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