Author Archives: Sydney

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.

5 Ways You May Be Stressing Out Your Puppy

A woman on the left looks confused while a husky puppy on the right looks directly at the camera

1. Not providing enough structure.

Structure in the form of a crate, exercise pen, baby-gate or leash is a must for a new puppy. You pull quote: “There is a big difference in something the puppy loves, versus something you think the pup should love.”can not expect him to make the ‘right’ choices until teaching him what they look like. That is way too much responsibility to pile on a pup. Too much freedom equals chaos. Neglecting to provide a calm and contained environment leads to negative side effects. A handful of undesirable behaviours would be: destructive chewing, bathroom accidents and biting. It is of no service to a puppy to have too much freedom. Little by little teach your pup what you expect of him and how he can succeed. Do this and as he matures he will be able to handle longer stretches of freedom. Short cuts make for long journeys. Avoid having to do damage control to fix problem behaviours. Think prevent over cure.

2. Not using food to teach, motivate and reinforce.

Rewarding your puppy with food right after he does something you like will help ensure he does it again. It is a win-win situation. Using food to educate your pup is a no brainer. It keeps the learner (your pup) engaged, motivated and happy. Inadequate pay and poor working conditions lead to stress and unhappiness. Learn how to teach your puppy using food.

3. Expecting too much too soon.

Polite walking and learning how to stay are not puppy friendly moves. This is like expecting a pull quote: “Inadequate pay and poor working conditions lead to stress and unhappiness.”toddler to do high-level math problems. Look at the education of a pup as a series of layers. Time sensitive considerations like socialization and early prevention should get special attention. Teach the other behaviours in a thoughtful and strategic way, building on one another. Create a positive association with the learning process. Keep your goals and expectations realistic. This sets your dog and you up to succeed. Remember to take your pup’s age, attention span and the quality of your efforts into account.

4. Not providing appropriate things to chew.

Puppies bite and chew. When we give a puppy stuffed animals or ropes to chew on we are not practicing best chewing methods. They need to gnaw appropriate chews and animal bits that they love. They need to learn what is okay to gnaw on. These are things you must stay involved with. Provide the chews, teach the pup, and manage the chews. There is a big difference in something the pup loves, versus something you think the pup should love. Learning a pup’s preferences is essential. It goes far beyond tossing a dog a bone.

5. Not learning to speak dog.

Learn what your puppy is communicating. A dog uses his whole body. The secret life of dogs should not be a secret to anyone who wants to live peacefully with this creature. They have a have a whole other agenda. It makes for a lot of unpleasantness for a dog if we do not gain an understanding of their species-specific ways. Use compassion and the desire to understand what makes your dog tick. This will help create a heartfelt connection.

The fantastic Lili Chin has provided the following infographic on dog body language for all of us to use. Thank you Lili Chin.

Doggie Language starring Boogie the Boston Terrier

Illustration: Lili Chin www.doggiedrawings.net