Posts Tagged ‘Training’

The Golden Opportunity For Prime Puppy Training

Gemma | December 5th, 2006
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Brand new puppies literally absorb everything that passes through their senses. Whatever they see, hear, taste, smell, and touch, it all gets stored in their brains just like a computer.

Vast amounts of information are constantly being downloaded into a puppy’s mind about the people they come across, places they visit, and responses from all stimuli, whether it is from the form of communication it receives from people or the scary sounds of vehicles moving by outside.

Most new dog owners completely underestimate the intelligence of their younger puppies. Do not waste this remarkable learning time. Make good use of your dog’s capacity to learn and absorb information by teaching him good manners and healthy behaviors that will help guide the pup towards a civilized and respectful member of the family.

Concrete Evidence That Puppies Are Ready To Learn Early In Life

It wasn’t too long ago that most dog owners and dog trainers did not consider puppies to be trainable until they were well past five or six months old. However, that theory has been totally disproved.

We now know that puppies as young as two to three weeks of age can start learning due to their rapid brain development. EEG measurements of young puppies show that they have a marked increase in the height, or amplitude, of brain waves when they are awake. And from this point on, puppies acquire new skills at a rapid pace.

Bigger Brains

Studies have shown that a puppy’s early experiences can mold and shape the brain’s physiology. Puppies that are raised with lots of toys to play with and problems to solve, along with positive behavior training, ended up having a higher learning ability and amazingly enough, grew slightly more developed brains than similar puppies that were raised in limited learning environments.

Think about this information. Evidence clearly shows that the puppy which learns various training protocols at an early age, such as climbing stairs, meeting different people, etc. will be better developed both mentally and physically then the puppy who is confined to a crate or room all day long and only interacts with its family members, without being stimulated mentally.

What Does This Mean?

The good news is that this does not mean that your puppy should have total freedom and domination over the house to do what he or she wants. However, it does mean that your new dog should spend as much time as possible around you and other people as you go about your day.

Do not make the mistake of giving the pup too much freedom. This will encourage problems with behavior and when this behavior becomes a habit, it is increasingly harder to break these characteristics as your dog gets older. You have to let your puppy know that you are in charge and while he has free reign to express himself, a clear understanding of who is the boss (pack leader) must be constituted.

The Clicker Is Your Friend, Learn How To Use It

Gemma | December 2nd, 2006
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Remember that a dog functions in the here and now. The next second, its mind will be onto something else. You need to let your dog know exactly when its right and exactly when its wrong. If your timing is off, you may inadvertently be training just what you don’t want your dog to do!

This is one of the perfect reasons why using a clicker is so valuable when it comes to training your puppy. In fact, it is the preferred method of training by most professional dog trainers. A clicker is a tiny box with a metal tongue that makes a distinct click sound when pressed. This sound marks whatever behavior the animal performed at the precise time of the click, relaying a non-verbal, Thats it!

A treat immediately follows the click, reinforcing the behavior and encouraging the animal to do it again. Trainers who prefer not using a clicker generally substitute a short marker word, such as a clear yes, in lieu of the click, with all other factors the same.

Compared to corrective, force-type methods, this positive, reward-based approach to training builds a better overall relationship between you and your dog, which ultimately works because the dog wants to, not because it’s forced to.

Though the majority of trainers still employ some corrections, most don’t use any until the dog thoroughly understands a command, and even then on a limited basis. Novice handlers are hesitant to correct their dog for fear they’ll do it wrong or hurt the animal. They feel comfortable with positive methods, though, and thus are more likely to stick with training.

Quick Tip: Play The Name Game

At some point it becomes obvious that your puppy knows its name. However, many dogs become somewhat oblivious to their moniker because owners say it too frequently and too casually. Limit how often you say your dog’s name, saving it for times when a reward is forthcoming, assuring a positive association between hearing it and alerting it.

Just as with other basic training, there are games that encourage your dog to look your way upon hearing its name. One similar to the come-and-go game used for recalls involves throwing a treat out, allowing your puppy to get it, then calling its name right away. The instant it looks at you, mark the behavior with a click or word, such as yes, and immediately throw another treat. Within days it will start to come to you when you just say its name.

Puppy Training: How To Control Nipping & Biting

Gemma | November 24th, 2006
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One thing you can count on when bringing home a new puppy is the fact that he will nip and bite at your fingers during the first few days or weeks. This is perfectly normal and there is no reason to get alarmed that you may have purchased an aggressive dog. However, like any behavior you wish to change about your dog, you need to take a few steps so that he realizes that nipping is not something you as the pack leader want him to continue doing.

So how do you change this natural biting behavior that a little puppy has? Well the first thing to do is determine his age. This is important because puppies under the age of about 15 weeks need to be handled a little differently when it comes to mouthing and nipping than puppies over the age of 15 weeks.

If your puppy is brand new and younger than the 15 week period, the following tips can help you control his nipping behavior:

1. Start to show your puppy that you appreciate licking instead of nipping. When he changes his behavior and licks at your fingers or hands, be sure to praise him very lovingly. You can also encourage your puppy to lick more often by rubbing a little butter or coconut oil on your fingers. Let him know by soothing caresses that what he is doing is a good thing with each lick.

2. If your puppy is still biting or nipping at your fingers and he is just been fed and really doesn’t need anything in its mouth, set him aside with a nice bone for a little while. This is where a crate would come in handy. Place the dog in the crate for a short period of time so that he can divert his mouthing attention to his favorite bone. And it is very important not to yell at or scold your puppy along the way. You must create a positive learning environment.

3. Whenever the puppy bites down hard on your fingers or hand, use a disciplinary tone of voice and give a command such as “No No” while looking sharply into his eyes. Hold this firm demeanor for a few moments and then immediately change your body language and go back to whatever it is you’re doing before, and with a soothing approach. Doing this procedure a few times is enough for your puppy to learn the command and to stop biting down hard when he is commanded.

Do You Have The Heart To Discipline Your Puppy?

Gemma | November 22nd, 2006
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Training a new puppy can be a heartbreaking experience for just about anyone that has a conscience. This helpless and adorable little doggie is just staring up at your eyes, making you melt into a pile of love mush. And you think yourself, How in the world am I going to discipline this little guy, I just don’t have the heart!

Yes, I realize that your puppy is so cute and you just want to hug and kiss his little face all day long, but you must get a hold of yourself and learn to do the dirty deed when necessary.

What Is The Dirty Deed?

Discipline, plain and simple.

You have to muster up the strength to spritz your puppy’s nose with a water bottle when needed. You have to learn how to instill a little fear into your dog with loud and quick commands whenever he is doing something wrong. It’s all about tough love and I know firsthand just how hard it can be.

Don’t Get Me Wrong…

Loving your puppy is definitely a good thing and huge amounts of affection and caring should be given to your dog on a daily basis. However, you have to provide a balanced dose of tough love or else time will go by sooner than you think and your puppy will be two to three times his current size, and with behavior problems to match.

If you do not start taking the necessary steps to initiate training at a very young age, you will miss this golden opportunity to train and socialize your little puppy. Your dog will end up as a
problematic adolescent that will both destroy your home and your relationship altogether.

Consider the fact that in just one to two years time, your puppy will then be considered a teenager. And we all know that teenagers can be completely out of control if they were not properly disciplined in their younger years.

What Can You Do?

Many of you will not have the luxury to afford puppy training classes due to either finances or time. With busy schedules day and night, you have to do your best with the tools you have when it comes to training your puppy. It is imperative that you teach your dog how to behave during this prime early socialization period. The ages between 3 and 16 weeks is the optimum time for such training.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help guide your puppy training initiatives:

1. Am I establishing open lines of positive communication between the puppy and myself?
2. Am I supplying the puppy with the basic necessities of life; good nutrition, sound sleeping quarters, and a clean atmosphere?
3. Am I setting and maintaining consistent rules and boundaries?
4. Are good manners and basic dog etiquette a priority when spending time with my puppy?

Why Nipping Should Be Eradicated By The Age Of 15 Weeks

Gemma | November 18th, 2006
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Your puppy should not be displaying a biting or nipping problem once he reaches the age of 15 weeks or more. By that time you should have already administered proper training techniques and specific commands to get your puppy to stop his mouthing behavior. However, if this is still a problem or if you have adopted a puppy that’s a little older than 15 weeks and is new in the home, then the following tips can help you get your puppy to stop biting your hands and nipping at your fingers:

1. The first item on your checklist should be to immediately cease playing all puppy games that include roughhousing. I realize that part of the fun of having a new puppy is playing games like tug-of-war and wrestling, but unfortunately, if you’re faced with an animal that is still not over his mouthing period, you must sacrifice these types of activities. By playing these games, you are giving him the notion that he is allowed to roughhouse with you at any time he wants. And dogs to do this mostly through nipping and biting.

2. While it’s okay to allow some nipping from very young puppies, when your dog is older than 15 weeks, all forms of nipping should be totally discouraged. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a little nibble on your hand that seems to be harmless, give your dog a direct command to stop doing that and pull your arm away quickly.

3. If need be, apply a type of shock method to get him to stop biting. Keep in mind that I am not referring to anything that is harmful to your dog. A spray bottle of water fits the bill perfectly. Anything that you can quickly spritz at his body or head when he nibbles is enough to deter him from wanting to bite ever again. Most of the time, this technique is all a pet owner will need in order to eradicate their dog’s mouthing issue.

4. Last but not least, use firm and disciplinary commands when needed. This goes for puppies of all ages. There is nothing wrong with immediately giving a loud and firm “No Bite!” command if you feel a sudden nibble at your hand. However, there are two things to keep in mind here: Do not yell so loud that it scares your puppy, and second, avoid staring at your puppy’s eyes for a long period of time because he will interpret this as a confrontation.

Quick Tips To Prevent Puppy Jumping & Walking Issues

Gemma | November 16th, 2006
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Jumping Up

Jumping up is one of these puppy behaviors that some people encourage but others deplore. There’s no doubt that being greeted by a puppy jumping up to give you a hug or a sloppy kiss has its appeal, but when that puppy reaches adult size, suddenly the behavior is, well, not so appealing!

Before it gets out of hand, look into your crystal ball and decide whether this is a behavior you really want to encourage. It can be tolerable in a small dog, although you run the risk of snags in your stockings, but a puppy that will be the size of a half-grown bear cub can inadvertently cause injuries by knocking something over. Teaching a still small puppy to sit instead of to jump up for attention is a good way to prevent problems later.

When the pup looks like it’s about to jump up, tell it to sit, then bend down to give it attention or a treat. The puppy can’t sit and jump simultaneously, so if it learns to sit when told it won’t jump. With consistency, the puppy will learn to sit to get attention.

Walking Properly

And of course, there is the problem of teaching a new puppy how to walk properly. Early training can make walking a puppy much more enjoyable. It’s best to use lots of food or a favorite toy and back up training with tons of patience in order to teach puppies to walk right at your side without pulling on the leash.

I put no pressure on the leash, says Amy Harmon, long-time dog trainer and part owner of her southern California school for Obedience Training.

She goes on to say: In my right hand I hold a hot dog or a toy at my left thigh, where the heel position is, and say, ‘Puppy, heel.’ Off we go, even if it’s just 10 steps. I keep my right wrist at my thigh so the toy or hot dog is right where the puppy’s nose is, and if they’re not there, they correct themselves.

The bottom line here is that it is a heck of a lot easier to teach a puppy what you want it to do than to unteach bad habits in an older dog. Remember that the amount of time and effort you spend training a puppy will be repaid over its lifetime.

Preschool Puppy Training – Part 6

Gemma | November 7th, 2006
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Part 6 – Building A Strong Foundation

A ten-week-old puppy should not be expected to respond upon command like a pro, anymore than would a child being taught to add and subtract while attending preschool. A puppy has the ability to learn upon completion of the seventh week of his life. Since that ability is there, it is important that the things he does learn are constructive.

The more he learns though he may not perform well the more solid the foundation for future training will be. A child plays with building blocks and builds a house one block at a time until, finally, one block causes the house to fall. The next attempt at building that block house will result in a much firmer foundation than that of the preceding house.

Each time a puppy is taught a new word and given no opportunity to respond in any other manner except the proper one for that word a foundation block is being added. Later, as the puppy’s mind expands, the opportunity to disobey can be introduced; correction for that disobedience will put the pillars into place, thus providing a solid foundation for the dog’s future behavior.

Weeks 11 and 12 will conclude the puppy’s preschool kindergarten training, and should begin with you controlling the direction of your short daily walks. It is at this point that you will for the first time exert your direct influence regarding walking with the puppy. Up to this point, he’s had no form of absolute control placed over him, with the exception of your command come (wherein you gently pulled him to you and rewarded him with a tidbit treat).

Because he has not had absolute control placed over him during his daily walks, you may encounter some signs of attitude or a temper tantrum when you decide to go in a direction that the puppy just doesn’t happen to want to head towards. If he balks, backs up, or acts like a wild bull on the rodeo grounds, just stand calmly, holding firm to the leash, and let him get it out of his system.

Don’t make a big deal out of it. Simply let him throw his tantrum but do not give in and go in the direction that he wants to go. He’ll tire from his own antics in a very short period of time, especially when he sees that such behavior gets him nowhere.

When he finally calms down, speak lovingly and assuredly to him. Make him think that everything is going to be okay and that you’ve got things under control. Do a few come maneuvers as explained in previous puppy kindergarten tips and be sure to follow them with the treat reward. So far, the word come always culminated with something good, and you will be the recipient of benefits of this later on in your dog’s training.

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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.

Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4 | Read Part 5 | Read Part 6

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.

Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4 | Read Part 5 | Read Part 6

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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