Pets & Animals | 18 July 20173 Easy Training Skills for Your Puppy Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Anyone who’s had a puppy treat a trash can like an archaeological dig or trot away happily when you say “come” knows that puppy training is hard work. Introducing a behavior once won’t do it; consistent training based on positive reinforcement is the key. The essentials of training your pup to have good manners is rooted in your ability to help her think of training as fun and rewarding, and with these three basic skills from 51 Puppy Tricks by Kyra Sundance, you and your puppy will be well on the road to success. Teach Your Puppy to Respond to a Clicker This task is all about your puppy associating the clicker sound with praise. A clicker device can become a valuable tool in puppy training. In order to take advantage of this tool, you must first teach your puppy to respond to its sound. Do so by building the association between the clicker sound and the food reward. This is called “charging up the clicker.” TEACH IT 1 Attach a wrist strap to your clicker for easy access. 1. A clicker is a handheld thumb-sized box with a metal tongue that makes a click-click sound when pressed. Clickers are widely available at pet stores. Use a flexible strap or rubber band to attach it to your wrist for easy access. 2 Randomly click your clicker. 2. Put about twenty small treats in your pocket or your treat bag. Walk around casually near your puppy, but do not give any instruction to her. Occasionally, and at random intervals, click your clicker. 3 Immediately follow up with a treat. 3. After clicking, immediately give a treat to your puppy. Try to give the treat within two seconds of clicking, to help your puppy develop the association between the two events. WHAT TO EXPECT: It doesn’t take long before that click sound makes your puppy’s head spin toward you—which indicates she has formed the association. Within a few minutes (and maybe twenty clicks), your puppy should be responding to the clicker, and will be ready to start training tricks with this tool. TROUBLESHOOTING: I’M NOT SURE WHEN TO CLICK At this stage, the goal is merely to build the association between the click-click sound and the food treat. There is no wrong time to click. The important thing is to give the treat immediately after each click. TIP: Once puppy has learned to respond to a clicker, you can use this tool in training. There are three rules to using a clicker: Click to mark any behavior you wish encourage. Click the instant the correct behavior happens. Each click is followed by a treat (no multiple clicks). Teach Your Puppy to “Watch Me” When you have your puppy’s eyes, you have his attention. Teach your puppy to look directly into your eyes as a way to ask for his attention. TEACH IT 1 Get your puppy’s attention with a treat. 1. Kneel down to puppy height. Hold your clicker in one hand, and in the other hold a treat at your puppy’s eye level. 2 Slowly move the treat toward your eyes, as you say “focus.” 2. Slowly bring the treat back toward your eyes, while using a calm, drawn-out voice to cue “focus . . . focus . . . ” 3 Once your puppy holds eye contact, click, and give him the treat. 3. Once your puppy holds eye contact for a second or two, click your clicker, and give him the treat. You want your puppy to be successful, so try to click before he loses interest and looks away. As he gets better, you can start to require longer stares before you click. 4 Use your pointed finger to cue this behavior. 4. Begin to phase out the handheld treat and instead use your pointed finger between your eyes and the word “focus” to cue his stare. Click when he makes eye contact and give him a treat. WHAT TO EXPECT: A puppy’s eyesight is not fully developed until he is about nine months old, so very young puppies will be less able to focus on your eyes. Shy puppies may be hesitant to look into your eyes, possibly because they feel it is confrontational. This exercise will be especially helpful for those timid puppies. Most puppies can learn to make eye contact within a couple of days. TROUBLESHOOTING: MY PUPPY WON’T LOOK INTO MY EYES Sit on the ground, at puppy height, to appear less domineering. Speak gently, and practice daily. Let your puppy make the decision on his own to look into your eyes—do not force the exercise. TIP: Make a habit of requiring a moment of calm attention before routine rewards, such as at the front door before taking your puppy on a walk, or at the food dish before chowtime. As soon as your puppy holds eye contact for a second or two, click and give him his reward. This will teach your puppy self-control, and that calm, attentive behavior is rewarded. Teach Your Puppy to Settle Teach your puppy to settle calmly. This will accustom her to being restrained, and is useful in grooming and examining your puppy. TEACH IT 1 Cradle your puppy on her back. 1 Choose a time when your puppy is tired and calm. Pick her up gently and cradle her on her back in your arms. Hold her securely and sit on the floor or a bed as you do this, so that your puppy won’t fall if she accidentally squirms from your arms. Stroke her gently to make this experience a pleasurable one. Say “settle” in a soft, pleasant voice. 2 Pick your puppy up facing you. Set your puppy on your legs. 2 Roll her backward. Once she relaxes, relax your hold on her. 2 Another way to do the settle exercise is to lay your puppy on her back on your extended legs. Pick her up facing you, and slowly roll her back onto your legs. If your puppy squirms, gently keep her on her back until she relaxes. Do not increase pressure, but stay calm and consistent. If you wait long enough, she will eventually relax. Once she relaxes, relax your hold on her. WHAT TO EXPECT: Puppies vary widely on how they tolerate being restrained. In the beginning, just have your puppy settle for a few seconds, and then praise her and release her. As she becomes more accustomed to this exercise, try to have her settle for twenty seconds. TROUBLESHOOTING: MY PUPPY IS A SQUIRMY-WORMY! Some puppies are squirmier than others. For extra-feisty pups, practice this exercise when your puppy is already resting. Require only a few seconds of calmness before releasing her. Do not release your puppy while she is squirming, or you will be teaching her that she gets release from fighting you. Release her only when she is calm. TIP! If your puppy squirms very hard, try laying her on her side rather than on her back. Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: AU: 51 Puppy Tricks gives puppy owners the tools they need to teach behaviors and tricks to their puppy through step-by-step instructions and photographs. Most other puppy training books focus on curbing bad behavior. Some have training, but only the most basic tricks. Kyra’s curriculum differs from that of 101 Dog Tricks in that the instructions are geared for the less mature dog. Young puppies are not yet well-tuned to humans, and respond better to a clicker than to a voice. Also, young puppies have so few skills that everyone benefits from a technique called “shaping” which breaks a behavior into minute steps for easier learning. And, of course, puppies receive extra gentle care when we teach, focused more on instilling a love of learning and a communication pathway rather than accomplishing the goal behavior. 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