Dog Training and Behavior Consulting serving the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago
Puppy Class Orientation
Thank you for registering for puppy classes with Happy Hound University! I can't wait to get started training with you and your puppy!
Located in this orientation packet is important information about class rules, necessary supplies, and some beginning exercises to start with right away.
Please give this packet a thorough read through; I know everyone's time is limited, but I promise this will help you come to class feeling prepared!
If you would like a PDF version of this information that you can print off, click here!
First Up! A Body Language Primer
Dog training is about communicating with our dogs and having a shared language. So, while we focus on teaching our dogs the meaning of "sit", "down", "stay", and everything else, we need to work hard to understand our dog's language in return!
Please watch the following youtube videos with everyone in your family to make sure you are listening to what your dog is saying in your interactions with them:
- https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=t4N2XvnY7Mo&list=UUUXvRAsL5Q41h- KkhbNY3_w
Notice what your puppy looks like when they're happy, when they're worried, and everything in between!
The Name of the Game is Socialization!
Puppies have a limited period of time during their early lives where they can learn to enjoy novel experiences (including but not limited to meeting new dogs and people). One of the biggest factors in having a well adjusted adult dog is proper socialization at a young age. This period of time (called your puppy's critical period) lasts until your puppy is about 18-20 weeks old, so early socialization is key and cannot wait! This class is designed around socializing your puppy to new people, new puppies, new objects and surfaces, grooming and
husbandry procedures, and more. See the following graphic for more info!
What to expect during puppy play
We will have several opportunities each class for your puppies to play together.
Typically the class will be split into two sections: one half will be for quieter and more tentative puppies, and one side for raucous, rowdier puppies. Because puppies all have different personalities and play styles it's important that puppies are comfortable and enjoying themselves during this experience.
IMPORTANT: If your puppy chooses to hide during play or wants to sit on your lap PLEASE let them. They will gain confidence with time, do not be afraid that you are "coddling" your puppy. If at any point you are concerned that your puppy is overwhelmed please speak to me and we will figure it out!
Puppy Play is about practicing communication
Puppy play is typically a fun, rowdy time for everyone, but it is important to recognize that arguing and disagreements are a normal part of every social species. If a puppy growls or snaps at another puppy for being too invasive that is NORMAL. Puppies are allowed to argue, and even though it makes us uncomfortable, growling and snapping is how they do that! It does not mean that a puppy is bad or aggressive.
If we think a puppy is being bullied or ganged up on then we will pause the play, regroup, and try again with supervision, but if a puppy asks another puppy for space and both parties listen that is A-OK and in fact makes for even more socially appropriate interactions in the future!
Signs of Healthy Play
Healthy puppy play often includes:
- Grabbing ears, legs, and tails
- Growling and showing teeth
- Barking and loud vocalizations
- Body slamming
- "Punching" with front paws
- Bouncy, inefficient running
- Loose wiggly bodies, curved spines
- "Play face"; looks like the puppy is smiling with an open mouth
- Play bows
And here are some signs that play may need a break:
- Two puppies ganging up on one
- One puppy 'on top' more often than the other
- One of the puppies is trying to get away
- Intense playing for an extended period of time with no breaks
If you have two puppies playing and you're not 100% confident that both parties are having fun, use a consent test!
A consent test is where you take the more assertive player (usually the puppy who is on top of the other puppy, chasing the other puppy, etc.) and you temporarily grab them (gently, this is not punishment!) and pull them away from the other puppy, then give them a treat to pair this handling with positive associations.
When you do this, check to see what the other puppy does. Do they stop and look to see where their friend went? Do they come back to try and reinstigate the play? Or do they run away and take a break from the interaction?
If the former then both parties were enjoying their play and you can let them go right back to it; if the latter then the puppy likely needed a break, and you should give both puppies a break for a minute or two (get some water, or play a training game!)
During class feel free to practice this technique with your puppies!
Please watch these excellent video resources on this topic:
Positive Reinforcement Dog Training
When I say that I use positive reinforcement dog training what I mean is that I do not intentionally use anything painful, scary, startling, or uncomfortable to teach dogs. This includes certain types of collars, spray bottles, citronella spray, pinning or rolling, smacking, spanking, shaking cans of pennies, and a variety of other things in an effort to "stop" behavior.
Instead we'll focus on teaching new behaviors to replace old, undesired behaviors and manage your puppy to keep them from getting into trouble! In order to use positive reinforcement you must have something that the puppy wants to earn; in our case we will be using lots of food treats. Other examples of reinforcers are access to other puppies, the chance to go on a walk, or playing with toys.
Think of the food treats as your puppy's 'paycheck'; your puppy does something you like, and you 'pay' them to help them understand that they should keep offering that behavior!
Consider the value of your reinforcers!
Think of the treats you give your dog as your dog's paycheck. Just like with humans, if a job is really difficult it tends to pay better, whereas a job that demands little may only pay minimum wage. So, if you are working at home around minimal distractions use lower value treats, and if you are working around distractions (like in a class!) use higher value food!
1. Students are responsible for bringing all of their supplies with to every class (please see class supply list for more details).
2. All dogs must be up to date on vaccines and proof of vaccination must be brought to the first class.( Puppies must have at least their first round of vaccinations)
3.Students will stay near their chairs during class unless we are specifically working on a movement exercise around the room.
4. Students will show up on time to class and understand that late arrivals are distracting to other students and disruptive to the class atmosphere.
5.No make up class times are available, however the student is welcome to come before class or stay after class to go over what was missed at the previous class.
6. Students will practice between classes and understand that the only way training will work is if the dog has consistency at home as well as in the classroom.
7 .Students will wear sensible clothing and footwear, understanding that they may be asked to move and be active with their dog during class.
8.You are invited to bring your whole family to class however students under 16 years old should not be left unattended with their dog, and young children should not be disruptive to the class environment.
Class Supply List
- 4 or 6 foot leash (no retractable leashes)
- Flat collar or front or back clip harness (no prong collars, choke chains, or electric collars permitted)
- A treat pouch, clothing with large pockets, or nail apron (no plastic baggies, please!)
- A variety of high value treats cut very small, about the size of your pinky finger nail (think soft, moist, smelly treats. Human foods are permitted and encouraged! Please bring at least FIVE different types of treats, and bring much more than you think you’ll need!)
- A mat or lightweight bed to bring weekly (a mat with rubber backing is preferred; door mats or yoga mats usually do the trick)
- A bowl for water and bottled water from home
- A hungry dog. Please only feed your dog half of their meal before class.
For a list of my favorite dog treats please see this link.
There are 6 behaviors that I want you to start practicing with your puppy today, before I even meet you at class, and some other leash handling tips that we'll go over. These are: Luring/Cookie magnet, Walking down the leash, Using a verbal marker, Auto check-ins, Hand touch, and Matwork!
Food Lures/Cookie Magnets
We can use food lures to get our puppy to move and follow us. I like to call this technique a 'cookie magnet' because it's like if we magnetized our puppy's nose to the food lure/cookie. This is a skill that comes easily to most dogs. Take a high value, smelly, tasty treat and hold it between two of your fingers, then let your dog sniff at the treat and attempt to nibble at it as you move your hand away sloooowly, keeping it right in front of your dog's nose. Your dog should move to follow the treat, and you can use the cookie magnet to get your dog to move or go into a specific position like sit or down. Practice this so that your puppy understands how to follow a food lure with ease!
Walking down the leash
Walking down the leash is a technique that you will want to start using. Pulling on leash comes naturally to puppies and dogs, since leashes prevent most puppies and dogs from being able to gain access to things they want. It's our human instinct to pull on the leash in an effort to get the dog to come back to us, but this oftentimes doesn't work. Instead, we want to walk DOWN the leash to get closer to our dogs, then redirect their attention to you using a cookie magnet. When your puppy gets to the end of the leash, you will move towards them, gathering up the leash hand over hand as you move towards them . Once you are right next to them you will engage their sense of smell with a cookie magnet, and lure them back to where you want to work.
Using a Verbal Marker
A marker signal is what we use to communcate effectively with our dogs. You can use ANY verbal marker (or a clicker if you want!) as long as it's a single syllable. I usually recommend using "yes!", but you can also use "good", "nice", "yep", "right", or any other single syllable sound.
The marker signal takes a snapshot of the moment the correct behavior happens. So, your dog sits and you say "yes!" the exact moment their butt hits the ground. WIth time and repetition your dog will understand that when they hear that specific word that they did something to earn a reinforcer. So, pick a marker signal, and start to practice using it in the next exercises.
An auto check-in is when your puppy chooses to look at you on their own without you prompting; this is the foundation of all more complicated behavior
1) Stand in a really boring room with just your puppy and you, and a handful of treats. Keep your hands behind your back to prevent puppy from staring at your hands.
2) Any time that your puppy looks up at your face say "yes!" (or whatever your marker signal is) and deliver a treat to them
3) With time your puppy will start to understand that they are making the treats happen by offering attention to you
4) If your puppy starts to stare at you during this training you can try 'resetting' them by tossing a free treat on the ground; this will cause them to lower their head to get the treat, and when they look back up at you you can repeat the process
5) Once your puppy 'gets' this in the boring location start to practice in a variety of locations at home
This behavior is also known as hand targeting or just 'targeting'. We will be asking your puppy to "touch" their nose to your hands.
1) Rub a treat all over your hand so that your hand is smelly like a treat. Offer your open hand a few inches in front of your dog's nose, say "yes!" and give them a treat if they lean forward to sniff your hand and you feel their nose touch it.
2) Start to say "touch", then offer your hand again. When your puppy touches their nose to your hand say your yes and deliver a treat.
3) Do steps one and two with your other hand.
4) Start to vary the height, distance, and angle that you offer your hand targets from.
This behavior can be used to teach your dog to come when called, to move on or off of surfaces (i.e. furniture or the scale at the vet's office), and as a way to build a positive association with hands reaching towards them.
We will teach our puppies to go to their mats and hang out on them even when distractions are present. Your mat should be lightweight, ideally have rubber backing, and should be picked up unless you are in training. Pick it up between training sessions to keep your puppy from going to the mat and not getting reinforced.
1) Put the mat on the ground, then lure your puppy to the mat. Deliver several treats one after the other directly on the mat, then say "okay!" and prompt your puppy off of the mat. Do this many times in a row.
2) Do this over and over until your puppy is going to the mat on their own, anticipating the treats, even sitting or laying down.
3) Eventually your puppy should get visibly excited when the mat comes out.
During class we will continue to expand on this behavior and apply it to real life scenarios.
Some Final Tips
1. Keep training short and sweet! Young puppies learn best with several short sessions (less than 5 minutes) sprinkled throughout the day!
2. If you are working around distractions increase the value of your treats (i.e. use meat/cheese), and when working at home with less distractions use kibble/training treats.
3. Dogs don't generalize behaviors well; this means they will need to relearn and practice the same behavior in a few different locations before they really "know" it
4. Try to practice at least 5 days a week, if not daily!
5. Have fun! Training should be fun for both you AND your puppy!