Category Archives: Junior Obedience

Often when people talk about training a dog, everything gets lumped into the same “catch all” category. For instance, it is assumed that socialization is part of obedience training. The two do go hand in hand, but are in fact separate issues. Others think of obedience training as something that you do to get the dog to “perform,” so that it can do “tricks.”

In fact, obedience refers to your dog’s ability to follow the instructions of its handler. Ideally you, as your dog’s handler, should be able to request that your dog sit or down (lie down), walk without yanking or pulling on the leash, come when called, or drop it when asked.

I Sit. You Sit.

Pomeranian weaves in between lady’s legs as she walks toward the camera. Dog is looking up at the woman.

Watch Me Move

Body language is the subtext for us humans but for our pups, it is their first language. They take their cues from other dog’s body postures and subtle movements as well as being masters at watching people move.

We can inadvertently appear threatening to a dog by the way we move or approach them. Even our own dogs can get weirded out by our strange movement if for example we have a big coat, strange hat or move with a different gait then we usually do. Check out the scary monster game for more on this.

The flip side of being aware of how our posture is perceived by a dog is you understanding what your dog is communicating with his body posture.

pull quote says: Since dogs keenly watch us, we can communicate things to them without ever needing to speak at allCheck out this infographic by the wonderful Lili Chin. Take time to observe your pup as you go through the day and are in different situations. Can you tell what they are communicating or how they are feeling?

Body postures that let you know your dog is feeling happy and relaxed are a loose wiggly body or a play bow. Then there are the less apparent cues to watch for that might indicate stress such as head turns, lip licking, wide eyes or pinned ears.

Since dogs keenly watch us, we can communicate things to them without ever needing to speak at all.

Let’s look at some fun ways to use your pup’s natural inclination to watch you and learn how we can use our movement as cues to the dog to perform a behavior such as sit or lie down.

Marvelous Moves

Settle On The Go (or at home)

This is an excellent skill for any dog. When you sit, it’s their cue to settle. More and more dogs are getting to head to the office with their people. How great is it to have a meeting savvy dog.

Prerequisite Moves

Your pup needs a solid down on a verbal cue or hand signal for this. Some duration on a ‘settle’ cue is a plus too. Of course, this is always something that can be a work-in-progress. More motivation for you to work at your foundation moves with this as a game plan for refining them as your puppy is able.

How do you teach it?

Do multiple repetitions of approaching a chair and as you are bending to sit cue your puppy to down. Reward the dog with three to five treats in rapid succession.

With a treat right against the pup’s nose so they can smell it, stand up and lure the puppy out of the down position. Take a few steps away, do a U-turn and return to the same spot and repeat.

Do multiple repetitions for 1 to 3-minute training sessions.

Fade the verbal cue as your dog starts to get the idea.

Next, add some duration to the down. You are on your way to a pup who chills when you sit down for a bite, a meeting, or whatever brings you to your seat.

A Hand On The Door Knob Is Your Pup’s Cue To Sit and Wait For What Happens Next.

Teaching your puppy to hold his sit as you open the door is helpful in preventing door crowding, jumping on people and of course door dashing. Front door etiquette is a favorite of mine to teach, this is one of the beautiful components of it.

Prerequisite Moves

A nice solid sit around moderate distractions is helpful. Impulse control exercises where the pup has learned to look away or wait calmly for a reward.

How do you teach it?

This is a two-parter – first, you train the auto sit, next you teach the pup to hold the sit as the door opens.

Part One

Begin by having your puppy on a leash and approaching a door.

As you put your hand on the doorknob ask your puppy to sit.

Reward the puppy for sitting.

Lure the puppy away by placing a treat right against his nose – it should be like a magnet in that the pup’s nose does not leave your hand as he is sniffing the treat.

Do a U-turn and return to the spot and repeat.

Continue practicing in short sessions with multiple repetitions until the puppy is sitting on his own as your hand moves toward the doorknob.

Fade out the verbal cue so a hand on the doorknob is all that is needed for cueing the pup to sit.

Part Two

Next, you will teach the ‘hold the sit’ behavior.

This stage requires some good impulse control on your pup’s part so be sure that you have practiced ‘leave it’ or some other good impulse control games beforehand with your puppy. This is helpful for keeping the pup out from underfoot in the kitchen. Out of the dishwasher. Safe from things that drop and helps prevent the dreaded counter surfing.

For this part of the lesson don’t worry about the pup sitting when your hand goes to the doorknob. Focus on one piece at a time. Get both steps smooth. Then put them together.

With your puppy on a leash in the sit position slowly start to open the door.

If the puppy gets up, close the door. Reposition in the sit and try again. The signal to the puppy that we want him to hold the sit is the door closing. We stay quiet and merely control what the door does. Not what the puppy does. The pup figures this part out.

If your puppy holds the sit reward him with a delicious high-value treat and repeat. Sometimes you can also pay him with the opportunity to go through the door with a verbal release such as ‘Okay.’

Lots of different things happen at the door. People come and go, and sometimes the pup stays or goes. Teach your puppy that an open door is not always a predictor of ‘going through it.’ But is a predictor of a big reward.

Refrigerator Door Opens – Pup Heads To A Mat To Settle or Just Outside of Kitchen.

This is helpful for keeping the pup out from underfoot in the kitchen. Out of the dishwasher. Safe from things that drop and helps prevent the dreaded counter surfing.

Prerequisite Moves

Settle on a mat with some duration in place.

How do you teach it?

Start with a mat just outside the kitchen.

Do several warm-ups of just asking the dog to go to his mat.

Reward!

Next, as you put your hand on the refrigerator door cue the pup to go to his mat.

Keep practicing until the dog heads to the mat as you are moving toward the refrigerator.

Fade the verbal cue.

Keep on paying large.

Next, you will add distractions such as washing a plate, opening a drawer or loading the dishwasher.

Keep rewarding the pup for holding his position on the mat as you move about the kitchen.

pull quote says: Can you tell what they are communicating or how they are feeling?That Pup’s Got Moves

The beauty of this type of training is that it takes a lot of pressure off of you and the dog. Do remember to continue to reward the dog for their excellent behavior. The sky is the limit in training. Anything you do on a regular basis can become a cue to your dog about what it is you want him to do at the same time. Get creative, have fun.

Happy Training.

Watch Out For Problem Patterns

puppy pulling back while on leash

Prevent – It’s a thing

Brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist helps us maintain healthy teeth and prevent gum disease. If we don’t brush our teeth one night we won’t suffer the next day. However complications may come later on in our life if we miss years of proper oral hygiene.

This is the way it rolls. We make choices now to prevent problems later. The same goes for our dogs. By making certain choices early in their lives we will help prevent some behaviors from becoming problematic down the road.

Safe Spot Keeps Spot Safe

The safe spot (confinement with a crate or gate) and structure that you provide early on will go a long way to help prevent annoying habits from developing. For example, a puppy with structure will not have the opportunity to door dash, counter surf, jump on guests or chase the kids. Problems prevented! As the pup matures his propensity for many of these behaviors will mellow. You have raised a calm, well-mannered adult dog which is a result of your early efforts of training and management. Job well done!

Let’s look at some other common problem patterns and how to prevent them.

Puppy Hoover

Outside on walks the puppy picks up trash, sticks, rocks and other random debris. We yell ‘NO!’ and grab for the thing in their mouth.

What can develop is intense guarding of objects, running away from you and sometimes growling and or biting you.

Work to prevent this behavior by first understanding that a puppy explores the world with his mouth. Therefore he is always going to be interested in snuffling around on the ground, grabbing things and sometimes eating them. Determine a ‘what’s safe’ and ‘what’s dangerous’ list. Monitor surrounding areas for the ‘dangerous items’. Avoid them or pick them up before the puppy has the opportunity.  Trade or ignore ‘non- dangerous’ items because grabbing for them may lead to resource guarding.

If the pup is doing this inside you need to examine the amount of free, unattended time he has. Be more organized about what is left out for the pup to grab. While it might be a natural reaction to yell and grab for a pup when he picks something up try not to do it since this type of reaction will always backfire on you. Be prepared for the behavior and manage it well.

Are You A Grabby McGrabby Pants?

You can create real problems for yourself as well as stress on the pup with thoughtless handling. A quick swoop to lift him can be starting. A reach for the little one to  put on ‘gear’ like a harness or a leash may seem innocent to you but your pup might feel quite put out by the experience.

Slowly but surely you start to see a puppy that runs away from you when you reach for him.Pull quote: “The result will be a puppy who eagerly participates in getting ready rather than a puppy who runs away.”

A more mindful approach to begin interactions with your pup may look like this. Let the pup come to you and always reward him. Do this with a body posture cue. With a treat in your right hand bend down and put your right hand low, close to or right against your right ankle. When the puppy comes over for the treat place your left arm over the pup and under his belly and feed him the treat as you lift.

The Information Cuepull quote: “Include an ‘information cue’ for the pup by saying the word ‘lift’ as you pick him up.”

Include an ‘information cue’ for the pup by saying the word ‘lift’ as you pick him up. Your body posture becomes a cue for him to come over for the ‘lift’. Always reinforcing this movement with a pup will go a long way to prevent keep away, deke away behavior. Do mini training sessions of multiple reps (3 to 5) of bending, lifting and treating because being picked up by their person shouldn’t be a stressful experience for any pup.Pull quote: “The same type of training can be used to get gear on.”

The same type of training can be used to get gear on. Kneel down or sit on the floor when you are putting on a harness, collar or leash and pair it with a treat. A fun game is to have the collar done up loose enough that the pup can poke his head through. You might lure it through to start. Reward every time, then give it a word like ‘head in’ or ‘gear on’. The result will be a puppy who eagerly participates in getting ready rather than a puppy who runs away.

Social Butterfly

Lots of puppies are is very eager to meet dogs and people they pass on the street. They regularly pull towards new people or dogs and are permitted to meet them sometimes and not other times. However this pattern inadvertently makes the pulling stronger and the doggie emotions run higher.

This pattern of meeting and greeting starts to produce a pup that stops, pulls towards or barks at every person and dog they see on the sidewalk.

Think about alternatives to this style of meeting and greeting. I am not a fan of dog-to-dog Pull quote: “Use other dogs and people as a training opportunity to get your puppy to tune into you.”meetings on leash because it can often lead to problems. If it must happen keep it short. A sniff and move on. Three seconds should do it. Good puppy play can’t happen on leash therefore why allow it? Leashes get tangled, this could make a puppy panicked and in general it is not best practice. Small puppy socialization classes with carefully monitored puppy playtime and curated play dates with selected pups or known friendly adult dogs are my picks for puppy play opportunities.

While on leash be selective about the people and other dogs your puppy is going to meet.  Use other dogs and people as a training opportunity to get your puppy to tune into you. Meet select people for socialization purposes. Everyone does love a new puppy so you must use this to your benefit instead of the detriment of your pup’s behavior?

Prevent Problem Patterns

A keen eye and attention to detail is a winning combination in the thick of puppy raising. Your prevention strategy makes a difference. Annoying or dangerous habits become much less of an option or a challenge. Be on the look out for problem patterns and “cut-em” off at the pass. Happy puppy raising.

3 Simple Games to Play on The Move

A white and black puppy is staring upwards while standing between and woman’s legs, with it's paws on her feet. Clearing looking up at her face.

Moves on the go!

Teach your puppy watch, touch and a rock solid recall and hone these moves as you go on outings together. All of these behaviours have something in common. They reorient the pup back to you. This is helpful for building attention or asking for attention from your dog when you need it. On the go is a perfect time to perfect your pup’s moves. You have built-in distractions from mild, moderate and more. You can decide when and where your pup is ready for practice.

Adventures that present you with opportunities to play these games may range from hikes, walks in your hood, or errands in your hood while you are waiting with your pup for your shopping partner to return, romping on the beach, long-line park play or even while you are waiting for the light to change on a city street corner.

As with all of the behaviors you teach your pup, start at home in a distraction free zone, add distractions then take it on the road.

These are simple, fun, practical moves. With your pup proficient in these behaviors you will come to rely on them over and over again in lots of situations.

Watch

What’s not to love about the ability to get your pup to give you attention when you ask? There are so many situations where this cue will come in handy. Once you’ve got your dog’s attention that is when you are able to communicate in a clear way. You many want to get your pup to move in a different direction, to get him to look away from trash on the street, to pay attention to some training or a game or just for fun and a chance to pay him.

The goal behaviour is that your pup looks at your face, into your eyes, when you cue him to watch.

How to Teach Watch

1.  Use a clicker or verbal marker.

2.  Count out 30 treats. (soft, tiny and yummy to your pup)

Tip

Use a counter, table or ledge to keep your treats on. Between treats keep your hands still, at your belly button or on your lap, so your pup doesn’t get distracted and focus on your hands. We want him looking into your eyes.

3.  Set a timer for 2 minutes.

4   When your pup looks at you click and treat or say ‘Yes’ or ‘Good’ and treat.

5.  Practice this a few times per day

6.  When your pup is consistently looking at you add a verbal cue such as ‘watch’ or ‘look’ just before he looks up.

Tips

For a tiny pup it is sometimes easier to start this game while you are sitting on the floor.

If your pup isn’t offering you the behavior you can prompt him with a cluck or a kissing sound for a couple of repetitions to get the behavior started.

7.  Add distractions. Keep in mind you want your pup to look at you no matter what the distraction. When you are adding distractions go slow and steady. Build on previous successes.

Tip – distraction ideas

•  Stand with your arms open wide and wiggle your fingers.

•  Stand with your foot on a squeaky toy, give it one little squeak.

•  Build towards repetitive squeaks.

•  Have someone walk through the room.

•  Have someone bounce a ball from a safe distance away.

When you feel like the behavior is on cue with your distractions added it’s time to practice in public.

 

On the left a lab puppy is sitting facing a woman on the right. The labrador has his right paw up in the air touching the woman's right hand which is also coming out to meet his paw. Basically they are high fiving each other.

Touch

Teaching your pup to touch your hand with his nose is helpful for many reasons. It gives you a way to move the pup around hands-free (as in you don’t have to manhandle your dog into position). It can help redirect your puppy back to you. You can use your hand as a target to teach your dog how to sit, down and stand. You can use it to teach your pup to greet new people by having him touch the back of a person’s hand, very helpful for shy dogs and this can help redirect a jumping puppy. Your vet will be glad because it can come in handy there as well. You can practice recall between two people having the dog target each person’s hand. It is the foundation behaviour for more advanced targeting behaviours. It is fun.

The goal behaviour is that your pup touches the palm of your open hand with his nose when you ask him to ‘touch’.

How to Teach Touch

1.  Using a clicker or verbal marker

2.  Count out 30 treats.

3.  Set a timer for 2 minutes.

4.  Present your open hand, with your palm facing the pup, directly in front of the pup’s nose. Just a short distance of even a half-inch away from the pup’s nose for the first few repetitions.

5.  The dog’s natural inclination will be to sniff your hand.

6.  Click and treat or say ‘Good’ or ‘Yes’ and treat.

7.  As your pup progresses move your hand a little to the right and to the left.

8.  Gradually increase the distance you present your hand from.

9.  When your puppy is reliably touching your open palm on cue add your verbal cue ‘touch’.

10.    Try getting the pup to follow your open hand.

11.    Add some distractions.

12.    With the behavior on cue around your distractions it’s time to practice in public.

Recall

The benefits of being able to call your dog are many. A reliable recall is indispensable. There are some important factors to keep in mind when you are teaching your puppy to come on cue every time you call. Two of these considerations are to only call your puppy when you know they will, for certain, come to you. Always reinforce your puppy for coming. This means call them and give them what they love. This could be really good food or a quick round of their favourite game.

Calling your pup to come while on leash or a long line is practical, fun and effective. You will be confident that he will come since he is on leash. You are present ‘in the zone’ so you will be prepared with appropriate DOGPAY*, whatever that looks like for your pup. For recall it should be triple scale! If you are on a 6-foot leash you will be speedy so the amount of repetitions and opportunities to reinforce are plentiful. This is a winning combination for your pup’s education.

Playing ‘come to me’ on Leash or Long Line

1.  Using a clicker or verbal marker.

2.  Move to the end of your leash.

3.  Call your puppy to come.

4.  When he gets to you click and treat or say ‘Yes’ or ‘Good’ and treat.

5.  Repeat often.

Variations of this Game

One: Move to the end of your leash, call your puppy to come, as he gets there toss the treat past you and move off in the opposite direction.

Repeat.

Two: Move to the end of your leash, call your puppy to come, toss a handful of treats into the grass and your pup gets reinforced with a fun round a find it.

Run, Call, Reinforce

A fun game is to run a few steps, call your pup and treat. You can do 10 repetitions of this in a really short period of time. Lots of repetitions in a short period of time helps your puppy learn new behaviours more quickly. Lots of repetitions also mean lots of reinforcement, which is another factor in how quickly pup learns.

This is exactly what it sounds like. You run just a few steps, call your pup in an excited happy voice, reinforce quickly with food and or a game of tug.

Repeat.

The beauty of this game is the chase followed by the fast DOGPAY*. It is doubly reinforcing for your pup.

Tips

If your pup won’t come to you try kneeling down or use a squeaky toy, or make a kissing sound.

Is your puppy stressed? Is the distraction level too high?

Is your DOGPAY* high enough for this job?

Sometimes just a simple back and forth between you and your pup can be grounding and stress reducing for one or both of you. Having the ability to go into a simple game mode in a time of stress can change the emotions back to a place of calm.

These are just a few examples of simple, fast games you can play with your puppy while you are out and about. The main objective here is that you teach and PLAY; that your time spent together out and about is dynamic, interesting and creative. If you take the time to teach your puppy fun and useful things to do you will have a beautiful connection and a line of communication that is unbeatable. Get creative; make up your own games. We would love to hear about how you are teaching your puppy to be with you while you are out and about.

*DOGPAY is the food, treat or other positive reinforcement you award your dog with for their attention and efforts. Remember, dogs don’t work for free.

Everyday Moves – Life Beyond The Classroom

 

“Lately I have been calling behaviours like sit, lie down, come, loose leash walking, leave it and off ‘Everyday Moves’ ”

 

The more I learn, grow and evolve in my field, the more I dislike the word ‘obedience’. It denotes subordination. Our dogs don’t owe us, if anything we owe them. I think a solid education taught without force and with plenty of positive reinforcement would be a great starting point.

Lately I have been calling behaviors like sit, lie down, come, loose leash walking, leave it and off ‘everyday moves’ or EDMs. These are things the pup already knows how to do; it is just much easier, fun and safer when he does them reliably for us. I think that the ‘EDMs’ we would like our dogs to do are similar to our parents teaching us manners as we grow up. Knowing how to do particular things and behave in certain ways in certain situations can help us get along better in life. Perhaps be welcome in more places too. When we are gracious and patient we make the world a nicer place for ourselves and for others. The same goes for our pups. When we take the time to teach them certain behaviors this may allow them to be out with us more often and to feel safe and calm in life.

 

A young woman sits at a table doing needlepoint while a beagle sits next to her on a chair with his head resting on the table while watching her work.

 

The pet industry is a multi billion-dollar industry but the dollars in the dog sector are barely being spent on education. The majority is being spent on food and vet bills with a tiny piece of the pie going towards training classes. Preventable behavioral problems remain the number one reason dogs are relinquished or euthanized so it seems to me more attention to training and behavior could go a long way to help ensure that our dogs are able to live long, happy lives.

 

“There is a process involved in your dog’s education; a series of steps necessary in order to achieve a particular outcome.”

 

There is a process involved in your dog’s education; a series of steps necessary in order to achieve a particular outcome.  This process often requires a financial investment and it will require your time and energy as well.

The early steps look like this:

1.   Decide what you want to learn and who will teach you. Special consideration is to be taken with puppies that should not be denied an early education. They have specific needs that must be met within a certain time frame.

2. You learn.

3. Your dog learns from you.

4. Use everything you and your dog are learning and apply it into everyday life.

Continue reading

Walk This Way

This is an illustration of a woman and a puppy. The woman walks in a straight line towards a tree. The puppy walks all over the place, ending up at the tree. #puppytraining #puppycoaching #puppysocialisation #looseleashwalking #politewalking #karenpryor

Picture an ape swinging from the jungle canopy making her way from point A to point B. A pod of dolphins leaping skyward out of the water and then splashing back in again, a frog hopping or swimming through a pond. How each of these animals moves on the earth is different. Swimming, swinging, slithering, soaring, hopping, no legs, two legs, four legs, wings, fins! Wow!

Imagine if you were required to keep up with a pod of sea lions, take a walk with a kangaroo or keep pace with a snail for a day. Hmm.

With that image fresh in your mind picture what it means to teach our four-legged puppy friends to walk with us. Let’s think about the finer points involved in teaching another species to amble along at our pace. To not do the things they want, but instead pay attention to us.

pull quote: Brace yourself, they don’t want to walk with you.Does a dog naturally walk in a straight line the same way you do? No. A dog will move forward in different directions, often making turns and big circles, choosing not to follow a sidewalk or a well-worn path but rather, their nose!

So this is the first thing to consider when we complain about unruly pups on leash. How are we going to interest our dog to walk this way? Continue reading