Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Preschool Puppy Training – Part 5

Gemma | November 3rd, 2006
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Part 5 – The Stay Command At 10 Weeks

The next step in preschool puppy training begins at around 10 weeks of age. We are now going to introduce your pup to the stay command.

But first, a quick word of caution from the last training article. It involves the rewards given to the puppy when playing the fetch-sit game. As you near the end of each 10 minute game time, you may notice your puppy tiring. If he poops out and refuses to retrieve, do not give the tidbit reward and end the game. To do otherwise would be to reward the puppy for giving up and quitting. Always end each game session by commanding sit and placing the puppy in that position, followed by praise in the tidbit reward.

Now on to this week’s training session; keeping firmly in mind that kindergarten training is primarily for teaching a puppy how to learn, we can introduce the command to stay when the puppy is but ten weeks of age. Thus far, we’ve written the words sit and come on the chalkboard of the puppy’s mind.

We’ve given the puppy no opportunity to do otherwise when those commands have been given. Therefore, the puppy cannot have been guilty of any disobedience in response to those commands. He certainly didn’t perform any of those behaviors on his own, of course, but at that age he shouldn’t be expected to. We’re teaching the pup how to learn, so always keep that in mind!

Introducing The Stay Command

At 10 weeks of age, and during your fetch-sit games, you can introduce the word stay into your puppy’s vocabulary in the following manner:

With the puppy in a sitting position, and prior to throwing out the fetch toy, place your left hand on the puppy’s rear to assist in holding him in that sitting position. Give the command stay in a firm, authoritative voice, placing your other hand (palm open) at his eye level for added emphasis. Then throw to fetch toy.

If the puppy does not move in an attempt to go to the toy, praise him immediately and release him with Okay, get the toy. If the puppy moves in an attempt to retrieve the toy, tell him No! Lead him back to the exact spot and reinforce the command to stay. Have him hold that sit-stay position for a few seconds, then release him to retrieve the toy, followed by the usual praise and, at the conclusion of the training period, his treat reward.

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Preschool Puppy Training – Part 4

Gemma | October 30th, 2006
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Part 4 – Reinforcing The Come Command

At this point during the beginning of preschool puppy training you should now have your puppy slowly conditioned to expect his daily 10 minute walk, while learning that praise and tasty treats go hand-in-hand.

As you continue each walk with your puppy, take notice to see if he is preoccupied with the sights or sounds around him. When this happens, repeat the following maneuver: kneel down, say your puppy’s name, followed by the command come. Gently pull him to you, give him the tidbit and pour on the praise. You have 10 minutes, and four tidbits, to get four come maneuvers in during each daily walk for days 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the pup’s ninth week of age.

Why So Many Treats?

You may be wondering why it’s necessary to give your puppy a treat in each instance that the come maneuver is executed. We don’t want the tidbit reward to become the prime motivating factor in later training, as would happen if we were to give the tidbit all of the time and for all responses.

Keep this very important thought in mind: we are teaching the puppy how to learn, knowing that praise alone just isn’t that big of a payoff at his young age.

By the end of your puppy’s ninth week of age, he will realize that the play toy does not get tossed for him to retrieve until he allows himself to be placed in the sitting position. The fact that you will again toss the toy becomes the prime motivating factor, with praise being secondary. Since the game must eventually end, there must be some reward at the conclusion thus, the tidbit treat.

Because praise alone is not sufficient motivation for a nine week old puppy, we must motivate him something else when teaching come. For a puppy to give up his sight and scent excursion, and come running to you when commanded, it must be something more in it for him than a pat on the head, or simply being allowed to continue his walk. Therefore, the treat, of necessity, becomes the prime motivator. Again, the praise is secondary.

An ideal way to reinforce the command come – at times other than when school is in session would be at feeding time. Call the puppy’s name, followed by the command come as his food dish is placed on the floor. Don’t take the food to the puppy; instead, make the puppy come to the food dish as you speak the command come. Don’t clutter his chalkboard mind with come on boy, it’s time to eat and expect it to reinforce the come response.

While it is necessary that you talk to your puppy to help develop his personality and vocabulary, don’t use any other word except the command word when reinforcing a training response.

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Preschool Puppy Training – Part 3

Gemma | October 28th, 2006
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Part 3 – Sit & Come

While learning the fetch game, it is important that tasty treats be used in place of too much praise, as previously mentioned. The importance of praise hasn’t been firmly written on the chalkboard of his mind so until it is, give your pup what is known to be a positive reward stimulus – food!

(Some trainers might ask, But shouldn’t training take place in the head, and not the stomach? Yes that is true, but this is game time, remember?)

Try to get at least three fetching games (ten minutes each) into each day for three days in a row. These fetching drills should be in addition to a five or ten minute walk on the leash daily. We’re going to sneak in two commands while the puppy is having these game times and before he even realizes what’s happened, he will have been trained to respond to come and sit.

During your retrieving games, when your puppy has returned the play toy to you, place your left hand on his rear end and your right underneath his chin. Press lightly with your left hand while exerting a small amount of upward pressure with your right as you command sit.

As soon as you have placed the puppy in that sitting position, pour on the enthusiastic praise, then toss the play toy out again. When the puppy returns with the toy, withhold any praise until you have commanded sit and have placed him in the sitting position. If the puppy should squirm from your grasp, and you fail to get him properly seated, do not throw the play toy, do not praise, and above all, do not give up!

Always Remain Positive

Thoughts like he just won’t do it, or he won’t let me, have absolutely no place in dog training. Use the leash to bring the puppy back to you, say sit and place the puppy in the sitting position. Conclude each fetch-sit game with a tidbit reward.

By the time you finish your third session of fetch-sit games, you’ll notice that it really doesn’t take much left-hand pressure at all to get your puppy seated. You have a 10 minute walk on leash still scheduled for each of the days four through seven. All things will be as they’ve been on preceding days, except take four small tidbits with you. Make sure they are tucked away in your pocket out of sight and scent as you take the puppy outdoors.

After you begin what with the puppy believes to be a routine daily outing (we know it to be an important part of his socialization training), take a tidbit out of your pocket, kneel down to his level and say his name, followed by the command come.

Using the leash, carefully pull the puppy towards you. Give him the tidbit, and at the same time pour on the praise. By giving the tidbit with the praise, your puppy will begin to learn that praise is synonymous with the reward.

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Preschool Puppy Training – Part 2

Gemma | October 25th, 2006
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Part 2 – Fetching

The first positive command that your puppy should learn is the command to sit. By making it the first command, it therefore becomes the first positive word which we will write on the puppy’s chalkboard mind. In other words, at this age his mind is like a chalkboard and not too much has been written on it yet.

The things that get written on it at this age should be constructive. Later, we will write the negative word no on the puppy’s mind. The word no is the only negative command you should ever utter. Words which you will use when it becomes necessary to scold your puppy are not considered commands but are merely words, the tone of which leave no doubt in the puppy’s mind that you are doing some disciplining. The negative command no will come to mean something to the puppy, no matter what tone of voice you use.

Loose The Distractions

It is recommended that the area you use for your puppy’s preschool training in fetch and sit be as distraction-free as possible. Although we will approach this preschool training seriously, your puppy should view it as game time. The game should not exceed ten minutes in length. If it does, the puppy will become bored with it all.

If you persist after he becomes bored, then future games with you will be considered a real drag and, of course, non-productive. By having as few distractions as possible, we can help keep the puppy’s mind upon the game.

Let’s Begin

To begin, select a toy that your puppy has shown a particular liking for, then seat yourself upon the floor. This puts you down closer to the puppy’s level and, among other things, will help to convey the game atmosphere.

Make sure that the puppy’s leash is attached and that you are holding the other end. Toss the toy up and down for a few seconds, just enough to attract the pup’s attention. Then, toss it out a few feet away from you encouraging the puppy to retrieve it. You can encourage him with things like Come on boy… pick it up! You can do it! C’moooon boy! Good doggie!.

There’s enough verbiage there to make sure not a single word sticks on that chalkboard; but your tone of voice, together with your enthusiasm are the prime considerations here. If the puppy goes to the object and shows any interest in it at all, that’s grounds for praise and further encouragement. If he picks up the toy and brings it back to you, really pour on the praise and toss it out again.

Try to get four such retrievals into your first ten-minute play session. Then, remove the leash and end the game with a tidbit a cookie or other food reinforcement. Why the tidbit? Why not just praise? Remember, your puppy is now nine weeks old, and praise just hasn’t had time to become that big of a thing. Sure, it’s nice at this point in life, but the food reward is nicer.

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Preschool Puppy Training – Part 1

Gemma | October 22nd, 2006
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Part 1 – The Leash & Collar

Because all of your puppy’s formal obedience training will be accomplished with the assistance of a leash and a training collar, his pre-school training should include familiarization with similar paraphernalia. Initially, the puppy should be fitted with a comfortable leather or nylon collar.

Care must be taken that the collar is not affixed either too tightly or too loosely. The puppy will immediately make attempts to shed himself of this new thing. A loose-fitting collar would allow the puppy to slip his lower jaw underneath the collar. In this predicament, he could easily panic; or, even if he remained calm, he could chew the collar in two.

By the end of his first day of wearing the collar, he will have adjusted to the device and it will no longer attract his attention. You can then attach a light leash to the collar and allow him to drag the leash periodically during the day indoors and under your supervision. By exposing the puppy to a leash and collar in this systematic way, no traumatic experiences will be allowed to develop.

You must always bear in mind that you are working with the mind of a living creature. You are molding it much like a potter molds what is to become his creation from clay. You must always exercise care and loving understanding. To abruptly affix a slip-chain training collar and leather leash to an eight-week-old puppy cannot possibly accomplish anything, except to create a very negative experience. Negative experiences are the instruments from which trauma develops.

Let Your Puppy Walk

When your puppy is accustomed to wearing the collar and has had the pleasure of romping around the house with the leash attached, carry him outdoors, a few hundred feet or so away from the house. With the leash attached, set the puppy down.

Let him walk you wherever he wants to go (within the bounds of safety, of course). Let him explore for ten or fifteen minutes while you follow him holding the other end of the leash. When the time is up, pick him up in your arms, take him back to the house and remove the leash. Chances are he will have walked you back in that direction anyway, since a puppy’s instinct directs him back to the nest.

Never Drag Your Puppy

Notice that at no time since the introduction of the collar and leash has anything been said about dragging the puppy. Although the puppy was allowed to drag the leash for a day or two, it must be pointed out and emphasized that he should not be dragged by the leash.

After three or four excursions in which the puppy is taken away from the house with the leash affixed and the puppy allowed to walk at his discretion (with you holding the end of the leash) he should be ready to walk away from the house.

Still, the leash should not be used as an instrument to drag the puppy. Let the pup do the walking; you hold onto the other end of the leash. By the end of the first week of his association with his new equipment, he will then begin to make the association of the new leash with control.

These daily outings on the leash must be considered as part of your puppy’s preschool training. Human contact and socialization in the outside world is a very important part of this training and a key to the puppy’s future mental and emotional development. He’ll see big trees, hear noises from power motors and passing automobiles, and be admired by an occasional passerby. The benefits produced by proper socialization at this time can never be duplicated later in life.

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Teaching Your Pup To Be Courteous & Well Mannered – Part 4

Gemma | October 18th, 2006
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You recently read several articles on the best ways to teach your puppy to be polite and learn his manners around the house and in front of people, mentioning the use of a tether. To help you better understand what a tether is and how to best make your own, the following information will help you:

Tether Time

A tether is a simple, 4-foot length of nylon-coated cable, with sturdy swivel snap hooks on both ends. Most of the cables commercially available are intended for tying a dog outside and are a minimum of 10 feet too long for most training purposes.

You can make your own training tether, or ask your local hardware store if they will attach the snap hooks to the ends of a 4-foot cable for you with the necessary ferrules (ferrules are the metal hardware used to hold the cable) and cramping tool.

The Basic Tether

Take a 4-foot length of 1/8 inch nylon-coated cable. Thread one end through one channel of the appropriate-size ferrule, then through the ring of a small but sturdy metal snap hook. Fold the cable back on itself, run it through the other channel of the ferrule, and crimp the ferrule on both pieces of cable to hold the end in place. Repeat with the other end. You now have a basic tether.

Tethering To Furniture

Wrap one end of the tether around the leg of a heavy piece of furniture and hook it onto itself. Attach the other end to your pup’s collar. Be sure the furniture is heavy enough to prevent your pup from dragging it around, and make a comfortable place for the dog to sit or lie down with a chewie or toy to occupy it.

This is an easy and convenient application of the tether for dogs that don’t tend to chew a lot. It’s not appropriate for most young puppies or other dogs who are inclined to gnaw furniture legs.

Tethering To An Eye Bolt

Screw one or more eye bolts into sturdy wooden studs, beams or other locations in your home that are strong enough to hold your pup if it pulls on the tether with its full weight. Remember, it might be small now, but your pup will gain strength as it grows!

Attach one end of the tether to the eye bolt and the other to your pup’s collar. This method involves a little more preparation, but is a better application for puppies and dogs that might chew. Again, be sure to provide a comfortable bed, along with chews or doggie toys to keep your pup happy.

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Teaching Your Pup To Be Courteous & Well Mannered – Part 3

Gemma | October 17th, 2006
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Polite Dinner Manners

In order to achieve polite puppy dinner behavior, you first have to define it. For example, I consider it polite in my household if my four dogs lie quietly at our feet while we eat. If they don’t beg, bark, whine or otherwise nudge us for treats, they get an occasional treat from our dinner.

You may, on the other hand, prefer to teach Sparky to lie on a dog bed on the other side of the room during meals. A tether’s your ideal management tool for this. Help your puppy acclimatize to being on the tether outside of mealtime so you won’t have to constantly interrupt your meals to train. This shouldn’t take more than one or two practice sessions. Meanwhile, use a crate or baby gate to confine your pup so you can have relaxed, puppy-free meals.

When Sparky has learned to accept tethering, set up his tether in the dining room away from the table, a distance that’s comfortable for you and at least far enough so the dog won’t be tripped over as the family moves around the table. Prepare a treat-dispensing toy or other interactive toy to keep him happy while you eat.

Occasionally, when your pup is relaxed and quiet, calmly praise him, and walk over to feed him a treat. In short order you can fade out the treats and Sparky will be content to share meals with you at a respectable distance. Eventually, the polite dinner habit will be so well-ingrained, you won’t even need the tether.

Thanks For Sharing

It’s normal for puppies to pick up everything with their mouths that’s how they explore the world. You can make life easier for you and your pup if you do a good job of management basically, keep non-chew objects out of your pup’s reach. Inevitably, however, Sparky will find a forbidden object, such as a book or a shoe; something of value to you; or something that might harm him.

When Sparky does find a forbidden object, your first instinct will be to run after him and grab it away, telling him he’s a bad pup – but stop – that’s the worst thing you can do. Plus, it’s a great way to teach him a delightful game of canine keep-away (from his puppy perspective). Instead, be proactive. Teach Sparky to give objects to you on cue. Then, when he grabs something inappropriate, just slip into training mode and ask him to give.

To teach give, offer Sparky a toy that he likes to play with. When he’s happily playing, offer him a treat. As he drops the toy to take the treat, say give and feed him the treat. Then toss the toy for him to play with again. What a cool game Sparky gets the yummy treat and he gets to chase the toy again!

After a few repetitions, start saying give first, then offer the treat in trade for the toy. With practice, he’ll learn to drop the toy on the give cue, and you can treat randomly but sometimes, not always, eventually stopping the treats altogether with just using praise.

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Teaching Your Pup To Be Courteous & Well Mannered – Part 2

Gemma | October 15th, 2006
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Polite Greetings

Everyone loves it when a tiny puppy jumps up to greet them. Awww, so cute! they say, but when that puppy grows up to be a full-grown Golden Retriever with muddy paws, it’s no longer cute. In fact, it’s down-right rude!

It’s very easy to teach a pup to greet people politely. It’s much harder to convince an adult dog who’s been rewarded for jumping up that he should now greet people politely. Wouldn’t you rather try the easy way?

The good stuff Sparky gets for jumping up is attention. When your pup jumps up, you look at him. You pet him. You talk to him. Perhaps you even pick him up and cuddle him. He learns that up is a desirable place to be.

At some point you decide that Sparky is too big to jump up anymore, but he does not know that. By then, it’s a well-established habit for him a reliable way to get the good stuff.

You try to stop giving Sparky attention for jumping up, but every once in a while, when the mood is right, you slip and pet him when he puts his paws in your lap. Uh-oh, big mistake! You are not reinforcing the impolite behavior randomly. Sometimes jumping up is rewarded, sometimes it’s not.

A randomly reinforced behavior becomes extremely durable it’s hard to make it go away because Sparky learns that if he just keeps trying, eventually the behavior will pay off, like a slot machine that gives up its fortune if you keep pulling the handle long enough.

You’re not the only one who inadvertently rewards your pup randomly for jumping up. Family members, passersby on the street who want to gush over your pup when you’re walking him on the leash, visitors to your home the entire world is a potential slot machine for your pup. This is where you combine good management with assertive insistence.

First, teach Sparky from the first day he sets a paw in your home that sitting politely in front of you earns attention. Jumping up makes you turn your back, walk away, or even step over or through a baby gate (a great management tool!) if necessary, leaving your puppy behind. Show your family how to respond in the same way so your pup learns the only way to get anyone to pay attention to him is by sitting.

When Sparky has learned that sitting is a rewardable behavior, and if you’re walking him in public and someone approaches, gently but insistently inform them that your pup must sit before they can pet him. Your leash is your management tool restrain Sparky so he can’t charge forward and jump up. Tell the person if Sparky jumps up, they need to step back until he sits again, then allow them to pet your dog.

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Teaching Your Pup To Be Courteous & Well Mannered – Part 1

Gemma | October 12th, 2006
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How can anyone not love puppies, with their milk-breath innocence, soft, baby-sweet expressions and clumsy explorations of a world completely new to them?

Rare is the puppy adopter who enters into the relationship with anything less than good intentions for a lifelong commitment to the new four-legged family member. Why, then, do so many adolescent dogs end up in animals shelters, abandoned by families no longer enamored of their furry teenagers?

Often, it’s because no one ever taught the puppy polite house manners. Successful puppy-raising requires a judicious mix of training, management and love. Too many puppy owners are long on love but short on the first two critical elements.

When your pup grows up and is still jumping on visitors, playing keep-away with your $125 dollar running shoes, and darting out the door and up the street when you’re frantically trying to get to work on time, the love starts to sour!

Such a shame, because management and training are easier than you might imagine. A puppy is a blank slate whose mission in life is to make good stuff happen. Sparky’s goal is to figure out how the world works what he needs to do to make the most amount of good stuff happen as often as possible.

His list of good stuff centers on physical and mental comfort and safety: food, water, play and social contact; warmth when he’s cold; coolness when he’s hot; soft surfaces to lie on; satisfying objects to chew on; and protection from the elements, loud noises and other scary stimuli.

If you manage your pup’s world so that desirable behaviors make good stuff happen, while inappropriate behaviors make good stuff go away, you’ll end up with a well-behaved grown-up dog who never has to fear ending up at a shelter. In order for that to work, you have to control the good stuff.

The Right Management Tools

It’s infinitely easier to raise a polite puppy if you use management tools such as crates, baby gates, tethers, doors and leashes. All living things repeat behaviors that are rewarding to them. If your pup is rewarded for impolite behaviors, those behaviors will increase. Behaviors that aren’t reinforced go away.

The environment can be infinitely rewarding. Sparky barks at the cat, the cat runs away. Sparky chases. He’s just been rewarded for chasing the cat (because cat-chasing is fun!), and he’s more likely to chase the cat again the next time he sees it. You leave a roast beef sandwich on the coffee table for a moment while you answer the phone. Sparky learns he can find good stuff on tables, and you then have a counter-surfer in the making. You get the idea.

The biggest benefit of training a pup is that it’s infinitely easier to prevent undesirable behaviors than to fix them. If you’re skilled at managing Sparky’s behavior by controlling good things so he gets them in return for doing things you like, polite manners are a cinch. It takes time, consistency all family members have to agree to follow the rules and a willingness to insist that the rest of the world follow the rules as well.

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Off-Leash Training – Part 4

Gemma | October 3rd, 2006
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Off-leash training is a transition because it is, most definitely, a slow process.

It would be nice if we could just reach down, unsnap the leash, and know that your dog would instantly obey the commands Come, Sit, Down, Stay, and Heel. Regardless of how proficient a dog may be in basic obedience while attached to the leash, his efficiency diminishes about 80% once the leash is removed.

While heeling, he will lag terribly, go wide on the turns, forge ahead and sit in front of you when you stop. Sometimes, it is as if the unsnapping of a leash erases everything on the memory of a dogs mind.

On a sit-stay exercise, without the benefit of a leash, a dog suddenly realizes that his owner is powerless to do anything in the way of correction in the event of disobedience. Should the dog then bolt and runs, the command Come falls on seemingly deaf ears.

To begin off-leash work without making the proper transition would be the same as standing a baby on his two feet to walk before he had even had an opportunity to perfect his crawling technique. On the other hand, to begin making the transition before your dog has demonstrated absolute perfection and control in his work on leash would be a total waste of time.

If your dog needs constant correction while heeling on-leash, he will need the same constant correction while heeling without the benefit of the leash; but without a leash, how are you going to make a correction? Your dog should be able to perform all basic obedience exercises willingly, smartly, and with no opposition, before you undertake the transition to off-leash work.

If you have followed proper obedience training from the very beginning, you will now begin to realize why so much emphasis was placed on correct heeling techniques.

You were constantly reminded to keep a belly of slack in the leash at all times. Instructions were explicit that dogs were not to be allowed to forge ahead and tighten the leash. One of the purposes, of course, was for the dog to get used to feeling no connection between him and his owner. Of course, if the dog spends ten weeks being restrained by the leash while heeling, theres not a bond of affection thats strong enough to hold that dog in the proper heel position once the leash is off.

If your dog is proficient in the commands Come, Sit, Down, and Stay, but requires constant tugging on the leash while heeling, spend more time correcting that deficiency now while you still have the help of a six-foot leather training leash. Use it while you can.

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