Raise the Bar in Training

To keep your puppy or dog interested, keep asking for his very best. When you are starting out, every tiny effort toward good behavior is rewarded. But once a behavior is basically learned, it is time to raise the bar.

Use these criteria:
If you repeat yourself (don’t!) or physically help your puppy get it right, praise but no treat. Put the treat right to his nose then put it away. Too bad –try harder next time! You’re not angry but he doesn’t get a gold start for C- level work. If you want to encourage his best, treat only for A-level responses. Save your treats for the best performance your puppy can currently offer. Give a few small treats in a row for great responses or a breakthrough response (first correct effort). If your puppy offers a behavior without you asking for it, say ‘thank you’, but don’t treat.

While you are feeding, smile and praise. Don’t fake the praise – feel it and your puppy will feel it. Keep making it clear to your puppy what you really like (his very best!). If his slow Sit after two commands gets the same treat and praise that an immediate Sit with full attention gets, how is he supposed to know which is better? If you want the best, reward the best with your best.

Brian Kilcommons, a well-known area trainer puts it very well:

“You get what you pet”. In other words, if you pet your dog while he’s jumping, you’ll get jumping. If you pet your dog while he is sitting quietly, you’ll get quiet sitting.

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Some Basics to Teach Your Puppy

ATTENTION – Start with dog as close to you as possible and say dog’s name “Rocky” and give a treat. Bring treat up towards your face to encourage eye contact. Gradually increase difficulty by walking around.

CHECKING IN – Whenever your dog looks at you voluntarily, praise and toss a treat. When watching TV, or just hanging around the house, call dog’s name and if/when he looks, toss a treat. If he doesn’t look, get his attention by clapping, whistling, etc. Don’t keep saying his name if he is not looking at you.

GOTCHA – Gets puppy used to hands reaching for his collar. Reach towards collar, treat. Touch collar, treat. Hold collar, treat. Repeat a few minutes every day.

SIT– Show dog treat with your right hand, bring treat straight up and back with treat right near their nose until their butt drops into a sit. Your hand position determines where the dog will be – if it’s too far away from their nose, dog will jump up to get it. As soon as dog is sitting, give him the treat and praise. Practice 10 sits daily.

CLOSE COME– Face dog while holding leash. Get your dog’s attention, hold up treat. Take one step back and say “Rocky, Come!” When dog comes, lure into sit, praise and reward. Repeat with 1 step, then 2 steps then 3 steps. Vary the angles of your backward steps.

RECALL-Have two people- one sitting in a chair and the other standing. The person in the chair holds the dog around the chest. The other person should get the dog’s attention by holding a treat in front of his nose, and making enthusiastic noises while backing away about 10-20 feet. When the dog is totally excited, person #2 then calls the dog – PUPPY COME! Praise and give a treat when the dog arrives. Hold collar before giving treat. Practice 5-10 times daily in various rooms, then outside once dog is very reliable inside.

DOWN-Have dog sit, praise but don’t reward. Hold treat at dog’s nose and slowly bring down between his paws and back towards you to lure him into a down. Get behavior numerous times before saying “DOWN”. Then fade treat and use hand to lure.

MOUTHING-For shoes (laces), coats, etc, I recommend Bitter Apple. Spray object of puppy’s mouthing. Be matter of fact about this. Let puppy think shoes just don’t taste good anymore. Don’t make a game of this. For hand and arm mouthing, start by using a high-pitched ‘ouch!’ noise and let puppy know that it hurt. Then turn away from puppy, count slowly to ten and return to puppy. If puppy is still mouthing, there will need to be a more physical correction.

SETTLE– This is a calming exercise, not about dominance. Sit on floor and place your dog on the floor in a down with one hip shifted to the side. Place both hands on the dog’s shoulders and say ‘Settle’. If very squirmy, you may also need to hold the collar. Be confident, yet matter of fact about this, firming up your grip as necessary. Give dog a massage when it completely relaxes. Release with ‘okay’ only when dog is relaxed. Never do this in anger. Practice by breaking up play sessions with Settles and then allow back to play.

HANDLING – Gets puppy used to handling – by vet, groomer, etc. Say body part, reach, treat. Touch, treat. Hold, treat. Work on paws, head, ears, mouth, tail, etc. Work up to longer touches, rubs, etc. Small dogs practice “Lift up” PRACTICE BRUSHING YOUR PUPPY

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