Working With Your New Puppy

You can introduce a puppy to focus work and basic positions really easily, just by working him at his mealtimes. With the food rewards and time spent with you, the puppy will not even realize he is working. Puppies learn fast and are always hungry so puppyhood provides an excellent opportunity to start with the clicker. To teach your puppy to focus on you, simply click and reward for eye contact, it helps to sit down when starting this behavior so that the puppy doesn't have to move his neck so far. Gradually extend the time of the eye contact, and then vary it, one time ask for 5 seconds, then 30 seconds, then 2 seconds so the pup is never sure when the reward is coming. I teach this behavior first with all my puppies and it results in a very focused pup, who, even at puppy classes, will just sit and stare at you!

Once you have the puppy making good eye contact, you can move on to other positions such as sit, down, heel and stand. Another useful exercise to teach a puppy is targeting, for this you can use a 3 foot piece of ½inch dowel, and attach a small tennis ball to the end by piercing it with a knife, and placing it on the end of the dowel. You might want to glue it on. You can teach the pup to touch it with his nose. This can be useful for all kinds of future obedience work, heeling in position, go outs, broad jump....

Even if you are not going to train for schutzhund, teaching your puppy to indicate items which have your smell on them can be useful as a precursor to a retrieve, scent discrimination or search work. You can teach him to down or sit or touch the item with a paw or nose. Then you can put the item in a different part of the house or yard and ask him to find it. Make it easy at first, where he can see it, then put it around corners, then hidden. You could also put it in a pile of similar looking items and ask him to indicate the one which you touched.

More games you can play with your puppy include problem solving, you can put a treat in a small cardboard box, you can put a baby gate half way across a doorway and put a treat where the pup can see it but where he must negotiate around the gate to get it. You can start him walking on wooden boards as a precursor to agility dog walks, a-frames and see saws. TTouch ground work is excellent for puppies, once they have some basic coordination.

We start obedience training with a clicker as soon as the pup comes home, click here for a list of obedience exercises and how to train them.

If you are looking for something more formal or specific, Clicker solutions has a good page of clicker training plans for you and your puppy - click here

We put together a youtube playlist of work we do with our puppies from 8 weeks to 5 months, click here to watch.

The Youtube video below shows Apollo at 10 Weeks doing some rag work (this helps build drive for toys and also helps to prepare the puppy for protection later on. Keep the rag moving, and get puppy used to being touched on his body, legs and chin). The second part of the video shows beginning obedience with a little focus work followed by sits downs and fronts, all done with a food lure, with the clicker used as a marker for the behavior I'm looking for.


The Youtube video below shows Banshee at 4.5 months continuing with obedience, sits, downs, fronts and just beginning the left finish and stand.