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So You Got Your Puppy Home, Now What!

So you got your new puppy home and you have given them a few days to settle in but about now you just might be wondering what do you do next!

Previously I wrote about having a plan but what exactly is that? A training/behaviour plan is an organized description of the actions and resources you need to train efficiently. It can be as simple or as detailed as you wish it. Here are two samples, one a detailed plan and one a simple acknowledgment with quick training video at the end.

Plan 1

  • Determine objectives - companion dog, service/therapy dog, dog sports ...

  • Define long-term goals - a well mannered dog in the home and community, hunting companion, participating in dog sports ...

  • Define short-term goals - house training, loose leash walking, recall, basic manners, picking up/retrieving items ...

  • Choose a method of training - Marker based, traditional methods, training through games, reward based: praise, tactile, food ,...

  • Set up consistent expectations and institute a daily routine - wake up/feeding/bedtime, walks/activities, grooming, entering/exiting doorways, crating, furniture ...

  • Determine who, what, where, when, how and why.

  • Determine the necessary foundation skills/behaviours needed to accomplish goals broken down to it's smallest components - walking before running, kindergarten not university...

  • Identify resources - on-line training, in person classes, instructors, books, videos ...

  • Develop a Lesson plan - Determine needed skills/behaviours to teach in that session, time allocated, methods to achieve short term goals, necessary tools and supplies, decide on a contingency plan if things are not going well ...

  • Tracking training progression - notes, charts ...

Wow, that sounds like a lot doesn't it!

Plan 2

Don't worry it doesn't need to be complicated and can be as simple as deciding you want a well manner companion dog who is well behaved in the home and well mannered out in the public. To accomplish this I need a dog who will

  • focus on me

  • walk on a loose leash,

  • sit while waiting,

  • greet people with manners,

  • come when called

  • settle in a relaxed down when directed

  • maintain a position until released

  • accept grooming

  • keep his head around other animals

  • fetch a toy

to accomplish these goals ...

  • I will set up a daily routine of feeding, potty time, exercise, play and sleep.

  • I will have appropriate expectations for the puppy's age, temperament and what has and has not been taught.

  • I will motivate the puppy and teach a love of learning by using positive reinforcements, food/praise/ear scratches.

  • I will plan 3 short formal training sessions for the day in a low distraction area where my puppy enjoys being. I will use positive reinforcement, operant conditioning and teaching through games .

  • I will warm up my puppy with a quick simple behaviour he already knows for a few repetitions. (name game, attention, cookies in the corner, play)

  • I will teach 1 behaviour for 1 minute -I will take a short play break and return to teaching the behaviour for another minute. -I will teach a different behaviour for 1 minute then release the puppy and play to end that session. I will end sessions that are not going well and I will not push for one more repetition during a session that is going well.

  • I will reflect on what went well, what didn't and plan with that in mind for my next training session later in the day, I will increase or decrease my expectations as needed.

  • I will capture and reward offered behaviours that I see and like throughout the day. Pavlov is always on my shoulder. Puppies are always learning whether I think I am purposefully training or not.

  • I will immediately redirect behaviours I don't want repeated and rehearsed.

  • I will get training ideas from people WHO ARE KNOWLEDGABLE such as my breeder, and respected professional trainers.

  • I will not get training advice from pet store employees, my neighbours, my old uncle Bob or from anyone encouraging the use of pain or fear to force a behaviour. Reread this out loud please. I will not get training advice from...

Above all, my puppy and I will have fun learning together

Simple Name Game

One of the first exercises that I teach is the name game. We use our dogs names multiple times a day so we should make sure that it means something to them! This is not a recall, it's a way of building a positive Conditioned Emotional Response (CER) to their name. The name game however is an essential foundation skill that is needed for teaching a reliable recall.

With the puppy in front of me I simply call the their name then give a treat. After several successful repetitions where I have the puppy's undivided attention I will start to add movement, dogs and distractions. Any dog that interferes with another dog is ignored while I continue to treat the interfered with dog but as soon as they refocus back to me I call their name and treat. I can also then add movement to keep it interesting and fun, bringing the puppy one step closer to doing reliable recalls.

When I have success in the kitchen I take it on the road to the basement, backyard, front yard etc adding both distractions and distance. When I have success with different environments I switch to an intermittent reward schedule. I vary the rewards I use at any given time from treats, play, toys, verbal praise and even just a release to go back to what they were doing. They never know what they will or will not get.

In the video I first had to throw treats to get Phoebe's focus off of me because she quickly figured out that being close to me is what is rewarding. Note the length of time I trained this, multiple dogs and it only involved 3 minutes of actual training.

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