May 11, 2009

Training How-to for my PUPS people

I just wrote my advice column for the Fort Greene PUPS newsletter but in the interest of not making the answers mile long, we've agreed to post some more detailed, how-to directions on this blog. Hopefully this will be helpful for anyone who tunes into this blog.
Directions for how to teach QUIET:
Start by Calling your dogs name (not when he’s barking at the top of his lungs but when he’s only mildly distracted) and when he turns to you at the sound of his name, say YES and give him a great treat. Practice this several times a day until he understands that giving you his full attention at the sound of his name will earn him a yummy treat. Now you can begin using it when he barks. Set up a situation you know will trigger his barking (door bell is an obvious one) but don’t wait to try it when you’re waiting for ten dinner guests and the food is on the stove and there’s lots of stress. Much better to set up a training situation so you’re fully focused at the task at hand and so both you and Fido have a much better chance at being successful. Have a friend ring the doorbell and when Fido starts barking, call his name. As soon as he stops barking and turns to look at you, tell him YES, give a treat, then “Quiet, Good Boy” and give him another great treat for the quiet.

Have your friend ring the bell again (or repeat whatever the trigger situation you have chosen to work with) and go through the routine again. The more you repeat, the more he’ll understand that being quiet will be rewarded and you’ll see him being less and less excited by the sound of the bell and more focused on paying attention to you.

Of course, next time someone comes to the door, your dog will bark his little head off again. It will take many times and numerous repetitions of this exercise to put an end to his much practiced and very ingrained behavior. Remember, you’re not yet using the word Quiet as a cue to make him stop barking; he first has to fully understand that the behavior of NOT barking is called quiet. After a while when your dog has learned to associate the word with being quiet, you’ll be able to use the word as a cue to make him stop barking. If you use the word in the beginning, however, while he is in the middle of barking, you’ll be teaching him that the word Quiet actually means “bark”.

Directions for teaching COME:

Start with your puppy on the leash no more than a few feet away from you. Say the puppy's name and the word COME in a bright, happy voice, then quickly move a few steps back and invite the puppy to follow you. You can encourage him by slapping your knees or making kissy sounds. When he reaches you (make sure he comes all the way up to you), mark it with a YES and give the puppy a yummy treat.
See if you can lure the puppy into sitting in front of you when he reaches you. You can easily do that by pulling your hand a little upwards once he reaches you. After a few repetitions, your puppy might offer the sit by himself. Remember, you'll want your dog to come close enough for you to grab his collar.

Tips: Begin working on this - and on every other cue -in a non-distracting environment. Once your -pup understands the fun Come Game, you can increase the distance and the level of distractions. You can also do a Round Robin version of this game by adding family members and having the puppy run from person to person. Begin with everyone in the same room but as puppy gets good at this, you can hide in different rooms and have your puppy find you. Remember to reward the puppy generously when he reaches each person.
If you make this a fun game for your puppy and practice this often, you will have a much better shot at having your puppy turn around at the sound at the cue Come even if he's in the middle of playing with another dog.

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