Why Puppy Class?
At a time when people are very busy, and budgets are tight, we often hear this question.
Or, we hear, “My dog has another dog at home to play with, so he doesn’t need puppy class - he gets lots of playtime.”
Puppy class is much more than puppy playtime.
One of the primary goals we have for our puppies in the Puppy Kindergarten program is teaching our puppies impulse control, and teaching their owners the best ways to instill that. When our eager new pups arrive in class, and are all wriggly and straining at their leashes to go play with those other puppies, we don’t let them play. Puppies are allowed to play when they are relaxed, and then they are released. This way we are teaching owners how to reward relaxation and impulse control.
When the puppies do play it is time for owners to learn to read body language, not just their own dog’s but other dogs as well. We will point out that that direct stare from one dog is not friendly response. That bark and tug on a playmate’s neck - nothing to worry about, because we saw a nice play bow, and quick role reversal. At a time when many people are seeking out dog parks and other off leash venues for dogs, it is essential that owners begin to watch for these things.
Some skills are far more easily taught to a younger dog. Staying still for grooming and husbandry is one of them. Regardless of the size, once one has an adult dog that is intolerant of any aspect of body handling, there is a problem. Teaching our puppies a “Be Still” exercise is a fundamental part of our program. Sooner or later there will be toenails to trim, perhaps foxtails, ear or eye medications, etc. Let’s see dogs and owners who will not have difficulty with these interactions.
One additional life skill that is far better taught to our younger dogs is a “Give” or “Drop It” command. Teaching this skill in a positive way can eliminate the dangerous and destructive problems of dogs stealing items, and swallowing and/ or shredding the stolen goods. And the Give/ Drop It command is an important part of preventing Resource Guarding, (e.g. food bowl guarding and possessiveness over other valued items.) Again, we can prevent problems which, when they appear full-blown in our adult dogs, are difficult to correct and can be quite dangerous.
Set your puppy up for success - make puppy class a priority.
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The Outside Dog - Impediments to Successful Training
It was week four of a Beginner’s class. Even the youngest dog, a 5-month-old hound, was on track with the skills we were developing. One dog, surprisingly, was struggling. A lovely female adult Golden Retriever was still not able to sit and stay at all. The rest of the class was staying while high-level distractions, toys and food, were being tossed in close proximity. The owner was the one who asked me the question “What is going on with my dog?” As I asked her questions about her at home practice she indicated that her dog was an outside only dog. That was the “Ah Ha” moment.
Over my years as a trainer I have seen a clear pattern emerge. Dogs that live outside entirely will not become as well trained as those that are allowed in the home. In my private lesson practice I have refunded clients’ money and discontinued training when they refused to integrate the dog into the home. This was not because I was angry or wished to push my point of view. It’s simply that I want the dogs to succeed. I want the owners to have the benefits of a well-trained dog, and an outside only dog is a big obstacle to success.
Why? Dogs are highly social animals. They become relaxed and responsive when they are included in a group. Additionally, dogs are very frustrated by barriers which exclude them from "the pack". It makes then anxious, and often over stimulated. So if your dog spends much of his time in a dog run, away from the house, or spends his time separated from his social group by a sliding glass door, most dogs will be “hyper” when the owner comes out to train. And that over stimulation makes it hard for the dog to focus, and learn.
Many owners would like to bring the dog inside, at least to a limited extent. They are often waiting for the dog to grow up, behave better, and then the dog will be invited inside. Here is the problem with that plan. Your dog cannot learn to behave in your home unless you train your dog inside your home. I can tell you from experience that the outside dog rarely gets trained well outside, either. Owners are not as motivated to make the dog comply with sit stay, down stays etc, outside. In the house, compliance with those commands makes the difference between chaos and calmness. So owner motivation is much higher when a dog is allowed inside, resulting in a dog that is trained in the home and outside the house.
I do want to make note that there are some exceptions. Outside only dogs on working ranches can do quite well in training. They have the opportunity to receive ample social contact, and the need to enforce the commands is there. Training outcomes are on par with housedogs.
So how do you bring an out of control dog inside? One may need inside containment, such as a crate or an ex pen if the dog is young, rambunctious, or still chewing. Your dog may have to be introduced to the containment gradually. (See our handout on Crate Training). When you are away from the home for a few hours most dogs will prefer to be in a crate inside your home to being outside, alone. Many dogs come to love their crates. It is perfectly reasonable to limit your dog to one or two rooms of your home. He does not need whole house privileges. Baby gates or closing doors can help with this, in the beginning, particularly if you don’t have a crate or ex pen. When your dog is initially introduced to the inside, do keep him on a leash. You may need that additional control. Do not assume he is housebroken. Take him out on regular intervals. Consider letting your dog spend the night inside in his crate, provided that it is comfortably sized. As your dog’s training progresses you can teach him a “go to your bed” command, where he learns to go and stay on a bed or blanket.
Once a dog is allowed inside, and becomes comfortable with that access you may find that he relaxes and can enjoy the outside more. When their social needs are adequately met it is fine for them to spend time alone, inside or out. You will then have a dog that is enjoyable and reliable both inside your home and outside of it.
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"A few years ago you worked with my dog, Coors, and I for private lessons. We were living in Modesto at the time. He was a yellow lab and was probably around 7 years old when you worked with us. It was very helpful. In fact, I always meant to get in touch with you to let you know that shortly after our work together he went from being an outdoor only dog to an indoor dog. What a difference that made for all of us! He was always a great dog, but by being included in the "pack" he really began to thrive. We lost him in August of 2008 at the old age of fourteen. We were lucky to have him for so long."
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K9 Nose Work - The Concept
K9 Nose Work is modeled after the training and search methods of drug and explosive detection dogs. It is designed as a class activity and as a competitive sport. In the sport of K9 Nose Work the dog and handler team search 4 elements: an interior search, an exterior search, a vehicle and a box drill. At level one competition the search is for birch oil, applied on a single cotton swab. NW2 and NW3 add new odors, and increase the complexity of the search. The basic search elements remain the same.
To allow all dogs to enjoy the sport it is a basic tenet in all Nose Work activities that dogs are kept apart. Dogs are not in the search area at the same time. They do not pass through doorways at the same time. They are crated or, weather permitting, in their cars when waiting to work.
In Nose Work your dog will learn to search in buildings, courtyards, playgrounds, open fields, etc. We want to develop confidence and enthusiasm every step of the way.
For those thinking of competition - it might take about 12 - 18 months of training from start to competition. An ORT (Odor Recognition Test) is required as prerequisite for Trial. The ORT is a box drill. Your dog must indicate which box out of 12 boxes has the birch odor in it.
The odors: Birch, Anise and Clove oils. Format - a q tip dipped in the oil. They are stored in an airtight glass container. When searching for odor the q tip may be in a metal case which is vented, a glass container, or may be simply placed in the environment on tape or some other medium that will not leave residual oil. At the training level we use containers. One reason is that the q tip on a surface would contaminate the area for further searches.
The Introduction to Nose Work class is intended to get the dogs to be enthusiastic, bold, confident searchers. You, as the handler, will learn to observe your dog’s search style. The more you can step back and let the dog search, the better searcher your dog will become.
Each week we will follow our guidelines for keeping our dogs separate. Potty your dog before each run. Water frequently.
The primary reward, food or a toy, will be used throughout our class. Students often want to rush to odor, which can be a big mistake. Your dog should be proficient in searching all kinds of environments before odor is introduced.
K9 Nose Work is a NO obedience sport. No commands, signals, clickers or marker words. Never say NO. Dogs can be on a buckle collar. You might want to get a harness. It will set the stage for searching. We want the dogs to focus on the boxes, and later the search area, not on you, the handler.
Our second level class is Introduction to Odor. The odor is initially paired with food. Then the odor is hidden and, when the dog finds it, he immediately gets his reward. Now the fun begins! Our students learn to oberve their dog's search style, learn about air currents and wind. By watching each other's dog our knowlege deepens. We carefully introduce blind hides - hides where the handler does not know the location of the hide. Dog and handler work as a team, with the dog leading the way to source. It is a fascinating experience.
Our third level class is Vehicles and Exteriors. Our dogs learn to search vehicles and in a wide variety of locations. The classes after this are "Continuing Nose Work" classes. We add anise and clove, and increase the complextiy of our hides, as is appropriate for each individual team. Nose Work is unusual in that dogs of varying skills can train together, once some basics are mastered.
More information about the competition elements can be found on the Useful Links page.