Instructor: Deborah Jones
There is nothing as exciting, or as terrifying, as starting training with a new puppy. If you have high hopes that this pup will be your next performance partner, the pressure definitely intensifies. You want to do everything right to maximize your pup's potential and develop an amazing working partnership. With that goal in mind we will focus on concepts, skills, and exercises that will give your pup a solid foundation for a career in a variety of dog sports. We will use the book The Focused Puppy as a guide for this class.
While covering a range of puppy topics, we will emphasize focus, a solid recall, developing an "operant" dog, impulse control, and nurture a love of interactive play, always working at the speed that is comfortable for your dog. Sound interesting? Come join us!
This class is targeted at puppies from 2 to 6 months old, but may be appropriate for older dogs on a case by case basis. Feel free to contact Deb Jones if you're unsure about your situation.
Check out our promotional video!
This class is being offered as a "self-study" class.
FE110 Self Study
This "self-study" class purchase will add the class's lecture materials to your library.
There are no participation forums included with this purchase.Number of slots: unlimited
I have listed the exercises that will be introduced in class each week. In subsequent weeks we will continue working on earlier exercises by adding variations and challenges. These exercises are designed to be developmentally appropriate for puppies between 2 and 6 months of age. This course may also be useful for older pups or rescued/adopted older dogs that need a fresh start and a good solid foundation.
Identifying useful reinforcers
Toys & Play
Recalls: Name Game, In Your Face, Head Turn, Come & Go Game
Recalls: Recall Game & Adding Distractions
Impulse Control: Slow Treats
Confinement: going in, staying in, coming out on a verbal cue
Recalls: Adding more distraction
Slow Treats continued
Toy Play: "out" cue, moving tug, relaxing after play
Two Treats Game
Impulse Control: Food Bowl Control
Toy Play: Two Toys Game, Moving Tug & Out
Toy Play: New location
Mat work continued
Shaping (moving objects)
Variety of small, soft, tasty treats
Variety of toys
Variety of safe props for shaping
Buckle collar, leash, harness (front clip preferable)
The Focused Puppy book by Deborah Jones & Judy Keller (recommended)
None. This class is suitable for puppies from 7 weeks and up. It is also suitable for older dogs that need a fresh start.
Puppy Class Lesson Plan 1
Before you can do any sort of effective training with your puppy, you need to identify a variety of useful reinforcers.
In the early stages of training we use a LOT of food. Most of our pups don’t eat out of a bowl for months because we use their meals for training. Even pups without much initial interest in food tend to develop more as we train for it. We will use food in a variety of ways: to associate training and working with us with very good things, to solidify an understanding of specific movements and positions, and to increase energy and enthusiasm with thrown cookies. We feed high quality kibble and use that for the majority of our food training. However, we also introduce higher value foods in more distracting environments or when working on difficult exercises. String cheese is a good choice and so is a jar of meat flavored baby food (they can lick right out of the jar).
Toys and play are also very valuable reinforcers now and will be crucial to later success in the performance ring. It shouldn’t be all about the cookies. Playing is one of the most important exercises you can practice with your pup. Introduce a variety of new toys. We introduce a different toy every training session in the early stages. Try different shapes, sizes, textures, noises, and so on. With a pup the rule is to have either the toy or the pup on a leash while playing so that you can easily get the toy back for continued play.
In addition to toy play you will also want to introduce personal play, just you and the pup, no external reinforcers. Personal play will force you to figure out how to motivate and engage your pup when you don’t have anything to offer but yourself. You need to figure out how to move, what noises to make, and what type of touch initiates and maintains play with your pup. This is hard! But it pays off over and over and over in later training and showing.
Petting can be highly reinforcing for some pups; not so much for others. If your pup enjoys physical touch then use it often. If he doesn’t seem to care try introducing it starting very gently and briefly and adding it along with your other reinforcers. Be careful of overdoing the physical interaction if your pup seems leery or nervous about it. If he moves away from you he is finding it overwhelming. Try to find a level that he finds enjoyable and build up from there.
Praise can also be naturally reinforcing for some pups and not for others. But you can definitely work on making it a useful reinforcer. Use your voice in a variety of tones and volumes. Sing songs to your pup. Soothe him with your voice and then use it to get him animated and excited.
Life events can also be good reinforcers as long as you can control them. Being released from a crate or ex-pen, for example, is reinforcing in and of itself (freedom!) The same is true for going outside to play or getting to play with other dogs. You can use these events to reinforce behaviors you want. Don’t give anything away for free.
Assignment 1: Your first assignment this week is to introduce as many reinforcers as you can to your pup and then to rank order them in terms of his initial preferences. These preferences are likely to change. Bear was not highly food motivated his first few days with us, but boy, did that change! These preferences are fluid, and now is the time to instill a greater love of the ones you want. Try 4-5 different food treats and determine which are high, medium, and low value for your pup. We try to get away with using medium and low value as much as possible, and saving high value ones for special situations.
Pair your marker(s) with food. So either click or use your marker word and then offer a cookie or treat. Be careful not to click too close to your dog’s ear.
Also introduce a new toy every day for a short play session (about a minute or so depending on how engaged your pup seems to be). Please try to video several of these sessions so we can talk about play styles. And don’t worry about looking and sounding silly. In fact, if you seem too quiet and controlled you are doing it wrong! Let loose and be as goofy as you want. Try to keep your pup engaged with you, but don’t worry if it is hard. It will get better with practice.
Here are a few of Bear’s initial play sessions:
Try some personal play (no external aids) as well. Use your movement, voice, and touch to interact with your pup in enjoyable ways. Anything goes as long as you are both enjoying it! Keep this very short at first. I’d love to see some video here as well.
Here are several excellent examples of personal play:
*See pages 90-96 in The Focused Puppy for an expanded discussion of play (with you, with toys & with other dogs). The section on Physical Interaction on pages 104-105 discusses the concept of personal play.
Ask any dog owner or trainer what the most important exercise to teach is and the answer is always recalls. Recalls are absolutely necessary to have a dog that can eventually be trusted off leash. A dog with an excellent recall can have more freedom than one that must be kept on a leash or behind a fence. In addition, a large number of dog sports have a recall as a central part of many of their exercises.
We strive to have spectacular recalls, not just acceptable ones. And we strive for 100%. While that might not always be possible (unexpected things can and do happen) a high percentage of recall success is an excellent and realistic goal. With puppies what we tend to see is a good recall up until about 5-6 months old, then a very sharp deterioration. So keep that in mind as you train. We focus on recall work the entire first year of the pup’s life, and then we have good recalls for the next 15 years. This is not an exercise that is ever really done, and a big mistake is slacking off on it too soon.
*See pages 81 & 82 and 116-118 in The Focused Puppy for more description and discussion of recalls.
Here are some of our initial recall training exercises (in the order they should be introduced):
The name game
In your face recalls
Head turn recalls (2 people)
Treat toss recall (aka Come & Go game)
Assignment 2: Practice and videotape the recall exercises. Work at whatever level seems appropriate for your pup. Be aware of environmental factors that may have an effect of your pup’s ability to succeed. Start in a fairly distraction free environment, but feel free to add challenges as your pup shows that he can manage them.
Everybody wants it but very few actually train effectively for it. Focus must be offered by the pup not prompted, lured, pressured, or coerced by the trainer. If it is not freely given it will not hold up for future training. We never give focus a cue or command. Instead, we make it much more valuable as a default behavior that is freely offered by the dog. We don’t ask for focus; the dog offers it to us and we reinforce highly.
We need to build focus by noticing and reinforcing its tiny little moments. If we do that it will increase and grow. Some trainers talk about eye contact as a similar exercise, but focus is actually much more than eye contact. Eye contact is a single discrete behavior (look in my eyes). Focus sometimes includes eye contact, but it also includes enthusiasm, desire, and intensity. A focused dog is up for the “game” no matter what the game might be. He has learned that focusing on what you are doing leads to wonderful things happening.
Here are a few of Bear’s early focus sessions:
Please note that we never ever prompt or ask for focus. We capture it. And you have to be very observant in the beginning as it is quick and elusive. This is an exercise that needs to be split down into its tiniest components in the beginning. Don’t wait for a huge obvious behavior (like turning his head to you). Instead capture the flickering of an eye.
Keep focus sessions short. Don’t worry about seeing much progress or ending on success. That will all happen as you continue.
*See page 126 in The Focused Puppy for more discussion of Offered Focus.
Assignment 3: Practice and review a couple of your pup’s focus training sessions.
A sampling of what prior students have said about this course ....
I took the Performance Puppy course with my 6 - 12week old puppy- and I feel the foundation behaviors really helped us get off on the right foot and develop a nice balance of self-control and play and fun behaviors that will pay of for our entire career together.
There was a heavy emphasis on shaping and helping us really learn to work together. Things were broken down so my pup and I did great and had lots of fun! Kathy M and Katydid
I have a very young puppy and it was soooo perfect and love getting the foundation it is easy to skip over.
I have a new puppy and although I know much of this material it encouraged me to work more with my puppy and created great focus.
Keegan and I have enjoyed this class very much. My shaping skills improved, but most of all it is fun! Lots of ideas to work on in the future. Nancy A
Enjoyed the videos very much. Very instructive!