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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New puppy training basics

Apologies ahead of time. Once I get an interested audience on this subject I have a hard time stopping!

Some of you that are getting our puppies are interested clicker training and some of you are just curious so I'm going to put some links here to the sites that I found to be most helpful when I first got started. Fifteen tips to get started with clicker training is a good beginning. If you are a visual person and need to see training in action then click here. The dog in the video is learning to push a button on the floor. The trainer is using shaping to gradually get him to do what she wants without the dog becoming too frustrated. Keep in mind that the dog in the video is advanced.

For those first few hours at home I love Melissa Alexander's description of how she handled her dog. She also has a great section about bite inhibition that we found very helpful for those extremely sharp puppy teeth! I also love to read Sue's description of what she did with her puppy here. What a great trainer.

Some other really helpful articles are on my favorite dog training web site, . The first article explains basic positive reinforcement theory and is a great story. Another article that I love from there describes how patience is a big part of training. From there the articles on Dominance and on Sue Eh?'s training rules are great to read at some point as well.

I do think it's important to take the puppy straight to the potty area first thing and to try to have the atmosphere be calm. Let the puppy smell and meet you before all the noise and excitement of kids.

The easiest nuts and bolts example of how to train is found on Sue Ailsby's web site ( here. Start with Training levels, the book. Just start with the 'Puppy come game' and move from there. You can read and get answers to more FAQ at the Clicker Training site HERE as well.

As far as training goes here's what helped me the most. First--you aren't going to say "sit" and expect the puppy to sit. He doesn't speak English. With clicker training you are going to get the behavior you want (ie. catch them sitting) and then you are going to click and treat to encourage that behavior to continue. Once you can predict that a sit is going to happen THEN you can start to say the cue just before or as the puppy sits. Eventually you won't need the clicker.

Second--avoid the temptation to repeat yourself. You can actually teach your puppy that the cue to sit is "sit, sit,sit." If you yell 'come'as the dog is running away and you have no chance to stop him, then you will have a dog that takes off every time you say come.

Third and most important--be patient. This is a learning process that is supposed to be fun. I didn't even find a training method until Molly was three months old and we have done great!

Here is an example of the treats I have been using

I slice it up into cm cubes. I think it's a great idea to use the dogs kibble as well. If we're working on something really hard (like come) then I sometimes use a higher value treat like left over roast beef or chicken.

There is a wealth of information available and there are several chat-type discussion group sites that have really expert people giving real live advice. Of course I am always looking for a fellow training enthusiast as well so don't hesitate to call!

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