Please keep working with your dog on all of the activities you learned in the course. You can keep working and check back here any time.
If you haven’t already signed up for membership, consider doing so because it is a great way to stay motivated. One thing members get is access to Grisha’s ABBA Facebook group. You can post videos and ask/answer questions in a discussion with your fellow ABBA members. The group is moderated by our teaching staff to keep the conversations on track.
I hope you found the information in this course useful. Puppy raising is a hard job! Remember to set your puppy up for success and focus more on socialization and cooperative care than on showy tricks, and you’ll do fine.
Keep filming your training sessions so that you can look back to see how far you have come.
The BAT 2.0 Feature Films might be helpful to you. Here are the topics. The first three are useful for all dogs and the last three are most useful for dogs who have or who are developing reactivity. That is quite common for adolescent dogs.
I chose these three behaviors as the final ones to cover in this course because they help people and dogs live more safely together. Resource guarding often shows up in young puppies. Guarding an object from people is the easiest type of aggression to rehabilitate, and yet many dogs are given up or euthanized because of it, so I wanted to be sure to go over two easy tips to help prevent it in your puppy.
If you feel that there is any risk to you during these exercises, trust your instinct and contact a trainer to work with you in person.
Bring/Drop. If your puppy will bring you anything and drop it, guarding of objects pretty much disappears. The Food Bowl exercise that is next will cover the times when your puppy can’t actually bring the thing it is guarding, so we have all aspects covered.
My favorite way to teach drop is to start with an object that the puppy is interested in enough to carry, but is not totally crazy about. I’ll call it a “toy,” but it could be your shoe, a crumpled piece of paper, or even a frozen hot dog (but that is advanced). For this method to work, your puppy should be able to grab something and move with it in her mouth. She must also recognize that the sound of a clicker means that a treat is coming.
Start in a hallway or narrow piece of land outside, like a beach. Toss the toy or get someone to give it to her. As she grabs the toy, encourage her to run toward you by moving away from her down the hallway. She is not bringing you the toy at this point, she is trying to run past you. At about 3 feet (1 meter) before she gets to you, click.
If she drops the toy, feed her some treats and then let her see you toss a few more treats about another meter or two away. Very casually grab the toy. If she turns back to you, feed her some more or toss the toy again.
If she doesn’t drop the toy, move away from her, probably back the way she came from. When she is about to zoom past you again, click again and toss a treat. Repeat until she drops the toy.
If she never drops the toy, then your treats are not yummy enough or the toy was too exciting, and you need to practice with a more boring toy. Get some better treats and do a little bribing trade, presenting the treats near the corner of her mouth.
Very soon, she will be running to you on purpose. Keep clicking just before she gets there. When she is reliably bringing it to you, wait to click until after she has dropped the toy. Do that for a while and then you can start to say “Bring It” as she is running for the toy and “Drop” just before she drops the toy anyway.
Continue clicking and treating for Drop a bit longer and then you can start to just have the toy toss itself be the reinforcement for dropping the toy. If she brings you something that’s not really a toy, reinforce by tossing a toy instead.
Tip: If you have a Building Blocks membership, check out the video on Drop. Look for “Drop It! How to Train a Fast, Reliable Drop.”
Instead of tossing the item, have her wait as you go set it down somewhere. Release her to go get it. Be sure that has picked it up before you give the Bring It cue. When this becomes reliable, start to hide the object, telling her to Find It after her release cue.
Get her to bring you an empty food puzzle. When she drops it, praise her and show her that you are filling up the puzzle. Give it back to her as soon as possible.
Practice in other locations, not just your hallway.
Practice with many different objects, including food puzzles that still have treats inside, raw meaty bones (if you feed them), and frozen meat. Work your way up to a hot dog. Use reinforcers of equal or greater value than the item the dog is bringing. Do not punish your dog if he happens to eat any of these food items or chews on your stuff. Just change what YOU do and work up to it more slowly: for example, put the food in a container that the dog cannot access and have her bring that.
Note: In terms of over-excitement, searching for a toy is a much better way to exercise your dog than tossing the toy over and over. They evolved to search for a long period of time, but how often do you think they were supposed to sprint and catch prey, like rabbits?
Drop It can also be taught using a classical association, pairing the word “Drop” with treats, so that your dog can’t help but drop whatever he has to make room for your goodies. Here’s a video of Chirag Patel teaching Drop that way:
Every dog is different, so it’s good to know at least two ways to teach Drop. This is also covered in the Ahimsa Dog Training Manual.
Food Bowl. I like to teach puppies that when they see human feet approaching while they are eating from a food bowl or puzzle, they should look up because good stuff is probably coming. Just as with the rest of this course, I prefer to empower the dog: give your dog a behavior that has an effect on her environment rather than just dropping food into her bowl.
While it’s useful to drop high value treats into a dog’s bowl while she’s eating, it’s even more powerful to give her a chance to feel like she has some control over the appearance of those treats.
For the trainers among us, doing this in an operant way allows us to have a variable rate of reinforcement and persistent behavior. Classical counterconditioning then comes along for the ride.
Start out with an empty bowl. Show it to your puppy. When she sniffs, she will look up after realizing it’s empty. Mark and reinforce by feeding in the bowl. I use a clicker as the marker, but it’s sometimes in the way, so you might want to use a word, like Yes. If you do use a clicker, be sure to click away from the dog, not right in her face.
Gradually change what the puppy has to look away from to make it more realistic. Never make it harder than she can do. Set her up to be successful all the way, for error-free learning. Your puppy may need more steps than what I have given below or you may be able to skip some steps. Watch her carefully to learn how much you can change the situation at each step. If you change one thing to make something harder for her, then either change nothing else, or change something to make it easier for her to handle the first change successfully. If you see any freezing (even a tiny freeze) you have pushed too quickly.
Start to lower the bowl to the floor (repeat until the bowl is all the way at the floor).
Have a couple of pieces of kibble (dog food) in the bowl, so she may be eating longer before she looks up. Mark and reinforce by feeding her a treat, then lift up the bowl to above her head and put another couple of pieces in the bowl. We feed to the mouth so that human hands near the food are a good thing. Make it easier by starting higher up, gradually having the bowl lower and lower and eventually on the floor. If you feed raw, use some kibble for this anyway, so the food is relatively easy to look away from. If you have to bend over to get the bowl, it may help to squat down so that your chest is vertical, rather than bending at the waist.
Repeat the exercise above with gradually more dog food in it, starting again with it up higher and working toward the ground. Ideally, she should be able to look away from a bowl that still has food in it.
Repeat the exercise above with better and better food in the bowl, until she is looking away from very tasty food and getting even better food from your fingers. Make sure your treats are very high value to the dog, like canned food or cooked meat.
Start at the top of the list again with one piece of kibble in a bowl on the floor. Now we will make it harder by adding movement of feet toward her bowl. Step back and then approach. As you approach, she will have finished the food and will be looking up. Mark the looking up and reinforce with a good treat to her mouth and drop a kibble in the bowl. Repeat, gradually working up to dropping really great food in the bowl, delivering even better food directly to her mouth.
Repeat the previous exercise but pick up her bowl to put the food into it, still feeding her the first fabulous treat directly.
Repeat the previous exercise but add more food so that you can walk farther away before returning.
If you have a helper, have him/her set down the food and then you can approach after the dog has eaten some of the food. Mark and reinforce her for looking up.
Only work on the exercises above for a few minutes at a time. She should be able to eat her food in peace most of the time. 🙂 Take your time to work through the list.
Keep this behavior strong throughout her life. Occasionally (like once a month when she is young and once every several months when she is over 3 years old) walk near her while she is eating or chewing on a bone and then mark and reinforce looking up by feeding her a really fabulous treat. Then walk away.
Here’s an example of some of the steps above with a puppy at a shelter. She was going to be put to sleep for resource guarding and the staff of course did not want to do that. I was able to volunteer some time to help her with this issue. The training helped the staff see progress so that she was able to be put up for adoption.
She found a new home shortly thereafter. I made this (very long) video to share with family and they continued the training. You don’t have to watch the whole thing. 🙂 Note that I did not follow the steps above as carefully as I could have, so keep that in mind as you watch. There are some times during this that she stiffens and that means I went too quickly for her.
Tip: If you have a Building Blocks membership, check out the video on Resource Guarding. Look for “Possession Aggression: How to Encourage Sharing with People.” Also look for the video on the Recall, called “Come Back! Teaching a Reliable Recall.”
Recall. We have already covered Touch (nose to hand targeting). The Touch cue is a great way to call your puppy. She can’t touch your hand without coming to you, so it’s automatically a recall. You can make this more official by adding a cue for the recall first, and then saying Touch to sort of translate what you mean and motivate the puppy to come your way. So you’d do this:
Say your puppy’s name to get her attention
If she didn’t give you attention, do something to get it, like go closer and make a kissing sound
Once you have your puppy’s attention, say your cue, like “Here” in an inviting way
Hold out your target hand
Click/treat for Touch
Another type of recall is the emergency recall. I use the cue Treat Party for this. I use the goofy cue of Treat Party because I want you to keep the parties coming, so that that cue stays strong, even if all else fails.
At least three times a day, take a full 30 seconds to reward your puppy for coming to you. Start in a quiet place where you have no treats on you, but they are available (in a cupboard, etc.). Out of the blue, say “Treat Party” and then run to the cupboard, and start the party. Some of the time the treats can be on you, but make sure that treats aren’t always present before the party begins. You can also use toys or chase games as part of your party, but aim for 30 seconds of fun. You should be a bit out of breath by the end!
Continue rehearsing treat party at least a few times a day for a long time, at least a few months and then from time to time throughout your dog’s life. As you feed or play with toys, say the cue/phrase over and over, like Treat Party, the whole time I’m tossing out treats on the floor. Be sure to cue Treat Party before she knows that you have treats, so the phrase predicts the party. Otherwise, the treats become the cue, not the Treat Party phrase that you are trying to teach.
Say the Treat Party cue only when your dog is definitely coming to you, and then repeat the cue during before each treat during the feeding (or playing) process. You can also say your regular recall cue, Here, first, and then when she is on her way, call out Treat Party and celebrate when she gets there. This helps strengthen your Here cue.
Make sure you also can remember to say the emergency cue in a real emergency. Practice in many different locations, but be sure it’s the right level of distraction. Set it up so that your dog will definitely come to you when you say Treat Party.
This socialization clip shows a Treat Party near the end:
This lesson wraps up this course by taking another look at problems and how we can prevent them. This course will get you started on the training, but of course you will need to continue putting time into training for at least the next year and use natural consequences and some treats to reinforce the training throughout your dog’s life.
REMINDER OF WHERE PROBLEMS COME FROM
In Lesson 3, I went over some of the various behaviors that dogs use to meet their needs, and how that can lead to problems. What we consider to be a problem is not a problem for the dog—as far as she’s concerned, it’s the best way she knows to get what she needs. Jumping up gets attention. Growling makes the scary thing go away. Running gets her where she wants to go more quickly, even though sometimes she has to drag her human down the sidewalk.
So with that in mind, I recommend teaching the dog specific ways to meet her needs that are acceptable to your family and society as a whole. Here’s what I wrote about that before:
Teach appropriate behavior by blocking the reinforcement for behavior you don’t want and reinforce behavior you do want with the consequences the dog is looking for, not just random reinforcers.
WHICH SKILLS HELP WITH WHICH PROBLEMS
So now that you know that you have to teach something, what should you teach? Teach a behavior that is as natural as possible that is incompatible with the behavior you don’t like (meaning your dog can’t do both at the same time). Pick something that other dogs already do on their own to get the same need met. So while you could theoretically teach your dog to bring you a written sign that says “let me out” when she wants to go outside, it makes a lot more sense to reinforce something like going to the door and doing some attention-getting behavior like barking or the fancier version, ringing a bell.
Here is a set of skills that can be really useful for preventing or eliminating many behaviors that humans consider to be problems:
Teeth on people
Get Your Toy, Take treats gently
Get Your Toy
Pulling on leash
Autowatch, Silky Leash, Touch, handler skills
Autowatch, Stay, Touch, Emergency Recall, Bring it
You get what you pay for (only reinforce behavior that you like)
Not sleeping at night
Crate training (place near or on bed), relaxation (and bring young puppies in the bed)
Resource guarding (people)
Bring/drop It, Looking Up on human approach while eating/chewing
Mark for eliminating outside, crate training
Grooming trouble / harness trouble
Touch, empowered counterconditioning (More Please Signal), Head through, Paw Shake
Antisocial with dogs/people, afraid of new objects
Play skills, Active coping (use BAT), and all of the other things we talked about above. 🙂
ANOTHER DOSE OF PHILOSOPHY
Let’s circle back to the philosophy of empowerment that we’ve applied throughout this course. Whenever possible, the animal should have the opportunity to meet her own needs and see that her behavior has an effect. This is an essential aspect of humane care. By managing the environment so that the puppy will naturally try out behavior that we like or can at least tolerate, the puppy is empowered. When necessary, use positive reinforcement to train behavior that helps us promote safety and reduce stress for our puppies during vet care, grooming, and everyday life with humans. Using a trained More Please Signal and watching for other signs of communication empowers the dog and strengthens the relationship.
Do one of the exercises in this section for getting your dog used to a surface or for proprioception, including letting him explore it on his own without treats, if he’s ready for that. Film it and play it back for yourself. Are any issues that you may need to pay more attention to?
Vacuum or broom – using parallel play, relaxation training, or a More Please Signal, practice getting your dog used to one or both of these cleaning tools. Film it and look back over it later. Where should you take it from here? Was your session too long? Too fast? Just right?
Practice the training exercises for Stop/Stay/Wait and Head Through.
Generalize your other training from before
Continue socialization with other puppies, dogs, and people
Pat yourself on the back for sticking with all of this work!
Wait is a good behavior to have for safety. For example, it’s helpful to have your dog wait for you to make sure movement is safe before allowing it: before blind corners, at doorways, in the elevator, before eating, before getting out of the crate in the car or your home, and before being lifted out of the car (or jumping when they are older).
For puppies, I prefer Wait (don’t go forward, hang out here) to a full obedience-type Stay (stay in this exact position). Even for adult dogs, most dogs just need the ability to stop and not go forward past some imaginary line, rather than the obedience Stay. As my dog gets older, I’m so happy that I never made him sit at curbs. Peanut always was taught to do a wait, with him still standing. This is much easier on his old joints, so we have been able to be consistent throughout his life.
Stop and Wait:
Walk along slowly with your puppy
Stop your movement, which most puppies will copy
Click when the dog stops
Feed a treat or more than one
Give your release cue, like Free — which says the puppy can move again
Move away with the puppy
Over time, you will click only if the puppy stops faster than average, getting a faster and faster stop
For activities that the puppy clearly wants to do:
Prevent access to the activity – For example, keep the door shut, the food puzzle in your hand, the gate closed, your body in front of the elevator door (fade this), slow stop at the curb (and relax the leash)
Puppy waits briefly
Praise calmly and pause
Treat is optional
Give your release cue, like Free
Release him to do the activity he was waiting for (getting his food puzzle, going around a corner, walking across the street
Gradually extend time between the Wait cue and the release cue, also add in motion, so that you can still move and your puppy will Wait.
Note: Stay and Wait are also covered in the Ahimsa Dog Training manual.
Use the instructions from the last lesson for teaching your dog to put his head through a harness to teach the dog to put his nose or head into other objects, like a cup, a muzzle, and a post-surgery collar, like the standard cone or the newer soft cones or inflatable collars.
Why? It’s good experience teaching your puppy something new, not using treats all the way through, and it will probably be useful. At some point in your dog’s life, he may have surgery or need a muzzle, due to an injury or reactivity. used to a muzzle and surgery collar now will reduce his stress later.
Use a muzzle that he can easily eat treats through, pant, and lick through, like the Baskerville Ultra, which is pictured here. Never ever leave a muzzle on an unattended dog.
When you train these behaviors, rather than being super excited and upbeat, stay calm and relaxed. Feed treats calmly and praise in a soothing voice. If your puppy calms with massage, use that as part of the reinforcement. Practice at a time when your puppy is mellow. If you can, turn the surgery collar and/or muzzle into snuggle equipment – when they are on, your dog knows he will get a relaxing massage from you. During training, the targeting is the More Please Signal. That is, keeping his nose at the end of the muzzle or his neck through the cone is the More Please Signal for treats and petting. Gradually mess with the straps so that’s just part of the game.
When get to the stage of clipping it on, have him find treats or give him a food puzzle to work on. Be sure he can actually lick the food out while wearing the muzzle or cone. Take it off before he is stressed. At this point, our puppy can’t just stop doing the More Please Signal, so watch for signs that he’s done (backing away, tongue flick, pawing at the muzzle, etc.). Try to take it off BEFORE he gives one of those signs, but if he does do that, just get his attention and then take off the muzzle, collar, etc. Slowly work back up to clipping it on.
Tip: you can turn the muzzle into a muzzle-cicle. Wrap it the muzzle part in plastic wrap so that it is sort of a waterproof bowl. Put wet dog food inside along the walls of the muzzle. Freeze. Hold the muzzle so that your dog can put his nose in and eat. If your dog is at the stage where you can attach the muzzle as a collar as well, you can do that, just make sure the frozen part doesn’t touch his nose. We want to make sure he can breathe and he doesn’t get frostbite!
Confidence in their physical bodies can be helpful for reducing stress. It’s also great for preventing injuries in “regular” dogs and canine athletes. Have your puppy practice calmly walking under, over, around, and through different objects. Practice not just going through life at a run, but also just meandering slowly for some of the time on your walks as you practice the BAT leash skills with your puppy in his harness. You can say “Easy” as a heads-up that you are going to do a slow walk. If your puppy starts to run, use Slide and then do a Slow Stop, if needed. When the puppy has fully stopped, relax the leash and calmly suggest a new direction. Take time to let your puppy notice where and on what surface he is walking.
Here are some examples of some activities that you can set up. Obviously watch for safety and do not do the activity if it is not physically or emotionally safe for your puppy (and you). Sometimes you will need to do some treating to get the process to happen, or for safety, as in the video below, but whenever possible, get the dog in exploration mode instead of working mode. Some of the items on this list involve intense training. Remember that your primary focus at this time is still socialization and getting the puppy used to grooming and vet care, so don’t get sucked into doing tricks just yet. But I include them as possibilities to work on once your other tasks have been accomplished.
Walk through the forest over sticks and small logs.
Walk through a tent made of chairs and a blanket
Walk through the forest under and along trees that have partially fallen over (only if safe!)
Go up and down stairs, helping your puppy do them slowly. The scariest kind of stairs are the ones where there is a gap behind them or in the step itself, so the puppy can see down.
Go up and down elevators.
Get your puppy to step inside of a box or other container – something that involves lifting his legs over the sides of the container to get inside. You can lure, use shaping, or make it a puzzle, if you have a large enough container. A puzzle example would be to make a small corral using agility jumps placed in a square or pentagon with the bars lowered, so the dog has to step over the bars and into the corral to get to you or a toy. The same can be done with pieces of lumber or if you have a taller puppy, a kiddy pool works well.
Use targeting or a treat lure to stop your puppy at the edge of a sidewalk with some legs on the street and some off.
Slowly walk over short agility jumps or in and out of weave poles.
Teach your puppy to swim. If he’s toy motivated and will go into the water after a toy, put it at the edge of the water and gradually have it further and further out, until he has to swim to get it. If not, go swimming with your puppy: start out by walking along the shore with your feet in the water. Have your puppy off leash if it is safe or use a leash that is long enough that he can reach the shore, so that he can choose to stay out of the water if he wants to. If your puppy comes in, calmly praise him and immediately walk back to solid ground again. Keep walking and then repeat, going back into the water. Gradually go in deeper to get your puppy to swim in after you.
Teach targeting with individual legs to stand on something. FitPawz makes products for sale just for this use.
Balance weight with front paws/rear paws/all four paws/one paw on something that isn’t solid, like a small pile of yoga mats, a pillow, or a pilates disk.
Introduce your puppy slowly to a wobble board (basically a solid flat surface with something underneath it to make it unstable, like a tennis ball in a sock stapled to the bottom). Keep it from wobbling too much at first by using your foot or putting books underneath, gradually letting it wobble more.
Use shaping to teach targeting of other body parts to a target (not just paws, like the hips and shoulders).
Use shaping or hind-end targeting to teach your puppy to walk backwards.
Use shaping to teach your puppy to rotate in a circle with the front paws stationary and rear moving, or vice versa. For example, the first type of rotation can be taught by having the dog target the front paws onto something, like a foam disk. Cue hip targeting, moving your target around the disk a little at a time.
Use targeting to teach your puppy to walk on a treadmill. One way is to begin is to first teach your dog to maintain a chest target to your hand or a soft object mounted to the machine. Targeting is the More Please Signal – as long as the dog is targeting, you keep treating from time to time, and the treadmill game continues.Gradually add movement of the treadmill. Never tie your puppy or dog to a treadmill and carefully supervise the entire time your dog is on it. Their toes could possibly get caught if they go too far back, forward, or to the sides. Feed from the front (you can attach a bowl or pan for the treats to go) so that your dog has good posture and doesn’t curve around while walking. If your dog stops targeting at any time during his time on the treadmill, turn it off. Turn it back on again when he targets again.
TIP: Social facilitation: if your puppy is nervous about doing something, bring some friends along! If he sees his friends enjoying the area or activity, that will help him build up his nerve to try it out. Just make sure his friends don’t tackle him while he’s having a new experience. Consensual play is fine, i.e., both puppies enjoying the play. Calmly intervene if it looks like any of his friends are being rougher than he can handle. While that’s true all the time, be especially ready to rescue him when he’s already feeling a bit unsure about a surface or could potentially slip off of it (like a ramp).
At La Guardia airport in New York, I can hear a man drumming on his table in some rhythm that has nothing to do with the loud music on the speakers of the restaurant. A cash register just printed out a receipt with a noisy inkjet printer. A woman scoots her chair and the screeching sound carries across the room. A man laughs. The fan above the stove blows loudly while food crackles on the grill.
High heels clink past me on the tile as a woman runs to her flight. A suitcase being pulled by, sounding just like a skateboard. Ice clinks into a glass just before it crashes to the floor, sending pieces skittering across the floor. A luggage cart drives by and honks three times in a row to get people to move. Loud sports coverage switches to the crowd cheering on the television on the wall above my head, with scenes changing every 3 seconds. A television on the same channel is across the room, creating a strange echo effect. A child drops his fork and starts to cry. There are so many conversations that I can’t pay attention to any individual voices.
You may never take your dog into a busy airport, but everywhere we go, there are sounds. If you live in the city and your puppy is used to the (relatively) quiet countryside, it’s a big change to enter your realm of constant noise. Also note that your dog’s experience of this same situation may be different. The sound is louder or quieter at his height, depending on the source. Cars, for example, are much louder for dogs.
There are lots of sounds that you might expect your puppy to have issues with, but your puppy can also hear at a higher frequency than you can. So if your puppy suddenly “sees ghosts,” his fear may be due to a sound that is just not in a frequency that you can hear. If my dog, Peanut, were in the airport with me right now, he might hear the sound of my computer whirring, along with the sound of hundreds of other electronic devices, including the iPad at every seat. He’d feel the bass of the music vibrating his whiskers.
Your dog also has a different flicker fusion rate, by the way. So where we see a steady stream of light from a fluorescent lamp, he may see a lot of flickering. It’s kind of like trying to see clearly with strobe lights in a nightclub.
In the forest, too, he’d be detecting tiny sounds that I cannot hear at all. These differences help them out when it comes to hunting little animals. But it’s kind of impressive that dogs can function at all in the human-made part of the world.
I mentioned before that controllability is huge for building confidence. So teach your puppy to make these noises himself, as well. Get him to knock a milk carton around with rocks and treats inside – put the rocks in through the top, then close the lid. Put holes in the container that are too small for the rocks but small enough to let the treats out. If your puppy is sensitive to sounds, start with only treats inside and build up to adding rocks, bells, etc. As you add noisier items, make the treats more delicious.
Use a recording of various noises as a marker, so you’d play the noise briefly as a “click” and then feed the dog. Turn it off just before he’s finished getting treats. Play the recording at a low enough volume that the dog is not at all scared, but he can still hear it. Jo Laurens, CBATI followed my recommendation and submitted the video below as homework when she took this course with her puppy. Note that even though the sound seems louder to us at first and then quieter, it is actually the other way around for the dog. The speaker was first turned toward the camera (away from the dog, so quieter for the dog, but louder for us) and then toward the dog (away from the camera – quieter for us).
Sounds can also be introduced at low volume just before activities that your puppy enjoys. That way, he has a little time to process the sound, and then he gets, say, a food puzzle. The sound led to something good and he also continues to hear it as the puzzle goes on. So he is getting used to it as background noise. You can gradually turn up the volume over time if he is completely comfortable. If you are seeing any ear twitching or looking in the direction of the sound, it is too loud.
Introduce sounds multiple times, in a variety of places. This is especially true for the sounds that dogs are generally more afraid of, like thunder. Let your puppy experience each sound at least once without a lot of other sounds, to be sure he heard it and will remember. Also make sure your dog is totally safe when new sounds are introduced. So never play new sounds during puppy play time or nail trimming, for example. If the puppy is frightened or hurt just at the wrong moment, he may associate that with the sound.
The good thing is that your puppy needs three meals a day, so you can play a sound before each one. In case you didn’t notice this before, his meals should come from a puzzle most of the time, not a bowl. Have some sounds recorded on your phone or computer and play them before the meal.
In the airport scene described above, Peanut would also be noticing a lot more movement than I would. While the human eye is better at seeing details, dogs are far better at detecting motion. So every person walking or running by, the man jiggling his legs, the woman nervously tapping her thigh, the man putting away his laptop beside me… Peanut would see all of that, and more.
Some dogs are afraid of movement and many dogs chase anything that moves, either to herd or to catch. All of these responses can be a problem. You can teach your dog to look at you whenever he sees something exciting by constantly doing the autowatch activity that I described in the first lesson. That works fine, as a strategy for coping, but your dog then never really has a chance to see what’s going on, because he’s always looking at you.
In this video, Bean is learning about the lawn mower by having a chance to check it out.
So while I do like to teach the dog to check in a lot, my preference is to not take it to extremes. I would rather work on relaxation around moving objects. Like the autowatch, relaxation is incompatible with chasing and fear, since the dog can’t relax his muscles and chase something at the same time. But relaxation gives dogs a chance to process more information and notice that a) there is nothing to fear and b) the moving object leaves eventually anyway. We talked about teaching relaxation through association near the beginning of the course. Say Relax just before doing something relaxing with the puppy or before you see the puppy about to settle.
A way that’s a bit more practical around moving objects is to manufacture relaxation by catching small bits of it. Mark with a calm marker word and feed calmly or use massage if it doesn’t excite your puppy. When that works well, you can start to do the same activity at a good distance away from something that’s moving, like cars, other dogs, etc.
Parallel play is a term generally used with children, meaning they are doing activities at the same time, nearby but not really doing it together. Each child is doing her own thing, but is still being somewhat social because it’s done near another child. When I use the term with respect to dogs, I basically mean the same thing – while your dog is getting used to another person or dog, occasionally checking in, each of them are doing their own thing, like sniffing for treats or working through food puzzles.
This is similar to what I discussed above in terms of surfaces – while the puppy is sniffing for treats, he’s also walking on a new surface, getting used to both at the same time. In both cases, there may be a pleasant association made, but it’s also not quite the same as really interacting with the other puppy or really noticing the surface. So while I do recommend doing parallel play activities for socialization or using treats in various ways for surfaces, I also make sure that we provide a chance for interaction without the distractions, as well.
Parallel play is an excellent thing to use to get your puppy used to motions, like the vacuum cleaner. You can feed your puppy a food puzzle while you vacuum. If your puppy becomes interested in the vacuum cleaner, just make it “boring” and wait for him to inspect it and go back to his puzzle.
As another example, when your puppy is outside and the neighbors are also out with their children or other dogs, you can scatter treats in your backyard or give your puppy a Kong. That gives him a chance to get used to the various sounds and motions. He may look up for a bit, and then go back to his task.
So far, we have worked on socialization with live animals, including humans and all of the various things we do to dogs, like vet care. Help your puppy become confident about what comes into his senses from the rest of the world around him, as well. That includes the physical sensation of what his paw pads and body touch, the sensation of balance being off and regained, the sounds that come into his ears, the feeling of deep bass, seeing fast moving objects, and the look of visual surfaces, like shiny floors.
With our feet safely wrapped in shoes and socks, we humans may not notice that there are many different surfaces on our daily walks. For our dogs, each surface is a different sensation. We all probably know this, in theory, but if you are brave enough to go out on a walk barefoot or happen to have a pair of barefoot shoes, do so, and pay attention to your body as you walk around. When I first started wearing the barefoot shoes, I was awestruck at how every surface has a unique sensation. Tile, carpet, round gravel, sharp gravel, grass, dirt…each surface feels different. And yet people so often drag their dogs along, expecting a constant heel over all of these different surfaces.
When a dog has not experienced a variety of surfaces as a puppy, encountering a new surface can make them anxious. Let’s take a look at some of the different surfaces that your puppy should have a chance to walk on. There may be even more in your region that I haven’t thought of – if so, please share that in the discussion.
wood (polished floors, rough outdoor decks, wood chips, or walking on downed trees)
agility obstacles (rubberized or sand in paint)
carpet/rug (thin, thick, rag, sisal)
grass (short & tall)
plants (for example, dandelions)
large paving stones
uneven surface or mixed medium (dirt and stones, objects on floor)
metal street grates and manhole covers? (see below)
metal (flat, bumpy, or patterns of holes)
surfaces with holes in them where the dog can see down below (like a wooden deck or stairs with gaps between boards)
Welcome mat (woven or prickly for wiping feet)
Higher surfaces, like a table that puppy is lifted onto
Surfaces that move or require a balance change will be covered under proprioception (stairs, ramps, elevators, wobble boards, ice, water, etc.)
The good news is that you don’t have to get your dog used to every single surface that he will ever feel. But he should have a wide variety of surfaces so that he can start to be comfortable with the concept that a change of surface is not a bad thing. And you should be aware that a surface change may cause your dog to become less confident or suddenly lose focus on you. This can happen in puppyhood but may happen at any point during your dog’s life.
There are many ways to get your puppy comfortable with a surface. I want to make sure to do the options at the top of the list at some point, because there is less of a distraction and the puppy can get more information about the surface. That makes it easier to extend to another situation later. The other reason I want you to do the items at the top of the list is that sometimes using treats can mask the fear. A puppy may go onto a surface to get a treat, but completely avoid it otherwise. In that case, we have not properly desensitized the puppy to that surface.
Please don’t think that I’m saying we should not use treats to help a puppy make a good association with that surface. You can always use treats at first if you want, but make sure to go up the list as well.
Your puppy will sometimes show cautious body language and need a bit of help. In that case, go as far down the list as you need for your puppy to be confident, being sure to also work your way back up the list at some point. When in doubt, assume your puppy needs help.
Have your puppy off leash or on a long line using your BAT leash skills. If your puppy needs to stop to process information, be sure to allow him to do so. There will be many opportunities to get your puppy used to new surfaces on your regular walk.
(BE SURE TO DO THIS AT SOME POINT) Let your puppy explore the surface on his own. Walk around with him if it’s large. Stay relaxed and calm. Praise calmly if he checks in with you, not so excitedly that he’s now only staring at you. Let him learn that it’s no big deal. Training is distracting so let him just do this on his own without constantly training.
Set out treats in the area and let him explore and find them. These are found objects, not a cued Find It. If you feel uncomfortable putting food on this surface, you can put the treats in food bowls or paper cups.
We have already worked on finding treats in different types of containers with a cued Find It. Do this on different surfaces.
Set out a food puzzle for him to find in the area. Let him finish his puzzle in peace.
Use touch to bring him closer to the area and farther away again. So he does touch close to the surface, then you move away and treat him. Repeat until he’s comfortably going onto the surface. Leslie McDevitt calls this “puppy ping pong.”
At some point, also cue Sit or Down or other position changes on the different surfaces. This helps generalize the training so your puppy knows that what these cue mean in all of those places. It also brings a different part of your dog’s body in contact with the surface.
Here’s a video from Emily Larlham on getting puppies used to surfaces and sounds:
Film as you practice one of the More Please Signal exercises for getting your dog used to a sound, grooming, etc. Take it slow! Look at your puppy’s body language. Is your puppy totally in the game or are you moving too quickly?
Practice and film the restraint exercise. Can you make it easier on your dog somehow?
Practice the training exercises in this section.
Continue socialization with other puppies, dogs, and people
We covered the “Head Through Harness” skill in a previous lesson. Be sure to practice that with your puppy. You can also start off with just teaching your puppy to target a collar so that there are fewer moving parts to bang into the puppy’s face.
Start on your knees or the balls of your feet, with your chest upright.
Lure the puppy in a U-shape so he is now facing away from you. Mark and treat. Do that several times until you can easily get the puppy in position.
Repeat that but ask for a sit at the end, either verbally or with a lure. Mark and reinforce for the sit.
Pet the puppy in this position for a very short period of time. If she remains seated, mark and reinforce. This Sit Stay is your More Please Signal for the restraint, so if she moves at any time, just wait or get up, move away, and crouch back down. When she approaches you again, lure her back into the Sit-Stay, facing away from you.
Repeat, gradually adding more time in the Sit-Stay before each treat. Build up to about 10-15 seconds
Repeat. Starting to add some petting, touch to the neck, and eventually restraint with her head held away from the “vet tech” Reduce the time between treats whenever you add something new. [Note: to use empowerment to its fullest, teach a chin target to your hand, so that your puppy is SELF-restraining.]
Add the cotton ball press as your marker. Set a treat or toy away from her where she can see it, but can’t get to it, and then do a light restraint. Press the cotton ball for a few seconds. Say a release cue, like “Free” and help her go get the treat. Build up quickly to the 5-second cotton ball press and then be consistent with the timing after that.
Extend the duration of the restraint and practice in different areas. Visit the vet just to do training for things like this and getting a weight on the scale, etc.
This is similar to shaking paws, but it’s not really what I’m looking for. Don’t grab your dog’s paw and shake it up and down like a human shaking hands in a Western country. What I want is for your dog to target your paw and for you to hold it steady, to prepare for nail trimming or for putting on a harness. If you want to add the handshake movement for your own entertainment, that’s up to you.
You might be able to use capturing to get this behavior. To do that, just hold a treat and wait for your puppy to paw your hand. Put your other hand out so that he will accidentally hit it on the way down, and that’s when you will mark and treat.
Try that first. If that works, awesome. If not, let’s teach it using shaping. Or if you just want to learn more about shaping, try this way.
Here’s a good way to teach your puppy to target, by Kim from the AdimusDogServices YouTube channel in the UK. It’s easier to use a different target that seems different than the one that you used for a nose touch. Use something sturdy, like a coaster or lid.
This target can then be extended to the shake. I really prefer this way over the old “grab the paw” way.
For the back paws, you can either do proper targeting, as above (which is harder) or do a Stay where you can say “hind paw” to let the dog know that’s what you’re touching next. Stay is the More Please Signal that says that the dog is still willing to put up with you touching his back paws in exchange for your treats. In other words, it’s ok to continue the “empowered counterconditioning.”
The More Please Signal comes into play with vet care as well. So does voluntary restraint. In fact, the two go hand in hand.
The dog can go into a restraint position as her MPS. It should also be on cue so that you can ask for the behavior at the vets.
For example, when we need a blood sample from Peanut’s jugular vein, I take a toy from my pocket and say Leave It as I set it down. I give him the cue for the restraint pose and he moves to where I can hold his chest with one hand and hold his head back turned away from the vet tech. she can take the blood from his neck safely. As she takes the needle out, I put my thumb on the cotton she has placed there. I hold it for a few seconds to keep him from bleeding and then release him to grab his toy.
During each vet visit, I keep this behavior strong by doing several fake blood draws, both before and after the real one. We built up to this by doing pretty much the same thing as what I explained above with grooming. The only difference is that the injection itself can’t be the marker, because he has to move to get his toy, and I can’t have him charging after his toy when he has a needle in his neck.
First I taught the ‘self restraint pose’ and built up to ‘press the cotton ball for 5 seconds’ before releasing him. Then started having a friend give him fake injections with a syringe that had no needle. I used the cotton ball press as a marker, because the release to get the toy always happened 5 seconds after that. It was a predictable signal that the reinforcer was coming.
In other words, after each item on the list below, your friend will put a cotton ball on his neck (next to your fingers) and then you will press the cotton for 5 seconds and release your dog to get the toy or treat. I recommend asking your vet or vet tech to show you exactly where they would need to take blood or do injections. Do the same exercise for other places that blood is taken or injections are given.
Syringe comes out from behind your back, not approaching the dog (allow dog to sniff the nail file at any point that she wants)
Syringe moves slightly closer to the dog (however many steps you need)
Syringe touches the dog
Syringe touches the dog and helper lightly pinches the skin
Syringe touches the dog and helper lightly pinches the skin and pokes the syringe around as if looking for a vein (remember, no needle)
Syringe touches the dog and helper lightly pinches the skin and holds the syringe in place, drawing the stopper out
Note: my friend didn’t wear scrubs or a vet coat, but that would have been helpful.
You saw the video before of Peanut doing a blood draw. Here’s some training work that we did after (and before) the blood draw to keep his behavior strong.
Other tips: Exhale and relax. Your puppy is getting from information from you as to whether he should be nervous. Stay relaxed and avoid patting him repeatedly. Do some easy training in the waiting room, like Touch, Find It, or other tricks. Generalize to other people doing the restraint if possible, especially if you travel a lot without your dog.
If you have trained your dog to be comfortable with blood draws and restraints in this way, do your best not to let her be taken into the back for a blood draw. She really probably is more comfortable with you if you have trained her.
GOING FOR A WALK
Your dog will fuss less about getting a harness on if it’s done when she is ready for it. Teach her to put her head through the harness instead of just looping it over her head without her permission. If she needs to lift her feet, teach her. If you have a step-in harness, teach her to step into it, rather than always grabbing her paws to put her into the harness. It’s a targeting exercise.
Training can take several days or more, so in the meantime, you can use treats or targeting to lure her head through the harness, then have someone keep feeding her or set several on the floor so you can clip the harness on before she wiggles away. This is a temporary measure, at best, so teach her to cooperate in getting the harness on. If your puppy is having trouble, you can also use collar for a week or so while you train your puppy to enjoy his harness.
Here’s a video by Emily Larlham on teaching a puppy to be comfortable with the harness. I might make one change by having the movement toward the harness be even more of the dog’s idea, but Emily’s technique is good.
You can also use the More Please Signal with the harness. The nose through the harness is the MPS, the behavior that says “do it again.”
First: teach her that the clip sound on the harness means treats are coming, so that when you get to the final stage of putting the harness on and clipping it, that’s an automatic “YAY” moment for the dog. Doing this first also creates a positive association with the sight of the harness.
Teach head through: use a verbal marker to mark and reinforce targeting the harness, then getting the nose through the harness using Touch, and build up to just holding the harness out and getting the puppy to put her head through. Move it around so she has to work to get to where the harness is and put her head through.
Now that you have that: as long as her head is through the harness, you can do the “classical conditioning” of associating something with treats. To make some good associations, treat after each of the steps below. Keep the harness held up so she can back out if she wants. If she backs away at any point, just stay where you are or move away and wait for your puppy to put her head back through the harness. If she’s backing out a lot, you are going to fast.
Here’s an example of some steps:
Touch her shoulder with the back of your hand (one treat for each shoulder)
Scratch her shoulder (one treat for each shoulder)
Scratch both shoulders for one treat
Touch her side with the back of your hand (one treat for each side)
Scratch her side (one treat for each side)
Scratch both sides for one treat
Scratch her belly from the side.
Ask for the Shake (paw) behavior, if that’s part of getting your harness on
Touch her with a strap of the harness (various places, one treat for each spot)
Lower the harness onto her shoulders (but keep ahold of it so she can back out)
Set the harness onto her shoulders, treat, and immediately remove it. Then move away so she has to get to you to put her head back through. Note: I always say “head down” just before I remove the harness, for predictability and stress reduction.
Set the harness on to her shoulders and mess with the straps, then treat and remove the harness. Move away, as above.
Make the leash clip noise while the harness is around her neck but not fully on her body
Put the harness on and clip it, then treat and immediately remove it. Move away as above.
Put the harness on and toss several treats for her to find.
When you take the harness off, start by petting her politely and then just work your way to the clips, rather than just lunging at her harness. Use the 5-second rule, even for this. Feel free to use treats to extend how long she wants to hang around you, though. 🙂 The same applies for putting the leash onto the harness.
You can also teach her that the sound of the leash clipping is like a clicker. Treat her whenever you make a leash clipping noise. Give it some extra power by repeating clip/treat/pause.
If the leash gets tangled around her feet, it usually means you accidentally let the line go below her knees, so she could step over it. It happens. Instead of grabbing at her feet to move them over the leash, get her to do it herself. For example, cue Shake, have her sit, lure her to step over the leash, etc.
WHAT COOPERATION LOOKS LIKE AND HOW TO GET IT: More Please Signals
Humans can get an impressive amount of control over dogs by using the various training techniques. Force free training can be applied to all sorts of problems, but it really excels when it comes to teaching the dog to DO something. We can teach them to do showy behaviors that impress our friends. These tricks give the dogs some mental stimulation. They also help us communicate to our dogs, at least in the sense that we can say a cue and they’ll do a behavior. We feel listened to. That’s fine if there is a lot of time in the day for all that training and the rest puppies need, but I’d say a better use of our time during puppyhood is to teach our dogs to cooperate in their own care.
If you have a Building Blocks membership, check out our video on the More Please Signal, called “Advanced Classical Conditioning with the More Please Signal.”
Here’s a video by UK trainer Chirag Patel. He trained his dog, Cody, help make the vet visits go smoothly, from blood draws to checking on his teeth. Notice that Chirag does not open Cody’s mouth using pressure. This is a targeting exercise, where Cody is actually targeting the fingers with the inside of his mouth.
Teaching a dog to actively participate in exercises that help him get used to grooming, vet care, and other daily activities creates a chance for satisfying and useful 2-way conversations. It’s what the best zoos do. My favorite trainers, including Ken Ramirez and Chirag, have been getting the word out to pet owners about how to bring this training into our homes. It fits in well with the empowered puppy raising philosophy and of course I always like to give things my own spin, too.
Here’s a video of Peanut getting a jugular blood draw. He actively says “let’s do this” by moving into the carwash position and targeting his chin to my hand.
Let’s say you want to get a dog used to a sound, like a shotgun. It’s helpful to just associate the sound with food by playing the sound and feeding. That’s a popular technique for “classical counterconditioning.” But it’s even more powerful to teach the dog to control the sound, because it gives you more specific information on how you are doing with keeping the dog relaxed during this process (for the trainers: I mean “below threshold”). And control itself is reinforcing, so that’s another positive thing to associate with the sound. This way is a more empowered version of counterconditioning.
We basically teach the dog a way to say “play that sound again.” Let’s call that a More Please Signal (MPS), the canine version of a keep going signal.
Pick a behavior that will be your dog’s way to communicate with you, something you don’t mind them doing a lot. Next, get a recording of the sound. You will play it back at a low volume so that it does not scare your dog.
Play the sound and then feed a treat (just a quick check that we are at a good volume, where the dog can hear it, but is not scared). Pause and just be boring for about 15 seconds in between. Repeat three times and observe body language. If the dog is scared at any point, reduce the volume by at least half.
Use the sound as a marker for the behavior you picked as your MPS. Let’s say that behavior is Sit. Just wait with your treats in your hands and soon your puppy will sit. Play the sound as the marker, then praise and treat. If you do use sit, toss the treat so the puppy is up and ready for the next repetition. Repeat until the puppy is clearly asking for you to play the sound. If your puppy is already very clicker savvy, continue past that to at least about 10 times. Then move to a new place and repeat the activity with a slightly higher volume.
If at any point, the puppy wanders away or does not sit, then you may need to reassess. Possible causes:
The sound was too loud
Your puppy just isn’t familiar with Sit being a magical way to get humans to feed her (so be patient)
Your timing is too slow (she is not hearing the sound right when she sits or chooses to sit)
She doesn’t like your treats
You are scaring her with your body language or maybe are praising too loud
The sound is too quiet, so it’s not marking the behavior
Your body language is confusing (too active, making her think she is getting treats randomly)
With this way of doing things, versus simply playing the sound and giving her a treat, you get more information and I usually see puppies learn more quickly. I also see people paying more attention to whether they are desensitizing at the right level of exposure. People tend to try to rush things and end up playing the sound too loudly when the puppy doesn’t have a say in the process.
This way also teaches your puppy how to learn from you via marker training. If you are experienced with shaping, you can even double up by shaping a trick using this new marker signal.
Basically anything that we want to do to our dogs can be used as a marker if we think creatively. And while any behavior will do as a More Please Signal, it helps to pick an MPS that is also not obnoxious and is incompatible with behavior dogs normally use to get us to stop. So barking, biting, and avoiding are probably not good choices for More Please Signals.
Many puppies chew at the brush or bite the human. Targeting a yoghurt lid or a Post-It note is incompatible with that. Targeting the inside of a muzzle is another good More Please Signal for grooming and vet care. But unless you are really, really good at not messing up and pushing too hard, I recommend training the muzzle separately at first. I wouldn’t want to risk doing this wrong and having the muzzle associated with stress. I think all dogs should be taught to love a muzzle, so that if a muzzle is ever needed in an emergency, it doesn’t add extra stress to the situation.
But back to grooming…
Let’s say you have Target as your More Please Signal. Train your puppy to target up to the point of being able to hold her chin or nose to the target for several seconds.
The brushing is the marker, and just like the sound was above. Gradually turn up the intensity of on the brushing as your dog is successful at each step, just like we did with the volume of the sound.
Keep a relaxed and happy attitude throughout. Don’t be super excited or you may cause your puppy to want to bounce around.
I’ll break it into some steps below, but you may need to split things up even more. Your dog may be sensitive to the changes between the steps I’ve written or need more before to get set up. Work at each step 10 times and then pause to prepare yourself with what you will do at the next step. The only thing you will change is the intensity of the brushing during each session. I recommend being in a sort of grooming position before you get started, so you are sitting down at your dog’s level or you have trained him to be comfortable on a grooming table.
Note: If you are an advanced trainer and want to use this to shape a behavior at the same time, you could also for the dog to hold her nose to the target for longer and longer, for example. But then you have a little bit of confusion as to whether the dog doesn’t like the brushing or doesn’t understand the behavior. So I’d recommend sticking with just one set behavior unless you are very sure the dog is comfortable with each step.
Touch puppy with your hand (hold brush in the other hand behind your back – the touching hand is also your feeding hand, if you are alone, so you may need to let the puppy sniff your hand each time before touching)
Brush comes out from behind your back, not approaching the dog (allow dog to sniff the brush at any point that she wants)
Brush moves slightly closer to the dog (however many steps you need to get to the next step smoothly)
Brush touches the dog (different location each time) – bristles up
Brush touches the dog (different location each time) – bristles down
Brush slides along for 1 second (different location each time) – bristles up
Brush the dog for 1 second (different location each time) – bristles down
Brush the dog for 2 seconds (different location each time)
Brush the dog for 3 seconds (different location each time)
Brush the dog for 4 seconds (different location each time)
Brush the dog for 5 seconds (different location each time)
5 seconds is a lot of time for a puppy, so you may want to stick with 5 seconds as your upper limit for a while before you have to ‘feed the meter’ again. Your treats don’t have to just be food. If your puppy enjoys massage, that can also be the treat a good deal of the time.
Try to use calm reinforcers so that you get calm behavior during grooming and vet care. That said, with a dog who truly cannot stand what you need to do, then any reinforcer that she’ll work for is fine. For example, I have messed up nail trimming enough times that Peanut really doesn’t like it. He knows it’s a risky business. But he still happily cooperates with me, putting his paw out for filing, because I toss his toy to him when I have done each nail. We use the same for blood draws.
Do not try to do this all at once! Do about 5 minutes per session. In each session, you can work your way more quickly to the bottom of the list.
Standing on a rug or other object (this is a type of paw targeting) is another good More Please Signal for brushing. As long as your puppy is on the rug, she is willing to trade brushing for treats. If she leaves, pause the brushing. Use the same gradual approach as above.
This is a nice use of the More Please Signal! Nella was one of our Empowered Puppy Raising students. Her mum Katey Aldred made this little video to show Nella’s continued progress. You may need to click over to YouTube to watch it.
Video is great for showing us how we can improve even more. After seeing the bit of jumping at the click and the slightly tucked tail, Katey will begin using a release cue as the marker and also work on making it even more “worth it” to Nella.
I prefer filing to clipping because I’m less likely to get it wrong. I also think that clipping is sudden and probably feels like being bitten, whereas nail filing is more gradual.
Use nail files meant for artificial nails, as they have the best filing surface. I also use a Dremel tool, because it is a lot faster, but it is also easy to mess up and injure the dog or yourself.
The paw shake is a perfect More Please Signal for nail filing or clipping. You’ll need to get a paw shake with all four paws. Work up to being able to hold your dog’s paw with a grip on the toenail. Grip it tightly but keep it in the natural shape of the paw, rather than pulling the toe back. Holding the toenail firmly will dampen the vibration when you file or clip it.
The process for nail filing is essentially the same as for brushing, but most dogs dislike having their nails done, so be ready to need more steps here. Your MPS can be something like paw-to-hand targeting (front paw) or paw lift (back paw), which you first train with the clicker or marker word, using the steps in the training section below. During clipper training, when your puppy does the MPS, you’ll use the nail file as the marker. Gradually turn up the intensity of the filing using something like the list below. Always watch for signs of stress or hesitation, and make things easier if need be.
Reminder: Do not try to do this all at once! Do about 5 minutes per session. In each session, you can work your way more quickly to the bottom of the list.
File comes out from behind your back, not approaching the dog (allow dog to sniff the nail file at any point that she wants)
File moves slightly closer to the dog (however many steps you need)
File touches the toenail
File for ½ second (different toe each time, work your way around to all toes)
File for 1 second (different toe each time, work your way around to all toes)
File for 2 seconds (different toe each time, work your way around to all toes)
File for 3 seconds (different toe each time, work your way around to all toes)
File for 4 seconds (different toe each time, work your way around to all toes)
File for 5 seconds (different toe each time, work your way around to all toes)
As with brushing, 5 seconds at a time may be the maximum for your puppy. If you choose to clip instead, then work your way up to the clipping in a gradual way as well. For example, you can trim a toothpick near the paw in order to copy the sound of the clippers.
As you can see, this concept can be extended to many things that we need to do to our dogs. For example, we can do the same with cleaning the ears. Targeting a Post-It could be the MPS for that as well, or targeting the cotton ball with the nose. If you have other kinds of grooming or things that must be done to your dog, use the More Please Signal to get cooperation there, too.
Food for thought: What could you use as a More Please Signal for the examination of a conformation dog?
Teaching your dog to touch a portable target is useful for many things. one thing, you can teach a dog to touch a target and then put that target into a crate. A target can be placed inside of a muzzle, box, bowl, tunnel, or anything else that you want to help the puppy learn to go into or onto. You can use it to teach your puppy to move away from you for dog sports or to encourage self-confidence.
You can use a target to exercise your puppy, indoors or out, by having him run to it and back to you. This is a great way to tire your dog out before a walk to reduce the chance of pulling on leash.
Targets can build confidence, too. A target can be placed gradually closer to an object that the dog is concerned about, giving him a specific task to do in that situation (but be careful not set something up that feels like a trap)!
Targeting can be used as a “keep going” signal from your dog to you for grooming or vet care. We will talk about that in Lesson 14. By targeting various objects to create sound or movement, your dog can become more comfortable with his environment. You can use targeting to teach other cues.
And finally, once you have two targets, like your hand and the portable target we are teaching this time, you can extend to many other kinds of targets more easily. I taught Peanut to find morel mushrooms and my keys by basically just teaching him to target them.
How to Teach Targeting
To teach the Target cue, simply hold out the target near your puppy and mark any interest in it whatsoever. Treat. I like to feed a bit away from the target so that I can mark again when the dog heads back toward it. Otherwise, hide the target while you are treating and then bring it back out when the puppy is ready. Repeat, gradually getting more and more picky about what you mark. Once it’s clearly not just random motions, start to mark if your puppy’s response is better than average.
So if you want your puppy to target a specific location on the target, for example, mark if it’s closer than average. Do this about 10 click/treats at a time and then reassess. Make sure the game is not too hard for your dog. He should be getting it right most of the time. Focus on one aspect of the behavior and don’t worry if you lose some sharpness in your other criteria. Possible things to work on:
Touching longer than average
Pushing harder than average
Taking more steps to get to the target
Jumping up to get the target
Once the behavior looks good, then start to cue Target before you present the Post-It note or other target. The verbal cue, the word “Target” becomes a way for your dog to know that this time it might get reinforced. Without that cue, you are no longer reinforcing.
About one time out of 5 that you show the target, hold it slightly out of her reach and don’t give the Target cue. If she doesn’t go after it, praise her and then lower the target and give the cue. Over time, have the target in a more and more obvious location for the times when you are not cueing it, so the only difference between the times when the target is “live” or not is that you have said the cue. This exercise helps her learn to pay attention to your words.
At some point, you will probably put out the target and your dog will probably still touch it. Ignore that and wait for a pause. Reinforce that pause by saying “Target” and then marking/treating.
If she ever doesn’t touch it when cued, just wait for a second and then remove the target. Try again. If she doesn’t touch it a few times in a row, go back to shaping her to touch it.
Why Should I Crate Train My Dog?
Dogs and puppies should all be taught to be comfortable in a crate or kennel. The crate is a great hang-out place for dogs that are stressed, it’s excellent for safely taking dogs in the car, and crate since they’ll probably end up being in a crate or kennel at the veterinarian’s office at some point or other, it’s helpful if they’re already used to the crate. If you compete in agility, having a crate-trained dog is a must!
Crates are also excellent for housetraining puppies. Dogs are much less likely to “go potty” in a small area like a crate, but you should not have a tiny crate that only lets him turn around. Puppies can’t stay in the kennel forever, but it’s a great accident-prevention tool. That said, you should try not to leave a puppy in a crate for very long, if it’s at all avoidable, and a bigger crate is better. The puppy should be able to stretch out fully and move around. That may require using an exercise pen instead of a crate or attaching two crates together. Consider using a bathroom or other space if you are leaving your puppy long enough that he will need to pee.
Here’s a video of me shaping my puppy to go into his crate:
What Kind of Crate is Right for My Puppy?
If your dog is not used to a kennel yet, you’ll need a sturdy crate, not the crates that are made of canvas and mesh. Those kind of portable dog crates are good to have, but just aren’t for newbies. The two main kinds of portable kennels are airline crates, like the “Vari-Kennel”, which are plastic and have a metal front. The other kind of crate is all metal and looks a little scarier, but aren’t any harder on the dog. There are also fancy crates to match your decor.
Pick a crate that your dog can stand up and turn around easily in. The crate need not be much bigger for the car, but should be bigger for your home, so your puppy can really stretch out and even walk around a bit. If you are looking for a crate, you can also post on Craigslist or put up a flyer at a dog school. Your crate should have a nice soft crate pad in it. Some dogs will chew up their crate pads, so you might just want to use a towel or blanket. If all else fails, leave out the padding.
If you are a member, look for the Building Blocks video called “How (and Why) to Crate Train Your Puppy.”
Crate Training Option 1: Shaping
So now that you have the crate, you have to convince your dog that it’s the best place on earth. You can do this with a combination of shaping — training by reinforcing approximations of the behavior you want and gradually getting more selective — and “luring” which uses a treat or target to encourage the behavior. Use the same marker word or clicker that you used for the autowatch and Target. Put a tasty treat in the crate. That is a the “lure” that brings the puppy into or near the crate. If your puppy goes into the crate, click as he heads in and toss another treat inside. As long as he stays inside of the crate, keep clicking and treating. If he leaves the crate or if he doesn’t go into the crate in the first place, follow the steps below. This is what I was doing in the video above.
Click for any attention toward the crate at all – even little eye motions. If your dog will go into the crate, put the treat in the crate and repeat the above steps. If not, just toss the treat a bit (not into the crate) to get the puppy moving.
Click several times for head turns toward the crate.
Click several times for moving a paw toward the crate.
Click several times for taking two steps toward the crate.
Continue raising your criteria (not paying for little steps, waiting for more).
Gradually start to extend the time between treats, so your puppy patiently stays in longer.
Briefly shut the door, click and treat through an opening in the crate. Then open the door and say “okay” to tell the puppy he can leave the crate. Encourage him out, but don’t feed him outside. If he goes back in, reinforce that!
Gradually extend the amount of time the puppy is in the crate with the door shut.
During this training, let the puppy out whenever he wants. The goal is to reinforce frequently enough that your puppy thinks “Why would I leave? This is the best deal on earth!”
You can wait to add the cue until your dog is totally trained, or you can add it just whenever the behavior is happening. So when she begins to enter the crate, start to say “Kennel” just before she goes in. Say this every time she’s headed in and she’ll be crate trained in no time.
Don’t do all of the crate training steps above at once. Train any activity, especially something that might be stressful, like crate training, for 2-5 minutes max at a time. Stop to play with the puppy in between sessions, or take a nap, or go potty, etc. If the dog or puppy begins to look nervous or stops wanting to go into the crate, pause to reassess your training plan. Relax your criteria and expect less from the puppy. Don’t push so fast next time. The puppy should be easily successful at every step.
Once you can put the puppy in and close the crate door for a few seconds, give her bigger treats, instead of little tidbits. Kongs with some Peanut Butter or wet dog food are great for this. Or Bully Sticks or Nylabones are also great. Basically, something edible that takes a bit of time to chew on is perfect. Let the puppy out of her crate any time she wants out, preferably before she starts screaming. If your puppy does throw a fit, you can let her out immediately. That’s contrary to “common knowledge” but if you can teach her to love her crate, then she won’t need to throw a fit anyway, right?
Leave your puppy’s crate open to her during the day, and hide treats or toys in there, so when she happens to head into the crate, she gets rewarded. If you spot her heading into the crate at any time, say “kennel” (not so loudly as to disturb her progress) and either give her a treat or let her get the one inside the kennel. If your dog is afraid of going in or has had a bad experience, crate training is a slow process, but it’s worth it!
You’re working on training her to love her crate, but in the meantime, you may need to use the crate, because she’s destructive and/or not housetrained. If you can at all avoid having the puppy stay in the crate before you’ve worked slowly up to leaving her in the crate for 15-30 minutes at a time, do so. That means that if your puppy neither housetrained nor crate trained, you might want to tether the puppy to you with a leash around your waist or put her in a front pack.
You can leave the puppy in the bathroom or an exercise pen with some newspaper for a few days while you train her to love her crate. Or, worst case, you can use one type of kennel for leaving her in the daytime and train her to love the other one. At night, you can have her sleep in the bed for a few days while you train her to like her crate. For young puppies, it shouldn’t take very long to get her to go willingly into the crate and stay there. Every time you put her into the crate, give her a treat that takes time to consume, like the aforementioned Kong.
Crate Training Option 2: Go to Your Rug
Another option is to target train your dog, and then transfer that to crate training. For example, you can train her to go to a rug, and then gradually move that rug inside the crate. One way to do this is to follow the steps above for shaping your dog to enter the crate, but use it for the rug. Here’s another way to train a Magnetic Rug:
Toss the rug (crate pad) onto the floor in front of your puppy with a flourish.
She’ll go over to sniff it. If your puppy ends up on the rug, continue to the next step. If not, lure her onto the rug.
Give her several Click/treats for being a great puppy.
Say ‘okay’ and gently take the rug out from under her. The stolen rug is now worth a Million Dog Dollars.
Wait a few seconds and repeat.
Once your puppy is predictably heading to the rug or crate pad, say “rug” or “bed” or “go to your bed” or (my personal favorite), “disappear.” You want to say the cue about a second before the dog does the behavior. Eventually, you can say “Disappear” and she’ll go to the rug on her own. Work on adding different variables, like training from further away or with more distractions. To transfer this to crate training, put the rug closer and closer to the crate, until it’s all the way inside. You can use the same cue, or you can create a new one. Just say, “Kennel” and then pause for a second, then say “disappear” (which your puppy already now knows) and click/treat when she goes into the kennel and onto the rug. Eventually, train without the crate pad inside, if you want to make sure she’s really getting the crate idea.
Crate Training Option 3: Targeting
With targeting, you first teach the dog to touch a target and then eventually put that target into the crate. Then you can put “getting into the crate” on cue.
First, teach your dog or puppy to touch a post-it, yoghurt lid, or a target stick.
Now that the dog or puppy will touch the target, you’ll start to get her closer and closer to the crate. Have the crate out and open. Work at a distance that the dog notices the crate, but isn’t fleeing the scene.
For the steps below, every time you cue Target, and the dog does, click and treat. If they don’t, put the target behind your back and put it back out again, saying “Target.” After a few times, if the dog still isn’t touching, the crate is probably to blame. Cut back on the difficulty by changing the location of the target.
Have the dog turn toward the crate to touch the target – just put the target between the dog and the crate (just a few inches) and cue your puppy to Target.
Present the target a step away from the dog, still between the dog and the crate entrance.
Three steps… Continue this until the dog begins to enter the crate.
Put the target further and further into the crate (you may have to put it through the side of the crate.)
Eventually, the target is at the far back of the crate, so the dog has to enter all the way in.
Once the dog is regularly going all the way into the crate to touch the target, start to say “Kennel,” a second before you cue the touch. Gradually fade the target, making it more and more invisible. If it’s a target stick, start to telescope it shorter or “choke up” on it. If it’s a paper target, cut it smaller and smaller. If you ever say “Kennel” and the dog goes in before you can say touch, skip the Target cue and just click and treat.
Work up to shutting the door longer and longer, as above.
Warning: Crated Dogs/Puppies Should be Naked in their Crates
One final word of caution – make sure your puppy is not wearing a collar or harness when left alone in her crate or pen. He may get caught on the crate and strangle. If you must leave a collar on the puppy, use something like the KeepSafe Breakaway dog collar, which comes off of the dog if they get caught.
Look at the list for the Puppy’s Rule of Twelve and create your own food puzzle to get your dog used to one or more of the items on that list.
Video: Record a short video of play or other interaction with a dog outside of your household. Take the time to write out all of the behaviors in at least 30 seconds of the video. I recommend playing it back for yourself in slow motion.
Red flags: are you seeing anything in your puppy that concerns you about behavior later? What can you do to work on that now? Socialization and problem prevention are important than training tricks or even manners.
Continue to socialize your puppy with dogs and humans outside of your household
Practice the training skills, targeting and crate training
Food for thought: Think of the specific behavior that you trained the most recent dog or puppy to join your household (before this puppy). Ponder that list through the lens of needs. How well was your dog able to meet his needs? Which behaviors were most helpful for that? What could you have taught that would have been more useful for the dog?
For example, I taught Peanut to spin, roll over, and sit pretty when he was 10 weeks old. Given another opportunity to train Peanut as a puppy, I would have spent that time and belly capacity to teach cooperative grooming sooner, like toothbrushing or nail trimming.
While dogs, like people, will take food that is offered to them, that’s not what they prefer. In fact, decades of research on contrafreeloading indicates that animals prefer to work for their food rather than having it provided for free. Well, most animals. It seems that maybe cats actually do like having staff, although puzzles are still good for them. So instead of putting your dog’s food in a bowl each day, have him work for some or all of it by putting it into food puzzles.
Food puzzles and exploration of the natural world are both good for the brain and your puppy’s overall welfare. As researchers on the “eureka” effect wrote, “opportunities to solve problems, make decisions, and exercise cognitive skills are important to an animal’s emotional experiences and ultimately, its welfare.”
Food puzzles come in many shapes and sizes and you can even make your own. For example, I made puzzles out of empty vegan ice cream containers for Peanut and Sagan:
You can get your puppy interested in tennis balls, acclimated to the sound of metal, and entertain her, all at the same time, by making this easy food puzzle. Video is by Debbie Oliver CPDT-KSA of Miss Daisy’s Dog Camp:
Get creative! There are lots of great commercial food puzzles out there, but using some creativity will also help you check off your Rule of Twelve checklist at the same time. For example, letting your puppy knock around a plastic milk jug with kibble in it will help him with sound sensitivity. In that case, your dog is the one that makes the sound happen. We are usually less afraid of events that we can control.
Jolein van Weperen is a great dog trainer and author in the Netherlands who specializes in impulse control and environmental enrichment. I was very impressed with her wide variety of puzzles and toys for dog “brainwork.” Her book, “Happy Handling!” is available in English (click here) or in Dutch (click here).
Here’s Emily Larlham’s video of Jolein’s puzzles:
Here’s some more. The “Treat Trapper” is an exercise that is meant to be done in a relaxed and thoughtful way, not just throwing it around. Watch how Jolein teaches this, in two parts. It’s pretty clear, even if you don’t speak Dutch:
Here’s another video by Jolein with one more puzzle idea:
“You can’t always get what you want But if you try sometimes, well you just might find You get what you need”
– The Rolling Stones
WHAT DOES YOUR PUPPY NEED and HOW DO YOU KNOW?
When we bring a dog into our home, we become his caretaker. Simply by having the dog in human society, in our homes or on our property, we have taken away many of the ways that dogs are able to meet their own needs. Just like caretakers at a modern zoo, our roles as canine caretakers is to provide ways for dogs meet their needs. In this lesson, I have split dogs’ needs into the following categories.
Safety and comfort
Survival of the species/social group (reproduction)
Family / Social Interaction
Other Environmental Enrichment
After this video, I’ll comment a bit on each category above.
Safety means both physical and emotional safety. With our puppies, that means only having them in situations that they can handle, and working as quickly as possible to help them feel comfortable in a variety of situations. It’s our responsibility to provide and prepare our dogs for grooming required for health and comfort (like tooth brushing and nail trimming for all breeds and fur brushing or even trimming for some breeds) and veterinary care, including vaccinations to prevent disease. Vaccines save lives, but they are not entirely benign. Don’t skip necessary vaccines, but also look into whether a particular vaccine is really needed for your dog’s lifestyle and location.
Physical exercise is primarily in the safety category, because insufficient exercise is a health risk. We must do so in a safe way, however, like training a solid recall and using a leash and harness near traffic. It also means not letting them run off leash toward on-leash dogs, and also removing the leash (if it’s safe) or leaving the area if a loose dog comes to them. I cringe whenever I see a poor puppy on a leash surrounded by dogs. No matter how friendly the dogs are, it’s quite scary for the puppy, who has nowhere to go. He’s like bait on a rope. If the area is enclosed and the dogs are friendly and well socialized, you might choose to let your puppy off-leash. Otherwise, it’s probably best to move on and avoid the stress.
Part of physical safety is protection from the elements, with my preference being that the dog lives indoors, with the family. Puppies need more sleep than adult dogs. Adults may sleep 12 to 16 hours each day, so a 3-month old puppy would need more like 15 or 20 hours per day. Puppies need a chance to consolidate memories made, so please set up your puppy’s world so that he gets plenty of rest. That means paying attention to where his sleeping areas are, keeping children out of there, etc. After exciting play times, don’t just leave the puppy all revved up. Do something to help him relax afterwards.
The individual dog needs to be safe, but the species and the family also need to survive. Humans know that dogs are doing pretty well as a species, and in fact we have more dogs than we can care for. Not every dog needs to breed. But it is our responsibility to encourage breeders to select mentally and physically sound dogs that thrive in human care. I’m on my soapbox here, but we owe our dogs a good future as a species and that means we need to stop breeding for looks at the expense of sanity and health.
Food and water need to go in and out of your dog’s system on a regular basis. Nutrition is beyond the scope of this course, but do pay attention to the food that goes into your puppy’s body. A dog’s diet has an effect on energy levels, overall health, lifespan, receptivity to training, and even can contribute to anxiety and other behavioral issues. Water should be available to your puppy and never withdrawn as punishment. Make sure you have water available when the puppy is alone, rather than taking it up to avoid the need to urinate.
For food and water to get out of your dog’s body in a way that you don’t mind, your dog needs regular walks or access to the outdoors. Leaving your puppy outside all day, however, may introduce him to certain things he’s not able to handle, like teasing children. He may learn to bark at passersby because he is afraid of them or is trying to get their attention. The same applies to a dog door. It’s better than an accident on your floor, but it’s less risky to take the puppy out regularly, have someone stop by to give potty walks, or have pads or papers near your door for times when the puppy can’t hold it.
According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums article on enrichment, environmental enrichment is “the dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animals’ behavioral biology and natural history.” Environmental enrichment is basically about giving the animals a chance to make choices that matter.
AZA writes, “Environmental changes are made with the goal of increasing the animals’ behavioral choices and drawing out their species-appropriate behaviors, thus enhancing animal welfare.” Enrichment includes natural social groupings to promote social interaction, as well as sensory enrichment, food enrichment, and training. We can do a lot of this with our dogs. For example:
Having more than one dog in your home (not always possible or advisable)
Play dates or walks with other dogs
Learning to understand our dogs’ behavior
Early socialization with many dogs outside of the family, so that your dog understands how to communicate with his own species (and wants to)
Not continuously training (allow natural behaviors and choices whenever possible)
Going for walks in places with interesting smells, surfaces, etc.
Food puzzles of various complexity (more on that later in this lecture)
More odors, puzzles, sounds, etc. if dog is housebound
Training that serves a purpose for the dog (focus on behaviors that help the dog)
Those are all needs that dogs might have. In the moment, your dog may have a particular need or even a want. We already spoke about 2-way communication in the first lesson. Have these needs in mind when you observe your dog’s behavior or ask him a question. Teach specific behavior that helps him communicate his wants and needs.
HOW NEEDS LEAD TO PROBLEMS
My laptop is stubborn. It insists on shutting down, even though it knows how much I appreciate it working and that I need it to stay on while I type this lesson for you. I can plead, shout, and buy some time by turning down the brightness, but in the end, only plugging my computer into power will stop this unwanted behavior. Fortunately, I have alternatives. If I leave it plugged in before I use it, I can work for hours without this problem behavior. By meeting the computer’s needs in a way that works with my schedule, we’re both happy.
We can do this with our dogs, too. I believe that most of the problems people have with their dogs is due to unmet needs.
I created the need categories by listing all of the problems that people have brought me over the years as a dog trainer. Let’s take a look at each of the categories and what kinds of “problem behaviors” are really just attempts to meet that need. These are not the ONLY ways these behaviors arise, and some problems are neurological, but you can pretty much always track a behavior back to some need not being met.
Pulling away or toward something
Lagging behind on walks (toward home)
Barking, growling, biting, etc. (dog feels unsafe, in pain, or just hasn’t had enough sleep)
“Ignoring” owner during training (sniffing ground when given a “command” – happens less with cues)
Overexcitement, trouble concentrating (not enough exercise, not enough sleep)
Howling, lack of appetite, and/or exit destruction when alone
Other Environmental Enrichment
Chewing / “Stealing”
Pulling toward smells or other interesting things
Stereotypic (repetitive) behavior
Shut down (non-behavior)
The behavior we consider to be a problem is just the dog’s attempt to get what he wants or needs. If he knew another reasonable way to get it that would also make us happy, he would likely do it. We might also be able to get rid of the need instead of meeting it, as with neutering males who wander to find females in season. There’s a section in the Ahimsa Dog Training manual on Functional Rewards. I’ll summarize it here:
Teach appropriate behavior by blocking the reinforcement for behavior you don’t want and reinforce behavior you do want with the consequences the dog is looking for, not just random reinforcers.
By directing our training and care toward helping dogs meet their needs, we can avoid a whole giant list of problems. A lot of what we teach them meets OUR need to feel that we are communicating with or controlling our dogs. Historically, people have come up with harsher and harsher punishments when the dog is “stubborn” or (better) come up with higher and higher valued reinforcers to motivate change. But dogs already want things; that’s where most of the problems come from in the first place. If we teach dogs good ways to control their environment (including us, some of the time), we actually end up having more control than if we constantly have to work against the flow.
Here are some recommendations for practice in the next week or so:
Practice the 5-second rule (or more like 1- or 3-second rule, depending on the puppy) with a person your puppy doesn’t know.
Have the person turn away if there is any jumping or biting. If your puppy is not interested in the contact, have the person do Touch + Find It with your puppy or just toss the puppy treats without requiring Touch. If you have them do Touch, you should practice it first so you know your puppy can do it.You may need to do the clicking, cueing, and treating, with the person just being the target. If you film it, go over your video and note your puppy’s body language.
Meet up with another puppy or vaccinated adult dog with good social skills. If the play starts speeding up or you see cut-off signals that are not correctly responded to by the other dog, help them out as I mentioned above with Roxy and Sammy. Film the whole session and select a few minutes from that interaction to observe. What body language do you see?
Practice each of these skills with a long line, as described in the previous lesson. Be sure to practice with a chair or a person before practicing with your dog. You have a lot to do this week, but do try it if you can!
Many dogs are reactive on leash and “fine” off leash. I think that a lot of the problem is how we walk our dogs on leash. The dog has little to no choice of where to go. Because of sidewalks and how humans walk, she has to walk in a straight line right at other dogs and people. She is forced into situations that scare her and pulled away from most of the chances to learn about her world through sniffing.
The video below is by Charmaine Anthony, CBATI, demonstrating the BAT style of walking with a lab puppy. Notice that even though he is concerned about the fountain a few times, Charmaine’s relaxed leash handling helps him take in more information and realize that he’s actually okay:
The leash is there for safety and would also be used to help slow him to a stop if he were getting too close to something scary. She doesn’t need to call him away during this video, but if she did, she’d verbally call and if that doesn’t work, use a leash technique called mime pulling, which you’ll learn about beolw. But you shouldn’t constantly be telling the puppy where to go. At least half of your walk, let your puppy choose where to go. Let him learn about his world at his own pace!
When your puppy greets dogs on leash, it may be awkward because of the way the leashes change the dogs’ body language and motivations. Many dogs are literally pulled in two directions at the same time: one by their interest in other dogs and one by the leash.
So how do we avoid all of this? I recommend that you practice the BAT leash skills and use them with your puppy whenever you can. Instead of your short leash and collar, have the puppy in a harness and use a comfortable leash that is about 12-15 feet long. In group classes or other tight situations, you may need to use a shorter leash unless you are good at handling the longer one. You can easily clip two leashes together to make a 12-foot leash. I like the round Mendota leashes (same material as our custom long lines).
The Ahimsa Dog Training Manual has tips on leash walking, for teaching your dog not to pull. The simple tip I’ll give in this lecture is to reinforce behavior that you like, including the times when your dog comes back to you if he feels any pressure on the leash.
This week we are going to focus on YOU not pulling using the same leash handling skills that we use to rehabilitate reactivity. I think this will be very helpful for your puppy’s socialization.
Here’s another clip, with my dog Peanut, so you can see what I’m doing with the leash:
Please download the leash skills handout PDF (also in other languages on my public Handouts Page for family and friends). Practice each of these skills. Watch the video above before you try them out with a friend. Here are a few illustrations to help you. They were drawn by the fabulous Lili Chin of http://DoggieDrawings.net.
Slow Stop is used any time you need to stop the dog without the added distraction of calling verbally.
Mime pulling is used to get your puppy to turn and go with you, when calling away isn’t enough. The illustration below shows the “Slide” aspect of mime pulling. Your front hand doesn’t grip the leash, it just slides through to create a vibration. Your hand can even be flat. Use slightly more braking distance than this illustration.
Using a friend as your ‘dog,’ practice the following skills. Your helper doesn’t need to act like a dog, just move around with the leash. Please practice this for a while with a person, then get our feedback, before trying it with your puppy. During the exercises, the human-dog should walk upright (as humans do) and hold the leash clip at his/her waist (target the belly button).
The person should give you feedback on how it feels. If you don’t have a human to practice with, tie your leash to a chair. For Slide, slow stop, and mime pulling, swap roles with your friend so you can see what it feels like.
Using a short leash (6 feet / 2 meters), practice:
Relax the Leash
Using a long line (12-15 feet / 4-5 meters), practice by having yourself move away and toward the ‘dog’ and also having your human ‘dog’ move away and toward you, at various speeds:
The training skills this week are:
Touch (Nose to Hand)
Instructions for Touch and the Name Game are both in Chapter 4 of the Ahimsa Dog Training Manual. I’ll add some more information here, but if you don’t already know how to teach these two cues, look at the manual for more information.
Touch: With the Touch cue, your dog touches her nose to your hand. Touch is useful for getting your dog’s focus, for moving her from one place to another, for getting past distractions, and even getting your dog to come to you. Think about it. In order for your dog to touch her nose to your hand, she has to turn away from what she is doing and bring her nose to your hand. This automatically brings the rest of her body with her. It’s possibly THE most useful skill for a dog to have.
Alternate between Touch and Find It. So when you click for your dog touching your hand target, say Find It and toss a treat on the floor for your puppy to find. Start with an easy location and build up to tossing it several puppy-lengths away. I do this for two reasons:
1. It moves the puppy away and sets you up for another Touch, automatically building distance into the Touch cue.
2. Find It is probably my second favorite cue for dogs to know. You can use it as a distraction, to reduce stress, and for physical and mental exercise.
Name: The dog’s name means “the next instruction is for you.” Say the name (or give the name visual cue if your puppy is deaf) and reinforce any attention to you, including ear flicks, head turns, and eye contact. Vary the reinforcement: treats, toys, running away, and cues! Yes, cues. If your puppy knows Sit, Touch, etc., use those as a reinforcer for your dog paying attention to his name.
Remember, training is great, but the socialization is more important.
The statement I made before about friends being more important than acquaintances applies to other dogs, too! There are certain things that are just better explained in dog language. Practicing saying ‘hi’ 500 times is good, but they also need to have full conversations, too.
Bite inhibition, play skills, and the nuances of communication are really only something other dogs can teach each other, so help your puppy make many canine friends outside of your family.
Have her interact with a variety of dogs: breed, age, neuter status, sex, play style, etc. This doesn’t just mean play time. Interactions should also include mellow time, like going for a walk to explore together, playing with their own toys near each other, or being trained by the same person (feed treats carefully so they don’t go nose to nose).
Note: Kira has some resource guarding issues and her brother needs help learning about cut-off signals. But the rest of the video demonstrates that socializing isn’t always about rough-and-tumble play.
Meet up for walks with other people from your local puppy class and from your neighborhood. Have a dog friend or two come over for play dates in the back yard. Go for a short walk together first and then go into the yard together. Be careful if you have an older dog already – he may not want visitors.
Give permission to ‘go say hi’ when you are ready to let your puppy greet another dog or person. Introductions go best when they are either off leash in a safe area. Attempt to greet while moving on a walk, parallel or following, with the dogs gradually merging closer. The latter can be done on or off leash. Keep the leashes in a little ‘smile’ and avoid tangling. When they are on leash, nothing should be between you and your dog but the leash. It helps to rotate with the dogs as they move around. Call your dog away if he gets stiff, is too rough, tries to put his head over the other dog’s neck, or the other dog is trying to get away. Have the other owner call his dog if that dog is too rough or you see your dog giving cut-off signals or trying to get away.
You may need to step out of your comfort zone to find friends for your dog. Use good judgment on your personal safety, but you can use the bulletin board at your local pet store or coffee shop in your neighborhood to find dog friends. I wish I had done more of this for my dog, Peanut, but I was shy and my friends didn’t have dogs. We relied on puppy class and our local park for his socialization with dogs, even taking multiple puppy classes, but that kind of interaction was too intense for him to appreciate being around other dogs.
Here’s a video of me with Bean and a new Chihuahua cross friend he was making. I have both leashes at first and then swap to having the other caretaker have a leash. It’s not perfect, since I’m also filming. Notice that Bean’s leash is mostly loose the entire time, so he feels as off-leash as possible.
Note: if you are a trainer, considering offering matchmaking as a free service for your clients. This can be done on your site or as a Facebook group, for example.
OTHER SPECIES OF ANIMALS
Which species might your dog encounter in her lifetime? Cats? Geese? Pigs? Horses? Cows? Lizards? Geckos? Ducks? Elephants?
Puppyhood is the time where dogs make their database of what is normal, so have your puppy see and smell these animals now. Make sure your puppy is safe, can move away whenever she wants, and larger animals cannot step on her.
Make sure you are calm and relaxed during the greeting, and demonstrate that by having a loose body that is not stiff or frozen. Breathe calmly, preferably using diaphragmatic breathing (also known as yoga breathing or belly breathing). Move in a relaxed way to model the sort of attitude that you want the dog to have. Interact calmly with the other animal as well. All of the above applies to greetings with people and other dogs, too!
PLAY, CONFLICT RESOLUTION, AND SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES
Learning how to play is one reason that trainers encourage play with other dogs and people as part of puppy socialization.
Play is an important part of how dogs learn to interact with their species. Play is like fighting, but it has a continuous stream of behavior that’s incompatible with fighting. These behaviors signal, “just kidding!” and if that signal is understood, the mock fight continues. If a dog misses that signal, she might interpret the other dog’s attempt to play as a threat. She might give a cut-off signal (turning away, slowing down, avoiding eye contact, fleeing) and if the other dog responds to it, the play can continue when she’s ready to start again. But if her cut-off signal is ignored and the other dog plows into her, she might escalate to barking, growling, or snapping. That’s why humans need to carefully monitor the puppy’s play with other dogs.
Some dogs also don’t give enough play signals during their play, or don’t wait for the response of the other dog before continuing. Play contains many important social skills for puppies to practice!
Through play, puppies also get to practice hunting and get mental and physical exercise through play. Like humans, most dogs continue to play throughout their lives, which is an uncommon trait. It’s probably one of the reasons we like sharing our lives with dogs.
Let’s take a look at how puppies can learn proper conflict resolution. All puppies are unique, so there will be interactions when one puppy wants to play (call her Roxy) and another does not (call him Sammy). So here’s how we would want that to go.
Roxy: tries to initiate play (makes eye contact, bows, spins)
Sammy: tries to say no to the play by using a cut-off signal (avoids eye contact, turns away, moves away slowly)
Roxy: accepts the rejection (Turns away and plays with another puppy or her person)
If Roxy didn’t do that on her own, we could call her away, cue and reinforce Leave It, or if needed, gently restrain her while Sammy moves away, then feed her a treat when she relaxes or turns away from Sammy.
For training geeks: With enough repetition of this sort of interaction, these puppies may learn something. Some of the learning was from social consequences. The reinforcers that are not provided by the trainer are called naturally occurring reinforcement.
Sammy will probably learn that his behavior ‘works’ via naturally occurring negative reinforcement. His behavior stops the interaction. What we usually see after enough of this is that he becomes confident enough to play with the other dog. Knowing that he can easily set boundaries and stop the play seems to build his trust in the relationship. As they become friends, the cut-off signals and play signals become more and more subtle.
Roxy will probably learn that sometimes other puppies don’t want to play with her, and that that’s okay. The play soliciting behavior worked with the next dog, so that’s naturally occurring reinforcement on a variable schedule. If we cue an alternate behavior and reinforce it, Roxy now has another option besides for chasing the other dog. Be careful, though, because cues trained with reinforcement can serve as markers, so the best moment to say Leave It or call the dog is when she hesitates or moves away from Sammy.
In the scenario with Roxy being restrained, that’s differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior and some classical counterconditioning for the restraint as well. The restraint can become a discriminative stimulus for the ‘leave it’ sort of behavior. If she were to bark or pounce on the other dog, she might need a short time out from the play (negative punishment and just time to reduce excitement). When you calmly put her back into the play time, we don’t want her to go right back and pounce on Sammy, for his sake. Give Roxy something to do that helps keep her from pouncing (holding a tug rope, for example). If that’s not enough, you might take her away from the play time, run up and down the street several times to tire her out, then walk up and down once and return to play.
Puppies need to have successful interactions, because perfect practice makes perfect. Puppies should interact with dogs that are at their level of interaction as well as just to either side of it. What I mean by that is that a puppy should have chances to play with dogs who are just a little more cautious than them, right at their level, and slightly more rambunctious. It helps no one to have a really energetic puppy play with a dog who wants to hide under the chair. It’s like putting a calculus problem in front of a child in first grade. They just aren’t ready.
Keep in mind that your puppy changes daily, so the puppy they met last week that was the brave and rowdy one may be more hesitant than your puppy this week. Train the puppy you have today.
Here’s an example of two dogs who know each other that are playing. They have abbreviated cut-off and play signals, and the hound sometimes ignores them and keeps pushing, but they are mostly in sync. Toward the end, a third dog charges in with a different style. You can clearly see both dogs freeze and not play with her. These social consequences help educate our puppies. In this video, the other dog was also removed after the cut-off signals of the other dogs.
To view the rest of the lessons, please purchase this course or log in if you have already purchased it.[/s2If]
If you haven’t already signed up for membership, consider doing so because it is a great way to stay motivated. One thing members get is access to Grisha’s ABBA Facebook group. You can post videos and ask/answer questions in a discussion with your fellow ABBA members. The group is moderated by our teaching staff to keep the conversations on track.
HOW TO USE THESE LESSONS
Read through the lessons at your own pace. Every 2-4 lessons, we will pause to give you some tasks to practice. I recommend that you read the Ahimsa Dog Training Manual with this course.
This sample agenda is listed with weekly lessons, but you can take whatever time you need:
Week 1: Philosophy
The perfect dog
Philosophy of Empowerment
2-way Communication with your dog, including body language
Training: Take treats gently
Training: potty outside
Week 2: Social Skills
Play, conflict resolution, and social consequences
BAT leash skills
Training: Touch (nose to hand)
Week 3: Needs
What does your puppy need?
How do you know?
How needs lead to problems
Training: Targeting a Post-It or yoghurt lid
Week 4: Cooperative Care
What cooperation looks like and how to get it
Grooming (nail file, brush)
Vet Care (syringe, inspection, wrap)
Going for a walk
Training: Head through harness
Training: Shake (paw)
Week 5: The Environment
Balance & proprioception
Training: Stay / stop
Training: Targeting head into objects (For example, Elizabethan collar or cone, muzzle, cereal box)
If you have a puppy (or a young animal of any species), socialization should be your main focus in the weeks and months to come. This whole course is designed with socialization and essential skills in mind, but if you can’t keep up with the homework in the class, just focus on socialization. Skills can wait.
Puppy socialization is low-stress exposure to various aspects of everyday life – people, dogs, surfaces, noises, etc. Always make sure it’s not a stressful event and that your puppy has as much control over her experience of the situation as possible. (Dog geeks: socialization is officially just with other animals but has come to mean more).
Puppies that are not well-socialized often have problems with aggression, fear, or manners later. Under-socialized dogs are often not comfortable with the world they live in and are less able to cope with change than they should be. Many dogs at the shelter that look abused were actually just under-socialized as puppies. People are often afraid of the germs that their puppy might encounter when they are out in the world, but the major killer of dogs in the U.S. is not disease, it’s behavior, which is directly correlated to puppy socialization. For most of the dogs, that could have been changed with early socialization and puppy training.
Socialize your puppy now in a positive way. Because of our current understanding of the importance of behavior, and because of vaccine advancements, we start socializing puppies earlier than we used to.
Most of the new puppy vaccines can be given starting at 6 weeks old, and start being effective for relatively clean environments about 10 days later. Previous vaccines would fight with the immunization given by the mother and thus lose effectiveness, but newer vaccines have solved this problem, so we can vaccinate earlier than we could years ago.
After your puppy gets his first round of shots, he is ready to be carefully exposed to the world. We still need to minimize risks for disease until the vaccinations are complete (usually 3 sets of combo shots) and keep the socialization fun for your puppy. That’s the key to everything – socialization is a fun, confidence-building experience for your puppy.
“The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing overstimulation manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior. For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated” – AVSAB
Trainer Note: If you run a training school, be sure to keep your facility clean so that it is safe for the puppies. When I owned Ahimsa Dog Training in Seattle, we had about 12 puppy classes each week. We worked hard to keep medical and emotional risks to a minimum. We had the facility professionally cleaned with a virucide the night before each puppy class, ask all puppy owners for proof of vaccination and urged them to keep their puppies’ vaccinations up to date. We also required our students to avoid the dog park while they are enrolled in puppy class.
Your puppy is learning and socializing right now, every second that she’s awake. People used to say that you couldn’t start obedience training with a puppy until it was six months old. But they meant you couldn’t properly punish a dog until that age with a choke chain, because of their growing puppy bones. With positive training methods, you don’t have to wait. Using positive training, some dog breeders send home puppies that already know how to sit on cue. That’s just one more reason to be dog-friendly – you can teach your puppy manners now! You can and should start teaching your puppy basic cues, like sit, down, etc. using a clicker or just using treats and praise. But your main focus during puppyhood should not be on manners or ‘obedience’, but rather on socialization with other puppies, dogs, humans, surfaces, sounds, and more.
Puppies are socialization sponges. First impressions are strong, events that they experience in this time period (especially scary ones) will stick with them forever. Sources differ, but many say that the primary socialization period is up until 12 weeks . From 12-16 weeks, they are learning as well, but not as quickly as they did up to 12 weeks. Every new experience for your puppy should be positive — accompanied by treats, praise, and/or fun. Up until 6 months, you should only have your puppy in socializing environments that you have solid control over.
Socialize with dogs in a force-free puppy training class, a puppy play group, or a neighbor’s yard, not the dog park! One recent study found that dogs about 6 month of age were the target for the most aggression in the park, more than any other age group. Once your dog is old enough to go to the dog park, and you decide it’s worth the risk, protect him from harm by moving along, not letting him get harassed by other dogs, etc. If you have a small breed dog, you should probably wait even longer than six months. There are opportunities for play and socialization outside of the park, and you should take advantage of them.
Many people are surprised to learn that the full socialization period for a puppy is two years! But your dog will be your companion for 10 to 15 more years! Why not invest some time in her now?
What sort of things should you socialize your new puppy to? Everything!! Your puppy should experience a bit of cold, funny noises, strange hats, interesting textures, calm restraint (praise and release it when puppy is calm, but let go immediately if puppy is scared), other dogs (your own dogs are not enough!) and many other things.
Puppies should also learn to stop mouthing, gradually. All of these topics in a good puppy socialization class, but you should start with exposing your puppy to new things now. Socialization doesn’t just mean play.
Take a look at the Puppy’s Rule of Twelve by Margaret Hughes for some ideas:
(If your puppy is over 12 weeks start right away with this socialization guide.)
Make sure all experiences are safe and positive for the puppy. Each encounter should include treats and lots of praise, and your puppy should be able to leave whenever s/he wants. Slow down and add distance if your puppy is scared!
By the time a puppy is 12 weeks old, it should have:
Experienced 12 different surfaces: wood, wood chips, carpet, tile, cement, linoleum, grass, wet grass, dirt, mud, puddles, deep pea gravel, grates, uneven surfaces, on a table, on a chair, etc……
Played with 12 different objects: fuzzy toys, big & small balls, hard toys, funny sounding toys, wooden items, paper or cardboard items, milk jugs, metal items, car keys, etc…….
Experienced 12 different locations: front yard (daily), other people’s homes, school yard, lake, pond, river, boat, basement, elevator, car, moving car, garage, laundry room, kennel, veterinarian hospital (stop by sometimes just to say hi & visit, lots of cookies, no vaccinations), grooming salon (just to say hi), etc….
Met and enjoyed being with / played with 12 new people (outside of family): include children, adults (mostly men), elderly adults, people in wheelchairs, walkers, people with canes, crutches, hats, sunglasses, etc….
Heard 12 different noises (ALWAYS keep positive and watch puppy’s comfort level – we don’t want the puppy scared): garage door opening, doorbell, children playing, babies screaming, big trucks, Harley motorcycles, skateboards, washing machine, shopping carts rolling, power boat, clapping, loud singing, pan dropping, horses neighing, vacuums, lawnmowers, birthday party, etc…
Seen 12 fast moving objects (don’t allow chasing): skateboards, roller-skates, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, people running, cats running, scooters, vacuums, children running, children playing soccer, squirrels, cats, horses running, cows running, etc…
Experienced 12 different challenges: climb on, in, off and around a box, go through a cardboard tunnel, climb up and down steps, climb over obstacles, play hide & seek, go in and out a doorway with a step up or down, exposed to an electric sliding door, umbrella, balloons, walk on a wobbly table (plank of wood with a small rock underneath), jump over a broom, climb over a log, bathtub (and bath) etc….
Been handled by owner 12 times a week (only do as much as puppy is comfortable with): hold under arm (like a football), hold to chest, hold on floor near owner, hold in-between owner’s legs, hold head, look in ears, mouth, in-between toes, hold and take temperature (ask veterinarian), hold like a baby, trim toe nails, hold in lap, etc… Note: get the puppy’s cooperation here whenever possible and treat a lot. Add predictability by saying what you are about to do (for example “Ears” – touch ear – treat). If the puppy moves away, you’re pushing too quickly. Back it up and work at the puppy’s pace.
Eaten from 12 different shaped containers: wobbly bowl, metal, cardboard box, paper, coffee cup, china, pie plate, plastic, frying pan, Kong, Treatball, Bustercube, spoon fed, paper bag, etc……
Eaten in 12 different locations: back yard, front yard, crate, kitchen, basement, laundry room, bathroom, friend’s house, car, school yard, bathtub, up high (on work bench), under umbrella, etc….
Made 12 different dog friends (puppies or safe adult dogs). [This does NOT mean at the dog park and it doesn’t always mean rough and tumble play, although should be part of it.]
Been alone safely, away from family and other animals (5-45 minutes) 12 times a week.
Experienced a leash and harness 12 different times in 12 different locations.
I also wanted to add ‘walked in the dark 12 times’ but that seems like a lot for the first 12 weeks. Do at least walk your puppy in the dark 12 times in the first 6 months. And socialization does not end at 12 weeks. Continue helping your dog have positive experiences throughout their first 2 years and then maintain some level of socialization throughout your dog’s life.
Before now and the next Practice lesson, we will cover the following topics:
Play, conflict resolution, and social consequences
BAT leash skills
Training: Touch (nose to hand)
Socialization is a critical part of raising a puppy. Be sure to read my short post, A Note on Socialization, in the lectures. Let’s extend that information by focusing on typical trouble-spots for adult dogs. If your dog hasn’t had a neutral to good experience with something as a young puppy (under 12-16 weeks), he’s likely to have issues if he encounters it for the first time when he’s older.
I have people listed first because issues with people have the biggest impact on dogs. People visit our homes, we take our dogs to people for grooming and health checks, and we go on vacations and may want to have people take care of our dogs while we are away. If a dog bites a person, it’s often a much bigger penalty to the dog and the owner than for a bite to another dog. Socialization helps dogs cope and thrive in a world full of people.
Good socialization helps puppies know that seeing humans of all shapes and sizes is normal and that (most) humans are even fun to be around. Things like vet care are tolerable and short-lived and your human will help you out of it eventually.
Think of every difference that a dog could perceive in human beings and help your dog get your dog used to all of the many aspects of our species: age, height, weight, ethnicity, gender, posture, mobility, pitch of voice, accent, odor (including cigarettes), amount of eye contact, mannerisms, clothing, even levels of intoxication. What we see as a small difference may terrify an under-socialized dog. If you think about it, dogs are not the only ones with this problem: without proper socialization, people tend to have irrational biases about differences, too.
Extend your dog’s social group and expand her ‘database’ of what is normal. Visit the country. Visit the city. Go to an outdoor shopping mall, ride the bus with your puppy, walk near an assisted living facility, walk by an elementary school during pick-up time, and visit a pet store in another neighborhood. If your puppy is nervous, don’t ride the bus; just wait with the passengers at bus stop and let your puppy meet people. That way, your puppy can meet a lot of new people, but can also move away from the strangers as needed. If you don’t have access to children, at least get your puppy used to the sound of them by playing sound desensitization CDs or audio tracks, starting at low volume during meal time.
Puppy Parties: Have visitors to your home, at many different times, just to help the puppy. Set up situations that teach your puppy that the arrival of guests is a signal to calmly go to a dog bed instead of barking and flipping out with excitement. Put a note at the door asking for patience, so you get the puppy ready. Prepare food puzzles in advance and so that when your friends arrive, you can get the puppy settled with a puzzle. Have a dog bed and the close enough to the door that your puppy can see the door from the bed. Have the food puzzles out of puppy range, but nearby for easy access.
When your friends knock at the door or ring the bell, take your time answering, rather than suddenly standing up and running to the door. Open the door a crack and greet your friendly calmly. This lets some odor in and allows your puppy to learn that someone has arrived. Tell the person, “just a minute” and shut the door (using that same phrase each time will eventually teach your dog to run to the bed when she hears it).
Call your puppy over to the dog bed and give her the food puzzle. Once she’s interested in it, casually go back to the door. If your puppy is still chewing her puzzle, open the door and have your friend come in. If not, just be boring and wait until your puppy goes back to the puzzle before opening the door (you may need better treats in the toy). Try to make it No Big Deal that your friend is there.
This bed is your puppy’s “safe zone” and should not be violated. Do not let anyone, especially children, pet the puppy when he is in his bed. If you see your puppy asking for attention on the bed, go ahead. But generally, the bed is a safe spot and the puppy should be able to go there to avoid anyone if she wants.
Ask your friends to stay relaxed, ‘act normal,’ and let the puppy sniff them when she is ready. If she jumps up, have them turn sideways so she doesn’t get attention for jumping. Any petting should be calm and follow the 5-second rule. Puppies who need distance should be allowed to move away. Explaining the plan and the 5-second rule to your friends in advance will help this all go more smoothly.
If you have another dog that barks when someone knocks at the door, do this exercise with your older dog out for a walk with a friend, in the car, in a bedroom with a Kong, etc. or have them meet the person outside first and come back in with them. You’ll need to also train your older dog not to bark, but it’s faster to work on your puppy now, before a problem begins. You only get one puppyhood. Here’s a video about that from Emily Larlham (Kikopup on YouTube). NOTE: You may need to click the video and then click again to play it directly on YouTube.
Out in public. Introduce your puppy to small crowds of people, but remember that your puppy is the top priority. Make sure your puppy is not surrounded: she should always have a clear escape path that is visible from dog height. Avoid events like firework displays or parades where your puppy meets too many people and all that your puppy sees is a sea of feet to step on her.
You are your puppy’s protector. Interactions with people aren’t always pleasant, because not all people understand things like the 5-second rule or can read when a puppy is nervous. It is your responsibility to help the puppy exit if the person is being inappropriate or is reinforcing behavior you don’t want (like jumping up). When you see cut-off signals or signs of stress (head turns away, multiple lip licks, backing away, tail tucked, etc.) either move the person away from your dog or your dog away from the person. Here are some ideas:
Educate in advance about the 5-second rule (or 3- or even 1-second rule)
Ask for a specific behavior from the person that is incompatible with the behavior you want to stop (feed a treat, ask your dog to sit, toss a toy, look at puppy’s feet, put your hands on your hips, take one step back, etc.)
Call your puppy away
Toss treats for your puppy to eat (I call that “Hazard Pay” for putting up with the person)
Pick up your puppy
Say “Stop” (then leave or explain what to do)
Given how unaware most people are about dog behavior, you are likely to have something rude happen to your puppy from time to time. That’s an opportunity to help your dog learn to move away or to give your dog a treat for putting up with it. If nobody is ever rude to your puppy, you might have to do some of it yourself, just so they know that it’s not the end of the world. Pat instead of petting sometimes, then toss a treat for your puppy to go grab from the floor. Lift the puppy up, treat, and then set her down. Lift up an ear, toss a treat. Again, there are usually plenty of opportunities in your everyday life, so just be ready to help your puppy learn to handle it.
Petting. I hope that your puppy will enjoy physical contact. Free massages are part of the perks of being a dog that lives with humans. Your dog may not enjoy that at first, especially with people from outside of her family.
This is an ideal version of the 5-second rule, with a dog who clearly enjoys a lot of physical affection from his dad (thanks to Benjamin Bonhomme, CBATI for the video):
But not all dogs really want 5 seconds, especially puppies. You have to observe for signs that you are petting for too long. For the 5-second rule, it’s *at most* 5 seconds, so you may need to use the 1-second rule if your puppy does not yet tolerate scritching. Here are two alternate versions of the 1-second rule:
A. Pet for up to 1 second, then back away entirely and pet for another second when she comes up to you.
B. Pay her for putting up with petting. For example:
She initiates contact
1 second of petting
Calmly treat while still petting (at, say, 3/4 second)
Stop petting, move your hand away and/or take a few steps away
Wait for her to reinitiate contact and repeat
The video below has several safety issues. We will discuss that in the forum. For now, watch this and think about the advice from above. You may have to turn off the sound to focus on the dogs. It’s pretty long so you can pick and choose. Do take a look at the very fearful dog at 1:53. You can play it in slow motion if you toggle the settings on the bottom right of the video.
Quality over quantity. I listed a lot of different characteristics to get your puppy used to with people, but I also want to make an important point.
Having 200 acquaintances is not as valuable as having 20 very good friends. While we do want your puppy to meet lots of people, if you are short on time and have to choose between meeting a lot of people and meeting a smaller number and really getting to know them, go for the second option.
Let’s say that you travel to the country of Xamabica for a year in one of two ways. Compare:
You go to Xamabica in a large group from your country. You have been to many different restaurants, hotels, and taxis, so you have interacted with a 200 Xamabicans in the service industry from different parts of the country.
You go to Xamabica with a friend who introduces you to a few friends in a small village. They introduce you to their families and you know about 20 people total from several generations.
In which scenario are you likely to:
have a good feeling about the people from Xamabica?
be interested in meeting more people from Xamabica?
understand personal interactions in Xamabica?
be able to communicate in Xamabican?
It’s clearly better for generalization to have both many deep friendships and lots of interactions with a variety of people. But time is short, so that may not be possible. If our dogs only have a tiny number of friends and many acquaintances, I think they end up with worse social skills than the other way around. So don’t get so busy checking off items on your list with acquaintances that you forget to make your dog some friends.
The take-home message is:
For social skills and a positive feeling toward humans, help your dog build friendships with a wide variety of people outside of your family. Meeting a variety of acquaintances along the way will help generalize this knowledge.
I really like video because it gives me a chance to see where I can improve. Expect to me to sometimes post videos and then follow up with an explanation of how I could have done better. If you share your videos with the other students, please be ready for suggestions on how you can improve. Please be kind to one another with your feedback.
Try to catch yourself doing things ‘right’ in the videos, but it will probably not be perfect. If you share videos in the ABBA Facebook group, I recommend that you point out what went well and also be sure to note times when you could have done better, and explain how.
The PRACTICE section has multiple items, generally listed in the order that I recommend they should be done.
You may want to focus on different things with your puppy than what is listed here. I haven’t included all possible topics for a puppy to focus on, but my preference is to prioritize socialization and skills for life with humans over behavior that you can teach later (sit, down, heel, tricks, etc.).
PRACTICE (try to do within 1-1.5 weeks):
Autowatch throughout the day. Mark the autowatch at least 30 times each day this week. That can easily be done by taking a handful of treats or puppy kibble with you on each potty walk.
Mix it up! At least 10 of the times that you use a verbal marker this week, follow that up with a non-treat reinforcer, like a chance to chase you, a toy, or a particularly inviting smell. This can be for any behavior you like, including autowatch or housetraining.
Film Yourself: Film a minute of doing the 5-second rule with you and your puppy. Watch it and notice the body language. If you learn to do something differently by watching the video, film it again and see if there’s more to learn.
Film Yourself: After you and your dog have practiced autowatch until you both are comfortable with it, film a minute or two of a session, with a verbal marker. Mix it up by using at least 3 kinds of reinforcers during your session. Can you tell what your puppy’s favorite reinforcer was? Did anything happen during the session that your puppy really didn’t like?
Film a few minutes minutes of your puppy just being a puppy (playing, walking, relaxing). Watch it again and look for body language.
Introduce your puppy to the concept of “Sprinkles” – check out the great article by Sally Hopkins. It’s an excellent way to practice being relaxed in the yard (or in a park). Gradually move farther away as your puppy enjoys the sprinkles, to help teach him to be comfortable being off by himself and prevent separation issues.
Use a clicker or word to let your puppy know exactly which behavior you want. If you are new to clicker training, you can read about it in Chapter 2 of the book that I recommend with this course, the Ahimsa Dog Training Manual.
Any behavior that you pinpoint or “mark” with the clicker or a word earns a treat of some sort. It is information to your dog, taught by simply following the sound of the marker with the food, a toy, etc.
Warning! Muffle the clicker at first because your puppy may be scared of it. Do this by holding it to your stomach or into a pillow. Click, then treat a few times to check that your puppy is okay with the noise, and if that is okay, you can gradually stop muffling it.
I recommend using a clicker whenever you can for new behavior involving action and a verbal marker when it is inconvenient.
Autowatch: This activity is to teach your puppy to check in with you, especially when something changes in the environment. Throughout the day, when the puppy happens to make eye contact with you, mark with Yes or a clicker. Feed, move away and mark/treat again.
Do this at least once whenever something changes about the situation when you are with your puppy (leaving the house, coming back inside, bicycle appearing, someone coming home, just met another dog and you’re walking away, etc.) You can practice this going back and forth between rooms in your house.
Don’t try to get your puppy to make eye contact with a kissy noise, name, etc. Just reinforce eye contact when you get it. If you are having trouble getting opportunities to reinforce eye contact, show your puppy a treat, hold it straight out to your side, and wait. Then mark and feed the puppy the treat.
Taking Treats Gently: You get what you pay for, so don’t let go of the treat if the puppy is nibbling on you. You can trap the treat in your palm with your thumb and wait for licking, then release the treat.
Housetraining: Prevent accidents inside by taking the puppy out frequently, paying attention inside, and focus on reinforcing the puppy for going outside. Do this by saying a cue when you are sure your puppy is about to eliminate outside. I use “be quick” for pee and “hurry” for poo, so I don’t have to sound like I’m talking to a 2-year-old on a walk. Mark and treat just as your puppy finishes. You can read more about housetraining in Chapter 3 of the the Ahimsa Dog Training Manual.
If you need more information, here’s a nice housetraining video by Emily Larlham (Kikopup).
First let’s talk about how dogs communicate their opinions and emotions. It’s pretty much the same for most mammals, although there are some species differences and humans are probably more complicated. But the basic emotions of fear, anger, joy, etc. are felt in some way by both dogs and people.
We have these labels for the emotion, and I do use them, but I find it most useful to think in terms of what sort of change would make the emotion fade for this particular dog. The reason is because that’s really all you can do for your dog. You can’t talk things over, but you can change something in the environment to meet his needs. Or better yet, often you can teach him to do that for himself. More on that later in the course.
Here are some examples. Usually the more behaviors that you get, the more sure you can be about the dog’s emotional state.
“I want to get away from that” (running away, jumping up on owner’s legs, body crouched, tail lowered / tucked under belly, ears back, moving away, panting, shivering)
“I want that to go away” (barking, running forward and bouncing away again)
“I don’t like that” (barking, nipping at human hands, moving toward whoever/whatever did something)
“That’s mine!” (lowering head into food bowl, freeze, whites of eyes showing)
Watch this video for the two or three puppies who are showing fear of the pilates disk on the upper right. Notice that there is not enough room for the puppies to escape, so they are having a harder time getting used to the objects. This appears to be a positive experience for the rest of the puppies.
For more details on body language read through “Understanding Your Dog’s Communication” in the book that I recommend with this course, the Ahimsa Dog Training Manual.
Note! We will cover more about fear and other issues as we go along, but if you see that your puppy might be afraid or needs space from something, help him! Call him away and feed a treat. If he’s comfortable going a little closer, let him do that without letting him get too close. Just make sure it’s the puppy wanting to go back and not you leading the way.
Requests for Behavior or Permission
Dog to Human: Teach the dog that certain behavior from him gets certain behavior from you. Behavior in a certain context/situation is paired with consistent consequences.
You can do this by observing which behaviors the puppy tries and consistently reinforcing that behavior with the consequence he wants. So if he’s outside and barks at some point, you can open the door to have him come back inside. You can tell by the context that coming inside is what he wants. So he has a consistent way to ask you.
A more complicated way to do that is to pick a behavior you want him to do, train it, and then ask him to do it when you can tell he wants a particular consequence. This works better if the dog isn’t already doing the specific behavior you want in that situation. For example, you can train a Ring the Bell cue and whenever you see the puppy wants to come back inside, request Ring the Bell and reinforce him by letting him inside.
More examples of explicitly trained communication requesting our behavior – dog brings bowl for food, dog brings leash for walk, dog nuzzles hand for petting, dog looks at toy cupboard, dog holds chin on couch to be allowed up.
You may not always grant your dog’s requests every time, but it’s confusing to just ignore him, too. I have a hand signal that means “I heard you, but no.” It’s the same as my All Done cue, which is to show my palm to the dog and rotate my hand (as if showing there are no treats).
Human to Dog: This is normal ‘dog training’ and we will cover some of it in this course each week. For reading in the Ahimsa Dog Training Manual, check out “Teaching Reliable Behaviors.”
Dogs and humans can both learn that certain words, sounds, or actions predict something else. (For you dog geeks, out there, this is standard classical conditioning).
So for example, if your dog runs to the door barking, you probably know that someone is at the door. If you pick up your keys and put on your work shoes every day right before you leave for work, your dog will learn that the keys/shoes combination means he isn’t coming with you. I like to be clearer by teaching this sort of association on purpose.
For example, I say “I’ll be Back” when my dog, Peanut, is not coming with me. So if I’m getting ready to go and he’s on the couch deciding whether to get excited or not, I can say “I’ll be Back” and he can continue his nap. This is taught the same way that the accidental cues are taught – by repeatedly pairing the word with the event. By simply saying “I’ll be Back” just before I shut the door as I was leaving, he eventually learned that it means he’s not coming with me.
Other examples of actions/sounds that have meaning via this kind of association:
click (clicker sound means dog is about to get food/toy)
Good Night (“I’m going to sleep and won’t be paying attention to you any more”)
All Done (“no treats/petting/attention/play” – use as “I heard you, but the request has been denied”)
Ready? (“you’re coming with me”)
There’s a Dog (“another dog is coming”)
Relax (“I’m about to massage you in a relaxing way” – great ‘off switch’)
Ask a Question
Humans can also ask dogs specific questions, like “what do you want?” Dogs could probably ask us, too, but I’m not as sure about that.
“Which one do you want?”
Use reinforcer sampling. Just have multiple options available and see which option the dog takes (multiple kinds of treats, toys, etc.) Test this under normal circumstances when your puppy is calm. Then if his food preferences change, for example, you know there’s something intensely emotional happening, from excitement to distress. Look at the rest of the body to know what kind of emotion it is.
“Do you like this?”
5-second rule. Look at body language to see if your puppy wants to be petted (let her approach you) and then stop after no more than 5 seconds. Most puppies would prefer that you stop after a shorter time, like 1 or 3 seconds, so don’t just take the full 5 seconds every time. After stopping, wait for another clear signal that the puppy wants more petting. Pet for fewer seconds if you are unsure the puppy likes it.
“Which way do you want to go?”
Sometimes you will have your puppy go the way you want to go, but sometimes the puppy can choose. If you want to see which way your puppy wants to walk, you can either just wait or you can move in a few different directions to see which way he goes most eagerly. I use this when I think the puppy may be afraid of something.
“What do you want your dog to do?” is a mantra among force-free trainers. When clients come to us with behavior that they want to get rid of, we rephrase the question in this positive form. If we know what we want the dog to do, we can reinforce that behavior and get that happening instead of what we don’t like. If we don’t like pulling, we can reinforce heeling or loose leash walking. If we don’t like jumping up, we can reinforce four paws on the floor.
That’s all well and good, but I would like to see us all take that to another level. I would like to see us ponder how we can merge our ways of life instead of only imposing our way onto the dogs, however kindly. For example, while we can certainly use reward-based training to motivate our dogs to want to walk right beside us on every walk, in a perfect heeling position, is that the right thing to do?
Teaching ‘heel on every walk’ by using positive reinforcement is certainly way better than getting that perfect heel through corrections. It’s kinder to the dog and adding unnecessary physical and emotional stress can lead to issues like poor socialization, biting the handler, and back pain. The latter even applies to the person giving the correction, because of the physical power required.
But is it even a good idea to have your dog heeling all the time on your walk, even with positive training? Having the ability to cue a heel is one thing, so you can get past distractions that are just too much for the dog if he were free to roam. But aside from very specific moments, the dog should be allowed and even encouraged to explore — off leash when it is safe. and otherwise on a loose leash. In the next lesson, I will cover the BAT leash skills, which are a way to help create a more ‘off leash’ experience when on leash.
In my opinion, if the dog is in a continuous state of working to get a treat during his walk, he’s missing out. He’s focused on earning a reinforcer, meeting an immediate need/want stimulated by the training session. When a dog is essentially addicted to heeling or other behavior for us, he is distracted from normal dog behavior that might serve his long term needs better. He is missing opportunities to learn about or interact with his environment. This is especially problematic when done with puppies.
It’s also important to focus on teaching and facilitating relaxation, down-time. Don’t just wind them up with a toy and then suddenly stop. After training or play, follow up with a chance to relax. Practice makes perfect.
So the perfect dog? For me, that is a dog who:
communicates well with other dogs, people, and animals
is comfortable with his environment and copes well with any occasional stress
understands and cooperates with people when needed
I believe that this sort of thing is what we should be aiming for when we ‘train’ dogs. A training-addict that knows 200 tricks or a perfect heel may be fun for us, but have we really taken care of his needs as a dog when he can’t relax or interact well with his own species?
PHILOSOPHY OF EMPOWERMENT
By empowerment, I mean that the puppy learns that his behavior is effective in meeting his needs. So it doesn’t mean we have a dictator with an owner jumping to fulfill the dog’s every wish, but rather a dog who knows how to get what he needs in ways that are comfortable for the humans and other animals in his world.
This puppy class is in the School of BAT because Behavior Adjustment Training has the same philosophy of empowerment. Letting your dog do more for himself can build confidence and allow you to teach appropriate behavior at the same time. If your puppy wants or needs something, and it’s safe for him to have it, he can learn to get it by doing behavior that helps him fit in with your family.
But there are also things we just need to do TO dogs, like brushing, injections, etc. These are not naturally motivating. Your dog is not likely to ever ask you to trim his nails unless there’s something in it for him besides for short nails. The comfort of the shorter nails is too far removed from the process of nail trimming.
Like the animals in the best zoos and aquariums, dogs can be active participants in grooming and vet care. You could just add some motivation to put up with these things, like touching his paw and then giving him a treat, but you can take that to another level to help make it less stressful for your dog. Teach specific behavior that gives him more control over the process, like when to start and stop. In the Cooperation lesson in this class, we will train with food, toys, etc. to motivate the dog to help us take better care of him.
As an example of getting dogs to cooperate in their care instead of only tolerating it, check out this video/commercial by Orapup:
You don’t have to watch that video all the way through, just watch how the dogs are actively engaged in their own care. I find it very clever because it automatically motivates the behavior we want, no training involved. Training isn’t always the answer. If there’s an easy option that also gets your dog to happily cooperate, do it!
Here’s an example of the dog doing her own grooming, which did require some training from her caretaker, Jeanie Burton. But I love that it’s all completely done by the dog!
Take time to train some other behavior for dogs actively cooperate with vet care and grooming done to them. It’s worth it for a lifetime of low-stress care.
Collaborative, Empowered Dog Training for Pros and Families – Online!