dog’s response becomes more reliable, start asking for his attention in gradually more distracting situations. Always practice this on your walks and in new locations.
- Try to reward the dog’s response to his name at least 50 times per day. 25 reps inside, 25 outside.
- When on your walk, call his name. If he looks, great – click and treat! If not, stop – stand and wait until he does. Once he does, click and treat and resume your walk.
- If he is responding reliably when not much is going on, start calling his name when he’s fairly focused on something – a toy, looking out the window, looking around at the park, etc. If he doesn’t respond, it may be too much too soon; next time, do it when he’s a little less focused.
- Randomly call his name throughout the day; when he responds, give him a fabulous treat and then go about your day.
- Call his name when he’s in another room; if he comes running, give him 3 wonderful treats in a row.
- If the situation is too difficult for your dog to respond reliably, don’t keep trying – instead, make it easier, and go back to paying the Eye Contact Game.
Teaching Commands By Capturing Behavior – Sit
Any behavior that your dog does naturally – sitting, crossing his paws, chasing his tail, etc. – can be taught through “capturing” – simply C/Ting whenever the dog does that behavior.
Clicker training’s real power comes from getting your dog involved in the learning process. When teaching something new, we want your dog to actively experiment in order to figure out what you want from him. Dogs learn much faster when they actively participate in training this way. We will follow the following process for teaching behaviors that you can capture. The first command we teach this way will be the “sit” command. Please practice this process even if your dog already knows “sit.” We will use sit as a model for how to teach – and name – any behavior your dog does naturally.
Week 1 Sit Exercises:
Step 1) Get the Behavior
- Get your dog’s attention and stand quietly with your clicker in your hand. Do not use any commands at this point.
- If you lose your dog’s attention, work on clicking and treating eye contact until your dog is focused again.
- Simply wait for your dog to sit. (This method of getting the behavior is called capturing. We will introduce other methods of getting the behavior with other commands.)
Step 2) Mark and Reward the Behavior
- When your dog sits, click and treat (C/T), but toss the treat on the floor (or deliver the treat in such a way that your dog has to get up to reach it) so that your dog has to get up. This allows you to get another sit sooner.
- Repeat this step – still not using any commands – until your dog is quickly and enthusiastically offering you one sit after another. This will often be preceded by a “light bulb moment” where you can see that your dog knows what you want. You want this exercise to be quite fast paced.
- Continue practicing in different situations and settings until your dog is a Sitting Fool.
Teaching your dog that sitting is rewarded handsomely will turn the sit into a “default behavior” – in other words, your dog will learn “when in doubt … sit!” When your dog is frustrated, excited, or wants something, we would rather have him offer a sit rather than barking, leaping, or nipping at clothing. The more often you reward the offered (not cued) sit, the stronger it will become as a default behavior. This exercise will also help when we get to “sit for greeting people”!
Game: Quick Sits! See how many sits you can get in one minute – and then try to top it!
Greeting Manners (aka “Not Jumping Up!”)
Be sure and read the handout on Jumping Up for for lots of tips! Remember, whenever your dog is doing something you don’t like, you need to follow these steps:
- Determine what the dog is getting out of it – what is his reward for this behavior? (For jumping up it’s usually attention – eye contact, talking to/yelling at the dog, touching, etc.)
- STOP that reward from happening. (For jumping up, remove all attention the instant his front feet leave the ground, or the instant you can see him thinking about it. Usually turning around is more effective than just looking away.)
- Determine what you WANT the dog to do in that situation instead. (For jumping up, we start with Four-On-The-Floor, and then progress to sitting.)
- Reward the dog INSTANTLY when he does the behavior you want. (For jumping up, this would be putting all four feet back on the floor. As soon as his front feet are back on the ground, praise; if they stay on the ground for one second, then pet. Gradually wait for his feet to be back on the ground for longer periods of time before you pet, although you can praise liberally while you wait.)
- BE CONSISTENT. Everyone has to follow these rules, every time!
If you want him to jump up only upon request, wait until he’s very good at not jumping the majority of the time. Then, you can teach him to jump up only on command (and you can use it as a reward too!) I use the command “Paws Up”.
Week 1 Greeting Exercise: Practice only rewarding him with attention for four-on-the-floor. Timing is everything! Turn your back the instant paws leave the ground, and turn back around and praise the instant they are back on the ground. Rinse and repeat.
All family members should follow this protocol; make sure guests do to. Tell them IN ADVANCE what they are to do – don’t wait until the dog is already jumping on them! Help them with their timing – tell them when to turn around and when to give attention, to avoid having them inadvertently reinforce the wrong thing. (If your friends refuse to ignore the dog when he jumps, then keep him on leash so that he can’t practice this behavior.)
Your dog needs to learn to be handled for all sorts of husbandry behavior – ear cleaning, nail trimming, etc. For more tips, see the Handling for Grooming handout. Each week, we will focus on one area of the body and related husbandry activities.
Our goal is for him to like these exercises, so always work at a level where he can succeed. Start with very small steps (for example, with nail trimming, start by just holding, or even touching, a paw), and pair that with a treat. Say “yes” or click AS you are touching or holding the body part, NOT after.
Wait to progress to more difficult steps until he is calm, cool, and collected about the current step. This means no mouthing, getting crazy, nose poking, or pulling away – just kind of a “whatever, dude, go ahead” response. A tail wag is a bonus!
Week 1 Handling Exercises:
General Handling: Handle feet, mouth, ears, tail, etc. in general, starting with just touching, and moving on to more invasive handling. Pick up a foot, say “yes!”, release the foot and give a treat. Look in an ear, say “yes!”, release the ear, and give a treat. Etc.
Have all family members and as many friends as you can wrangle practice this with your puppy too, so he learns to accept handling from everybody.
Here are two good videos on handling:
Collar Grabs: We want our pups to love having their collar grabbed! Simply grab the collar, click or say “yes!” while you are holding the collar, pop a treat into his mouth, and release the collar. Do this randomly many times per day, both in the house and while out and about. We want a conditioned happy response to having his collar grabbed – remember, you may need to pull him away from a fence fight, grab him if the leash breaks, or pull his head out of the trash, someday. This exercise helps ensure that he will come happily, rather than turning around and biting you!
Do this EVERY week – it’s one of the most important things you can do with your puppy. Dogs can learn stay and other obedience tasks at any time – but there is a finite socialization window that starts to close around 14 weeks of age. You can’t get this time back!! Read the socialization handout, and use the Socialization Checklist handout, to get the most out of this developmental period.
Make sure your dog is having FUN. If your dog is concerned or stressed, give him a break. Also, give him choices – let him be the one to choose to approach people, and let him choose to back away if he needs a break or is worried. Don’t try to “lure” him to strangers with treats if he’s nervous; have the stranger just toss treats to him (or you can even give him treats for being in the presence of the stranger). Here’s a short article with some tips: http://ahimsadogtraining.com/blog/2010/08/24/tuesday-tip-puppy-knows-best/
If your puppy is nervous about strangers, and he’s not getting over it very quickly, this is a behavioral emergency. Fearful puppies often grow up into aggressive adults if the problem is not addressed. We highly advise doing a private lesson focusing on socialization to help you help your pup overcome his fears – it is much harder to fix when your dog reaches adolescence.
Bring a stuffed Kong with you or other high-value chew and just sit with him while he chews on it in different environments (the park, a store, the outskirts of a festival or farmers’ market, etc.) Make sure he likes this chew and, if you’re bringing a Kong, that he knows how to operate it and get the good stuff out. This will keep him relaxed and not hyper-focused on the world, and he can enjoy his Kong while he is passively socialized to all the things going on around him.
While you want to socialize your puppy to as many people and dogs as you can, you also want your pup to learn to focus on YOU more than on other people/dogs. If you let your puppy pull you to whomever he wants to meet, without rules or restrictions, and make that the only focus of your outings, you may end up with an adult who does the same – and who gets frustrated when he can’t go greet people and dogs. This can sometimes escalate into barking and lunging from frustration every time he sees people or dogs on walks … and sometimes this frustration can turn into actual aggression.
- If your puppy loves other people and dogs, ask for a behavior such as a sit before allowing him to greet with “Free – go say hi”. Once he’s good at this, start waiting for him to be CALM before allowing him to greet – if he’s quivering with excitement, this just helps him practice that non-calm behavior. To practice calm behavior, work on sit-stays or down-stays or even just attention on you – once he’s calm and focused on you, then tell him “Free – go say hi”.
- Sometimes your dog won’t be able to say hello to everyone – teach him this from the beginning. Don’t let him greet absolutely everybody, or you’re setting your dog up for frustration later on. When you walk by people or dogs, give your dog multiple treats – each and every time, at first. This will help him learn that seeing other people or dogs makes good things come from YOU, and teaches him to focus on you when he sees them, rather than focusing on THEM.
- You can even teach your puppy a cue like “Not happenin’” or “not this time” to let him know when it’s not an option. Simply say your cue, and walk away, rewarding him for coming with you.
- Play lots of Eye Contact and Name Games with your puppy around people/dogs to help him learn to focus on you rather than them.
- If your puppy is concerned, focus more on making strangers and other dogs = good things. Whenever you see people or dogs – click/treat your puppy as soon as he sees them. Don’t allow people to overwhelm your puppy – be firm and tell them “no” if they want to do something your pup is uncomfortable with (petting, approaching him, etc.). Allow your puppy to approach on his own terms, and advise the person to turn their side, avoid eye contact at first, etc. Ask them instead to toss treats to your puppy. If your puppy is approaching them but nervous, have them toss the treats away from them, so the puppy can get a “break” when he goes away to retrieve the thrown treat, and then he can choose whether to re-approach or not. Your puppy’s psychological comfort is more important than the stranger’s feelings.
- Learn how to read your puppy’s body language so you know when he’s getting worried or stressed. Here is a good video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bstvG_SUzMo — and here is a good article: http://www.4pawsu.com/stresssigns.html . And here is another: http://3lostdogs.com/dog-speak-101-a-video-introduction-to-dog-body-language/
Here are some good articles on the subject of socialization:
And this video describes how to teach your pup to focus on you rather than other people/dogs during socialization. I would blend this in with also allowing your pup to meet lots of people when you tell them they can do so – you want your puppy to be OK with people leaning over, looking at them, talking to them, reaching towards them, etc. – but you also want your puppy’s main focus to be on you. Again, if your pup is worried, don’t put them in situations that might scare them, but do let them meet people who will follow your instructions (turn your side, avoid eye contact, etc.). Scheduling a private lesson to learn how to do this will be helpful for you – contact us. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EORq7MOOioA
Greeting other dogs: again, require calm behavior before allowing them to greet; tell them “free – go say hi” or “free – go play” to let them know they may now greet. Only allow the greeting to happen for a few seconds, then call your pup away for a ‘break’. Get a sit, get some eye contact, and then you may let the pup go say hello again. Repeat, each time giving the dogs a little more time to interact.
- Here is the 3-Second Rule: http://www.thrivingcanine.com/letting_dogs_meet_the_three_second_rule
- Make sure you don’t let leashes tangle; dogs should be on the inside, people on the outside, with each dog in front of his own owner. Keep moving as necessary to make sure it stays that way. If a fight breaks out, you don’t want leashes to get tangled!! Here is what it looks like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Nln6z59YBo&list=WLD6081DCD61AF6860
- If either dog looks nervous or stiff, call them away immediately for a break.
- Keep leashes loose. When it’s time to get your dog out of the interaction, CALL him, or lure him away with a treat – do not pull him out with the leash!! If there is tension, this can cause your dog to react negatively to the other dog. When dogs are worried they have two main options – ‘fight’ or ‘flight’. (They also have ‘freeze’ and ‘fool around’ but that’s the subject for another handout!) Tight leashes remind dogs that ‘flight’ is not an option, so they only have ‘fight’ left. You may have seen a stiff interaction that escalated into an aggressive display as soon as the dogs were pulled away – this is why. Some dogs think “the best defense is a good offense”, so do not let your dog practice this – lure him away or call him away instead. (Practice, practice, practice your name game!!)
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In the event your payment is received after all the spots are filled, you will be placed on a waiting list; if no spot becomes available for that class, you may either request that we hold your payment and reserve a spot in the next available class or return your check. (You may also apply that payment towards private lessons.)
Note: if we do not receive a minimum of 3 paid registrations before class begins, class will be cancelled or postponed. If you have sent your payment in, you will be notified and may choose to either have your check returned or applied to an upcoming class. If you have not sent your payment in, please call before you come to ensure class is being held and to ensure it is not full.
If you have already paid and discover you are unable to attend the class, you may either request that we hold your payment for a reservation in the next available class (or apply it towards private lessons), or you may request a refund according to the following timetable:
14 days or more before the start of class: 100% refund
7 to 13 days before the start of class: 50% refund
1 to 6 days before the start of class: 25% refund
If you do not call to request a refund and simply fail to attend, or if you fail to finish the classes, no refund will be available (although we will be glad to reserve you a spot in the next available class and apply 50% of your payment towards that class or towards private lessons). In this event, if you choose to take the next class, the 50% balance will be due before the start date of that class to reserve your spot.
This policy is necessary to ensure that dog owners are not shut out of a class unnecessarily.
Extenuating circumstances will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Thank you … we’ll see you in class!