the puppies learn how to greet other dogs & how to play
the owners learn to recognising what is going on
language – where the dogs ask each other, does this mean the same to you as it does to me. (This primarily means body/facial language which can be more challenging when dealing with flat nosed breeds).
inhibited biting i.e. no aggression
time outs – for when dogs get too excited.
I don’t think of this as training for the dog, instead, we are teaching the pup a game and these are the rules to the game!
Voice – how to establish and use a ‘reward marker’ by pairing a specific word (e.g. good, yes or gizmo) with a food treat, to ‘charge up’ this word and it’s meaning. Once established you can use this word to immediately praise a correct behaviour, and in the early stages the dog knows that a food treat is forthcoming. Eventually the food treats are phased out as the dog develops an intrinsic reward system, whereby they are simply happy to please you.
Our voices are a rich tool that can not only convey meaning, but can also give the dog feedback. Telling the dog not only did you do right, but also how right.
Acquisition of a behaviour – this is where we teach the dog the connection between a command and a behaviour. During this period we reward with a food treat every time until the dog is reliable. This could take anything from 30 minutes to a couple of days
Generalisation – dogs don’t generalise well. If you teach the dog something at home and then try it in a field, because the context/environment is different the dog may not fully understand the command. So we have to start again and re-teach the dog in as many different situations as possible. Some experts believe that the breeds that are easiest to train are those that generalise better.
During this period we must move onto a random reinforcement schedule, rewarding with a treat every 2/3/4/5 times, of course we can reward with a good boy/girl every time.
Attention – with the dog in front of you, say nothing but use the treat to get the dog looking at your face. Do this 3 or 4 times, then holding a treat in your hand hold your arm out to the side and parallel to the ground. The pup will look at your hand, just wait (saying nothing) then when the pup’s eyes flick across to your face, immediately mark with a ‘good’, then reward with a treat. The aim is to eventually keep the dog looking at you, no matter the distraction. This training will help us get to the situation that whenever you are out and there is a distraction, be it another dog, jogger or cyclist, the dog’s default position should be to look at you, as if to say “what are we going to do about this?”.
Collar grabs – makes the puppy comfortable with you holding the collar, so if you had to grab it in an emergency the dog won’t flinch away from you. Also useful as most dog bites occur when someone attempts to take hold of a dog’s collar.
Sits & sit as an alternative behaviour – this means doing plenty of sits (and keeping them interesting) so that it becomes muscle memory, remember if a dog is sitting then it can’t be jumping up, running away, stealing food or any other undesirable behaviour.
Chasing the treat – this is a game to reinforce the sit. Whilst the dog is sitting, hold the treat over it’s head, if the dogs front legs leave the floor then the treat gets raised out of the way. Keep lowering the treat until all four paws are on the ground, then reward.
Meeting & greeting adults & kids – this is really fun, we line up all the audience especially the kids. The puppies then approach each of them and when they sit, they get a treat. The pups soon learn how to exploit this great game. Of course this is a really useful part of their education helping to prevent them from jumping up. I have seen a Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy manage to move across to sit in front of six people without apparently lifting it’s bottom from the floor!!
Name recognition – Recalls – Heelwork (off lead) – this can develop into the same exercise. Call the puppies name and when it looks at you, reward. Then lure it with a treat and move backwards (this act as a magnet to the dog), as he/she comes towards you use the command ‘come’. Keep repeating so that the dog makes the association with the command and the recall., then reward. Turn 180 degrees to the right, and lure the pup into the heel position. Repeat the ‘heel good heel’ command to create that association, then reward. Finish with a sit and reward. Once each element has been rewarded, we can turn this into one continuous exercise, all done off lead.
Recalls – if you are recalling the dog when you are outside then you are inevitably recalling it from something interesting, this can mean we are already starting to de-training the dog. At the club we hold the pup whilst you recall them between the other pups. We then start to introduce other distractions, such as having one of our helpers position themselves halfway down. As the pup approaches they will tempt the pup, but if it stops they simply stand up and ignore it. The pup soon realises that only returning to the owner will prompt a reward.
Dealing with distractions
Types of scent training –
Scent discrimination – identifying a specific persons scent amongst other competing scents. I don’t teach this at the club, as it is only really useful for competition.
Identifying an object tainted by a specific scent such as catnip or vanilla. I sometimes use this to train a dog to find the t.v. remote control in a house.
At the club I teach the dog to find property with fresh human scent on, this appears to be the most useful to me. It is also a great way to keep the dog interested on a walk, just drop an old purse/keys in the hedge, walk on 50 yards stop and send the dog to find the property.