I love my Crate – Angles

Just as for “Middle” if your puppy is enthusiastic to go to his crate, it is time to have fun and make your puppy become a problem solver by making the entries of the crate more difficult to find.

  1. Start to make the entry of the crate more difficult for your puppy to find by rotating the crate by 45 degrees so that the entry of the crate is not directly facing your puppy anymore
  2. When your puppy has no issue with 45 degrees, increase this to 90 degrees.
  3. With time you will be able to rotate the cage by 180 degrees

This is a great game that also teaches your puppy to think about the position of the entry to the crate.

Transfer the value and reward for the “Say Hello” to you

In everyday life every person you come across walking in the street or at the beach will not have clicker and treats in their hands to reward your puppy. What you realistically want is for your puppy to say hello to someone it may meet and then come back to and focus on you.

The foundation for this next stage is that your puppy must have developed a strong value for “Say Hello”. If you do not have the basic foundation, your puppy will start to take some shortcuts from the desired behaviour. As an example, your puppy may not touch the hand it was asked to but instead goes straight away to the treat, this is actually quite common.

If your puppy does not have a strong value for “Say Hello” please keep on reinforcing the “Say Hello” game as explained in the week 1 before moving to this stage.

If your puppy does have a strong value for “Say Hello”, the reward now does not need to be located in the “Say Hello” hand anymore: we are going to train your puppy to focus back on you.

  1. Ask your puppy to “Say Hello” to a friend of yours
  2. Click when your puppy does the behaviour
  3. Reward from your own hand: Your puppy will learn to turn its head back towards you and focus on you again.

If in the first few attempts your puppy is not looking back to you, gently tap your puppy on its shoulders and/or walk backward luring your puppy with a treat. In doing this your puppy will get attracted by your motion.

I love my Crate

Some people believe it is cruel to leave a puppy (or a dog) in a crate. To be honest I used to be one of those people. The reality is that most puppies and adult dogs, if not forced, like a remote and calm place. The crate can be the safe and quiet place where the puppy can relax, away from noise and other member of the household be it children or dogs. When you are away from home, taking a crate also provides a safe familiar environment.

Teaching a puppy to love its crate can also reduce separation anxiety in the future as you are gradually teaching your puppy to be in its own safe environment.

To achieve this, your puppy must create a positive relationship with the crate. Under no circumstances should it be used as a punishment zone. Really, I should introduce this module during the first week of the Puppy School, but I have learnt from experience to give my students time to learn positive reinforcement with the mat before introducing the crate. It is easy to change a mat if necessary, but not that easy to change a crate.

There are 2 aspects in teaching your puppy to love its crate, the first is a game, and the second is everyday life.

For everyday life, if you have not followed ditch the bowl concept and still feed your puppy at regular hours, take the opportunity to feed your puppy in the crate. You can also play “scatter feeding” by dropping some treats or kibble in the crate, so your puppy must search for them. Alternatively give your puppy a Kong or a chewy so your puppy learns to be calm in the crate. For all these activities it is not necessary to close the gate of the crate although is a good game for you to vary this; sometimes closing it, sometimes not.

When familiarising your puppy with the crate sometimes you should stay near to your puppy during these activities and at other times move away into another room. I would advise to do this randomly, sometimes staying with them, sometimes leaving for a few seconds or minutes, and even sometimes not returning. Let your puppy find you. Avoid a routine.

When it comes to playing a game, you can easily kill two birds with one stone:  making the crate environment fun for your puppy and training your “Wait”.

  1. Teach your puppy to move quickly to the crate:
    1. Position yourself so that the entry to the crate is facing your puppy and easy to find.
    2. Let your puppy smell a very tasty treat or piece of food.
    3. Tease your puppy so your puppy really wants this piece of food.
    4. Drop or throw the treat inside the crate. The treat needs to be very visible, so it is no effort to find.
    5. Let the puppy go in the crate to get the treat.
    6. Keep repeating this game until your puppy is thoroughly comfortable with going fully into the crate.
    7. When your puppy is proficient, start to make the entry of the crate more difficult to find. This is simply done by rotating the crate by 90 degrees so that the entry of the crate is no longer facing your puppy.

It is a great game that teaches your puppy to think about the position of the entry to the crate.

  • Teach your puppy to wait in the crate until it is released (and yes, I do consider this as a game). The way to play this game is like “On your mat”, so you can transfer what you have learnt with the mat to the crate:
  • Let your pup go in the crate and reward your puppy at the back of the crate.  I prefer rewarding at the back to give value for being fully inside the crate and less value to the gate of the crate.
  • Close the gate and continue rewarding at the back of the crate.
  • Open the gate slightly. If your puppy shows an intention to leave the crate, close the gate. Timing is important, you do not want to be hitting or pushing your puppy with the door or slamming it shut. Open the gate slightly again and repeat until your puppy shows no more intention of leaving the crate.
  • If your puppy is not coming forward and shows no intention to leave the crate, reward it again at the back of the crate.
  • Close the door again and keep on rewarding.
  • Open the door again and try to make the opening slightly bigger each time.
  • Finally invite your puppy out of the crate with the release word.

When your puppy really likes the crate, you can bundle the two games of sending your puppy to the crate and then asking your puppy to wait in the crate before releasing. As with other games start increasing your distance from the crate. And remember it will take time!

Loose Lead walking with distraction

To get your puppy to continue to walk with a loose lead whilst there are potential distractions, you will need to introduce distractions slowly when you are in a “working mode”. If you try to get your puppy to walk to heel when there are too many distractions do not be surprised if your puppy does not want to work with you.

When playing this game, I introduce distractions gradually. When the puppy is responsive to heel walking indoors, I then take the puppy into the garden. At this point simply being outside should be the only distraction. If you remember last week’s video with Mehwi you might have thought that it was a calm environment however, in my view, it was not. There were a lot of distractions for him; there was the ladder that he wanted to go to play with, the toys on the bench and just the environment in general. I had to work hard to keep his interest on me.

Start by leaving some toys to the side of where you are walking. Try to not look at these toys and concentrate on keeping your puppy’s attention on you rather than the toys. When you are proficient at this start to place some toys directly on the route you are walking with your puppy. When I do this game, I sometimes will walk a little bit faster and increase my click and reward frequency when I see a potential distraction hot spots; this way the puppy is more driven to concentrate on me.

From this stage you can increase slowly the number and size of the distractions to the environment.

The length of the working phase needs to be short. Just like the number of distractions, increase the amount of time walking with the lead slowly. Alternate a minute’s work phase with a minute of relaxed phase. Start increasing the work phase by blocks of no more than 15 seconds.

Make sure that you are including some games in the working phase such as “Sit by my side” or “Say hello”. This will help stopping your puppy from getting bored.

You do not want to teach your puppy to give up. Stop the game before your puppy has had enough. It is also good for you to finish on a positive note.

Emergency Recalls

We are now going to cover the steps to teach an efficient emergency recall to your puppy.

Start the game in your garden. Make sure you have a long lead so that if your puppy is getting distracted you will have a means to get control over it. All that is required is to place a foot on the lead if your puppy tries to run too far away from you.

Set yourself up so that every recall you try should be a success. A one-meter successful recall is much more valuable to condition your puppy in the long term to come back to you than attempting a 30-metre recall where you puppy runs away and/or must be called lots of times before acknowledging you.

A successful recall means that your puppy answers to your recall straight away and attempts to make physical contact with you at the end of the recall. Use one of the proximity games you have learnt such as “Say Hello”, “Grab my collar” or a game of tug when your puppy returns. Finally, your puppy should not be running away from you after the recall, which is a quite common behaviour.

The steps for “Restrained Recall” are:

  • Using a long lead, start to recall in a no arousal environment, in your garden for example.
  • Decide on a word that you are only going to use for an incredibly fun recall. I teach people to use “Heel” which will mean “come back to me on my left side”. The word you choose should be called with as high a pitch and exciting voice as possible. We want to condition your puppy to turn back quickly to you when your puppy hears that specific sound.
  • Ask someone that your puppy knows well to hold your puppy by its shoulders or its harness if your puppy is wearing one, or the long lead.
  • If your puppy is on a long lead, make sure the long lead is trailed on the floor behind it to avoid the lead getting entangled around your puppy or the person who is restraining it.
  • Set your puppy up for success. Make sure your puppy has a desire to come to you before releasing it. Desire is key to the success of this method. Tease your puppy with its tuggy, some food, its push bowl, or anything else it is really stimulated by.
  • Start running! Your puppy must see you running away. Importantly while you are running:
    • Show the tuggy or the treats from your left hand.
    • Turn your head to your left side so that you can watch your puppy from over your left shoulder as it runs towards you.
    • Showing the toy or food from your left hand and turning your head to the left will entice your puppy towards your left side.
  • Call your puppy with your “Heel” command (HeeL is on your Left Leg) whilst running.
  • Make the command and your actions exciting and have your helper immediately release your puppy
  • To start with you only need to be running a couple of metres away from your puppy. The game needs to be easy, so the puppy does not give up.
  • When your puppy reaches you, the reward should be immediate and fun; make that reward a special event! In a normal environment you will be competing against so many arousing stimuli and you need your puppy to think that you are more fun than any of these.
  • When rewarding, try to make physical contact with your puppy to build confidence and optimism so your puppy learns that moving your hand toward your puppy does not mean the end of the game.
  • Grab your puppy’s collar so your puppy cannot escape, but if possible, keep playing.

Do not forget:

  • To grab the collar of your puppy and keep on playing. Your puppy should not be able to run away at the end of the recall.
  • If your puppy does not chase you, you may have made the game too difficult (too far a distance or too many other distractions) or you might not have instilled enough of a desire to chase you before starting the game.
  • You should not need to call your puppy multiple times. If you have to repeat your puppy’s name to get its attention you are simply teaching your puppy to ignore you. I usually do not need to use my puppy’s name at all; I only use the specific sound that I have chosen for the recall.

If you are on your own one trick is to throw a treat behind your puppy. The treat needs to be big enough, so your puppy does not spend time smelling to search for it. Run in the other direction whilst your puppy is getting the treat.

Loose Lead Walking

Loose lead walking can be a stressful skill to learn for both the puppy and the owner. But it does not have to be like this. For me teaching loose lead walking is just another game.

Before starting your loose lead walking, your puppy must have a lot of value for sitting at your side so make sure you have played the “Sit by my side” game a lot.

I usually use the word “Close” to teach my puppy to walk to heel and I tend to prefer to only walk with it on my left side to start with.

Start to train your puppy in a boring environment with no distractions. I tend to start in the kitchen.

Clip the lead to the collar of your puppy, not a harness (A harness tends to teach the puppies to pull).

For a “Close” position next to your left leg:

  • The lead is in your right hand.
  • The clicker is in your right hand.
  • The treats will be given with your left hand.
  • Start walking and call your puppy.
  • As soon as the puppy acknowledges you and the lead is loose click (or say yes) and then reward.
  • Provide the reward at your left side with your left hand next to your leg, along the seam of your trousers.
  • Make sure the reward is provided low enough, so you do not encourage your puppy to jump. I am afraid if you have a small breed you might have to bend to give the reward at your ankle level.

To start with, click & reward very frequently so long as your puppy is not pulling on the lead. Do not reward in front of you, do not reward away from you and make sure your puppy comes to your hand positioned next to the seam of your trouser to get its reward.

You might be clicking and rewarding at every step, every 2 seconds; this is OK. You want an energetic fun exercise to keep the attention of your puppy focused on you. Do not worry that you are rewarding too often, with time you will reduce the frequency of the clicks and the rewards but at the beginning a high frequency of clicks and reward are key to keep your puppy focussed on you.

Do not stop moving forwards when you reward your puppy so there is a momentum and flow of movement all the time, hence less chance for your puppy to get distracted.

  • Do not make it too difficult or your puppy will give up.
  • If your puppy passes you or is pulling on the lead turn your body to change direction so you are again ahead of it.
  • Stop the game before your puppy is bored, we often stop too late.  
  • To finish the session do not forget to give your release word so your puppy. knows the loose lead walking exercise is over and that he can now go and smell (or pull on the lead). This is especially important! You do not want your puppy to start to guess when the game is over.

When your puppy starts to get the hang of the game it is time to start making it a little bit more fun. This can easily be done by changing speed so that you are jogging a little, then walking again. Be mindful though that some energetic dogs start to jump at this stage, and if it is the case you might want to keep the game calm and avoid jogging.

You can also add some of the tricks your puppy knows such as “Say Hello”

from the side or “Sit by my side”.

Remember Make it fun, make it a game!

If the clicks and the rewards are not frequent enough it means the exercise is too hard for your puppy and you are going to lose its attention. Make the criteria easier. To start with my frequency is nearly 1-2-click (but I always click for something positive) followed by 1-2-reward (the reward comes after the click, not at the same time); 1-2-click; 1-2-reward. With time you will be able to reduce the frequency of the clicks and the rewards, but it takes time.

Train this game every day, keeping the sessions short and entertaining. You want your puppy to get excited and love the game when you are saying “Close”.

When your puppy is getting good it is time to increase the difficulty. The list below is in order of difficulty. Only move to the next stage when you have mastered the preceding one.

  1. Trying with no lead in the same boring environment.
  2. Try in the garden on the lead.
  3. Trying in the garden without the lead.

Novelty games – Noise

As well as introducing new textures and new environments I also like to introduce new noises. A nice way to do so is to include some noisy materials in a box into which I drop some food and let the puppy investigate. It is a fun game to bring the puppy’s confidence.

Be careful that your puppy is not eating the material that you put in the box. The material needs to be large enough and / or of a texture that your puppy will not eat.

Novelty games – texture and proprioception

Although in an ideal world we would all love to have a well-balanced, well socialised dog that has no fears and has the perfect behaviours all the time, we all know that puppies are not blank slates. They come to us with their genetic predispositions and their experiences since their prenatal “life”, which will affect the puppy’s behaviours and character.

My objectives with the training are to help the puppies develop into well-balanced dogs and to also to teach them that new experiences or novelties are OK.  I do this by introducing novelties.

Certain novelties, for certain puppies, may create stress and can end up developing as a problem. As owners, we should make the novelty into what I call a “Non-Event”.

Introducing novelties can be done by adding new objects and textures into your environment. The result is a confidence building and proprioception exercise (Proprioception is the sense of the orientation of one’s limbs in space). By walking your puppy on various surfaces in new environment you are introducing new challenges that can surprise your puppy and help it to build confidence. When you play this type of game, make it a positive experience. Do not push them, let them explore and discover the objects.

This is also a particularly good exercise to help your puppy develop better spatial awareness and proprioception. Without proprioception, a human would need to consciously watch its feet while walking; instead, we can walk without thinking where our feet are positioned. Puppies, like babies, need to learn and develop proprioception and we can help them by doing simple exercises such as walking on different surfaces. It is fun for both us and our puppies.

  • Create a “bridge” of objects of different textures and stability and then invite the puppy to walk along it or across it by luring with food
  • If the bridge stresses the puppy too much feed it on the bridge and give time for the puppy to get used to this new environment.
  • Try to make the exercise easy and fun
  • Lure the puppy to try walking on the bridge, click a reward when your puppy puts even just a paw on to any of the objects
  • If your puppy is feeling confident then lure it along the bridge
  • Never force your puppy: if your puppy shows signs of wariness at any of the objects, let your puppy investigate them at its own pace and use luring to encourage your puppy a little bit. Remember to keep the exercise as a “non-event”.
  • Sometimes simply placing food on the bridge and letting the puppy find it is a good starting point.
  • You will witness your puppy building confidence quite quickly which is a great experience to teach your puppy to recover from a “stressful” new experience.

To teach the ladder and make the puppy move slowly through the rungs I start by offering food in between each rung, then after every other one then I increase the distance. It is a very good proprioception exercise

Play and Swap

Playing Tug is a good interaction as your puppy needs to come to you to play with the tuggy, which in turn will help you with your recall in the future. Tugging triggers the chasing instinct of most dogs.

When your puppy has taken to the game, your puppy needs to learn to give the toy back and stop tugging. This is when the “Play and Swap” game comes handy.

When your puppy is interested with the toy, play the Swap/Switch game: Teach you puppy to swap between toys as shown in the video with Nola:

  • Use 2 toys that your puppy likes equally
  • Start to play with one
  • Stop moving the toy
  • Say “swap” and start moving the other one nearby where your puppy can see it.

To finish the game, play tug with one of the toys and then:

  • Grab your puppy’s collar
  • Let go of the tuggy (the one in your puppy’s mouth)
  • offer a piece of food to your puppy to motivate your puppy to leave the tuggy
  • when your puppy is dropping the toy, give the word “swap” so your puppy learns to associate the word with the behaviour.

Most important homework for this week is PLAY, PLAY & PLAY with your puppy. Make your puppy love the toys and most importantly make your puppy love to interact with you.

Sit by my side

The “Sit by my Side” game will help you with loose lead walking so please practice the game very regularly this week.

It is easy, no excuses, as you can practice it every time your puppy sits in front of you!

We tend to always reward our puppy when they are sitting in front of us; this means that we are never giving a value for the puppies to be sitting at our side.

But when you want your puppy to walk at heel (with or without a lead) you are asking your puppy to walk next to you, so you need to start to give value to this position.

  • Ask your puppy to sit
  • If your puppy sits (most likely in front of you) – Click
  • Leave you puppy sitting and then reposition yourself to the side of your puppy and then reward whilst it is now at your side. Your puppy should be as close as possible to your leg, sitting at your side

Practice this exercise every day and each time your puppy is sitting. With time your puppy will start to find value to sit by your side rather than in front of you.

At the end of the week your puppy should be able to sit comfortably at your side and offer the behaviour naturally without you needing to reposition yourself to the side of your puppy.