Author Archives: Sydney

3 Reasons To Train Your Puppy

A dynamic view from below of a young woman jumps over a ditch with her sheepdog.

See Me, Hear Me

pull quote reads: Adored, coddled or handled without care, frequently misunderstood and uneducated.We all want to be heard and understood. I remember being at a workshop many years ago, can’t remember when or where, listening to Ian Dunbar (one of my heroes) tell a moving story about the sad fate of many dogs. In brief, I will recount it in my words. It’s the tale of many a puppy. Adored, coddled or handled without care, frequently misunderstood and uneducated. Moving into adolescence they become problematic, annoying and unmanageable. Perhaps from here delegated to the backyard. Problems gaining momentum until eventually the dog is surrendered to a shelter and who knows their fate from there. The odds are not looking good for this dog’s future. What if this dog had been educated early on and his folks knew how to help prepare, ‘prevent’ and/or deal with particular adolescent dog behavior?

An Early Education Helps

pull quote reads: a big part of my motivation is to help the new puppy folks work to prevent specific problematic, yet predictable behaviors.As a dog trainer who specializes in early education for puppies a big part of my motivation is to help the new puppy folks work to prevent specific problematic, yet predictable behaviors. Things like guarding behavior or not being comfortable having their nails trimmed. I teach my students what to pay attention to, how to set the dog up for success and how to do fun, simple exercises that may help prevent the behavior from developing. Another essential part of the process is that I help prepare people emotionally and theoretically that the adolescence stage is coming and with it particular behaviors. Adolescence begins when the dog reaches puberty and ends with social maturity. Different for all dogs, size matters, roughly talking 6 months through to about 3 years.

Growing Up Is Hard

pull quote reads: Top 3 reasons to train a puppy... the adolescent dog, the adolescent dog, the adolescent dog.It is normal that your adolescent dog jumps, bites, and seems to have lost some of the behaviors you had previously thought were well established. There are lots of changes going on during this stage of development. Some you can measure, Such as adult teeth, others are not visible, hormones and brain development to name two. There are fear periods that the dog goes through as well, one or more coinciding with the adolescent stage of development. All of this combined can make for a trying time for your pup and for you.

Adolescent Lab stealing a cookie from the kitchen counter top

4 Tips To Help You Navigate Adolescence With Your Pup

Structure. Even though bathroom training might seem perfected don’t rush ahead of yourself and give your puppy too much freedom too soon. Structure in the form of crates and gates remains a helpful strategy for the adolescent dog.

Light Hearted Approach. Avoid showdowns. Keep training moving forward with a playful, fun tempo. Concentrate on moves your dog enjoys. Targeting behaviors – such as ‘go to your mat’, targeting your hand with their nose or using a paw to target different objects, eye contact, tug and short recalls on leash are all good bets.

Work-to-eat-toys and lots of games. Enriching opportunities for your dog to get his ‘dogginess on’ should be a priority. Experiment with dog puzzles, snuffle mats, hide and seek games and food-stuffed toys.

Calming massage and gentle handling. Calm voice, calm environment. While your dog is stretched out and relaxed try gently running your hand from nose to tail. There are lots of examples of dog massage you can explore on the Internet. Interacting with your dog this way will promote calm, comfort and bonding.

The top three reasons to train your puppy… the adolescent dog, the adolescent dog, the adolescent dog. This piece is dedicated to all the dogs that got the short end of the stick.

 

Make A Habit of It

A woman walks barefoot along the beach with a beagle puppy walking at her side, looking up at her

 

Your good habits are what will determine your new pup’s behavior.

Little things that you do on a regular basis can make a marked difference as the big picture unfolds.

pull quote that says: We often don’t see the benefit or the fallout from our choices until later.

We often don’t see the benefit or the fallout from our choices until later. If you handle your pup’s nails every Wednesday and Friday, trim them every Sunday, use high value food when you do, let him remain standing while doing it versus holding him, use a skid proof mat, a helper and have good lighting. Trimming your dog’s nails will not be a chore for you or your dog. There is something to be said for good habits!

 

Knowing that the habits we put in place ‘now’ will help ensure a happier stress free ‘later on’ is often not enough motivation. Lets look at some simple things you can do to set yourself up for success with these helpful habit-building tips.

Crate

We all want our pups to be calm and settled in the chosen area of confinement. Mine is usually a crate. This happens by consistently using it, ensuring the puppy is entertained when inside, and always working to build a positive association with it.

If you have a multi-storied house you could have crates in multiple spots. When I raise a pup I have crates on every floor. No matter where we are if the puppy needs a quick break, or I do, there is always one near by. This way I am setting myself up to succeed.

When I crate a puppy I always want to make sure they are going in with some tasty treats. Keep jars of treats on top of your crate of near by so that every time the pup goes in you have your treats handy to toss in ahead of him.

 

Train

When you do training sessions with your pup they should be short, fast and fun. pull quote: When you do training sessions with your pup they should be short, fast and fun.

Play some fun music while you do a training session with your pup (no headphones please). Make it something you love and something up beat, when the song is over the session is over. You got some training in, maybe a little dancing, you feel happy and your pup does too.

If you find that you end up not setting enough time aside to get to the practice part of training try doing the training right before something that you are consistently doing with you pup. For example, if you bring the pup on the couch to cuddle while you watch your favorite show. Before each cuddle session do a 3-minute training session.

Walk

We need to take treats out on walks and socialization expeditions. This is an absolute must. Forgetting treat bags at home shouldn’t be an option. No one ever wants to be caught out and about with out a poo bag so stash your poo bags in a front compartment of your treat bag. This way you won’t leave home without either.

Gear On pull quote: Hang your treat pouch with your leash or keep a jar of treats where you keep your gear.

I see a lot of pup’s gradually become stressed when having gear put on. They become uncomfortable with the sound or sight of their harness or collar.

Hang your treat pouch with your leash or keep a jar of treats where you keep your gear. This way you will see it when you are putting your pup’s gear on. Always pair the harness or collar going on with food. This helps prevent the pup from developing an unpleasant association with this process.

Build It And Practice

A way to help build good habits is to create an environment or a routine that causes you to think or act in a particular way. The behavior it prompts will make it easy for you to practice something helpful with your puppy. Hence you start to create ‘good training habits’. The by-product of this is a happy, well trained, stress free pup.

Use these techniques and think about what habits you want to build and how you can build them. We would love you to share your ‘happy pup, habit building tips’ with us.

 

puppies looking up at words that say “the secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine”

The Magic Lives In The Details 

A young jack russell puppy’s head has burst through the white paper on the left of the page. He is facing the camera. On the left is text which reads: Did you know that being present is a key component of good training?

Hello! Is Anyone Home?

We could take many lessons from dogs. How about the lesson on being present? They love it when you pay attention to them. Did you know this is a key component of good training?

The difference between a great training session and mediocre one is the attention to detail. Mental presence helps create a connection with your dog. The magic will start to happen once you and your dog maintain eye contact with each other during your sessions and you are both equally engaged in the process of working together. This is good stuff!

If you are taking the time to educate your dog you may just as well strive to make it the best education you can offer. Let’s look at what other components of training are worth understanding and paying attention to.

It Is The Journey Not The Destination

When you are teaching something new or polishing up an existing behavior it is important to stay focused on the process rather than the end result. This is not to say that a goal is not important but the reality is it will take some steps to achieve that goal. Stay focused on the steps. This makes for a great training session.

 

Same puppy ripping through the white paper on screen, This time the text say: Are your training sessions shot, fast paced and fun?

Reinforcement Lingo

A high rate of reinforcement means a lot of rewarded repetitions in a short period of time. This is one of the most valuable things you can strive to do while working with your pup.

I teach my students a game called the 1-Minute Sit Sprint. What it does is gives an accurate account of how many repetitions can be done within the span of one minute. Aim for 10 to 15 rewarded repetitions of sit within one minute. This is a high rate of reinforcement. It will help your dog stay in the game and learn faster. You can teach your pup how to sit playing this game or use it to sharpen his moves and yours too.

Set a timer for one minute, count out 15 soft, tiny treats that your dog loves. Put yourself on the clock. Ask your pup to sit, reinforce the sit with the treat, release , and repeat. This game gives you a clear goal and important information about your training skills. It is a great warm-up before a walk or training session. Playing this game regularly will improve your training skills as well as your pup’s sit and attention.

A strong history of reinforcement translated means your puppy has been rewarded many times for a particular behavior. This means the likelihood of your pup repeating that behavior is increased. Let’s look at the example of calling your puppy to come. If you call your puppy to come 20 times in a fun, fast paced training session (set a timer for three minutes, and each time pay large) and you do this a few times per day you are creating a history of reinforcement with the behavior associated with the word ‘come’.

Conversely if you use the word ‘come’ recklessly and don’t reinforce each time you call you are decreasing the probability your dog will always come when you call. Who wants a pup who won’t come-a-running when called? No one, that’s who!

Timing of your reinforcement is your ability to get the goods to your puppy at the right moment. This should be just a few seconds after the desired behavior. Don’t be slow and sloppy with your treat delivery. Have a treat pouch or your treats easily accessible on a near by table or shelf.

Om

Dogs are always paying close attention to our body language and movement. When you are not reinforcing/rewarding with treats keep your hands quiet in front of you at belly button, side of hips or chest.

Economy of words is a worthwhile effort. We are chatty ones. All this gabbing can get confusing and distracting for dogs. If we have to keep asking for a behavior such as sit or down the pup needs more training. No big deal, we all need to keep working at things. It is a fun game to try and communicate with a dog without speaking. Try just using your body or hand signals. Can you get your dog to follow you, sit or lie down without talking?

Let’s Get Busy

Don’t forget to proof the behavior around distractions and train in different environments. Train in the places and situations you want your pup to be able to perform the behaviors.

Keep your sessions short, fast paced and fun. For a young puppy one to three minute sessions are plenty.

The Origin of Puppy

Please keep your expectations and goals realistic. A new puppy is not going to behave the same as a well-trained adult dog. Focus on ‘puppy- friendly’  moves. Create a solid, thoughtfully constructed base to build on.

 

Minding Your Pees and Poos

wire haired dachshund puppy lies facing the camera while chewing on a roll of toilet paper

When you learn to toss a ball in the air you also learn to catch it. They go together the same way confinement training and bathroom training go hand in hand. You teach them simultaneously.

Hmmm, What came first, the chicken or the egg?

The first thing most new puppy parents face is teaching the pup where to go to pee and poo. Yes there is some sleep deprivation and countless trips outside, but teaching your puppy this habit should not be a complicated task. It does however require that you have a plan. You also must realize that it takes time and attention to detail.

To ensure success of your pup’s pee and poo habits a method of confinement is needed.

Confinement is a crate, an exercise pen or a gate, something that prevents the puppy from having total freedom in your house. My preference for bathroom training purposes is a crate.

A loose puppy needs 100% supervision; this alone makes a crate an indispensable tool. In addition to bathroom training, confinement provides the important structure and boundaries a puppy needs. It prevents the puppy from developing inappropriate chewing preferences, it provides a quiet respite for a puppy resulting in a calmer more focused pup and it provides you with down time.

A loose pup with no supervision will wreak havoc on your life. They will chew, poo, bite, destroy and maybe make you cry. I get calls all the time from stressed out puppy parents. The household has been disrupted and a feeling of defeat is setting in. Please don’t be discouraged. Success is around the corner.

The key to proper crate training is that you have to crate the pup while you are at home and awake, not just when you leave or go to sleep. The latter can lead to a pup hating the crate because it predicts you are going to disappear.

The Slippery Slope of Crate Guilt

If you are suffering from crate guilt please try to get over it. Spend that energy on teaching the pup that the crate is a great place to be. The half-hearted approach to using a crate may result in more resistance and unnecessary stress that can be avoided if you stick to a game plan. Early in the crate training you may experience crying and barking from your puppy, this is natural, the majority of puppies get over this quickly. If the first time the puppy is crated is when you bring him home, there is going to be some stress.

Play Games

Play games multiple times per day that help make the crate more attractive to the puppy.

Toss The Treat
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  • Toss a treat in the crate and say ‘go in‘.
  • Ask the puppy to ‘come out’.
  • Repeat.
  • Do this until your timer goes off.
Jackpot
  • Hide a jackpot such as a raw frozen bone or a delicious stuffed toy in the back of the crate.
  • Toss a treat in.
  • When the pup finds the jackpot let him gnaw at it for the count of 10.
  • Gently bring him out and close the door to the crate preventing him access to the jackpot..
  • Count to 10 again.
  • Open the door and allow access.
  • Repeat.

You Need A Strategy

Create a plan for bathroom training your puppy. Your success depends on you and your actions not the puppy.

The simple version goes like this; the puppy has every opportunity to ‘go’ outside and no opportunity to ‘go’ inside. You reinforce the behavior you want with a tiny tasty treat and a bit of free time. You stay the course. The pup’s bathroom habit will start to become reliable after about 3 to 4 months of your continued good work. This is a ballpark figure based on how long it takes for the good habit to form.

People and puppies need not go through unnecessary turmoil and strife when it comes to confinement and bathroom training. With consistency and attention to the process you and your puppy will quickly fall into a rhythm. Soon you will be sleeping through the night again. You will have a calm, crate-trained dog with excellent bathroom habits.

Use This Tip List to Help You Devise and Stick To A Plan

  1. Make a plan and stick to the plan.
  2. Confinement of some sort is key.
  3. Go outside or to the spot of choice, on leash.
  4. Stand relatively still.
  5. Use a ‘key phrase, such as ‘show me’ or ‘go pee’.
  6. Stay outside for approximately 3 – 5 minutes.
  7. Reward the puppy for ‘going’ with food and a bit of free time.
  8. If he doesn’t ‘go’, he should go back in the crate to avoid any accident.
  9. Offer another opportunity a short time later
  10. Remember it will take 3-4 months for a habit to form.
  11. Sleep interruption is a real thing. Expect to get up in the middle of the night to take your puppy outside for the first few weeks.
  12. Go outside with pup every time he comes out of the crate
  13. Go outside with pup before he goes back inside the crate.
  14. If it feels like you are going outside all the time, you are doing it right.
  15. Use an enzymatic cleaner inside the house to clean up accidents.

The Benefits of Working With A Dog Trainer

Shouts from the rooftops ring out across the land. We’re getting a puppy! Exciting times to be sure.

The time to call the dog trainer is before the new addition comes home. A good coach will help you be ready and thinking about the right things to focus on from day one.

Many dog trainers offer free consultations to potential students. Why not take advantage of such an offer? You will get a sense of her or his style. You can ask questions. You will most likely learn something too.

Avoid stress that comes from being unaware of what to expect.

Woman let's out joyful whoop! While puppy lays on his back while pawing at an abacus

 

Raising a puppy has its share of joys and challenges. Let’s look at some of the benefits of working with a dog trainer from the get go.

4 Reasons

  1. A good trainer will help keep you focused on the fundamentals of training. They will teach you the correct order of things. Taking into account the pup’s age, capabilities and attention span. Often new puppy parents want to teach the pup to walk on a leash or stay. These are not ‘puppy friendly’ behaviors. Start with the base layers and work towards more complex behaviors. This helps ensure success for both puppy and human. Your trainer will help you set goals and reach them.
  2. Working with a dog trainer will add a motivation factor. This motivation factor will help ensure the important early work gets done. There is an immense amount of valuable information to glean from a trusted educator. Participating in a weekly class and doing your homework will keep you and the new pup moving along. They will keep you working at a pace that is realistic and fulfilling. This will help you reach your goals. The first year is the meaty stuff. The foundation that you put in place will help ensure you have a happy, well-adjusted pup for years to come.
  3. Even if you have raised a pup in the past, working with someone the next time around is always a good idea. Certified trainers must take part in continued education. This keeps them fresh and current in the ever-growing body of work surrounding pet dogs. If you are working with one of these folks you will enjoy this knowledge too.
  4. Your trainer is your sounding board, a trusted ally. Raising a puppy can be emotional. You can count on your coach to be there for you when you are feeling overwhelmed. You can also count on them to be cheering for you. They will celebrate your achievements right along with you.

Win Win

There is no down side. Don’t wait until your puppy is home and you are feeling the pressure. Do your homework, audit some classes and interview some trainers, book your space. Take advantage of all the wonderful information a good trainer has to share with you. This will enhance life for your pup and for you.