Training

Puppies can learn things very quickly!  Here are some basic things to teach your puppy.

Gentle Jaws

It is very normal for puppies to bite!  It is up to us to teach the puppies what is appropriate to bite and what is not.  Rather than discouraging your puppy to use their mouth on you at all, you can actually help them learn better by allowing them to mouth your hands but if they nip too hard you can say "Ouch!" really loudly and immediately disengage.  If your puppy continues to bite at you, you may need to turn your back or even leave the room completely for a few moments.  Your puppy will soon learn that the game is only allowed when they play gently.

Marker Word

In dog training, a reward marker is a sound that tells the dog they have done the right thing and will be rewarded. This can be accomplished by using a clicker or a specific word.

Clickers can be beneficial because they are loud and make the same noise every time they are pressed. This can make training easier with multiple trainers since the marker is always exactly the same no matter who is training. The only downside to clickers is that you need one hand to operate them which can be hard if you are fumbling for treats or trying to lure a dog into position.

If you are going to be using a marker word, pick something very clear and easy to say. Most trainers use "Yes!" but you can use "Good!" or anything you choose as long as you keep it consistent. If you're saying "Yes" one time and "good dog" another time your dog isn't going to learn as quickly as if you always use the same word.

Before you start using your reward marker to reward your dog, you need to "charge up" the marker so your dog has value for it. To do this, simply have your dog around you, preferably in a room with no distractions, and say "Yes!" or click and give them a treat immediately afterwards. You can do that a few times, then wait until they are not looking at you and click or mark and they should whip their head around expecting a reward!

Once you have done many repetitions and you feel that the dog understands that click/"yes" means treat, you can test it out by playing the Fun With a Box game! Take any kind of box or container, preferably one your dog can step into, and put it in front of your dog. When your dog does anything to the box, click/"Yes!" and treat. Sniffs box? Mark and reward. Paws at box? Mark and reward. Goes into box? Mark and reward. This is a great way to teach your dog to offer behaviour, and that trying new things may yield a reward!

Hand Touch

Teaching a hand touch can be incredibly useful for teaching your dog other behaviours as it acts as a lure without the use of food. To teach a hand target, hold an open hand in front of your dog and see what they do. Most dogs are inquisitive and will touch their nose to your hand or at least close to it. Immediately click / "Yes!" and reward! If your dog doesn't touch your hand, try putting it behind your back for a few seconds then offering it again, or holding a treat between your fingers so the dog can smell it but not eat it. If your dog is using their paw instead of their nose, try holding your hand a bit higher or try it with your dog walking forwards so they can't use their feet as much.

When rewarding for a hand touch, it's best to cup your hand a bit and drop treats into it from your other hand when your dog's nose hits your hand, rather than giving the dog a treat directly from your other hand. This will let the dog know that touching your hand and keeping their nose there has value, versus doing a quick touch then looking for where your other hand is coming from to deliver the treat. If that mechanic is too difficult for you or your dog, it's okay to deliver the treat directly to the dog from your other hand.

Practice moving your hand around, varying the location and height. Try calling your dog towards you from several feet away to do a hand touch. Try using it to get your dog to walk between your legs, or through a hoop! Hand touches can be a great lure without your dog focusing on the treat.

Fun With a Box (Critical Thinking)

This is a very easy game that can be taught to puppies as early as 6-8 weeks of age and is great for teaching puppies how to think and offer behaviour on their own.  Start with a box with low enough sides for your dog to walk into but a big enough box that your dog can stand inside.  Have some treats ready and a clicker or use your marker word.  Have the dog stand near the box and just wait!  The dog will likely interact with the box in

some way, whether it is to climb inside or simply a sniff.  Click / mark and reward any interaction with the box and then wait to see what the dog does.  Sometimes it may take a while for the dog to interact with the box.  Have patience!  If the dog is doing the same behaviour over and over again, try waiting a bit longer before treating to see if they offer something else.  The goal isn't to get the dog to do a specific behaviour but to get the dog to start guessing on their own and trying new things.  This kind of critical thinking exercise will help the dog learn new behaviours more easily in the future.